I believe the recent Associated Press articles ("House investigators: Social Security lax in judging disability claims; fund nearing insolvency;" and "Judges: Social Security pushes approval of claims," June 24 and June 27) that The Bellingham Herald ran were extremely misleading. The articles' central claim - that Social Security is "lax" in evaluating disability - I believe is clearly contradicted by the facts. As an advocate for people with disabilities, I know firsthand how strict the disability criteria are, and the judges are certainly not "lax." The rate that the judges in the Seattle Social Security hearing office deny disability claims has been increasing over the last three years.
Most people who apply are denied, and only about 40 percent are awarded benefits -- even after all stages of appeal. Every day I see people with significant disabilities who have been denied benefits.
No one knows when disability or illness will strike. That's why Social Security Disability Insurance is an important part of our nation's safety net. Instead of tearing down this vital program with myths and rumors, let's focus instead on strengthening it for current and future generations.