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NPR series offers misleading picture of SSDI program

It wasn't the first time a widely broadcast news story cast aspersions on the Social Security disability program (we wrote about one such dubious claim a few months ago), but again Wisconsin residents with disabilities may have been taken aback by a recently broadcast series on National Public Radio.

The series was aired under two titles: "Trends With Benefits" and "Unfit for Work: The Startling Rise of Disability in America." While the show, in the final part, did acknowledge how very vital Social Security programs are for so many impoverished and disabled people, the series was also misleading about who receives disability benefits and why.

First of all, the report suggested that people whose disabilities aren't readily visible are simply not disabled or are somehow cheating the system. But people with cancer receive disability benefits, though cancer isn't always seen with the naked eye. Traumatic brain injuries and mental disabilities are also reasons people need SSDI and Supplemental Security Income, but those disabilities, too, aren't always readily seen. In short, the logic of the report is badly lacking.

The truth -- and anyone who receives these payments will tell you this -- is that no one is getting rich on SSDI and SSI. In fact, the average monthly payment for SSDI recipients is about $1,100. For SSI recipients, the average payment is about $520. And these payments represent most or even all of the income for the majority of beneficiaries. That money is generally used for basic necessities and effectively keeps many recipients from being homeless or suffering from deep poverty.

Of all of the people who apply for disability benefits, 60 percent are denied. People who would like to learn more about the reality of disability benefits are encouraged to visit our La Crosse SSDI page. Our firm helps individuals and families get the disability payments they need.

Source: Huffington Post, "The Facts About the Social Security Disability Programs," Donna Meltzer, April 4, 2013

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