I was disheartened to read a recent article in Forbesmagazine concerning Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) fraud. The piece by Richard Finger was extremely misleading and is likely to give an uninformed reader a very distorted picture of how the SSDI system actually works. The article reads like a propaganda piece written by someone who has no actual knowledge of the day-to-day functioning of the SSDI program – and who is simply trying to score some political points. Here are some of the most striking inaccuracies in the article:

FALSE STATEMENT: It is in the best interest of an SSDI lawyer to take every disability case to trial. This point flies in the face of reality. The way the SSDI system actually works, a lawyer only receives a contingency fee if his or her client is awarded benefits. If the client is denied benefits, the lawyer receives no compensation. So when Finger states that taking a case to trial is a win for the applicant’s attorney “no matter the verdict,” he is, intentionally, putting out misinformation. There is no trial. A Social Security Administration judge decides whether the claimant is disabled.

FALSE STATEMENT: SSDI judges approve disability benefits automatically. Finger writes that some judges never refuse anyone SSDI benefits. This is a misleading statement, as the statistics show that on average only a little more than 50% of SSDI applicants that go before a judge are awarded any benefits. The reality is that some judges are more easily persuadable than others, but there certainly are not any judges who approve benefits for every applicant they encounter.

FALSE STATEMENT: It’s easy for anyone who claims “back problems” to receive benefits. Finger mocks those who apply for SSDI based on back-related ailments, suggesting that many of them are faking their injuries, but are always approved for benefits anyway. As an attorney who represents individuals applying for these benefits on a daily basis, I can state that it would not be easy for someone to receive benefits by feigning an injury.

There is an administrative review and balancing process in place for that reason. People who apply for benefits must provide proof of disability to support their claims. In fact, most claimants, especially claimants with disabling back conditions, are examined by doctors selected by the Social Security Administration. The notion that people can simply complain of back pain and pick up their SSDI checks the next day, as Finger implies, is inaccurate as well as insulting to those who are actually disabled and suffering severe pain.

Relative to the population, the percentage of Americans receiving SSDI benefits is less today than it was 30 years ago. But people like the writer of this Forbes article don’t seem to want to let facts get in the way of their theories. It’s a shame that someone who obviously knows little to nothing about the realities of the SSDI system is attempting to influence his readers about it by providing misleading and inaccurate information.

What questions do you have about the Social Security Disability system?