Eight Former Commissioners of Social Security Voice Support for Disability Programs

Last week, I wrote about concerns raised by members of the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities and many others about a series recently aired on This American Life, All Things Considered, and National Public Radio stations across the U.S. ("Unfit for Work: The Startling Rise of Disability in America").

Eight former Commissioners of the Social Security Administration (SSA) have since released an open letter in support of the Social Security disability programs. The former Commissioners also raised concerns with how the series characterized the programs, stating:

"We are deeply concerned that the series 'Unfit for Work' failed to tell the whole story and perpetuated dangerous myths about the Social Security disability programs and the people helped by this vital system. We fear that listeners may come away with an incorrect impression of the program--as opposed to an understanding of the program actually based on facts.

"As former Commissioners of the agency, we could not sit on the sidelines and witness this one perspective on the disability programs threaten to pull the rug out from under millions of people with severe disabilities."

The letter was signed by former Commissioners who served under Presidents Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama:

• Kenneth S. Apfel
• Michael J. Astrue
• Jo Anne B. Barnhart
• Shirley S. Chater
• Herbert R. Doggette
• Louis D. Enoff
• Larry G. Massanari
• Lawrence H. Thompson

As I wrote last week, it's sad to see reporting that risks scapegoating the very systems that serve as a vital lifeline for millions of Americans with severe disabilities in their time of need. The open letter by former Commissioners of Social Security highlights the seriousness of the concerns and the need for thoughtful discussion - not sensationalism - about how to strengthen the Social Security disability system.