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COLUMN: Disability Cheats:

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There’s more to the story

FRANK SANDAGE
Guest Columnist

Mr. Luecke, I also watched the “60 Minutes” story Oct. 6 by CBS journalist Steve Kroft. I want to offer a few points from my personal experiences about disability claims and why they have reached the $12 million level of payments.

When I was attending San Diego State University in the field of counseling psychology, I worked at the Salvation Army’s halfway house in downtown San Diego with people the courts had put there 24-7 for vocational evaluation and rehab. One case out of the 200 or so ran like this. A 16-year-old Kentucky youth had made his way to San Diego by doing homosexual tricks for long-distance truck drivers. He was living on the streets. The physiologist, Dr. Schmidt, the medical staff and Army commander used disability programs to put people back on the streets after 90 to 365 days of treatment.

Then I became a teaching fellow at the University of Kentucky from 1966 to ’68 and worked part-time with psychiatrist John Parks of Harvard University to release people from Eastern State Hospital for the mentally ill in Lexington, Ky. He used the new anti-psychotic drugs and disability payments because it was cheaper, from the state’s point of view, than continuous incarceration. Many of the 12 million are mentally ill and near the homeless ranks.

Next I was in research and development at Morehead State University from 1968-74. I wrote several proposals seeking federal funds for educational-talent-search project Newgate, at the Ashford Kentucky federal prison and the Coal Mine Health and Safety Institute. I examined a lot of health records at that time for 21 counties in the 7th Congressional District. The university president refused to allow the institute to go forward because of his coal mine-related board members.

When I went to Jacksonville, Fla., there were 35 Libyan soldiers there who came from a group of 6,000. These soldiers had been forced to invade Niger. All 6,000 threw down their weapons and deserted the Libyan Army.

France, England and the United States rescued them. Most of them came here and were scattered in major cities across the nation, about 35 per city. Their education would be about sixth- , seventh- or eighth- grade level. They didn’t speak English. They were all put on disability, SSI, food stamp and housing substitutes and sent to special foreign language schools at community colleges to earn a GED.

In Florida, I became an education counselor, then a psychological specialist and the last three years a law librarian for the Florida Department of Corrections. What happens to inmates when there are millions of them in state prisons? More than two million will be discharged at some point on the calendar. When inmates are discharged at 55 or 60 they will not have any family or retirement funds, no Social Security record of work to depend on. From the government’s point of view it is cheaper to give the inmates $9,000 per year in disability in place of the $30,000 per year to keep the inmate in prison. There is a switch here from state funds to federal funds.

If you go into a large Social Security office in Florida, 50 to 100 people are in the waiting lines. A very large number of people there are immigrants. A very large number of these immigrants are given SSI for some time if not for life.

Sen. Tom Colburn is following a class war that hates those on food stamps and disability. His ulterior motive is to have middle class people to join his party in hating the less fortunate. If he is really interested in our financial situation, why doesn’t he call for all federal employees to choose between a federal pension and Social Security? Nixon did it for a while by executive order in some departments but when he was gone the rule disappeared. Why doesn’t the senator introduce means testing alone with the clearing up of disability fraud? Why should Mitt Romney, Donald Trump and U.S. senators receive Social Security payments?

Sandage lives in Tell City.