Yesterday The Washington Post debuted a five-part series about federal disability benefits their growth in rural communities. The story summary explains “Between 1996 and 2015, the number of working-age adults receiving federal disability payments increased significantly across the country, but nowhere more so than in rural America. In this series, The Washington Post explores how disability is shaping the culture, economy and politics of these small communities.”
The Social Security Administration faces a growing backlog of applications for disability benefits. Budget cuts have left the agency understaffed and slow to hold hearings with administrative judges responsible for reviewing cases.
“The average wait for a hearing is 602 days. Five years ago, it was less than a year,” writes reporter Stephen Ohlemacher for the Associated Press/Denver Post. Click here to read his full article.
Parents have long struggled to find compassionate health care for adult children with profound disabilities. Those in Kentucky now have a place to go. Read more.
The House has passed legislation to create tax-free savings accounts for people with disabilities. Passed by a vote of 404-17, the bill known as the ABLE Act is intended to help Americans with disabilities pay for the associated expenses, including medical costs and finding employment. Read more
A former New York City police officer pleaded guilty to charges of defrauding the Social Security Administration on Wednesday. Prosecutors said Joseph Esposito helped police officers, firefighters and other city workers obtain disability benefits by faking mental illnesses. Read more.
Medicaid-financed services are essential in helping millions of people living with disabilities quite literally survive. However, there is a major flaw in the oft-debated Medicaid system that is starting to be addressed by members of both parties in Congress– namely, that people with disabilities have to live, “officially at least, as a pauper.” In order to receive life-long care, Medicare recipients cannot have money saved away (as in a college fund for children) and must continue working to receive continued funding.
The Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act of 2013 would allow people with disabilities to establish savings accounts to be used for a variety of purposes, including education, housing, assistive technology and other basic needs. ABLE, sponsored by more than 400 members of Congress, is on the legislative agenda again this year and is expected to be voted on in the coming weeks. Read more.
Disability advocate Pamela Hoye expressed hope and concerns about a new demonstration project under the Affordable Care Act for low-income seniors and those with disabilities at a recent New American Media ethnic briefing.
Hoye, who has cerebral palsy, said the “continuity of care provisions” under the program (called Cal MediConnect in Calif.) could ease concern but will not replace important trust that’s built between existing doctor-patient relationships. Hoye also raised questions about whether individuals’ needs and preferences would be honored when choosing primary care doctors or “imposed on us by bureaucratic red tape and protocols.”
Read more about Cal MediConnect and Hoye’s analysis here.
The second arrest in as many months in an ongoing investigation into alleged Social Security Disability Insurance fraud netted 28 more people yesterday. The Manhattan District Attorney charged the accused– mainly retired New York City police officers and firefighters– with grand larceny and attempted grand larceny.
In early January, more than 100 people were arrested on similar charges, again mostly New York City law enforcement. Authorities said the scheme could date back 26 years and involve up to 1,000 fraudulent schemes. Read more.
In a letter to the editor, Les Greene, president-elect of the American Group Psychotherapy Association, wrote a recent article about fraud charges against first responders was “hardly” shocking. The Jan. 7 article “Charges for 106 in Huge Fraud Over Disability,” detailed retired New York City police officers and firefighters accused of faking symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder and other psychological injuries. According to Greene, “The tragedy is that compensation doled out by government agencies can be readily taken advantage of…by those who need to identify themselves as victims, and thus entitled to reparations by others.” Read more.