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NPR joins liberal attacks on disabled people

The emails have been arriving steadily. Subject line: ‘Thought you might be interested in this’ ‘Have you seen NPR’s story on disability?’ ‘Thoughts on this?’ ‘Saw this, thought of you’ ‘WTF is wrong with this story?!’ ‘Wait, how much of this is actually accurate?’ The content is sometimes just a single link, to This American Life’s six-part series on disability in America, picked up by Planet Money and All Things Considered. Sometimes there are a few lines of commentary, but not usually.

In a nutshell, the series tells listeners that the number of people on disability in the United States are skyrocketing, and that this is due to some sort of stealthy scheme to work the system.

And people on all sides of the political divide, but especially the right, are eating it up, despite the flood of stories attempting to counter the numerous factual, ethical, journalistic, and social problems with this story, how it’s reported, and how Chana Joffe-Walt chose to interpret the data available to her. It’s quite clear that she went looking for a particular story and conclusion, and she got exactly what she wanted. In the process, she contributed to familiar hateful rhetoric about disability in the United States, and what it means to be disabled. 

Scroungers. Sucking off the government teat. Fakers. Lazy. Slackers.

The fact: Yes, more people are on disability than ever before. That’s absolutely true, but there are a lot of reasons for that, and they aren’t as simplistic as what Joffe-Walt seems to want us to think. She suggests that states and low-income people are in collusion to get people enlisted on the disability rolls, that disabled people don’t work, that disability has essentially become a replacement for other benefits programmes, that changes in disability guidelines have resulted in more lax standards. While she doesn’t come out and say it, the subtext is crystal clear: There are fakers on the rolls.

But let’s take a look at some demographics here, because, as the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities point out in their response to the piece, demographics account for the changes in disability benefits enrollment, rather decisively. For starters, 20% of the US population is disabled, and an estimated 10% have ‘severe’ disabilities, like those that might make someone unable to work at all, or able to work only in a limited capacity. Given the overall distribution of people on disability benefits (less than 5% of the US population) in the US, it’s clear that there are some people who aren’t on the rolls who probably should be, rather than the other way around. That number is indeed shifting over time, but not for the reasons cited; it’s not that standards are relaxed and people are faking.

The boomer generation is aging, for one thing, which means more and more people are entering old age, and they’re starting to experience the disabling conditions that can come with aging for many older adults. Advances in medicine have also, of course, improved survival rates for older adults, which means more people are living after major medical events, and more people are requiring more advanced care. For younger disabled people, the same medical advances have improved lifespans and quality of life for people with conditions once deemed fatal at an early age; it’s a good thing that more people are living, and living well, not evidence of a bad thing.

And this is a country in the grip of an economic downturn. An analysis at the Center for Economic and Policy Research notes that, yes, the cost for Social Security Disability has in fact exploded, in correlation with the economy. Projections from the trustees’ reports also indicate that once the employment rate stabilizes, these rates should go back down. With a shrinking safety net, people are turning to whatever support they can find to survive.

People who would have otherwise been employed find themselves desperate for any means of support due to the inept economic policy that sank the economy. This is a simple explanation that doesn’t require examining the moral turpitude of beneficiaries or evidence of corrupt or negligent administrators. Fix the economy and you would remove much of the burden on the program.

Notably, this doesn’t mean the increasing rolls equate to a bunch of fakers. Disabled people work, and many (like myself) actually prefer to work; but when we’re squeezed out of jobs due to a poor economy and the pressure of employment discrimination (which employees do you think companies drop first?), we’re forced onto disability benefits if no other options are available. Which brings me to Disability Insurance (DI), another programme discussed in the report. One of the reasons claims on DI are rising? Because there are more women in the workforce, which, yes, means the pool of potential claimants is larger. Again, women in the work force is a good thing.

Furthermore, the distribution of disabled people in the US is actually quite variable, and dependent on a lot of factors. In rural communities, access to health care is limited, and people are more likely to acquire serious disabilities as a result of having to wait for treatment, having difficulty with access to preventative care, and working in potentially dangerous occupations like farming and logging. Meanwhile, industrial areas come with numerous dangerous jobs, along with pollution that exposes neighbouring communities to further dangers. It should come to no surprise to learn that these communities also tend to be low-income, and many of them are also heavily populated by people of colour.

Education also has a profound effect on whether people are able to work, and keep working, after disability. Those with higher levels of educational attainment can obtain desk jobs and other work that’s not as taxing, making it possible for them to work while disabled or to return to work after accidents and injuries. For those who haven’t graduated high school or who have barely achieved high school qualifications, though, the options are thinner; working with your body is often the only option, and it’s difficult to return to work on a factory line or in a harsh environment with back pain, joint damage, and other physical disabilities.

This makes it unsurprising that ‘one in four’ people in the single county Jaffe-Walt used as the basis for her story were on the rolls. In fact, I would have been more surprised if her results had come up with a substantially lower number; demographically, I would expect that number to pop up, because all the indicators for that region point towards a higher incidence of disability than the US average.

As John Bouman pointed out in his critique of the series: ‘Joffe-Walt never examines the issues through what should be an obvious lens — what if virtually all of the people receiving disability benefits are actually disabled or medically unable to work? The real problem is not why so many people get disability benefits, but why so many people are disabled.’

He cuts to the heart of the problem with a lot of assumptions in media about disability. The media assume that disability is exaggerated and people seize on excuses to lie back and enjoy the pleasures of government benefits, despite the fact that disability benefits create a state of enforced poverty, about which more in a moment, and that many people are denied repeatedly, and have trouble navigating the system on their own, making it functionally impossible to get the benefits they’re entitled to. The United States is facing a crisis of health care, especially when it comes to preventative care, early identification and treatment, and followthrough after major medical events.

It’s no wonder that this country has a high disability rate overall; and people should indeed be asking why this is instead of fingering disabled people as leeches on the system, draining benefits funds dry. Paralyzed Veterans of America noted that this report, like others on disabled people, also contributed to the significant stigma against people with non-evident disabilities, like mental health conditions, autoimmune disorders, cognitive and intellectual disabilities, brain injuries, and other disabilities that are not necessarily immediate recognisable to the untrained eye.

NPR’s logic on this issue dismisses the millions of Americans who may look healthy but have severe disabilities, including disabled veterans.

People with non-evident disabilities are accustomed to being mocked, belittled, and swept under the carpet by the media, but reports like these are a sharp reminder that the media are extremely uneducated when it comes to disability issues (Jaffe-Walt is not a disability expert, nor were any interviewed for this series), and has little interest in self-education. Consequently, harmful messages about the nature of non-evident disabilities are perpetuated in stories like these, leaving listeners, viewers, and readers with the perception that ‘disability’ fits within a very narrow and easily-understood definition, and everyone else must be faking for those sweet benefits.

About which. It’s extremely difficult to get disability benefits in the United States (many people need the assistance of an attorney), and when you do get them, there are significant restrictions on your way of life. Typically work can force you to be dropped from benefits (if you make more than a certain amount, for example), and the amount of the payments doesn’t keep pace with the cost of living; a $700 monthly check is hardly princely. Disabled people can struggle to stay alive in an expensive world while the government denies claims for things needed for basic quality of life; the structure of the disability benefits systems in the United States tends to keep people trapped in their homes, prefers institutionalisation over community-based living (even though community-based living is actually less expensive), and further marginalises disabled people.

This is not a lifestyle choice. It’s something you do because you have no other options. And, contrary to Jaffe-Walt’s claims, 21% of disabled people in the US, including people receiving benefits, work. That number could be a lot higher without rampant disability discrimination making it difficult to find and keep work.

This was brought up in sharp criticisms of the story after Ira Glass hotly defended the fact checking. Shawn Fremstad pointed out that fundamental journalistic errors in the piece were not only factually incorrect, but also socially irresponsible because of the messages they conveyed. Depicting disabled people as unemployed scroungers, for example, and radically misreading statistical analysis, resulted in a very negatively skewed picture of disability. Hannah Groch-Begley at Media Matters for America also took a close look at the story, debunking the section on children and disability.

The reporting in that segment was actually bitterly reminiscent of an absolutely horrific Nicholas Kristof column that ran in the New York Times last year, portraying parents in one of the poorest and hardest-hit regions of the country as monsters exploiting their children for disability benefits. In addition to being riddled with errors, the piece also sent some extremely dangerous messages about disability benefits for children (something which, incidentally, play a major role in pulling US children out of poverty).

After the tide of negative commentary about the piece, including detailed debunking of the errors, one by one, while Ira Glass continued to stand proud behind his fact checking, NPR actually stealthily revised sections of the story. This certainly speaks to an admission of wrongdoing, although the minimal publicity around the changes shows that NPR had no interest in publicly apologising for the harm done by the bad journalism. While the changes might look minor, and NPR claims they were made ‘for clarity,’ they’re actually major, and they significantly change the style and tone of the piece.

