By Former Rep. Charlie Melancon, (D-La.) – 05/29/12 11:41 AM ET
“Cutting waste, fraud and abuse” is Washington D.C.’s most tired cliché. But it is also becoming perhaps its most dangerous.
Elected officials across the political spectrum widely accept that the federal government needs to eliminate some of its bloated and redundant programs. Entitlement reform will be crucial to any plan to balance the federal budget and pay down our national debt.
But if you listen closely, the term “waste, fraud, and abuse” is code for something much more disturbing. The phrase provides budget hawks cover to conduct budgetary witch hunts and gut vital government programs that so many Americans depend on to survive. One such program, Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), may be next in their sights.
America’s only hope to defeat this War on the Disabled is the resolve of Democratic leaders in Congress. And with powerful players, such as Senator Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) and the Cato Institute, leading the SSDI reform crusade, Democrats will have their hands full. But this fight is far too important to concede.
Officially established in 1956, SSDI provides benefits to people whose mental or physical impairments prevent them from maintaining gainful employment for more than a year, or may result in death. To receive a modest monthly stipend, a “claimant” needs to have worked in recent years, paid into the FICA system and ultimately must provide objective medical evidence that clearly demonstrates an inability to work. ……