“Disabled” Has a Subjective Meaning

In the NPR series “Unfit for Work” the publication highlighted the startling growth of SSDI rolls. Among the stories of those seeking benefits was the following about the ambiguity in the SSDI system:

“In Hale County, Alabama, nearly 1 in 4 working-age adults is on disability. On the day government checks come in every month, banks stay open late, Main Street fills up with cars, and anybody looking to unload an old TV or armchair has a yard sale.”

“Sonny Ryan, a retired judge in town, didn’t hear disability cases in his courtroom. But the subject came up often. He described one exchange he had with a man who was on disability but looked healthy.”

“’Just out of curiosity, what is your disability?’ the judge asked from the bench.
’I have high blood pressure,’ the man said.
’So do I,’ the judge said. “What else?”
”I have diabetes.’
’So do I.’”

It is true disability is not a qualifying illness and the way benefits are distributed, its subjective enough that one person with high blood pressure can be disabled and another who has the same condition can be labeled eligible to work. Now that 14 million people are on the disability rolls, safeguards to weed out the subjective nature of qualifying disabilities is needed now more than ever.