Rethinking Disability Insurance
To the Editor:
Re “Making Disability Work” (column, Dec. 10):
Peter Orszag rightly expresses concern about people on disability separating themselves from the workplace for longer than they might if they had other options. It is so difficult to get Social Security disability; the process of appeals and hearings often takes more than a year, during which applicants often have no income and no health care. The difficulty of this process provides a disincentive to give up disability benefits and try to resume work.
However, Mr. Orszag’s suggested solution — employer-sponsored disability insurance — is never going to happen. Many employers can’t afford to provide health insurance; it is unrealistic to think that they could be persuaded to assume additional burdens.
There are solutions, though. We should have short-term Social Security disability — a year or two during which a person could recover from surgery, stabilize a chronic condition or ride out an episodic flare. If accompanied by a streamlined application process, this would be favored by many applicants over permanent disability.
Not only would it provide an incentive to get back to work as soon as one is able, but it also would save money by shifting people from permanent benefits to temporary, short-term payouts. This type of system works well in New York and California, which have state-sponsored temporary disability. It should be tried on a national level.Jennifer C. Jaff
Executive Director, Advocacy for
Patients With Chronic Illness
Farmington, Conn., Dec. 10, 2010