The Washington Post

How Medicaid forces the disabled to be poor (but some bipartisan help is on the way).

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.

New America Media

Disability Advocate Speaks Out on New California Care Program

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 Wall Street Journal

Investigators Make More Disability Fraud Arrests

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.

The New York Times

The Opinion Pages: Fake Disability Claims

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.

LA Times

“60 Minutes” shameful attack on the disabled

In a follow- up to a 60 Minutes report on disability benefits recipients who are allegedly “gaming the system,” LA Times columnist Michael Hiltzik takes the major broadcast organization to task for what he calls “ghastly” reporting. Hiltzik writes:

“Is it possible for a major news organization to produce a story about the Social Security disability program without interviewing a single disabled person or disability advocate?”

Hiltzik claims the 60 Minutes piece relies too heavily on U.S. Senator Tom Coburn’s word, especially since Coburn has been documented as “hostile” to the Social Security system. Hiltzik also claims the numbers are exaggerated and not given the right context. Read more. 

60 Minutes

What happens when the U.S. disability fund runs dry?

U.S. Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma is heading up a Senate investigation of the nation’s disability benefits system and says the fund is due to dry up in the next two to three years. In a 60 Minutes report, the fund serves about 12 million people, up 20 percent in the last six years. Coburn claimed that a third of people on the disability rolls are “gaming the system.” Read more.