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Disability Action Center NW

Before his benefits were terminated, Eldridge had been receiving Social Security Disability for “chronic anxiety and back strain.” The categorical claim of back injury is associated with fears of perpetrated fraud, and back injury has been one of the toughest roads for getting disability benefits. In fact, there is advice all over the Internet about how to get your back claim approved. Nor is anxiety an easy winner, which in belonging to the class of “conditions of the mind” is among the most highly stigmatized of disabilities (Hertz, 1995). It is likely that high levels of societal stigma are correlated historically with high levels of discrimination.

Was Eldridge protesting perceived systemic prejudice and discrimination in lodging a suit rather than follow Social Security administrative procedure? This idea gains traction for several reasons. First, it is difficult for a Social Security Disability applicant to trust the initial stages of Social Security’s eligibility process, based as this determination is on a collection of discrete data points. It may have been hard for Eldridge to believe that such a methodology could appreciate the broad sociocultural model of disability. This may have been the understanding of disability that Eldridge felt best explained his “lived life” in seemingly perpetual pursuit not of a medical cure but of full access to societal participation. It is not surprising that Eldridge wanted a hearing.

Second, the majority opinion in Mathews v. Eldridge reveals ignorance of the essential value of Social Security Disability.The dollar amount each month that the Social Security Disability beneficiary receives is based on their individualized work credits, for which the worker paid through half of their FICA tax. The more work credits the able worker accumulated, the more Social Security Disability the now work-disabled beneficiary receives. In fact, the full name of the program is Social Security Disability Insurance. It is not a government payout; it is income replacement insurance for which the beneficiary has paid. SSDI is not even a “benefit program” in the true sense of that term; rather, in social policy parlance, it is an “entitlement program.” If you qualify you get it, and you get what you have earned because of prior labor force participation.

The majority opinion states that in losing his SSDI, Eldridge will not suffer extreme hardship because other social programs will step in to keep him out of poverty. On the contrary, Eldridge will suffer greatly. Find out how he fared next month!