Is Social Security Welfare for the Lazy or Dignity for the Disabled?

You already know what we’re going to say. We’re Social Security Disability lawyers. Our clients, New Yorkers from the Finger Lakes region and elsewhere throughout the state, know who we are.

And not a single one of them is lazy.

Not a single one of them would call their disability benefits a welfare check.

Not a single one of them would consider what they have already earned to be an “entitlement.”

Earned Wages in Exchange for Labor

The state of New York subscribes to “at-will” employment, as do most (if not all) states, which means that an employee can be fired without cause. It also means that an employee can stop working for his or her employer without cause. No excuses need to be made, unless there’s an employment contract that goes beyond the at-will arrangement.

What does this have to do with Social Security Disability?

At-will employment is a simple concept. If you’ve ever been an employee, you understand the concept of working for wages.

And that’s exactly what our clients have done. They’ve worked and earned wages. They’ve worked and earned not only wages but Social Security Disability benefits in the event that they become disabled and no longer able to work.

Yet people keep talking about Social Security as if workers haven’t earned it.

Wages aren’t “entitlements.” Neither are Social Security Disability benefits. Nonetheless, people keep referring to the Social Security program as “entitlement spending,” such as Jeanne Sahadi in her piece for CNN Money.

Yet, in the same piece, Sahadi acknowledges the fact that Social Security hasn’t added to the nation’s debt and is not a source of problematic government spending.

It’s time to stop referring to something that’s been earned as an entitlement.

Fix It, Don’t Eliminate It

We say fix it, not eliminate it, and not just because we make our living as Social Security Disability lawyers.

Obviously, we’ve got a natural bias toward keeping the Social Security program alive and healthy. We’re also quick to admit that it’s not. A big reason it’s not is because the ongoing survival of Social Security requires the political and public will to keep it going.

Social Security is a political lightning rod at the moment and will continue to be a political lightning rod through the 2012 presidential election and beyond.

In her piece on CNN Money, Sahadi doesn’t argue that Social Security should be eliminated, just that spending related to the three largest “entitlement” programs – Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security – should be “reined in.”

But there are others. Take Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry, who wrote in 2010 – before he apparently knew he would make a run for president – that Social Security was a “crumbling monument to the failure of the New Deal,” as Charles Riley reports for CNN Money.

Now, of course, with his eye on the White House, Perry is backpedaling, but we can guess his true feelings on Social Security.

He’d probably prefer to see it crumble.


CNN Money, “National debt: Why entitlement spending must be reined in,” by Jeanne Sahadi, 09/06/11

CNN Money, “Rick Perry’s love/hate relationship with Social Security,” by Charles Riley, 08/30/11