Disability in America – Second Article in Series Continues Biased, Flawed Reporting

by T.J. Sutcliffe, Director, Income & Housing Policy

In March, The Washington Post launched a new series, “Disabled, America,” to look at how disability “…is shaping the culture, economy and politics…” of rural communities. The first article in the series met with widespread criticism for multiple errors in its data and facts, and for leaving the public with negative, false impressions about Social Security’s disability programs and rural beneficiaries.

Unfortunately, the second article in the Post’s series only went further down the path of reporting by stereotype and anecdote. The article profiles a family in Pemiscot County, Missouri with several members who have disabilities, including a mother and her adult daughter who receive Social Security disability benefits.

Media Matters summed up the outrage at the article’s portrayal of the family as “…a ‘mean-spirited’ and ‘cartoonish’ illustration of the struggles of those living with poverty in rural America.” In Poynter, S.I. Rosenbaum noted that the article failed to provide even basic facts about Social Security’s disability programs, writing that “…without them, in my opinion, the story is incomplete and even misleading.” The Urban Institute pointed out many of those missing facts.

Notably, the second article failed to provide important context, such as the fact that Missouri has a relatively high statewide rate of residents with disabilities, particularly in many rural Missouri counties. In addition, record numbers of Americans today live in multigenerational households, and disability often runs in families for reasons that include genetics, common exposure to environmental hazards, and similar past and ongoing access to (or lack of) health care.

With President Trump having recently proposed over $72 billion in cuts over 10 years to Social Security and Supplemental Security Income disability benefits, reporting that focuses on anecdote, with little to no context, runs the risk of leading policymakers down a dangerous and harmful path. In letters responding the Post’s first article and second article, over 50 national organizations urged Congress to “…ensure that any discussions about how to strengthen the nation’s Social Security system are informed by facts—not well-debunked myths and offensive stereotypes.”

Here’s a round-up of analyses and responses to the second Post article – and if you missed it, be sure to read our round-up of responses to the first Post article, as well.

Research to Practice Webinar: State of the States in IDD 2017

State of the States LogoAs part of its inaugural Research to Practice series, The Arc of the United States and the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities co-sponsored a timely webinar: The State of the States in Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, 2017 presented by Dr. David Braddock, Senior Associate Vice President of the University of Colorado (CU) System and Executive Director of the Coleman Institute for Cognitive Disabilities. The State of the States in Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (IDD) Project of National Significance has provided critical information on national and state revenues, spending, and programmatic trends in IDD services and supports for 35 years. The information collected through collaboration with state agencies reveals the longitudinal impact of federal and state fiscal policies on innovations in the support and services system in the states and nation.

The webinar has been archived and can be accessed here. Learn more about the importance of Medicaid to people with disabilities here. Learn more about the State of the States in Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities here.

New Video: How President Trump’s Budget Breaks a Promise to Protect Social Security and the Families That Rely on It

Washington, DC – Today The Arc and the Center for American Progress released a video showcasing two personal stories about how Social Security is more than just retirement income. Social Security is a system that protects workers and families throughout their lives. If President Trump’s $72.4 billion in cuts to Social Security’s disability programs in his budget were to be implemented, the impact on families like those featured in this video would be dire.

“Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income are part of Social Security and the promise of that program must be honored for Katie, Will, Heather, and millions of people who need to access these basic but crucial benefits. Social Security is far too often the only thing keeping the lights on and food on the table for a person with a disability or a chronic condition.

“Heather, Katie, and Will are terrified by what this budget proposal could mean for them and for people who in the future need these benefits. This budget lays the cards on the table – and advocates across the country need to share their stories with elected officials and urge them to reject these cuts to Social Security,” said Peter Berns, CEO of The Arc.

This video highlights the stories of Will, a child with a disability, and Heather, a woman with terminal cancer. Will and his family relied on Supplemental Security Income (SSI) to pay for medication to prevent his seizures. SSI is part of Social Security that supports children and adults with disabilities. Without SSI, Will’s family wouldn’t have been able to afford his medicine or medical expenses, or meet his basic needs.

Heather was working internationally promoting fair elections and democracy when she got sick. By the time she was diagnosed, her cancer had metastasized and she feared she would end up impoverished paying for her cancer treatments. Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) helps American workers like Heather if they are faced with a life-changing disability or illness. Once her cancer spread Heather was unable to continue working. Without SSDI, she wouldn’t be able to afford chemotherapy and the prescription drugs that she relies on to survive.

These stories highlight the value of SSI and SSDI for those families who find themselves in need of additional support.

