Despite Charles Lane’s assertion in his July 31 op-ed, “An incentive not to work,” the goals of the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) and Social Security’s Disability Insurance system (SSDI) are not at odds.
The ADA upholds the civil rights of people with disabilities, including in employment. It protects people with a wide range of impairments, including many people who work.
SSDI is an earned benefit that prevents abject poverty for millions of Americans with impairments so severe they cannot perform substantial work. Congress narrowly tailored SSDI’s eligibility rules to efficiently target scarce tax dollars. Many SSDI beneficiaries are terminally ill — about one in five men die within five years of first receiving benefits. Nearly one in three beneficiaries is over age 60.
Demographics account for almost all the growth in SSDI. The baby boomers are entering their high disability years, and the large-scale entry of women into the workforce in the 1970s and 1980s allows more to qualify for SSDI today.
The ADA opens opportunities and protects rights, but SSDI is there for people in their time of need. We must support and sustain this vital system.
Donna Meltzer, Washington
The writer is chair of the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities.