NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

To Be Or Not To Be Disabled, That Is The Question

August 28, 2000

How can a person be both too disabled to work and sufficiently able to perform the requirements of a job? Apparently it can happen, because some of the same people who are collecting Social Security Disability Insurance are also filing complaints under the Americans with Disabilities Act, asserting that they are perfectly capable of performing workplace tasks.

That is an anomaly uncovered in a recent Cato Institute study by James M. Taylor, "Facilitating Fraud: How SSDI Gives Benefits to the Able Bodied."

  • Current SSDI payments account for 14 percent of all Social Security distributions -- with the SSDI handing out a staggering $57 billion in disability benefits in 1999.
  • Taylor discovered that disability benefits are being awarded to persons whose ADA claims were being dismissed precisely because the persons were not disabled.
  • In the course of his research Taylor found 43 cases in which people who qualified for disability benefits were simultaneously filing lawsuits under the ADA.
  • He says that the 43 cases he cites "do not even come close to capturing the mass of hidden abuses that occur within the system."

The number of people receiving Social Security disability payments surged by 47 percent between 1991 and 1998. During the same period, the U.S. population grew by only 7 percent.

Source: James M. Taylor, "Facilitating Fraud: How SSDI Gives Benefits to the Able Bodied," Policy Analysis No. 377, August 15, 2000, Cato Institute, 1000 Massachusetts Avenue, N.W., Washington, D. C. 20001, (202) 842-0200.

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