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Blacks Held More Likely to Be Denied Benefits

From Associated Press

Black people with serious ailments have been much more likely than whites in the last 30 years to be rejected for benefits under Social Security disability programs, a federal study says.

The General Accounting Office study showed that from the initial claim through the appeals process, black people have a more difficult time obtaining benefits from the two largest federal programs for people with severe disabilities, the New York Times reported in today’s editions.

The programs provide $43.2 billion annually in disability checks to millions of workers and their families.

The newspaper said the report, the most comprehensive the government has ever taken about race and disability benefits, does not conclude that the disparities are the result of racial discrimination.

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But the report rules out every other explanation and recommends that the Social Security Administration investigate whether the programs are racially biased, the paper said.

The Social Security Administration questioned the study and its methodology. But it has begun an investigation to make sure its decisions are not motivated by race, the story said.

According to the report, in 1988, the latest year analyzed, whites had an 8% better chance of getting benefits after being turned down for disability insurance. Whites had a 4% advantage in obtaining benefits under the Supplemental Security Income program.

The study also found that, in general, black people had a harder time in the appeals process than in filing initial claims.

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The greatest disparity in the appeals process occurs in Chicago, where black people had a 10% to 17% disadvantage, and in New York, where their disadvantage was 15%, the newspaper said.

Sen. William S. Cohen (R-Me.), who gave the newspaper a copy of the report, said that “there appears to be a racial bias within the administrative process of the Social Security system.”


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