Share this video with your network to help people understand all that Social Security does to support families across the country.

Join Our Fight – as new threats to the civil rights of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities arise, we want to keep you in the loop with the most up to date information.

Read more about The Arc’s position on President Trump’s proposed budget.

If you are a member of the media and interested interviewing the people in this video, contact Kristen McKiernan, mckiernan@thearc.org or Sarah Bal, bal@thearc.org.

 

The Arc advocates for and serves people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD), including Down syndrome, autism, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders, cerebral palsy and other diagnoses. The Arc has a network of over 650 chapters across the country promoting and protecting the human rights of people with I/DD and actively supporting their full inclusion and participation in the community throughout their lifetimes and without regard to diagnosis.

Numbers Confirm Worst Fears of People with Disabilities: AHCA Devastating to Medicaid

Washington, DC – The Arc released the following statement in response to the Congressional Budget Office’s report on the House-passed American Health Care Act:

“Millions of people will be impacted by the American Health Care Act if it becomes law – yet astonishingly, Members of Congress voted without sufficient information on the real world impact of their actions. Now we know, and our worst fears are confirmed – 14 million fewer people enrolled in Medicaid by 2026, and $834 billion in spending cuts to Medicaid over a decade.

“The states will be hard-pressed to make up for the loss of funding from the Medicaid program and the per capita cap restructuring that permanently eliminates the federal guarantee to partner in delivering these services. The hole will be vast and it will consume decades of progress in investing in supports and services for people to be served in the community instead of in isolated and segregated institutions or facilities. People with disabilities and their families fear the loss of community based supports and a return to institutional services.

“We are at a critical juncture in our history as a disability rights movement. Now more than ever, people with disabilities, families, professionals in the field, and the general public need to rise up to protect the rights of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities to live a life like anyone else,” said Marty Ford, Senior Executive Officer, Public Policy, The Arc.

 

The Arc advocates for and serves people wit­­h intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD), including Down syndrome, autism, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders, cerebral palsy and other diagnoses. The Arc has a network of over 650 chapters across the country promoting and protecting the human rights of people with I/DD and actively supporting their full inclusion and participation in the community throughout their lifetimes and without regard to diagnosis.

Owning a Home with a Special Needs Trust

By Amy R. Tripp, Esq., Special Needs Alliance

To say that adequate housing options for persons with disabilities is a challenge is an understatement. As a result, in the process of future planning, housing is almost always one of the most important topics. Some people with disabilities would like to continue living in the family home, with appropriate supports, after Mom and Dad are gone, and parents often agree that would best serve their son or daughter’s interest. Other parents anticipate leaving funds that would allow their son or daughter to own appropriate alternate housing. In both cases, it must be determined if it makes sense for the house to be owned by a special needs trust (SNT) that is likely at the center of their plan. And as noted below, individuals and families must also weigh the benefits of home ownership versus renting to determine the best fit.

The short answer is that, in many cases, is does make sense for an SNT to own a home, but there are numerous considerations and caveats that come into play. This is an overview of the rules and issues that can arise when an SNT owns a home.

It is important first to identify what type of trust would own the home. We should distinguish between “first party” and “third party” trusts. A first party SNT is funded with the individual beneficiary’s assets and, after the death of the beneficiary, requires reimbursement to the state for Medicaid services. A third party SNT, which is funded with someone else’s assets, such as an inheritance from a parent or proceeds from a life insurance policy, is more flexible and does not require reimbursement to the state.

Options for Titling Homes

A threshold consideration in deciding whether a residence is better owned by an SNT or the individual is whether that person has legal capacity to hold title on their own and what decision-making supports the person might need. Minors simply cannot hold title and would require a guardian (in some states, a conservator) be appointed. Many adults may also need support to manage home ownership. If an adult is under guardianship or conservatorship, the guardian or conservator would likely have legal authority to manage the property. Many other adults with I/DD would benefit from using decision-making supporters to help them meet the obligations of home ownership.

For an adult with I/DD, home ownership can be empowering, as it is for all of us. The responsibilities of home ownership, as well as the status of a property owner, can have very positive impact. Families should take care to ensure that appropriate decision-making supports are in place.

If direct ownership isn’t practical, leaving a family home to a third party SNT, or buying one with trust assets, protects the property from creditors and leaves financial and maintenance issues in the hands of a trustee.

While a residence purchased by a first party SNT gains these advantages during the beneficiary’s lifetime, the home is subject to recovery by the state upon the beneficiary’s death to the extent of the costs paid by Medicaid.

