Since Barack Obama took office, America’s S.S. Disability Trust Fund has plummeted fast toward bankruptcy. Neither Obama nor Congress has tried to do much about the impending national disaster. Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn is that rare exception. Here you will see a chart on the evaporation of the trust fund, a story about a crooked lawyer who is part of the disaster, and what Senator Coburn is doing to help dig America out of the mess that Obama and Democrats in the Senate are unwilling to attack.
The gist of the Senate report is that the Social Security disability program has vague criteria for qualifying and lacks even the barest oversight, which makes it ripe for abuse. Administrative law judges decide cases independently and are virtually immune to disciplinary action. Politicians enable the fraudsters by denouncing anyone who proposes a fix as an enemy of the disabled.
The truth is that opponents of reform are the ones hurting the truly disabled. The nearby chart show how disability claims have exploded—to 8.9 million last year from 5.9 million in 2003 and 2.7 million in 1985. Not coincidentally, that is the year Congress relaxed eligibility standards to make it easier for people reporting pain, discomfort and mental illness to qualify for benefits. Like the jet-skiers in New York.
The second chart shows that all of these claims are bleeding the Social Security disability trust fund, which paid out $137 billion in benefits in 2012 or nearly twice as much as a decade ago. Without reform, the fund is on track to go broke in 2016, triggering either a 20% cut in benefits for all recipients or one more taxpayer bailout.
You’d think that fixing this mess would be a Washington priority, but Mr. Coburn and a few others are voices in the wilderness. Instead the country is treated to a political game over extended jobless benefits that might even be affordable if the Obama Administration cared a whit about stopping disability fraud. The polls say public trust in government is falling to new lows, but judging by the open secret of disability insurance scams it isn’t nearly low enough.