There’s a big difference between ‘People on federal disability do not work’ and ‘The vast majority of people receiving federal disability benefits do not work’ (gee, maybe because…they’re disabled?), for example. These subtle and important distinctions shift the presentation of the story dramatically, and definitely undermine the scaremongering Jaffe-Walt was going for in the original script.

This is the state of disability journalism in the US. Harmful, error-riddled stories that propagate false mythologies about disability, don’t acknowledge the complexity of disability, fail to account for the multitude of factors involved, and don’t consult a single disability expert. This is lazy, bad journalism and I would expect better of a national-level organisation that happens to be highly renowned for the quality, breadth, and detail of its coverage. The fact that right-wing media are jumping on this report and heaping it with praise is an indicator of how skewed and dangerous it is: it provides an ideal argument for dismantling the social safety net, and no actual information about disability in the United States and the health and disability crisis that is gripping this country.

Which is a pity, because we could use some good, solid disability journalism right about now.

Shame on you, NPR.


  1. Brilliant post. Thank you.

    Wednesday, April 3, 2013 at 1:22 pm | Permalink
  2. Alison wrote:

    Thank you so much for this amazing piece, s.e. It brought tears to my eyes. I am on SSDI and have been on disability for a couple years now (first on short-term SDI through the state of CA, then moved onto federal SSDI when that ended after a year). I developed a severe illness that made me unable to work and had my health and life in a very precarious situation. I am so incredibly grateful to the assistance I’ve been able to get…but I admit I also at times feel massively guilty, and pieces like the NPR one and Kristof’s and such don’t fucking help! They really drive home that damn guilt, that I’m getting more than I should, that I’m living off the government largesse, etc. I would LOVE to be back in the workforce and not reliant on benefits. I mean, I had to leave my whole life and start sharing an apartment with my parents because I couldn’t possibly live off what I get. Do they really think I’m happy this way? Of course not. And what’s worse is that my illness is one that is seen as being chosen and that I could get better from if I wanted to. Don’t even get me going on how little people understand it.

    I’m rambling. But just…thank you. For reminding me I’m not a lazy slacker mooch, and that needing assistance isn’t a character flaw. I try to remember that. Some days it’s hard.

    Wednesday, April 3, 2013 at 1:25 pm | Permalink
  3. Lily wrote:

    Amen to all this.

    I think I started thinking of NPR as “best available” rather than “excellent” around the time I was listening to, I think, science friday. And they had a doctor on who was talking about how so-called “obese” patients need to be nagged (oh, sorry, “monitored”) more, and she had some method. All very virtuous. And a woman called in and was telling about how she had … maybe high blood pressure? … and her doctor was FURIOUS because she couldn’t lose the last 25 lbs. he wanted her to lose, and she had stopped going to him, because she was so ashamed of herself and he would make her feel so bad about that last 25 lbs.

    And nobody, NOBODY, said, “my god, what the HELL is wrong with your doctor????!” They talked about their new method. I could have cried. Here’s this poor woman who NEEDS medical monitoring, but instead she’s getting shamed and driven away. And I thought, at that point, holy SHIT, NPR has jumped the shark. And they’re not really doing reality-based journalism any more. And I pretty much stopped listening.

    I still want to cry for that poor woman every time I think of this.

    And this story, and thank you for covering it so well, is just more of the same.

    I don’t mind if the news doesn’t always agree with my perspective, but really, at this point, NPR needs to do some serious recovery — they’re getting perilously close to being “NPR: Kinder, Gentler, Tax-Funded — But The Same Stories You’ll Get Everywhere Else.” Which, really, we don’t need.

    Wednesday, April 3, 2013 at 2:08 pm | Permalink
  4. Lily wrote:

    It’s worth remembering, too, that disability payments come from a disability insurance program.

    It’s like homeowners insurance — you buy it, and then if you get hit by a tornado, the insurance (hopefully) pays to fix it. More or less. Minus your treasured mementos, but that’s the idea.

    Disability insurance, like Social Security, is a mandatory insurance program that everybody pays into, and if you get unlucky (your house is swept away by a tornado) then you collect the insurance.

    And the insurer (in this case the government) checks that you’ve had a loss, and pays the benefit it promised you that it would pay you, on the day it started collecting your premium.

    So if you’re on Social Security, which is not easy (as noted), then you are collecting the benefit from the insurance you paid for.

