Social security disability benefits are determined on the basis of a stringent medical record review that takes into account the extent of disability of the applicant. Once granted, these benefits are a real lifeline for millions of people who cannot work on account of some debilitating disability. However, disability reviews can be really devastating as recent news from the UK reveals.
Around six hundred suicides in England have been linked to social security cuts policy of the UK government, as a recent study report states. A health data survey report released by scientists from the universities of Oxford and Liverpool shows that higher levels of ‘work capability assessments’ (WCA) was connected to higher suicide levels. The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) enforced the sanctions regime that removed financial support from defenseless people. In 2014, the department imposed one million sanctions, and 500,000 of these were imposed before any judgment had been made. Sanctions take away lifesaving financial support from recipients for simple reasons such as failure to attend a certain number of employment events, or turning up late for a meeting. According to the above mentioned report, the highest level of reported suicides and mental health problems were in areas with the highest use of WCAs. Six suicides correspond to every 10,000 WCA assessments.
A shocking case is that of a 60-year-old man from north London who committed suicide after his social security disability was removed in 2013 September. Three doctors had challenged the move to take away his disability benefits. They drew attention to the fact that this individual suffered from depression and was signed off from work by his GP. In the first instance of its kind, a senior coroner linked the death of this social security claimant to the UK government’s welfare reforms.
As per previous figures, between 2011 and 2014, 90 people per month died after being declared “fit to work” by the government.
Meanwhile, back home in the U.S., a Michigan Retirement Research Center working paper reveals that people who file disability claims rarely go back to work, even if their claims are denied. Here is the graph:
The figures suggest that disability applicants are truly disabled, mainly those who win their claims as well as those who appeal. Considerable numbers of those who don’t appeal also may have a serious disability that affects their ability to do significant work.