Finally, it is important to look at who else might be living in the home. If the home is owned outright by a first party SNT, there may be complications if other family members also reside there. Distributions from first party SNTs are supposed to be for the sole benefit of the beneficiary, and this may be interpreted differently by various Social Security offices. Depending on the level of caregiving performed by family members, they may be required to pay rent in order to avoid affecting the beneficiary’s eligibility for government benefits. There may even be issues regarding what maintenance the trust should pay for.

Some trustees, seeking to avoid a first party trust payback, arrange for the SNT to purchase a life estate interest in the family residence. By paying a portion of the home’s value, the beneficiary has a right to live there, rent free, as long as he or she lives. In some states, however, this won’t avoid the Medicaid lien, and other family members residing in the home still may need to pay rent to avoid conflict with the sole benefit rule.

Running the Numbers

Of course, as attractive as the idea is, whether it is practical to plan to provide a house to an adult son or daughter with disabilities after you’re gone comes down to dollars.

Any time the purchase or transfer of ownership of a residence is begin considered, it is critical to prepare a detailed budget which takes into consideration things such as the cost of modifications needed for accessibility, long-term maintenance, utilities, taxes, insurance, and general upkeep. A common planning mistake is for people to create SNTs which purchase homes, only to have the housing costs consume such a large part of the available resources that other important purposes of the SNT are compromised, leading to deterioration of the property and forcing sale at a discounted price.

On occasion the solution may be as simple as finding a roommate. The trend today is for families to consolidate resources and purchase housing that provides for more than one adult. While there are some great examples of these types of arrangements, there are also many situations in which such plans simply don’t work. And many trustees are unwilling to deal with their complexity.

Beyond the numbers, persons with disabilities and their families should consider other pros and cons to homeownership, including whether the person may in the future want to live in a different neighborhood or area, the suitability of the home for future family configurations and the potential for aging in place.

Effect on Benefits

The ownership of property and the payment of housing expenses can impact the government benefits the individual may be receiving, including Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Medicaid.

Notably, for persons who receive SSI, mortgage payments, property taxes, utilities and other housing costs paid on their behalf by an SNT are considered in-kind support and maintenance (ISM) and will reduce SSI. Good planning can often reduce the impact of these rules, but not always.

Likewise, depending on how a home is titled, the purchase or sale of a home can trigger interruptions or reductions in benefits in the months in which these events occur. While the home is an exempt asset for SSI and Medicaid benefits, the sale of the home in the future, if titled to the individual, will result in converting an exempt asset into countable resources. If the home is titled to the SNT, then the sale of the home would have no impact on eligibility.

Medicaid liens and other estate recovery claims are potential pitfalls when persons receiving benefits own their own homes, or have homes held in some SNTs. When a first party SNT owns the home, extra attention needs to be provided if other family members are living in the home and providing support to the beneficiary. When the beneficiary dies, Medicaid is reimbursed from the remaining assets in the first party SNT. If the Medicaid lien exceeds the balance of the assets in the first party SNT and the house is owned by the SNT, then the house may be lost. This can be a great hardship for some families who provide support and services to the beneficiary.

Conclusion

Housing is always a challenge in future planning for persons with disabilities. Arranging for a stable living environment is a high priority, but the considerations are many and complex, and families and their counselors are becoming increasingly creative as they struggle with the housing shortage. Whether an SNT can or should own a house involves a number of considerations, and families should seek advice from a qualified attorney to ensure that their objectives are met.

Amy Tripp is a member of the Special Needs Alliance, a national nonprofit dedicated to assisting individuals with disabilities, their families and the professionals who serve them. SNA is partnering with The Arc to provide educational resources, build public awareness and advocate for policies on behalf of people with intellectual/developmental disabilities and their families.

 

Trump Budget and Health Care Cuts are Devastating for People with Disabilities, Including Soojung’s Family

WASHINGTON, DC – Today the Trump Administration released its first ten year budget proposal, and the numbers are devastating for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) and their families. On top of the more than $800 billion in Medicaid cuts already approved by the House of Representatives, the Trump Administration is planning for $610 billion in cuts to Medicaid; $72.4 billion in cuts to Social Security’s disability programs; and hundreds of billions more in cuts to other effective federal programs that are vital to people with I/DD.

“Where we invest our federal dollars is a measure of our values as a nation. Today the Trump Administration showed its cards, and coupled with the devastating Medicaid cuts already approved by the House of Representatives in the health care bill, the deck is stacked against people with disabilities.