    Just like if a tornado had hit your house.

    Which it did.

    For those who feel guilty.

    Wednesday, April 3, 2013 at 2:39 pm | Permalink
  5. Sarah TX wrote:

    I tried to listen to the program but had to turn it off after a few minutes every day. The idea that disability is a gift from the government that is easy to get is so contrary to my family’s experiences it was like this program was produced in another world.

    My father payed for both private and public disability insurance for 25 years before he developed Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Getting his entitled payouts and proving that having to sleep for 20 hours a day was a qualified disability was NOT easy.

    My father wanted to work. Before he realized the nature of his disease, he tried to convince his employer to let him draw his long-term disability while he was undergoing diagnosis/treatment. His employer fired him, instead, which means he had to apply for social security disability as well as (after a lawsuit) take his reduced private disability insurance.

    Nearly everyone I talk to on state or federal SSDI tells a maddeningly similar story.

    Wednesday, April 3, 2013 at 3:10 pm | Permalink
  6. Rogi Riverstone wrote:

    What do we do? How do we correct this? I’m already homeless & in very bad shape. This stuff can get me killed.

    Wednesday, April 3, 2013 at 3:21 pm | Permalink
  7. Katie wrote:

    I’ll echo everything everyone said about disability INSURANCE payments being difficult to receive, but add that the differences in how different types of conditions are treated is appalling.

    My mother and I have a genetic disorder that causes painful injuries to the joints and extreme muscle and nerve pain. On top of that, we can experience problems with a variety of organs, including the heart, GI system, and eyes. Many of us have multiple surgeries which are only stop gap measures.

    For my mom, it finally became debilitating in her mid-fifties, and she reluctantly gave up a job she loved (which required copious amounts of driving; not safe when you have a nerve impinged in your neck) and applied for disability. Now, my parents were fortunate. They were never going to starve. My dad’s military pension makes sure of that. But my mom leaving the workforce before retirement age meant it would be difficult to pay their mortgage (on a house they bought just before age fifty because my dad served his country for 30 years). So…disability was necessary if they were going to stay in their house and not have to sell it at a loss (since terrible financial policies meant all their neighbors were foreclosing around them).

    She was denied. Twice. They made her see their own doctor, and after she was denied the second time and got a lawyer, she was able to see that doctor’s report, and it was clear he was outright lying. He reported the opposite of everything she said, and the proof was in the part where he wrote that both her parents were living (neither were). Talk about gross incompetence. After a year, hiring an attorney, and three tries at applying, she was finally granted her benefits.

    For comparison, my dad was diagnosed with stage iv colorectal cancer last year, and he applied for benefits in January. For stage iv cancer they simply rubber stamped it and sent him a check the next month. They only required documentation from HIS oncologist. And…all of that was righteous. Someone with a serious cancer like that should be taken seriously.

    But it just shows us HOW the system can work. My mom’s and my condition is rare, so they had no clue what it was about. All they seemed to understand was that it involves chronic pain, and lord knows they can’t just take people’s word for that. They have to poke them and prod them and make them jump through as many hoops as possible.

    To receive benefits that they paid for for DECADES.

    Thursday, April 4, 2013 at 11:04 am | Permalink
  8. Katie wrote:

    (The irony is that even before my dad was declared in remission yesterday–YAY–and even with the chemo side effects, he functions better than my mom. He’s able to do more around the house and yard. But no, she couldn’t possibly be disabled….)

    Thursday, April 4, 2013 at 11:09 am | Permalink
  9. Sophia wrote:

    Thank you for the eye opening. I listened to this program, and probably because of my liberal bent, but lack of experience with real disability, took it as an indictment of the lack of other welfare programs and the discrepancy in being “able to work” if there were no desk jobs available. I actually did not think that the people interviewed were meant to be seen as faking their disability at all- and I am shocked that conservatives are taking this as proof.

    Thursday, April 4, 2013 at 11:16 am | Permalink
  10. Dawn wrote:

    I listened to the whole story and never got the impression that that people on disability are leeches. The whole point of the story, I thought, was that our economy is such a mess, that people who could still work often have no other option. It by no means portrayed disability programs as a godsend, but a last resort. Unfortunately, people who like to cry out against the mythical welfare queens and disability fakers will jump on ANYTHING they can twist to support their argument. Some people are hell bent on believing what they want, rather than seeing the truth- in this case, that many of us have no other choice.

