Fact Checking NPR: The Real Story about Social Security & People with Disabilities

National Public Radio logoA huge buzz has come out of a story called “Unfit for Work: The Startling Rise of Disability in America” that ran last week on This American Life and this week on National Public Radio (NPR). While this story about Social Security and people with disabilities raises interesting questions, it’s also very incomplete, and perpetuates negative stereotypes and misunderstandings about people with disabilities. The Arc’s network knows better!

Members of The Arc and families served by us know that Social Security disability programs provide an essential lifeline that keeps millions of Americans with severe disabilities from homelessness and deep poverty.  About 1 in 5 Americans live with a disability, and this report failed to show the importance these programs play in many of their lives.

Additionally, “Unfit to Work” failed to mention many of the key facts about these programs. Many listeners were left with the impression that the disabilities that qualify people for Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) are “squishy,” and that the “federal disability programs have become an extremely expensive default plan” for low-income Americans.

In reality, Social Security and SSI disability benefits are only available to children and adults with the most severe disabilities – it’s hard to qualify, and it can often take years. The recent growth in the programs is largely explained by demographics, and program costs are manageable. The Arc does support many improvements to these programs to make them better for beneficiaries and to strengthen their financing – and we also know they are a lifeline that must be preserved.

To learn more about this report and the inaccuracies in it please read this letter from The Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities, which The Arc has signed, and other perspectives:

Also, if you want to take action and tell NPR the real story about Social Security and individuals with disabilities, visit our action center.

3 thoughts on “Fact Checking NPR: The Real Story about Social Security & People with Disabilities

  1. what a scam!!! i have 2 brothers, and NOTHING is wrong with them, and they both collect ssi at 42 and 14 yrs old!! now i hear them telling our cousin they know a lawyer who will tell them what to say to get on, and of course that lawyer will “hook ” them up them w/a doctor to again, “hook them up”. And they tell my cousin they r good for life with quifilying for food stamps and medicare!! i play softball and basketball with them every summer!!! i bet my last dollar if u followed around %70 of these reciepiants, would could see what a scam this is!!! tell the truth!!!

  2. Your blog was of great value when doing research. I personaly apreciated how this blog sheds light on a subject that NPR failed to touch on during Chana’s report on Money Planet. I recently wrote a post on some of the problems and solutions surrounding our current Disability Program.

    Would you mind reading my blog at gtharrisangle250.blogspot.com? I would like to have your perspective.

    Greg Harris
    The Green Room at Iowa State University

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