A reader writes:
As it happens, I'm actually an expert on "drunks on disability" - a lawyer who's concentrated on Social Security disability claims for the past 14 years.
(a) You can't get Social Security or SSI for being addicted to drugs or alcohol. Not since a change in the law in 1996. Yes, there are some disabled people who are addicts; but you find addicts in every slice of life. No reason the disabled should be exempt.
(b) As a practical matter, use of alcohol or drugs makes it MUCH harder to get on disability.
Disability judges are inclined to think that if you stopped drinking or using drugs, your condition would improve and you'd be able to work again. And they're inclined to think that if there's a single mention of drugs or alcohol in your medical records, then you must be an addict.
(c) The biggest problem with Social Security and SSI disability is not the frauds in the system. There are few of these, for the simple reason that most people can get a higher income from a minimum-wage part-time job than they're going to get from a disability check. A much bigger problem is the paranoid overreaction of the system to the possibility of fraud.
This means many honest claims are denied or delayed, causing genuinely disabled people to lose their life savings, their cars, their homes, their health (in most states you can't get Medicare or Medicaid without getting approved for disability), and sometimes their lives - about once or twice a year, one of my clients dies before we can win his or her claim.
I have many clients who have been fighting their disability appeals for upwards of five years. Meanwhile, in Washington, they're considering chopping personnel funding for Social Security. So I'm telling my clients that the waiting time will probably get longer.
Shocking, I know, to think Rush might be promoting an inaccurate view.
I don't know if another reader has mentioned this yet, but according to Al Franken's "Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot," Limbaugh has admitted on his radio show that he once took unemployment checks when he was between jobs.
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