During the Great Depression, when Congress was first considering a federal insurance program for the disabled (the law didn't pass until almost 20 years later), a Social Security Advisory Council actuary warned of costs beyond "anything that can be forecast."
The fear was that well-intentioned assistance for any person with impairments of mind or body that would keep him from being gainfully employed for their rest of his life would devolve into a version of unemployment.
That warning has proven prophetic as this country's Social Security Disability Insurance program has spun out of control and is now on course to run out of money by 2016.
Sunday night, CBS 60 Minutes aired a segment entitled "Disability USA," which probed the abuse of SSDI.
Steve Kroft reported that SSDI rolls have risen 20 percent just in the last six years to 12 million people, with a budget of $135 billion.
West Virginia, despite a small population, is a big contributor to the SSDI rolls.
The AP reports that "West Virginia leads the nation in the percentage of adults receiving government assistance for disabilities."
A big reason for the surge in SSDI is that people who have had their claims denied are hiring law firms that specialize in winning appeals.
According to 60 Minutes, "Last year, the Social Security Administration paid a billion dollars to claimants' lawyers out of its cash-strapped disability trust fund. The biggest chunk — $70 million — went to Binder & Binder, the largest disability firm in the country."
Jenna Fliszar, a lawyer who used to work for Binder & Binder and represent clients from West Virginia and other states, told CBS, "I call it a legal factory because that's all it is. They have figured out the system and they've made it into a huge national firm that makes millions of dollars a year on Social Security Disability."
In 2011, the Wall Street Journal's Damian Paletta reported on one Huntington-based disability judge who nearly always sided with the claimant.