I recently read an investigative article from NPR that I thought did a good job highlighting the critical economic impact of disability insurance. I highly recommend the piece—it largely focuses on the federal implications, but mentions the struggles of our own Aberdeen.
According to the article, 14 million people across the United States are receiving a disability check—a number that has risen sharply in the past 30 years.
Even more concerning is the number of kids on SSI (Supplementary Security Income), a program for both kids and adults who are poor and disabled. A kid’s disability is anything that hinders the student from progressing in school and, likewise, an adult who has a physical condition that prevents him or her from working.
While there are certainly physical circumstances that make working or attending school impossible for some people, the drastic and rapid increase is indicative of system abuse and a government that seems powerless to stop it. Disability costs the federal government more than food stamps and welfare combined. To add fuel to the fire, states are rewarded for moving people off welfare. But often people simply jump from one welfare program to another—disability insurance.
The important takeaway is this: when a family’s income is contingent on a student struggling in school, it will continue to breed a culture of dependence rather than self-sufficiency.
The disability problem is largely viewed as a federal issue, yet it does have a critical impact on state budgets. Since disability recipients also qualify for Medicare benefits, each state is required to pay half of their medical costs. Washington’s costs amount to about $1 billion each biennia for disability recipients’ medical care.
Disability is a growing problem that perpetuates poverty by cultivating a culture of dependency and has a critical effect on our state and federal economies. Federal economists warn that if we continue down the same road, disability insurance program funds are set to run out in 2016. This is a serious issue that should concern state and federal policymakers. It’s time to dive deeper into these issues and work to start implementing reforms.