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60 Minutes Report on SSDI Draws Criticism from Disability Advocates

60 Minutes Report on SSDI Draws Criticism from Disability Advocates

October 24, 2013

An Oct. 6 segment about the state of Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) on 60 Minutes drew some criticism from leaders in disability organizations, particularly over statements that the program is “ravaged by waste and fraud” and that it “could become the first government benefits program to run out of money.”

The chairwoman of the Social Security Task Force at the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD), which is a coalition of nearly 100 national disability organizations, said the report did a “tremendous disservice” to those with disabilities who need help. The director of federal policy at Health & Disability Advocates said the piece distracted “from focusing on the real issue of helping American workers with and without disabilities achieve economic security.”

Information from the Center for Economic and Policy Research and the Government Accountability Office indicate that fraud within the SSDI system is neither rampant nor as problematic as some believe the 60 Minutes report suggests. And 60 Minutes did acknowledge that a majority of those who seek SSDI benefits are denied.

Individuals who were denied benefits upon initial application but who believe they have qualifying disabilities may appeal SSDI claims. Many who attempt this process without legal aid are also rejected for SSDI benefits on appeal.

Prior to the report being aired, more than 20 disability organizations sent a joint letter to 60 Minutes warning of the potential consequences of the segment’s portrayal of SSDI. The letter reads, in part:

“Policy by anecdote has in the past led to significant and needless harm to Social Security disability beneficiaries. The well-being and economic security of millions of people with disabilities and their families—for whom Social Security disability benefits are nothing short of a lifeline—hang in the balance.”

The full letter can be seen here on the CCD website.