Fact-checkers discount misleading "60 Minutes" report on SSDI

The flagship franchise in TV journalism has for decades been CBS's "60 Minutes." The Sunday evening program has for years put dishonest politicians, crooked business schemes and fascinating interviews with celebrities and leaders on the table for viewers in Laurel and across the nation to examine and discuss.

However, the iconic program let a lot of us down a couple of weeks ago when it painted what many fact-checkers have denounced as a misleading, factually inaccurate report on Social Security Disability Insurance, painting the program as rife with fraud and brimming with extravagances for SSDI recipients.

The reality is that SSDI designed is for people prevented by injury or illness from working. It has a low fraud rate and few who know anything at all about the program would characterize the benefits as extravagant.

Recipients average about $1,130 a month in assistance. Extravagant? It would be interesting to see a single "60 Minutes" reporter try to live for a month on that amount.

Those receiving SSDI benefits understand that they typically have to do with less than they did when they were able to work. They also understand that the benefits will help them meet their monthly bills for essential expenses.

Another reality "60 Minutes" ignored: SSDI standards for claim approval are stringent. Most first-time applicants are turned down; those approved often only receive approval of their claim after an appeal made to the Social Security Administration with the assistance of an attorney.

The "startling" growth that "60 Minutes" and other critics in SSDI was, in reality, expected growth. The nation's Baby Boomer generation is getting on in years and many are experiencing health problems that prevent them from working their last years before retirement.

That's not unusual, nor is it evidence of fraud, waste or laziness. It's simply growth in the program due to an entirely predictable shift in demographics.

Let's hope that one day soon "60 Minutes" will revisit SSDI and fill in the picture with more accurate representations of what the program does and the good people it helps.

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