Social Security Disability Program

Capitol Hill Building in Washington DC

Got a scary note from someone whose identity I will solemnly protect.

Due to his vast time spent in the federal government, working as one of those nameless, faceless bureaucrats and rising to a very high position mostly by playing the game and not making waves, I asked him to do a pre-read of my 4th book, The Devil’s Quota.

In this book, some of the largess from the yearly government haul of our hard-earned taxes is funneled to fuel a private illegal enterprise by an entrepreneurial federal employee – who taps whatever is lying around the spreadsheet to fund it. In my book somewhere around $250k “falls off the federal truck” and seeds his shady endeavor, reaping an outrageous and illicit secondary personal income to his regular paycheck from the Federalis. I thought that was an indicting, criminally devious enough plot point.

His astounding response to my fictional criminal invention was “drop in the bucket”. The bucket being the Waste, Fraud and Abuse Vat that ‘overfloweth’ from the massive amount of money in the system that just can’t be accounted for. He then mentioned, in his letter of last week, the tremendous fraud and waste in misappropriating or inappropriate dispersal of millions of dollars just within one small part of government, the Social Security Disability Program (SSDP) of the government.

That “ooops” of misappropriation is somewhere between $2 and $3 billion out of the $10 plus billion that is disbursed every year by the SSDP. Keep in mind that it is only one department of one administration of the many agencies that make up the huge juggernaut that is the federal government.

Billions going out the door to unqualified recipients while millions of citizens who legitimately deserve these funds to survive, get the crumbs. Now, I am not one to rain on someone’s parade of ‘good luck’, and in my anti-establishment youth my opinion was, if you can game the system – then screw the government. If you can get away with a score like that, good for you. Everybody does it. It’s only the dumb who play by the rules. Of course that was before I paid taxes and realized the government was me, or at least co-funded by me, so screwing the government was a ménage à trois!

 Today, I personally know many people who magically became disabled when their 99 weeks of unemployment ran out. If one of you is reading this right now, don’t worry. I am not a rat. Someone, somewhere in the government is allowing them to reclassify, so I feel they are merely fighting to survive, trying to put food on the table. It’s hard to hold them responsible for utilizing a resource born out of either sloppiness or corruption at the federal level.

 But then I thought about what the Social Security Disability Program is in existence to do. It turned me around when I realized that many deserving citizens, who find themselves unable to work, are turned away because the money earmarked for their legitimate use is being diverted to those who otherwise have no disability.

To be balanced and fair to this issue, critics of the critics would say no one gets turned away. That’s because of the 12 million folks who are in the SSD Program, maybe 25 to 30% are in some way gaming the system. But, they point out, ‘no legitimate claim is denied.’ Somehow the folks who take comfort in this notion, must not pay taxes or they make a lot of money in some way from the SSDP.

So back to what started this all, my book and what I thought was a horendous dastardy deed by a criminal government employee. So I said to myself, I’ll change my book, I’ll expand the plot, I’ll point out this inequity, I’ll lead the reading public to the door of the Social Security Disability Program! I’ll up the ante from a mere $250,000 chicken feed theft to $250,000,000, which would be more in line with reality. I started contemplating my Pulitzer Prize acceptance speech.

“The power of fiction to right the wrongs of our non-fiction world, when those wrongs are so egregious that on the face of it they seem like the invention of fiction themselves…”     – Pulitzer Prize winner Thomas Avitabile

Then the CBS TV show 60 Minutes ran a story this weekend. Although my contact wasn’t in it, it was almost word for word his account of the dis-ability of the government to be accountable. I was scooped! So instead of polishing my Pulitzer I guess I’ll just go back to polishing my manuscript.

 P.S. If you want another little ‘Government Gone Wild’ chestnut to get your blood boiling, after two years of gaming the system (whether you are entitled or not), EVERYONE, even the scammers, automatically qualify for Medicare after two years on SSDP, no matter what age they are, just because they were on SSDP! If you put that in a book, the editor would cut it out as unbelievable.

Tom Avitabile