A Great Disservice
I am writing in response to your front-page reports (Jan. 22-Jan. 25) on Supplemental Security Income (SSI) for children.
As a social service provider in Baltimore City, I see the immense benefit that monthly SSI benefits have for families who have children with disabilities. I thought your first two articles were horribly misrepresentative.
The vast majority of families are able to obtain necessary medical supplies, housing, food and other needed items that medical assistance and other insurance programs will not cover. These items are not luxuries but are often necessary for the child's survival. The health status of many children would deteriorate without the needed medication and other supports that SSI money purchases.
Without SSI payments, many children's medical conditions would deteriorate, leading to costly in-patient services that would increase the cost of medical care for all Americans.
Many parents receiving SSI must stay home to care for their children. The SSI payments allow children, families, insurance companies and the public sector to avoid the astronomical cost associated with the institutionalization and hospitalization of children with severe needs . . .
Many of the sensationalized news reports inaccurately describe children who are told by parents to "fake" a disability in order to obtain SSI benefits. It is my experience that these stories are at the least extremely rare and at best exaggerated.
Children cannot be coached to have HIV/AIDS, medically fragile conditions or severe emotional disturbances. Despite your story, SSI benefits are very difficult to receive and take comprehensive documentation to prove a need (proof of income, physician's evaluation, school reports).
Cutting SSI benefits because of these irresponsible stories would needlessly wreak havoc on families with children in great need.
I was greatly disturbed at the lack of balance in your portrayal of those receiving SSI benefits. Next time I urge you to take a more balanced approach when doing such a story, particularly when the lives of children are at stake.
In this political climate where careful examination of public health problems has gone to the wayside in favor of politically reactionary statements, I believe that your series of articles do children with disabilities, their families and the taxpayers a great disservice. Shame on you.
Peter La Count
If Sun reporters John O'Donnell and Jim Haner don't get a Pulitzer Prize for their series on Social Security's Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Disability Income (DI), then justice is not only blind, but hearing-and-speech-challenged as well.
But I doubt that they will, because the content and conclusions of their articles are politically incorrect.
In any other time, their revelations would be called a government scandal beyond the order even of Teapot Dome and Watergate.
However, in this case, responsibility for the scandal cannot be neatly assigned to one or a few individuals.
It is rather a scandal for which an entire philosophy of government is responsible -- the philosophy which says that it is government, not the individual, which is the heart and soul, the bone and sinew of a culture and a civilization.
After reading the first two articles in the series "America's most wanted welfare plan" by Jim Haner and John B. O'Donnell, I find myself shocked at its sensational nature, which only caters to ignorance and inflames the passions.
This series appears to focus on the very small proportion of exceptions and to portend them as on the very small proportion of exceptions and to present them as the whole of the Supplemental Security Income program.
For example, your reporters say "checks for drug abusers are costing taxpayers $1.4 billion," which represents 2 percent of the overall $65 billion spent on Supplemental Security Income/Disability Insurance program.
Are we to assume that the whole 2 percent is suspect or are we, I believe, seeing a small portion of even the 2 percent singled out for emotional reporting?
I urge your writers to take a look at the number of tax evaders
each year who cost the Treasury many billions of dollars beyond the $1.4 billion cited here.
Why is it that working people, even if they don't pay their taxes as required by law, are somehow more acceptable in our eyes?
Why is it that when the "cheats" happen to be poor and unemployed, we view them with such extreme disdain? The rules are, somehow, arbitrarily applied.
And what of the vast majority of the SSI/DI program recipients and their stories?
Let's hear about them and the proportionately small investment it has taken to get those adults, children and the elderly back on their feet again so they can lead productive lives . . .
Julee H. Kryder-Coe