Conrad’s analogy of Scrooge’s medical examination of Tiny Tim to the Social Security Disability Program (Dec. 10) is apropos. The situation is so analogous I don’t think Conrad realizes how close he has come to the truth.
The Social Security Administration paid its first disability benefits in 1956. At that time, only people who had disabilities of long, continued and indefinite duration or whose conditions were expected to end in death were paid. These were “America’s throwaways” much like the unrepentant Scrooge referred to the work houses and prisons to aid the less fortunate.
The requirement that disability be permanent was revised in 1965 so that payment was made if work would be prevented for at least 12 months. Again Scrooge comes to mind. After the visitation of Scrooge’s ghosts, his generosity overflowed on Christmas morning.
In 1973, Medicare was extended to the long-term disabled, offering them adequate treatment for their impairments, to relieve suffering and to offer possible care for their conditions. The Scrooge analogy continues in that he not only offers monetary aid to the Cratchits but also delivers adequate medical care to Tiny Tim to rehabilitate him to a productive role in society.
Conrad’s cartoon shows Scrooge, concerned with his policies, giving Tiny Tim a physical examination to gauge their effectiveness. In much the same spirit, Social Security is reactivating its continuing disability reviews.
While Social Security will be the first to admit that its past reviews may have erred in terminating some people who were still disabled, the process itself has focused attention on the fact that many people actually do recover from their disabilities.
Social Security has a responsibility to both its beneficiaries and to the taxpayers who support the program. Beneficiaries of the disability program should not only expect continuance of their payments as long as they remain disabled, but also help in re-entering the labor market. This help is offered in the form of disability reviews wherein the latest in technological developments in medicine may be applied to them.
Taxpayers should have the assurance that in supporting a disability program they are also helping in the task of rehabilitation and in returning people to the tax rolls to help others.
This should be the aim of all responsible citizens be they conservatives like Scrooge or liberals like Conrad.
LOUIS A. GUERRERO
Guerrero is District Manager of the Social Security Administration.