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Disability advocates: '60 Minutes' of misleading television

We wrote in our prior post about a documentary that captured the very unique story about an incredible boy diagnosed with progeria. The television documentary was a rare look into the personal life of someone living with a disability. On the other end of the spectrum, says disability advocates, is a television episode that does a "tremendous disservice" to that same group of individuals.

Members of national disability organizations have spoken up about the misinformation they say was spread by an episode of CBS's "60 Minutes" that aired on Oct. 6, 2013. Rebecca Vallas is one of these advocates and the co-chair of the Social Security Task Force at the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities, of which about 100 organizations are members of.

Vallas said the episode presented information that made it seem as though the Social Security disability program was overrun with fraudulent applications and payments. She noted that the show failed to put "a few bad apples" into "context of the millions of individuals who receive benefits appropriately, and for whom they are a vital lifeline."

That fraud that the show discussed accounts for about 1 percent of the entire SSD population, according to the Government Accountability Office -- a fact that wasn't shared.

Advocates are especially concerned with the consequences of this type of misleading media coverage. A letter to the show's executive editor Bill Owens pointed out that "policy by anecdote" is a very dangerous thing that "in the past led to significant and needless harm to Social Security disability beneficiaries."

The truth is that applying for benefits is not an easy process. The Social Security Administration requires significant proof of the disability, which is why many individuals are denied initially and again on appeal. Although the SSA allows individuals to apply without the assistance of an attorney, it is an SSD lawyer's experience with the process that helps avoid unnecessary denials.

Source: Media Matters, "60 Minutes Report Denounced For Disability Misinformation," Hannah Groch-Begley, Oct. 7, 2013

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