    Thursday, April 4, 2013 at 11:40 am | Permalink
  11. Jan S wrote:

    As a former reporter, it’s been depressing (when it isn’t maddening) for me to see the former integrity (and yes, it did exist) of US journalism slide further and further down the hole it’s dug for itself. I rail against the editorial-on-front-page style of reporting every chance I get. It sickens me. But what I cannot understand is the failure of so many journalists to *check the facts* before they write and submit articles for publication. The editors I worked for would have fired me on the spot if I’d tried submitting a piece like the one Ms. Joffe-Walt wrote.

    Now that I’m on SSDI (having “acquired” a perfect storm of chronic illnesses and irreparable injury), the stench of lazy reporting on people with disabling health conditions is even stronger. Shame on you, Ms. Joffe-Walt, and shame on your editor as well.

    “Consider the source” has been my guide when reading or listening to news for many years. It makes me very, very sad that I need to use it.

    Thursday, April 4, 2013 at 5:21 pm | Permalink
  12. natasha wrote:

    Thanks for this. I read the original piece and my reaction was a little more like Dawn’s, except to the negative connotation put to the fact that it is steady and doesn’t go away once you’re on it. I thought that was supposed to be the whole freaking point, because you can’t work anymore and you don’t just disappear when you stop receiving help with your living expenses.

    And it really annoyed me that she underplayed the point she even brought up, which is that people without a college degree have a much harder time finding a job later in life when their bodies wear out than people who do, moreso if they live in a small town and a major employer shuts down. What are they supposed to do? Take their non-existent pile of cash and pay for a big move and a new start in the nearest big city?

    But the bit on the kids was infuriating, could barely read it. Way too much Kristof redux.

    Anyway, thank you again for taking the time to go through it in depth. Far too much ignorance out there about this issue.

    Thursday, April 4, 2013 at 9:15 pm | Permalink
  13. Kerry wrote:

    I have to admit that I’d never thought in depth about what disability means in terms of the jobs you can hold. That obviously comes from holding a privileged perspective where desk jobs are the norm, not the aberration, but I appreciate that this story finally made that clear to me.

    I am curious that little of the criticism of the story has focused on the fact that for-profit companies like PCG exist solely to get individuals off of welfare and on to disability. This seemed to me like the most shady activity of all, not because the people in question aren’t disabled but because (1) the state governments are paying a private company to get people paid by the federal government and (2) it shouldn’t be so hard to get disability that you need a private corporation on your side.

    The other real issue that the story ignored is the lack of opportunities and training when it comes to “knowledge economy” jobs, which are likely to continue displacing manufacturing and even service positions. This will still be an issue even as baby boomer disability enrollment declines; if “digital natives” who haven’t actually had the opportunity to truly understand technology can’t participate in a new economy, what will they be able to do?

    Thursday, April 4, 2013 at 11:05 pm | Permalink
  14. Roving Thundercloud wrote:

    Wait, what? It was a SIX-PART series but “Jaffe-Walt is not a disability expert, nor were any interviewed for this series.” That’s all I need to know, thanks for saving me the time!

    Friday, April 5, 2013 at 2:29 pm | Permalink
  15. Nym wrote:

    This is exactly what has been happening in the UK for the last few years. The claims and descriptors are uncannily similar.

    The result has been a huge increase in hate crimes against disabled people, increases in suicides, dand terms are scarily similar.eaths and homelessness, and a circular situation where govt and media rhetoric about “benefit scroungers” and “disability fakers” have caused public outcry and demands to end this “fraud”, which has led govts to either reduce disability benefits or axe them altogether.

    It’s only going to escalate until they achieve their intended result, we’re all gone or reliant solely on the charity of others.

    Saturday, April 6, 2013 at 6:44 pm | Permalink
  16. April wrote:

    Interesting commentary. I haven’t listened to all of the This American Life segment, but did listen to many of the other segments, including the Planet Money segment and looked at the graphs and found it really interesting. My impression was must closer to Dawn’s of what I heard so far, but I will come back to this after I finish.

    Like Dawn, I didn’t get the impression at all they were portraying folks on disability as “freeloaders”–just the opposite.

    However, I was disturbed by the glib nature of much of the reporting. They were “so excited” about their fancy graphs in a way that seemed to ignore and make light of the real people they were reporting on.

    Thanks again for this piece. Lots to think about.

    Sunday, April 7, 2013 at 8:32 pm | Permalink
  17. Rae wrote:

    Great post-I have been very bothered by this segment and it’s ablist bent. I would have expected more from NPR.

