NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Abusing The Disabilities Act

April 18, 1998

People with what have been called "boutique disabilities" have been taking unfair advantage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, passed in 1990. Critics say the law is so vague that it attracts -- and has been stretched by -- cheaters.

  • An applicant for the New York bar who claimed he was dyslexic was granted a private room, a word processor and twice as much time to take the exam, at the direction of a judge.
  • A Chicago policewoman got a sympathetic hearing from a judge after she argued the city should pay for her infertility treatments.
  • The Supreme Court is now considering whether HIV -- a condition which can lead to AIDS -- should be added to the disability list.
  • Rather than fighting the case, Radio Shack recently settled with a former worker who claimed post-traumatic stress caused by his previous robbery of the store cause him to rob it again.

Experts report that vague allegations of "back injuries" are the fastest growing claim category under law.

Federal courts are reportedly narrowing the scope of the act.

  • Of the 24,000 ADA-related complaints that came before the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission since 1997, about 60 percent were thrown out and only 12 percent resulted in outcomes favorable to the complainant.
  • Even many of those victories were later reversed on appeal.

Experts estimate that just a 1 percent decline in the number of workers claiming to be disabled could save Medicare as much as $3 billion a year.

Source: "The Halt, the Blind, the Dyslexic," Economist, April 18, 1998.


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