“In the last few weeks, I’ve traveled to chapters of The Arc in Maryland, North Carolina, Wisconsin, and even Alaska. Chapters of The Arc sprang up in these communities and across the country decades ago because people with disabilities and their families were appalled by the segregation of people with disabilities in inhumane institutions, and they were determined to make progress. And we have fought for rights, closed institutions, opened up the community and classroom, and paved the way to employment. Two effective programs built on bipartisan policy over the years – Medicaid and Social Security – have been essential to this progress. Medicaid provides health care and long term supports that help make a life in the community possible for many people with disabilities, and Social Security is far too often the only thing keeping the lights on and food on the table for a person with a disability.

“That these proposed cuts come in the very same package that is proposing the largest tax cuts in our nation’s history is simply obscene. Giving $5 trillion in tax cuts that primarily benefit wealthy individuals and corporations while simultaneously threatening the lives of everyday people defies comprehension.

“This budget – this Trump card – along with the health care cards being played in Congress as we speak, will dismantle decades of progress for people with disabilities and their families. So I’m calling on all advocates to do what they have done for decades, band together to put a face on these cuts. Share your story in your community and with your elected officials, and tell them to reject these cuts, before we go back in time to an era of discrimination and isolation,” said Peter Berns, CEO, The Arc.

In tandem with this budget news, The Arc is releasing a video which shares the story of a Maryland family which risks losing access to critical care for one of their children due to impending cuts to federal Medicaid funding. The video features Soojung, whose 11-year old daughter Alice, has Rett Syndrome and relies on overnight nursing services to be able to live at home with her family. Soojung speaks about the challenges she and her husband faced accessing these services, including having their requests turned down by private insurers. After years of waiting and uncertainty, Alice was finally accepted to a Medicaid program that provides her with nightly nursing services. These services have led to a great improvement in Alice’s health, making 2016 the first year of her life without a hospital stay.

For many families like Soojung’s, their health and lives could dramatically worsen if the Trump Administration’s proposed Medicaid cuts became a reality or if the over $800 billion in cuts over 10 years to federal Medicaid funding, proposed in the House-approved American Health Care Act (AHCA), go into effect. These cuts would not only force states to cut eligibility for their Medicaid programs, but would also diminish the quality and quantity of services that are provided to people who are already enrolled in these programs.

This video is the fifth in a series of videos The Arc is releasing, sharing the personal stories of people with disabilities and their families, and the impact of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and Medicaid on their lives.

o   Meet Bryan

o   Meet Thelma

o   Calvin’s Story

o   If I could say one thing

 

The Arc advocates for and serves people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD), including Down syndrome, autism, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders, cerebral palsy and other diagnoses. The Arc has a network of over 650 chapters across the country promoting and protecting the human rights of people with I/DD and actively supporting their full inclusion and participation in the community throughout their lifetimes and without regard to diagnosis.

What Do Moms Need?

Last week, The Arc was excited to join nearly 50 national organizations that co-sponsored the #MomsDontNeed / #LasMamásNoNecesitan Tweet storm. On Twitter, we called attention to recent actions and policies that threaten mothers and families, and highlighted the kind of supports they and all people truly need to protect and advance their economic security, health, and more.

Moms with disabilities, and moms of children with disabilities, do so much. And across the nation, moms are working harder than ever. With Congress considering legislation to devastate our health care system, and with new reports of major cuts in the works to Medicaid, Social Security disability benefits, and other effective federal programs, so much is at stake – for moms, and for all of us. As The Arc celebrates Mother’s Day, here are three things that we know are vital to supporting mothers and their many contributions.

1. Access to Health Care and Long-Term Supports and Services. Health insurance under the Affordable Care Act can make all the difference in the world. Just listen to Lindsay, mother of toddler Calvin, if you’re not sure why. In addition, for many people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, Medicaid provides a range of essential medical and long-term supports and services that make community living a reality and for many, can be the difference between life and death. Unfortunately, the American Health Care Act (AHCA) – passed recently by the House of Representatives and now before the Senate – shows callous and dangerous disregard for the wellbeing of people with disabilities and their families. Among the bill’s many harmful provisions, the AHCA would decimate Medicaid, erase health insurance cost protections for people with pre-existing conditions, and cause people to lose essential health benefits under state waivers. The AHCA is one bill that #MomsDontNeed.

