Friday, December 10, 2010

Orszag on Disability

Former Obama budget director Peter Orszag argues that the disability system doesn't work. Once people go on disability, they become separated from the workforce and rarely re-enter the world of work. He suggests that employers be required to provide private disability insurance to workers -- something that has about as much chance of happening as, well, h*ll freezing over.

I've been arguing for years that there should be temporary, short-term (9 to 12 months) Social Security disability for people who need to recover from a surgery or get stabilized with treatment, accompanied by a streamlined application process for short-term disabilities. The five states that have disability benefits operate more like this. People can only stay on disability for that definite duration of time. After that, they have to apply for Social Security.

Orszag is right about one thing. People who are disabled but who would not otherwise be applying for disability are doing so because finding work is so hard. People with disabilities are more accepted in the workplace than they were before the Americans with Disabilities Act was passed. Until the recession hit, application rates were pretty steady. But now they've spiked. So a short-term benefit that would help people through a rough patch would hold the hope of employment in the future, whereas people who go on permanent Social Security disability are less likely to search for ways to re-enter the workplace.

Help those of us with temporary, duration-limited disabilities and you would reduce the cost of Social Security disability greatly. Jennifer

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