60 Minutes and Its Unfair Attack on the Disabled

As we wrote earlier this year, disabled Americans are not “gaming the system” to get benefits from the government and private insurers. In fact, there is no “disability-industrial complex.” People can make far more money by working than being disabled, and are eager to avoid the stigma that comes with being out of the workforce.

Despite these facts, politicians and commentators seem to be eager to jump on the disability-skeptic bandwagon. One would expect mainstream media outlets to double-check the facts before repeating their unsupported claims, but it appears 60 Minutes is not one of them.

In a recent segment called “Disability USA,” 60 Minutes heavily relied on Tom Coburn, Republican Senator from Oklahoma, to repeat claims that the disability benefit system is horribly broken and gives benefits to those who do not deserve them.

However, as the Washington Post’s Michael Hiltzik convincingly argues, this attack on the disabled is “shameful.” 60 Minutes’ story is simply not supported by the facts. Eight former Social Security commissioners refuted a similarly slanted story by NPR in April. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has shown that the increase in disability rolls is because of demographics, not “moochers.” Social Security’s chief actuary confirmed this in congressional testimony.

Furthermore, as Hiltzik points out, benefits are not easy to get. Two-thirds of all applicants are initially denied, and fewer than half of all applicants end up with any benefits.

While there are undoubtedly some bad apples in every government benefit system, there is simply no evidence that Social Security is not functioning as it should. The vast majority of benefit recipients deserve their benefits. The disabled members of our society are entitled to respect, and both Senator Coburn and 60 Minutes should know better.

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