Hi there everyone,
Fred Chambers (FChambers@aol.com) is here, writing again. I received the
following news article that might be of interest to people we know.
Subj: GOVERNMENT COULD SAVE BY KICKING HEALTHY OFF DISABILITY ROLLS
Date: 95-08-03 19:43:28 EDT
Government Could Save by Kicking Healthy Off Disability Rolls
By JENNIFER DIXON
Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Thousands of Americans collect federal disability benefits
long after recovering their health, lawmakers were told Thursday, and Social
Security has failed to find them and cut off their monthly checks.
According to the General Accounting Office, the government could save $1.7
billion in Medicare and disability insurance costs by reviewing the health of
more than a million Americans on Social Security's rolls and removing those
who are no longer disabled.
Social Security is supposed to periodically check the health of disabled
workers. But with its staff and budget stretched thin by dramatic increases
in the number of applications for benefits in recent years, the agency has
failed to do the required examinations.
The GAO, the congressional investigative agency, said there is a backlog of
1.5 million cases needing review.
Medical improvement is expected or possible for about half of those awaiting
a review. If all of their cases were examined, about 24,000 would be
terminated, saving the government $1.7 billion in cash and medical benefits
that would have been paid out over the recipients' expected stay on the
rolls, the GAO estimated.
Jane Ross, director of income security issues for the GAO, told the House
Ways and Means subcommittee on Social Security that the federal agency has a
poor record of reviewing the health of recipients and an even worse record of
providing rehabilitation to move people into jobs.
``This reinforces the public perception that (Social Security) pays
disability benefits to people who may not qualify for them,'' she said.
Rep. Jim Bunning, R-Ky., the committee's chairman, agreed, saying ``the
Social Security disability program is in real trouble.''
Bunning also said the agency is ``simply not helping people get back to work
and off the disability rolls.''
He said recipients also have little incentive to participate in
rehabilitation because Social Security rarely takes anyone off the rolls.
``That has to change,'' Bunning said, noting that of the more than 9 million
people receiving either disability insurance or Supplemental Security Income
due to disability, fewer than 6,000 were rehabilitated last year.
According to the GAO, only about one of every 500 disabled workers has left
the benefit rolls for a job.
The GAO's research illustrates the serious and continuing problems facing
Social Security's two disability programs -- disability insurance for workers
who can no longer hold a job due to ill health and Supplemental Security
Income for disabled children and the poor.
The two programs have grown rapidly over the past several years, and now
provide nearly $60 billion a year in cash benefits to more than 9 million
Spending on rehabilitation accounts for less than 1 percent of what is spent
on benefits for the disabled, and less than one-tenth of 1 percent of all
recipients were successfully rehabilitated in 1994, the GAO said.
At the same time, applicants for disability benefits may wait more than a
year for a final decision on their cases, and Ross said the process of
deciding benefits ``shows troubling signs of inconsistency.''
Social Security, however, has begun revamping the disability process and is
conducting more disability reviews, from fewer than 50,000 a year in the
early 1990s to 81,200 in 1994. Under the law, however, it is supposed to
conduct 500,000 reviews a year.
The agency's commissioner, Shirley S. Chater, said she is committed to
intensifying efforts to ``ensure that only those people who are eligible for
disability benefits receive them.''
She said Social Security has set aside $215 million in next year's budget to
conduct the disability reviews. The money will finance reviews of more than
400,000 recipients. The agency will do 300,000 this year.
This material is copyrighted and may not be republished without permission of
the originating newspaper or wire service.
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