Recently, the Washington Post discussed Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits in both a headline story and a Sunday editorial. The article and editorial drew pessimistic conclusions based upon selective interviews as well as analysis of data from the Social Security Administration SSDI and SSI Annual Reports.
On April 13, the Talk Poverty website, run by the Center for American Progress, published a strong statement about the Post’s use of data in its story and editorial:
“Not only does the Post’s reporting paint a misleading picture about SSDI, but the data analysis they published is just plain wrong.”
The Washington Post issued a correction to the original article, but unfortunately there were still major problems with their use of data, as well as their central thesis. As Talk Poverty noted:
"Media should take great care in its coverage of critical programs like Social Security Disability Insurance. Reporting based on outliers—not to mention flawed data analysis—risks misleading the public and policymakers in ways that could jeopardize the economic well-being and even survival of millions of Americans with serious disabilities and severe illnesses who are already living on the financial brink."
The American Foundation for the Blind is a member of the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD), a working coalition of national disability organizations working together to advocate for national public policy that ensures the self-determination, independence, empowerment, integration and inclusion of children and adults with disabilities in all aspects of society. We strongly encourage producers and consumers of data to be aware of and involved in the ways that disability-related statistics are produced and consumed.
In light of the analysis by the Center for American Progress, AFB joined with other members of CCD to urge The Washington Post to take several steps needed to provide readers of this article with important clarification and context.
Read the full text of the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD) letter to the Washington Post in response to their series on disability benefits.
- Talk Poverty response, “The Washington Post’s data on Social Security Disability is just plain wrong”
- The original Washington Post story, “Disabled, or just desperate?”
- The Washington Post editorial, “The Social Security disability program needs reform”
- Talk Poverty's Followup, "The Washington Post Ran a Correction to Its Disability Story. Here’s Why It’s Still Wrong."
- AFB's Research Navigator: We've Got You Covered—How People with Vision Loss Participate in America's Health Insurance Systems
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