I can’t see a problem. I can’t see the problems you see.
My livelihood and my deep desire to help my clients depends on me not seeing a problem.
But, you don’t see the medical records. You don’t see the pain and struggle of disabled people. You don’t see them trying to make it in the world of work and repeatedly failing. You don’t see that the business world cannot absorb people who cannot keep pace. You don’t see that families buckle under the financial weight of disabled family members. You don’t have professional relationships with disabled people that last for years on end, so you don’t see the longitudinal picture I see. You don’t see the privileged information.
You can’t see the problems I see.
Perhaps we are both wilfully blind. We should each concede the point.
I watched, listened and took notes on the 60 Minutes episode, Disability, USA. I read a variety of responses to it: “’60 Minutes’ shameful attack on the disabled” printed in the Los Angeles Times; ’60 Minutes” Report Denounced For Disability Misinformation at Media Matters; ’60 Minutes’ Gets Disability Insurance All Wrong, and Outrage Grows Over ’60 Minutes’ Hatchet Job on Disability Fraud printed in the Nation’s online magazine; ’60 Minutes’ uncovers how the federal disability system is being GAMED in The Right Scoop, et cetera.
I mostly see, hear, and read the things that make me think I’m right. You mostly see, hear, and read the things that make you think you’re right.
Sometimes I can agree with you. I try. I want to advance the conversation. But when I have agreed, at the end of the agreement, there are no solutions. There is nothing to help people. We are left where we started – with problems that need solutions.
I can agree with some of the criticisms of the process. I can agree that some people could try harder to work. I can come over to your side. But when I walk over there and look around, I see that you have ended your thinking at criticisms of the process, criticism of the technicalities, criticisms of the people – but you offer no solutions. And so I’m left wandering around in a desert of … we still have problems to address. But your thinking ends there.
As an attorney, I can’t just leave it there. I am looking into the faces of people who I believe meet these rules – despite that you think they’re subjective and difficult rules. I do not have the luxury of having no solutions. I can’t just turn away and say, ‘wow, sorry about that homelessness thing. I guess it really sucks being you. Bummer.’
I don’t have that luxury.
Marilyn D. Zahm, the Administrative Law Judge from Buffalo, NY who was interviewed for Disability USA on 60 Minutes explained the problem:
People run out of employment insurance. They’re not going to die silently. They’re going to look for another source of income. It is not unusual for people, especially people over forty, to have some sort of an ailment or impairment, so they will file for disability benefits based upon that. For many of these people a plant closed. There are no jobs in their communities. What are people supposed to do?
Senator Coburn, to Mr. Kroft’s comment that “some of these are desperate people” replied,
“Absolutely desperate. I agree. But what you’re really describing is our economy and the consequences of it. And we’re using a system that wasn’t meant for that because we don’t have a system over here to help ’em. Which means we’re not addressing the other concerns in our society and that’s a debate Congress oughta have.”
Sen. Coburn understands! He gets it. He wants Congress to have these important debates.
Sen. Coburn is only objecting to people receiving benefits through the Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits program because it would be more proper for them to receive benefits through the Unemployment Benefits program! Sen. Coburn’s point is that, if the actual problem is that they have lost jobs, not really because of a disability, but rather because of an economic downturn – they should receive Unemployment Benefits. Oh, I get it!
Now, leaving aside for the moment that the disability determination process does evaluate claimants’ impairments relative to jobs in the economy – so jobs in the economy are properly factored into the equation … … anyway, leaving that aside for the moment – it’s just that Sen. Coburn wants desperate people to get Unemployment Benefits, not Disability Benefits!
Eureka! I feel you, Sen. Coburn! Put it there, Brother Tom! These are tough times. You get it! You understand!
But wait a minute … … it is extremely difficult to take Sen. Coburn at his word when you look at his voting record on Unemployment Benefits. He voted “nay” on extending Unemployment Benefits every single time the issue came to a vote in the Senate. All six times.
Sen. Coburn, Congress has been having the debate you say they “oughta have” – it’s just that Sen. Coburn’s contribution to it has been to close off the possibility of people to turn to Unemployment Benefits as a solution.
Moreover, Sen. Coburn, you voted to limit eligibility for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, and to end the payroll tax cut … you voted against Low-Income Home Energy Assistance. I’ll stop there, so as not to pile on, but honestly, you seem to want to foreclose any options for people.
Sen. Coburn, I want my hug back.
Judge Zahm had said,
People run out of employment insurance. They’re not going to die silently. They’re going to look for another source of income.
So, Sen. Coburn, there you have it. When you close off the possibility of continuing on Unemployment Benefits, when you cut off nutrition and energy assistance – people will look for another source of income, and not just die silently – the only other option you seem to want to leave open.