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The Needy Vs. The Greedy

A reader e-mailed this yesterday, which I post with her permission, after changing some details to protect her privacy. She works in a law office:

This morning my sister and I were driving to work discussing the fact that so many are using Social Security benefits for things that they are not capable of continuing to carry, and how hard it makes it for those of us that actually are entitled to those benefits — and there you were, discussing the same issues, but maybe in a different light. You wrote:

If that’s true, where in this speech is the part where Jindal confronts public on the fact that Medicare and Social Security, two hugely popular government welfare programs, . . .

Medicare and Social Security are not considered public assistance or welfare programs, since both are considered to be due to the recipient based upon contributions made. However, I do agree with you that it is being used by some to compensate for their inability to provide for themselves or their children, and so used as a supplement to public assistance and/or “welfare”.

Today is a rough day for me.  We have a hearing before an administrative law judge to determine disability for [my husband].  We really need this Rod, terribly need this. Here is my dilemma with Social Security Disability; [my husband] is truly disabled at the present.  If he does anything or asserts much of himself (mowing the grass and working in the yard for ½ the day), his feet swell to three times the size they should be.  He had that aortic replacement surgery in July.  His last visit with [his vascular surgeon] was January 23.  At that time, the replacement looks good, there is pressure down the legs and into the feet, but still not what it should be.  That surgery was hell.  He was in ICU for 5 days, and I didn’t think he would make it through recovery.  Six months later, he is better, but there is no way he can hold a job, none. We were denied disability benefits and have had to retain an attorney to fight for us. Our hearing is today, in which an administrative law judge who does not get to see anything other than what we can give him in about 20 minutes other than medical documentation and reports that have been submitted, gets to determine if my husband is truly “disabled”.

In the meantime, I have a client who has applied for and received SSI benefits for two of her children (ages 3 and 6) who have been diagnosed with severe and “disabling” ADHD.  Really? Are you kidding me?  Let me see … my 19 year old has epilepsy, my 11 year old takes three different medications so that he can focus in school and earn an education so that he isn’t having to apply for SSI, my husband cannot stay on his feet more than 2 hours without spending 2 days on the couch with his feet above his heart, and your 3 and 6 year olds receive SSI?  Really?  It is soooo infuriating to me.

[My husband] applied for public assistance, but we were turned down because my income is too high.  I have a client that works in the determination department for food stamps in [our county]; she told me how to “beat the system”.  Really? Are you serious?  I told her that would never work; I cannot lie about where my husband lives, and that he has our son living with him. Besides, I would surely be the one to get caught and go to jail for felony theft and fraud. No, thank you.

These things, these are the problems that I see in my work. Two children, ages 3 and 6, receiving SSI (Supplemental Security Income) benefits. Do we realize what that stands for – Supplemental Security Income? What income should a 3 year old or 6 year old have to supplement? What ambition are we giving these children?  I would NEVER apply for SSI benefits for my child.  School is hard for him, as school was difficult for your Aspie son, both for different reasons.  Is it right for us to tell these boys that they cannot amount to anything, no matter how hard they try?  Because that is what we are telling them when we tell them they are “disabled”.  I tell my son that he can be anything he wants, he just has to work for it.

So, here I am today, not wanting to go into that hearing because I feel like I am asking for a handout.  My husband not sleeping for the last two nights and being very depressed because even if he were to receive Social Security Disability, it will not even take us back to the lifestyle we once lived before he got sick. It isn’t enough. My husband feeling like he is not a man because he is unable to work right now, cannot pass any of the back tests required for his line of work, and we are having to resort to asking the government for help — assistance for which we contributed the funds.

And I look around me and see people that receive “crazy checks” for their children that should not be having to provide an income to their parents at this age.

I know, I am venting, but like some of your commenters have pointed out, please note that Medicare and Social Security are not public assistance or welfare programs, even though some in our society have used them as such.

I appreciate the correction, and used the word “welfare” loosely. I should have said “entitlement.”

I got this e-mail yesterday morning, as I was about to go into the studio. I said a prayer for this reader and her family. No word yet as to what the judge said.

Hers is a situation that entitlement programs are meant for. I am happy that my taxes provide a safety net for people in such terrible situations. But this man may not be able to qualify. I was thinking the other night, watching “Downton Abbey,” about the shell-shocked World War I vet who is in no condition to work as a valet at the estate. But he tells a fellow servant that he has no choice but to work. How would he feed himself? This keeps coming up on the show — people having no choice but to labor until they drop, because there is no safety net for them.

The welfare state didn’t just happen. It came from someplace. We should all despise able-bodied bums and layabouts who abuse the system. But we should remember that the system exists for a very good and moral reason.

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. He has written and edited for the New York Post, The Dallas Morning News, National Review, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Washington Times, and the Baton Rouge Advocate. Rod’s commentary has been published in The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, the Weekly Standard, Beliefnet, and Real Simple, among other publications, and he has appeared on NPR, ABC News, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and the BBC. He lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with his wife Julie and their three children. He has also written four books, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, Crunchy Cons, How Dante Can Save Your Life, and The Benedict Option.

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