    Monday, April 8, 2013 at 8:14 pm | Permalink
  18. JasperL wrote:

    I thought the episode did provide a fairly balanced view of disability. But Ms. Joffe-Walt’s “agenda” or intended message is clear enough if you notice how the episode was structured. Early on she told about the judge who himself had diabetes and and other ailments, but was working, unlike the poor fellow appearing before him in court with the same ailments but who was “disabled.” The message was clear – if the judge could work, so could the person before him. She told a similar story early on about a colleague with a bad back, as I recall, who worked very hard she said.

    Sure, MUCH later she pointed out that it’s different with a desk job than a job requiring manual labor, that in this town almost all open jobs required manual labor, etc. She also discussed the physician who approved the claims much later, and he gave an extremely effective defense of classifying people based on their ability, given their education etc., to WORK the kind of jobs for which they are qualified, not ANY job.

    But the “balance” provided late in the story is just the podcast version of burying the lead.

    The impression left is clearly that if those who are “disabled” could find the RIGHT job, they’d be working. So not “disabled” just unemployed with poor work prospects.

    It’s an important difference – ‘disabled’ versus ‘unemployed and uneducated’ and it feeds directly into right wing stereotypes.

    To be honest, if I’d remembered Ms. Joffe-Walt was normally on Planet Money, I’d have skipped the This American Life podcast. I quit listening to PM after too many episodes with similar framing.

    Sunday, April 14, 2013 at 1:00 am | Permalink
  19. Nym wrote:

    With respect to able-bodied people here, you are unlikely to be able to pick up on the codewords, the almost subliminal. ableist rhetoric . Like any marginalised group, by sexuality/gender expression/race/sex/SES etc., we know hate when we hear it.

    Reading/listening between the lines is very revealing.
    Think of how “urban” is often coded to refer to black people, how the phrase “lifestyle choices” is used to target LGBT people.

    In the UK, right now, 50 people per WEEK die after being found “fit for work”. Ask CAB people “Are these speeches and press releases about fakers ableist?”. They’ll say exactly what some have said here, “Oh no, they don’t mean genuinely disabled people, just scroungers”.

    11000 dead. 200 joining them every month, and that’s the ones we know about, 11000 families torn apart because the government labelled their loved ones “scroungers”, cut off their money, and told them to get a job.

    At least three spouses had partners who died while leaving the actual building they’d just had their assessment in. Their dead partners received letters on or before the day of their funeral, saying. “Your assessment found you fit foR work, and your ESA* has been stopped as of that date”.

    It’s coming your way next by the looks of things.

    *Employment Support Allowance. Replaced the previous system which was a national insurance based system like SSDI, with a continually assessed benefit that’s time limited to 12 months. After that you’d better recover or die, because there’s nothing else in its place.

    Tuesday, April 16, 2013 at 1:05 pm | Permalink
  20. jennifer kates wrote:

    i wish i had seen this – i would have linked it in my piece! love you guys.

    i appreciate anyone reading/sharing my long expose of this series extreme-rightwing sourcing:

    Friday, April 19, 2013 at 11:19 pm | Permalink
  21. s.e. smith wrote:

    I love YOUR piece, jennifer. I was delighted to see it go up, because it got into a whole bunch of stuff I wanted to cover and didn’t have room for.

    Saturday, April 20, 2013 at 2:54 pm | Permalink
  22. Katherine wrote:

    We in the UK are just ever so lucky to have an ongoing daytime TV programme on BBC1 called, I kid you not, “Saints and Scroungers”.

    It’s supposedly about “benefit fraud” (although I wonder why there isn’t one about tax fraud, sorry, avoidance), but the language and themes are awful. The concept of invisible disabilities is not even thought of, and the idea that someone could be not able to work but also not be bedridden and enternally miserable just Does Not Compute.

    Tuesday, April 30, 2013 at 10:53 am | Permalink
  23. Julia wrote:

    I am not a disabled person, but I work with folks who have chronic mental illness and each of them are on SSDI. I love This American Life and this story mad me so freaking angry. I don’t need to rehash all the ways in which the story gets nearly everything wrong about the realities my clients face – you’ve summed it up well. Not to mention, a close friend of mine battling cancer who just was approved for SSDI… I don’t have much to add except I am glad I’m not the only one who felt this story was bullshit.

    Tuesday, April 30, 2013 at 9:19 pm | Permalink