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Depressed? Back Pain? Cheer Up! SSDI Can Help!

October 14, 2013

Depressed? Back Pain? Cheer Up! SSDI Can Help!  He was a thirty-something single male, neatly dressed, the father of several children by different women.  When asked where he works, he replied that he doesn’t. He’s disabled.    

The young man is one of the growing numbers of Americans receiving Social Security Disability Income (SSDI). His diagnosis is clinical depression. But not so depressed as to be impotent, I thought.        

That was my “aha” moment. Before then, I was vaguely aware that many able-bodied young adults with no visible disabilities are collecting disability. Yet they go about their daily affairs without difficulty, own the latest cell phone (or complain that they don’t), drive late model automobiles, and readily supplement their SSDI with under-the-table income.

Sen. Pat Toomey (R. Pa.) says that “transfer-payment programs” have created a huge “economic disincentive.”  Clearly, a modest but comfortable lifestyle funded with other people’s money has its appeal. A military veteran of my acquaintance once teased that his Post-Traumatic-Stress Disorder financed his Corvette.

Empirical research confirmed my suspicions. In 1960, according to the Office of Management and Budget, social-welfare programs accounted for less than a third of all federal spending. Today, free cell phones, food stamps, unemployment and disability programs and other entitlements account for nearly two-thirds of federal spending, eclipsing everything else Washington spends combined.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the proportion of adult men 20 and older working or seeking work dropped by 13 percentage points between 1948 and 2008.More than 7% of men in their late 30s, the prime working age-group, had totally checked out of the workforce.

In a recent Wall Street Journal piece, Nicholas Eberstadt of the American Enterprise Institute wrote that this flight from work has largely been a flight to government disability programs. According to the Social Security Administration, in December 2012, more than 8.8 million working - age men and women took such disability payments from the government---nearly three times as many as in December 1990.

The biggest increases in disability claims have been for “ musculosketal” problems and mental disorders ( including mood disorders like depression). Eberstadt asserts that as a practical matter, it is impossible for a health professional to ascertain conclusively whether or not a patient is suffering from back pains or sad feelings

A Google search produced a web chockablock with sites eager to assist those interested in joining the ranks of the disabled. The process appears ridiculously simple.

One site cheerfully reports that depression is the leading cause of disability among nonfatal medical conditions in the United States.

To qualify for benefits, an applicant must show they have severe depression by having at least four of nine symptoms. These “symptoms” include commonplace, everyday feelings, such as lack of interest or pleasure in most activities, decreased energy, poor appetite or overeating, insomnia or oversleeping. The applicant must also have serious difficulties in daily living, social functioning, and focusing.  

Which begs the question of who among us doesn’t occasionally have serious difficulties in daily living, functioning, and focusing?           

Truth be told, I’m depressed because I don’t have time to be depressed. Like millions of working stiffs, I drag myself to work each day whether I feel like it or not.   

 But hold on while I take a second look at that site.    

After further review, sign me up!

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Gerald McOscar has lived, practiced law, and penned an occasional column in West Chester, Pa for over three decades. His work has appeared in numerous newspapers and periodicals over the years, including the Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News, Baltimore Sun, Washington Post, Women's Quarterly, and many others. He was politically raised a "blue collar democrat" before acquiring  a conservative world view upon entering young adulthood. Jerry believes that the personal responsibility that conservatism espouses is the key to a life worth living.