NPR’s “Unfit for Work;” Report unfit to present

One of my readers suggested I check out and comment on a recent NPR story on disability called “Unfit for Work.” (While I was looking for the story, I also found an overwhelming backlash , which I tried not to read so it wouldn’t “taint” my view on the story).

After reading the story and mulling over the details presented, I think that this story is one-sided and incomplete.  Not really on any particular point (because I didn’t go fact-checking that closely, though I can easily imagine incorrect points) but because of the method used to arrive to it’s conclusions. The report examines a few statistics and draws simple correlations; not in itself a bad thing.  Yet then assumptions of causality were drawn upon these correlations, a pedestrian mistake and something that detracted from the story’s credibility.

One such example:

A person on welfare costs a state money. That same resident on disability doesn’t cost the state a cent, because the federal government covers the entire bill for people on disability. So states can save money by shifting people from welfare to disability.

I imagine that, while the correlation may point to this conclusion, there are a host of other factors included in this phenomenon. Ignoring them supports to a social construct that imagines many people on disability as morally lazy, maybe even that they “count less” than “contributing members” of society. I think this has to do with an overarching social script that embraces a narrow definition of “contributing” to society – one that is only financial. It doesn’t include the baby-sitting, grocery shopping, tithing, neighborhood-basketball-watching and mentoring services, to name a few, that contribute to and support a community.

Okay. That was a little deeper than I meant to go, but it’s an idea that rumbling around; I’ll write on it soon.

A point that I find positive in this story, however, is that it highlights something that has bothered me for some time: the lawyers who specialize in helping people get their social security benefits.  One on hand, there is a lawyer that my agency sends people to when they’re filing their disability appeal, and he’s wonderful with them. He does a lot to help them.  On the other hand, the advertising attorneys that I pictured while reading this report, however, remind me of the street hustlers I see around my agency: they sidle up to people to get a little bit of money out of them, and then move on. It’s not really about helping people, and they seem almost predatory to me.

What do you think of the report’s findings?  Did it bring up any other questions for you?

3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Anonymous
    May 13, 2013 @ 15:07:59

    I agree that the article is incomplete, but I think it is OK for it to be incomplete. There are many sides of the story to tell, and she chose to tell one of them. She isn’t a social worker or a human services professional, hence, she did not write the story as one. Instead of simply railing against what tells a very important part of the troubling (or at least, noteworthy) recent deluge of disability applicants and beneficiaries simply because it isn’t complete, why can’t someone complete the story…or at least add more detail. We can’t all be experts in everything.


  2. Anonymous
    May 13, 2013 @ 15:08:26



  3. Biogeniste INstant Wrinkle Reducer
    Jul 05, 2013 @ 16:49:49

    Excellent post but I was wanting to know if you could write a litte more on this topic?
    I’d be very grateful if you could elaborate a little bit further. Cheers!


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