At the Birth of the Rehabilitation Act (part three)
By Miriam Hertz
First, social program benefit levels have never risen enough each year to keep up with the ever-increasing cost of living. Second, a large percentage of SSDI recipients receive a substantial monetary sum every month and live well above the poverty line. They can pay a mortgage and achieve the American dream of home ownership.
In fact, the dissenting opinion in Mathews v. Eldridge states that after his SSDI was terminated Eldridge’s home was foreclosed and repossessed.
For Eldridge a lot was at stake in losing his SSDI. There was no room for even a whiff of discrimination released by the Social Security Administration and supported by the ignorance of disability policy and anti-poverty programs in the Supreme Court’s majority opinion. Regardless of whether the Social Security Administration deemed Eldridge able to reenter the workforce, it may have been fact that reentering the workforce was something that his disability would never allow him to do. And Eldridge lost the replacement income to which he felt entitled – to which many people with disabilities, especially those with oft-contested conditions like “anxiety and back strain,” feel they are entitled.
Instead of alleging violation of due process, what if Eldridge had sued the Social Security Administration for disability discrimination, discrimination illegalized by the Rehabilitation Act? While it is unlikely that such a suit would succeed, if it did, might the appropriate procedural modification for Eldridge’s anxiety be the very thing that he sought – an evidentiary hearing before termination of benefits? Oh, the irony.