Disability Insurance for All

Welfare v. Unemployment Chart

Crazy report from This American Life and Planet Money about the rapid rise of disability insurance claims, and how it’s come to replace the federal welfare program in many ways.

A person on welfare costs a state money. That same resident on disability doesn’t cost the state a cent, because the federal government covers the entire bill for people on disability. So states can save money by shifting people from welfare to disability. And the Public Consulting Group (PCG) is glad to help.

PCG is a private company that states pay to comb their welfare rolls and move as many people as possible onto disability. “What we’re offering is to work to identify those folks who have the highest likelihood of meeting disability criteria,” Pat Coakley, who runs PCG’s Social Security Advocacy Management team, told me.

The company has an office in eastern Washington state that’s basically a call center, full of headsetted women in cubicles who make calls all day long to potentially disabled Americans, trying to help them discover and document their disabilities…

This issue seems more complicated than the episode implies, but it is certainly something we should be looking into.

Listen to the teaser, the full episode, read the whole interactive piece Unfit for Work: The startling rise of disability in America, and check out this rebuttal from Media Matters.