Recession: Half Of US Households Receiving Some Type Of Government Benefits In First Quarter Of 2011

May 26, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC – 49.1%: Percent of the population that lives in a household where at least one member received some type of government benefit in the first quarter of 2011.

Cutting government spending is no easy task, and it’s made more complicated by recent Census Bureau data showing that nearly half of the people in the U.S. live in a household that receives at least one government benefit, and many likely received more than one.

The 49.1% of the population in a household that gets benefits is up from 30% in the early 1980s and 44.4% as recently as the third quarter of 2008.

The increase in recent years is likely due in large part to the lingering effects of the recession. As of early 2011, 15% of people lived in a household that received food stamps, 26% had someone enrolled in Medicaid and 2% had a member receiving unemployment benefits. Families doubling up to save money or pool expenses also is likely leading to more multigenerational households. But even without the effects of the recession, there would be a larger reliance on government.

The Census data show that 16% of the population lives in a household where at least one member receives Social Security and 15% receive or live with someone who gets Medicare. There is likely a lot of overlap, since Social Security and Medicare tend to go hand in hand, but those percentages also are likely to increase as the Baby Boom generation ages.

With increased government spending comes the need to pay for it, and if taxes aren’t going to increase that means deficits. Nearly three-quarters of Americans blame the U.S. budget deficit on spending too much money on federal programs, according to a Gallup poll last year, but when the conversation turns to which programs to cut, the majorities are harder to find. For example, 56% of respondents oppose making significant changes to Social Security or Medicare.

The more people who receive benefits, the harder it’s going to be to make cuts, and it’s never popular to raise taxes. In some respects that argues for letting a combination of tax increases and spending cuts that is set to automatically hit in 2013 take effect. There’s just one problem: the Congressional Budget Office says it would sink the economy into recession.

Letting the 2013 provisions come into force would be like dealing with a weight problem by cutting off your right arm. It may not be popular, but a long-term, well-planned diet is the only solution.

Appeared Here

Advertisements

Social Security Administration Tells Disability Judges To Stay Off Websites And Social Media While Deciding Cases

May 4, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC – The Social Security Administration last month told its disability-claims judges they are no longer to seek out information from websites when deciding cases — taking away a tool some of those judges say would help in uncovering fraud.

Agency officials said reviewers can’t trust information posted online, and also said the mere act of typing in queries could compromise protected private information, so they shouldn’t try to access anything.

Social Security’s ban covers all Internet sites, including social media such as Facebook.

But Sen. Tom Coburn, Oklahoma Republican and a top taxpayer watchdog, said avoiding the Internet means giving up a valuable anti-fraud weapon — one that he said even federal courts have relied upon in some disability cases.

“If an individual claims to be disabled, and then publicly posts a picture participating in a sport or physical activity on a social media website, such information should be used by [adjudicators] to determine if the claimant was truly disabled,” Mr. Coburn wrote in a letter last week to Social Security Commissioner Michael J. Astrue.

The dispute raises Internet-age questions about the information people make available about themselves online, and how proactive government agencies should be in seeking out that information when it comes to granting taxpayer-funded benefits.

Social Security officials said they don’t object to using information gleaned from the Internet, but they don’t want the front-line deciders going out looking for it. They said that’s a job for fraud investigators to follow up on later in the process.

“Adjudicators should do what they are trained to do — review voluminous files to determine eligibility for disability benefits. Office of Inspector General fraud investigators should do what they are trained to do — vigorously follow up on any evidence of fraud,” said Kia S. Green, a spokeswoman for the agency.

Disability claims make up two parts of the Social Security system, and an entire legal industry has sprung up to help applicants win their claims.

But Mr. Coburn said without unshackling the judges who review the claims, there’s nobody looking out for taxpayers’ interests in the process.

Administrative Law Judge Thomas W. Snook, who is based in Miami, agreed, saying the public has entrusted adjudicators with the responsibility to make good decisions on behalf of the applicants and the public, and the more tools they have, the better.

“After being a judge for over 20 years, I think I can decide on what weight to give the tools available to me,” Judge Snook said.

The Social Security spokeswoman did not say why the policy was implemented just last month, but some judges had already been using information they found on the Internet to deny claims.

The agency’s move to exclude online information comes a year after Mr. Coburn used material he found online to challenge the disability finding of Stanley Thornton Jr., a man who lives part time as an adult baby.

In addition to appearing on a television show building things such as an adult high chair — which Mr. Coburn said showed carpentry skills — Mr. Thornton ran a website for others who want to live the “adult baby” lifestyle. The senator said that showed he had web development skills that could land him a job, too.

In the wake of Mr. Coburn’s complaint, Mr. Thornton said he was visited by federal investigators, but he told The Washington Times last year that he had been cleared of fraud.

Some administrative law judges have come under scrutiny in recent years for appearing to be too lenient.

The Wall Street Journal reported last year on one judge in West Virginia who approved 99.7 percent of his disability claims cases, while the national average is about 60 percent. That judge, David B. Daugherty, resigned soon after the article appeared.

Appeared Here


Family Misses Flight After TSA Agents Target 7 Year Old Doctor’s Daughter With Cerebral Palsy For Traumatic Agressive Screening

April 25, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC – The Transportation Security Administration is once again the subject of national scrutiny, this time after aggressively screening a 7-year-old female passenger with cerebral palsy which caused her family to miss their flight.

The girl, identified as Dina Frank in a report by The Daily, was waiting with her family on Monday to board a flight departing from John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York headed to Florida.

Since Dina walks with the aid of leg braces and crutches, she cannot pass through airport metal detectors, and must instead submit to a pat-down by TSA agents.

Dina, who is also reportedly developmentally disabled, is usually frightened by the procedure. Her family reportedly requests that agents on hand take the time to introduce themselves to her.

However, the agents on duty at the time began to handle her aggressively instead.

Air travel is difficult to the family due to Dina’s disabilities, but the nature of Monday’s inspection was especially traumatic for the child.

“They make our lives completely difficult,” her father, Dr. Joshua Frank, a Long Island pediatrician, told The Daily. “She’s not a threat to national security.”

Frank taped the encounter, which ended when a supervisor inspected her crutches and let them pass. But agents followed up and insisted upon doing a full inspection of Dina.

Ultimately, the family missed their flight.

“They’re harassing people. This is totally misguided policy,” Frank told The Daily. “Yes, I understand that TSA is in charge of national security and there’s all these threats. [But] for her to be singled out, it’s crazy.”

Dina, from Long Island, had recently experienced triumph after Botox and phenol injections helped her to gain control of her legs, enough to take several unassisted steps.

After being born prematurely and suffering from bleeding in the brain, Dina struggled for years to get around, even enduring a double hip replacement to assist in her recovery, CBS New York reported.

Appeared Here