Tuesday, June 2, 2015

On Social Security Reform

Illustration of two Twitter logo bird facing each other above clouds, with talk balloons containing hashtag symbols
Yesterday afternoon I participated in a Twitter Chat on “Social Security Reform," hosted by Career ACCESS, an initiative to boost employment of young people with disabilities.

The Twitter Chat was mostly about gathering ideas about what the problems are how to fix them. Here is a Storify, created by Career ACCESS, with a sample of what the participants said:

This is a great start. It got me thinking about the different reasons people want to reform Social Security. We are not all on the same page on this. I have noticed that depending on point of view, calls for Social Security Disability and / or SSI reform usually have one or more of the following goals:

Ensure greater financial security for disabled people

We can pretty much assume that most disabled people want this, along with anyone else who actually cares about Social Security’s core mission. It is also an interesting opening for testing some of the new thinking about ideas like Guaranteed Income and the effectiveness of alleviating poverty by simply “giving poor people money,” instead of always trying to craft newer, more elaborate social programs.

Make it easier and more beneficial for disabled people to work and pursue careers

Disabled people want this, too. But so do a lot of social workers and others who believe strongly in the moral, spiritual benefits of work, apart from the financial security that comes from a secure, well-paying job. This point of view has the potential to get a little problematic, because it sometimes leads to some shaming of disabled people who aren't working. However, it is also where liberals and conservatives in disability policy find the most common ground.

Reduce overall Social Security Disability spending

It’s far from clear that Social Security Disability is too expensive or running out of money. The most we can say is that disability benefits are, at times, more costly than some people, maybe most people, think they should be. But who's to say what is the “right” amount to spend? Maybe we're not spending enough. That said, if reforms that accomplish the first two priorities also happen to “bend the cost curve," even a little, that would be a good thing for everyone.

Crack down on fraud

Evidence … as opposed to resentful perception … suggests that there is actually not much fraud at all in Social Security programs. Still, a simpler system, with fewer obscure rules, programs, and eligibility criteria might actually save money and reduce the opportunity for actual, bona fide fraud. Not to mention errors, which may be as much of a problem as fraud.

Confine disability benefits to people who are *really* disabled

This what you hear from people who divide recipients into two categories. There are deserving disabled people, and then there are lazy people and scammers, along with with people who have these weird conditions nobody heard of until a few years ago. They are convinced that common sense is all you need to tell who IS and ISN’T really disabled. Some people really believe this. For others, the argument may be a more socially acceptable substitute for what they really think, which is that the whole program is creeping socialism and should be abolished.

I hope Career ACCESS does more of these Twitter Chats. If they do, I hope more people will participate. We need as many disabled people as possible to keep the reform process on the right track.


See June 6, 2015 Followup


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