2. Economic Security. For most moms and families of children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities, every penny counts. For example, raising a child with disabilities can be tremendously expensive due to major out of pocket medical and related costs, like adaptive equipment and therapies. For many families, earnings from work aren’t enough to maintain a basic standard of living and cover these often-extraordinary disability-related costs. It’s only possible because of income from Social Security’s disability programs, including Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Unfortunately, recent news reports suggest that President Trump’s 2018 budget will propose major cuts to Social Security disability benefits, as well as Medicaid and a host of other programs – totaling $800 billion in cuts. That’s another devastating idea that #MomsDontNeed.

3. Paid Family and Medical Leave. Moms with disabilities, and moms of children with disabilities, know better than most that time is a precious resource. At The Arc, we hear often from moms and dads struggling to get enough paid time off work: to be with a new baby in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit; to care for a new baby with disabilities when they first come home; to take their son or daughter to medical appointments, therapies, and after school programs; to attend IEP meetings and other school appointments – and so much more. And while we all love Wonder Woman, let’s face it, moms get sick, too. Moms shouldn’t have to choose between a pay check and a child’s health, or a pay check and their own health. Not moms, not anyone. That’s why The Arc is joining the call for a robust federal paid family and medical leave program. We hope you’ll #JoinOurFight!

The Arc Promotes Workforce Development for Egyptians with Disabilities through U.S. Department of State Exchange Program


[WASHINGTON, DC] The Arc will host Michael Mikhael, Executive Director and founding member at the Farah Foundation for Development in Alexandria, Egypt as a fellow in the U.S. Department of State’s Professional Fellows Program (PFP). This two-way exchange embraces the power of individual citizens to find creative solutions to challenges they face in both the United States and around the world. During the month-long fellowship program, mid-level foreign leaders and their U.S. counterparts build sustainable partnerships while enhancing their leadership and professional skills.

While in Washington, D.C., Michael will be exposed to innovative strategies of workforce development for people with disabilities. He will also have the opportunity to gain hands-on exposure to the different advocacy efforts that nonprofit organizations utilize in the struggle for disability rights. This parallels the PFP’s objective of broadening the professional expertise of individuals from around the world working to address common challenges, all while building enduring partnerships among American and foreign participants.

Michael comes to the U.S. with a strong background of supporting persons with disabilities. As early as 1993, he saw the need for economic empowerment programs that catered to individuals with disabilities while engaged in a church-led disability program, Faith and Light. Subsequently, in 2010, he established the Farah Foundation that has developed partnerships with the United Nations’ International Labor Organization (ILO) and the U.N. Development Programme (UNDP) to implement a labor market access and entrepreneurship program for people with disabilities. The foundation also created a database where individuals may seek disability-friendly employment. Additionally, the agency developed an artisan-craft program through which women and people with disabilities are taught marketable craft skills. In addition to these workforce activities, the Farah Foundation supports an orphanage for children with disabilities in Alexandria, Egypt. Upon returning home, Michael believes this new knowledge will help his organization incorporate more sustainable, comprehensive programs for people with disabilities in Egypt.

“The Professional Fellows Program (PFP) is an extraordinary opportunity, and The Arc is thrilled to participate. During Michael’s month-long fellowship, not only will he gain invaluable advocacy and technical skills he can use when he returns to the Farah Foundation, but The Arc will simultaneously also deepen its cultural competency knowledge and understanding. It’s a win for both of us,” commented Jonathan Lucus, Managing Director, The Arc@Work.

The Arc is one of hundreds of U.S. organizations chosen to host Professional Fellows participants from more than 40 countries and territories this spring. At the conclusion of the program, May 30-June 1, more than 270 fellows will gather in Washington, D.C., for the Professional Fellows Congress, a three-day concluding event aimed at preparing fellows to implement follow-on projects upon their return home.

Since 2010, more than 2,000 participants from more than 77 countries have taken part in the PFP in cities across the U.S., and approximately 1,000 American hosts have participated in reciprocal exchanges overseas.

The Arc advocates for and serves people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD), including Down syndrome, autism, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders, cerebral palsy and other diagnoses. The Arc has a network of over 650 chapters across the country promoting and protecting the human rights of people with I/DD and actively supporting their full inclusion and participation in the community throughout their lifetimes and without regard to diagnosis.

Follow @ProFellows on Twitter and join the conversation using #ProFellows.

