Stephen Ohlemacher's article in today’s Newsday entitled “Soc. Sec. Disability In Peril” includes a quote from Social Security Commissioner Michael Astrue that is offensive to disability applicants. The article discusses how the Social Security Disability program is in financial trouble as aging baby boomers and laid off workers are filing large numbers of claims.
One would expect disability claims to increase as the large number of baby boomers approach retirement age since older workers are more likely to become unable to work compared to younger workers. Disability claims should also be anticipated from workers who have been laid off because many were allowed to work with special accommodations, especially older workers who had developed good will with their employers.
Instead of recognizing the legitimate reasons why more people need to apply for disability benefits under the present circumstances described above, Commissioner Astrue attributes the increase to “economic desperation” as laid off claimants “take a shot at disability.” Many baby boomers are applying because age has taken its toll on their ability to work, not because they are economically desperate. The greater number of older people, the greater number of expected disability claims. Moreover, assuming that a laid off worker “takes a shot at disability” out of economic desperation demonstrates a preconceived notion that the claimant is not applying due to inability to work, which violates the supposed non-adversarial process for evaluating disability claims.