Senate Panel Uncovers Millions in Disability Fraud

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October 23, 2013 | 38,439 views

Story at-a-glance

  • The Federal Disability Insurance Program has a $135-billion budget and serves close to 12 million people, but its funds are in danger of running out
  • The Senate Subcommittee for Investigations believes the program is being abused – by lawyers, doctors and even some recipients – putting the benefits for those who truly need them at serious risk
  • According to the Senate investigation, up to 25 percent of disability files should not have been approved and another 20 percent are highly questionable
  • Some Americans are using disability benefits as a financial bridge after their unemployment benefits run out; it’s easy to do since so many Americans have chronic conditions or impairments
  • As a whole, Americans are not healthy – they're tired, depressed, stressed out and often in pain – taking control of your health can help you to avoid disability and heal your body naturally



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By Dr. Mercola

The Federal Disability Insurance Program was started in the 1950s to assist people who were unable to work due to injury or disability. Today, the program has a $135-billion budget and serves close to 12 million people, but its funds are in danger of running out.

With a 20 percent increase in the last six years alone, the Federal Disability program now spends more in an average year than the Department of Homeland Security, the Justice Department, and the Labor Department combined, according to a 60 Minutes segment by CBS News.1

For those who need it, the Disability Program is invaluable, but the Senate Subcommittee for Investigations believes the program is being abused – by lawyers, doctors and even some recipients – putting the benefits for those who truly need them at serious risk.

Disability: A System Ravaged by Waste and Fraud?

If you watch TV, you've probably seen commercials for disability lawyers advertising their services, hoping to earn a dollar and a cent by appealing cases from the two-thirds of people who applied for disability and got rejected. Last year alone, the Social Security Administration paid $1 billion to claimants' lawyers.2

Certainly, some of these lawyers are providing an honest service, but others clearly appear to be exploiting the system. CBS News used the example of one attorney who runs the third largest disability practice in the US.

The Senate investigation revealed that he had collected more than $13 million in legal fees from the government over six years, while paying five doctors about $2 million to "sign off on bogus medical forms that had been manufactured and filled out ahead of time by… [his] staff."3

According to the Senate investigation, up to 25 percent of disability files should not have been approved:4

"The Social Security Administration, which runs the disability program says the explosive surge is due to aging baby boomers and the lingering effects of a bad economy. But Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, the ranking Republican on the Senate Subcommittee for Investigations -- who's also a physician -- says it's more complicated than that.

Last year, his staff randomly selected hundreds of disability files and found that 25 percent of them should never have been approved -- another 20 percent, he said, were highly questionable."

Many Over 40 'Have Some Sort of An Ailment or Impairment'

In many cases, experts say, some Americans are using disability benefits as a financial bridge after their unemployment benefits run out. Faced with a still slow economy and limited or nonexistent job prospects, some become desperate and turn to the government for help.

Meanwhile, since so many have chronic conditions, from chronic pain and fibromyalgia to depression and anxiety, it becomes a fine line of who to help and who to turn away…

Marilyn Zahm, US disability judge and president of the Association of Administrative Law Judge, told 60 Minutes:

"People run out of unemployment insurance. They are not going to die silently. They are going to look for another source of income. It is not unusual for people, especially people over 40, to have some sort of an ailment or impairment. So they will file for disability benefits based upon that. For many of these people, the plant closed. There are no jobs in their communities. What are people supposed to do?"

Is there waste going on in the US Disability Program? Certainly. Is there fraud? Yes. Still, those who do receive it are not getting rich off their payments, as CBS News pointed out. Payments typically amount to minimum wage income of about $1,100 a month, plus Medicare benefits after two years.

Yet in big-picture terms, each new case costs taxpayers about $300,000 in lifetime benefits… a number that is quickly becoming unsustainable. Ultimately, this is just one more instance where the health care system, or rather, the disease care system, is failing Americans.

What Are the Leading Causes of Disability?

Hundreds of thousands are killed by medical care itself, while others are walking around with far less than stellar health due to conventional treatments. Rates of chronic diseases are through the roof, and we're facing epidemics of obesity, heart disease, diabetes, depression and too many others to list. As a whole, Americans are not healthy – they're tired, depressed, stressed out and often in pain.

As patients, many people have taken their health into their own hands by abandoning this fatally flawed medical model and embracing holistic modalities that can help heal on a body-wide level.

And, if you carefully follow some basic health principles – simple things like exercising, eating whole foods, sleeping enough, getting sun exposure, and reducing stress in your life – you will drastically reduce your need for conventional medical care, which in and of itself will reduce your chances of suffering ill side effects.

My Nutrition Plan can guide you, step by step, toward optimal health. It's now significantly improved and contains a number of updated recommendations, such as the addition of fermented vegetables as a source of healthful probiotic, and using intermittent fasting and high-intensity exercise to really optimize your health.

The Plan is divided into three stages: beginner, intermediate and advanced. If you realize you're already doing all the things included in the beginner's phase, then it may be time to move on to the next phase. If you're new to the site, I encourage you to go through it from the beginning, as it is one of the most powerful tools to truly allow you and your family to avoid disability and take control of your health.

[+]Sources and References [-]Sources and References

  • 1 CBS News October 6, 2013
  • 2 See ref 1
  • 3 See ref 1
  • 4 See ref 1
  • 5 MMWR Weekly May 1, 2009
  • 6 New England Journal of Medicine November 25, 2010
  • 7 Council for Disability Awareness
  • 8 The Institute of Medicine, Best Care at Lower Cost: The Path to Continuously Learning Health Care, September 6, 2012
  • 9 The Washington Post September 15, 2012
  • 10 Pharmaceutical Industry Is Biggest Defrauder of the Federal Government under the False Claims Act, New Public Citizen Study Finds