One silent area of government waste is the question of disability benefits. The number of people on disability payments funded by taxpayers is a growing concern. That's not to discount all disability claims. Some are obvious and legitimate. But increasingly - and you probably know some instances yourself - some people know full well how to "play" the system and qualify for that monthly disability check.
Let me give you but one example. I was speaking with friends this week and the topic eventually led to the question of disability checks. One fella in Sikeston whom I have known for 40 years is now on full disability though he seems as healthy and active as you and me. But I learned he qualified for disability because of stress. Stress!
Now here is a gentleman who is active in a new business and who makes decisions in that new business. He lives a nice lifestyle, is well respected and quietly cashes a disability check each and every month. I can't help but wonder just how legitimate that claim actually is.
I was reading this week an Associated Press article about the explosion in the number of post-traumatic stress disorder claims that are being filed. PTSD has long been associated with military combat veterans who suffer from the impact of military conflict. But increasingly, PTSD involves people who "suffer" a different trauma.
An auto accident, the sudden loss of a loved one or even "learning that a loved one was hurt" are now on the expanding list of traumas that may qualify you for PTSD benefits. And now - post Sept. 11 - a whole new area of stress disorder that qualifies for benefits has arisen. Once qualified, the government pays for medication, therapy and often loss of wages to those who suffer from stress disorders.
But one expert hit the nail on the head. A New York psychologist said that "anything that happens to you that's remotely icky now qualifies. It's been culturally over diagnosed."
"Culturally over diagnosed" says volumes. It has become an excuse for people to find an easy path to free money. And it becomes just one more drain on the taxpayer who goes about their day, working for a living, taking care of their family and providing tax dollars for those who do not.
I've said it before but it's worth repeating. We will someday soon perhaps arrive at the day when taxpayers will not or cannot provide the funds to support those unable or unwilling to pull their weight. The question of disability payments is a hot button topic that too many politicians avoid. There is that constant danger of excluding benefits from the truly needy when you discuss the benefits for those who are simply looking for an easier path.
But regardless of how difficult the task, we need a better definition of disabilities to exclude those who prey on the system.