Washington Post and Myths about Disability

Disability rights are under attack in DC. Right-wing politicians want to slash Medicaid, the shift towards “school choice” is a blatant attack on special education rights, the ADA is being dismissed as overwhelmed by frivolous lawsuits, and the GOP argues that SSDI is mostly fraud. It’s not, but narratives can overwhelm data so easily.

So it’s a problem that the Washington Post launched a big new series rural disability, emphasizing fraud in Social Security Disability Insurance. Here’s a critique from Daniel Marans (who, incidentally, has been covering the DC Disability rights world more and more for Huffington Post).

Disability rights advocates and a leading Democratic think tank are livid at The Washington Post over a March 30 front-page story on the prevalence of disability benefits in rural America.

The newspaper claimed that “as many as one-third of working-age adults” in rural communities receive disability benefits. But as the Center for American Progress calculated ― and The Huffington Post confirmed by looking at the raw data ― that proportion holds true in only one county in the entire country.

Republicans often use stories like the Post’s to argue that the disability rolls have grown due to abuse from people who can work but simply do not want to. For example, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) complained in January 2015 that people were “gaming the system” to receive disability benefits. In fact, the Social Security Administration’s inspector general has estimated that the Social Security Disability Insurance program has a fraud rate below 1 percent.


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