- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 1, 2007

In 2004 the Social Security Administration revamped its Disability Program. The process quietly eliminated the average American’s ability to secure assistance in the event of a serious illness or accident. The SSA engaged a consortium of physicians, the Reed Group, to establish a new set of benchmarks to disqualify a larger percentage of potential disability recipients.

These new benchmarks make it almost impossible to obtain disability payments from a system all Americans are required to pay into in a timely manner. These same physicians are contracted by the Social Security Administration. They are used to counter any medical evidence supplied by each claimant’s physician. These examinations can also include expensive imaging scans. While this is done at no cost to the claimant, it isn’t an act of charity. These examinations are used to help reject disability claims. They are paid for by the government only after a claimant has been denied disability and is appealing the decision. Each diagnosis is based on the rules they helped author. Under the new rules, few people will qualify for disability payments.

Oddly enough, these changes did not result in any reduction of Social Security Taxes. The Social Security Statement we all receive is correct in that it shows how much each of us earned every year. But when it comes to the section that shows how much a disabled person could expect to be paid it has as much validity as a cell phone bill.

In the past, a person became unable to work and unable to meet financial obligations had bankruptcy to fall back on. However, the Republican-controlled Congress also overhauled personal bankruptcy laws. The laws were effectively changed to eliminate them as an alternative for people who had fallen on hard times like those caused by severe medical conditions.

Because of the changes made by the former majority party, many families will face foreclosure, inadequate health care, wage garnishment and loss of retirement income. We are on the verge of a shift in our standard of living. The Big Business Dogs have been turned loose.

All this is much harder to stomach when our country is spending billions of dollars each year funding a war 70 percent of Americans are very unhappy with. It is also a war against the apathy of the people we are fighting for. It is also happening at a time when oil companies claim they are not inflating gasoline prices as they chalk up record profits.

It is hard to watch people lose everything they own including their dignity. Harder still to watch as major corporations are given huge tax breaks at the expense of middle- and lower-income Americans. Today we pay into Social Security with little hope of it returning to us. Today bankruptcy is reserved for business owners and other wealthy people. Today we wage war because our president wants us to. Maybe tomorrow will bring change.

LARRY FLYNN

Somerset, Ky.