Eyeglasses with newspaper and coffee cup

As grassroots activists know, Social Security is heading towards bankruptcy. What is less known is that the Social Security Disability and Insurance trust fund is going to be bankrupt by 2016 without changes to the program. And according to a new report from the Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, part of this may be due to improper payouts in the program. As reported by Fox News:

The Social Security Administration improperly awarded disability benefits in more than 25 percent of cases examined between 2006 and 2010, according to a new Senate report — potentially costing taxpayers millions of dollars.

The findings conclude an 18-month investigation by the chamber’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations and show that roughly a quarter of the 300 randomly selected disability cases were awarded benefits “without properly addressing insufficient, contradictory and incomplete evidence.”

That’s not all it found. Again from Fox:

The report also found the agency since January 2009 added 5.9 million Americans to the disability rolls. And in 2011, 10.6 million people were receiving more than $128 billion in disability insurance payments, the report said.

“The question is: Are benefits going only to those who are supposed to be getting to them?” [Senator] Coburn asked Thursday during a Capitol Hill hearing on the issue. “The purpose of this program is to make sure that all Americans have a safety net if they become disabled and can no longer work. It should be remembered though that this law means ‘being unable to work any job in the national economy.’ “

So this is a huge double-whammy for taxpayers. Not only is a disability program not being used to help the disabled in many cases, but this incompetent and broad definition of “disabled” is helping to make the program more bankrupt.

To be fair, Social Security as a whole has a relatively low overhead and improper payment rate. In 2010, for example, a mere .39% of benefits were improperly awarded. Compare this to Medicare, which in 2010 had about 9.5% of payments improperly awarded.

Unfortunately, the federal government continues to fail to uphold the standards it should have in place to protect both the inviolability of taxpayer dollars and its own credibility as a trustworthy organization. Reports like this one show just how weak reform efforts typically are, and are yet another piece in the puzzle that will eventually show Americans across the country that, similar to food stamps, disability programs are often less about disability and more about dependence, especially as they become more complex and further distanced from their original, legal, and honorable intentions.