For press inquiries please contact:

Kristen McKiernan, Senior Executive Officer, Communications (mckiernan@thearc.org)

U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs: eca-press@state.gov

The Arc Responds to House Passage of The American Health Care Act: “Shows callous and dangerous disregard for the wellbeing of people with disabilities”

Washington, DC – The Arc released the following statement following the House of Representatives passage of the American Health Care Act (AHCA), with the addition of amendments that take the bill from bad to worse for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) and their families:

“Members of the House of Representatives who supported the American Health Care Act voted against their constituents with intellectual and developmental disabilities. We won’t soon forget those who so willingly ignored the pleas of their constituents who rely on the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid for comprehensive health care coverage and long term services and supports that enable them to live full lives in the community. We must call this what it is – an attack on the rights and lives of people with disabilities.

“The federal government will be walking away from a more than 50 year partnership with states when it comes to Medicaid. Deep cuts and radical restructuring will decimate the Medicaid program. With an over $800 billion cut to Medicaid, states will face difficult choices about what people to cut from the program or what services to roll back. Optional services like home and community based services are likely to be cut. Lives will be lost when people are unable to access the health care and community supports they need.

“The plan that passed the House today is insufficient to keep people with disabilities insured or to support anyone with complex medical needs. If signed into law as currently written, this bill will result in people with disabilities and their family members losing health coverage in the private insurance market and in Medicaid. Coverage also becomes unaffordable as people with pre-existing conditions lose protections against higher premiums.   Those lucky enough to retain their coverage will find that some of the services they need – Essential Health Benefits – are no longer available.  And Medicaid funded long term supports and services, which help people live independently and be included in their communities, will be even scarcer as waiting lists for services will grow all across the country.  Some may end up living in nursing homes and institutions because community services are no longer available.

“The American Health Care Act shows callous and dangerous disregard for the wellbeing of people with disabilities and their families and erases decades of progress.  Now we turn to the Senate, our last line of defense. We intend to work with Senators on both sides of the aisle to oppose this harmful legislation. We continue to encourage disability advocates across the country to reach out to their Senators to voice their concern about this bill,” said Peter Berns, CEO, The Arc.

This week, The Arc released another video illustrating how Congress’ proposed changes to the ACA and Medicaid would negatively impact Americans with disabilities and their families. The video features an interview with Toby, Lindsay, and Calvin from Fairfax, VA. Calvin has Bilateral Fronto-Parietal Polymicrogyria and Cerebral Palsy and relies on multiple insurance plans to cover his medical and therapeutic treatments.

This video is the second in a series of videos The Arc will be releasing in the coming weeks, sharing the personal stories of people with disabilities and their families, and the impact of the ACA and Medicaid on their lives. The first video featured nine people who rely on the ACA and/or Medicaid, and each one has a personal message for Members of Congress and the Trump Administration.

A New Series Starts Off by Getting Disability Wrong

Over the years, we’ve seen flawed, misleading reporting on Social Security’s disability programs from National Public Radio, 60 Minutes, and the New York Times. Unfortunately, with the recent launch of a new, widely-criticized series, “Disabled America,” The Washington Post has joined the ranks of news media leaving the public with false impressions about Social Security disability benefits — and even, getting the facts plain wrong.

The Post’s new series will focus on how disability “…is shaping the culture, economy and politics…” of rural communities. The first article featured Desmond Spencer of Beaverton, Alabama as he made the difficult decision to call the Social Security Administration to ask about applying for disability benefits. The article relates that Mr. Spencer acquired painful, ongoing injuries during many years working as a roofer, welder, ranch hand, and garbage collector – including falling off a roof and being unable to get treatment due to his lack of health insurance. Readers do not learn whether Mr. Spencer ever applies for benefits, and do not know if he will qualify.

The Center for American Progress (CAP) summed up the first article’s many flaws:

“…the article cherry-picks one of the counties with the highest rates of disability benefit receipt, to create a dystopian portrait where Social Security disability benefits represent out-of-control government spending riddled with rampant abuse.

Reality looks quite a bit different.”

After digging in, CAP researchers revealed that the Post’s numbers are “flat-out wrong,” including its assertion that up to one-third of working-age adults in many rural counties receive disability benefits. CAP explained in detail the errors in the Post’s analysis and why that conclusion simply cannot be substantiated. The Post issued a correction – and CAP and others quickly pointed out ongoing major problems with the Post’s data, even after the correction.

Thirty-one national disability organizations subsequently called on the Post to correct and clarify the skewed and misleading numbers that remain in the article. Numerous groups have called out a host of additional problems with the story and data. And the Huffington Post and Des Moines Gazette have reported on the article’s flaws.

With the President’s budget director signaling that cuts to Social Security disability benefits may be under consideration, it’s vital that reporters get the facts right. Here’s a round-up of analyses and responses.