Biased CoverageI am a public interest attorney who has...


March 29, 1995

Biased Coverage

I am a public interest attorney who has represented Supplemental Security Income (SSI) clients for nearly 15 years. I continue to be distressed by the nature of The Sun's coverage of the SSI program.

I am writing in response to the front-page story on March 11: " 'Coached' Children Wrongly Get Benefits" by John O'Donnell.

I attended the same meeting as Mr. O'Donnell and, in my opinion, he has grossly mis-characterized Dr. Bill Payne's testimony and, consistent with all of The Sun's recent stories about the SSI program, has presented a biased and incomplete description.

While Dr. Payne indicated concern about some children who were found disabled in the past, primarily during 1992 and 1993, my notes indicate that he stated that "the system is working pretty well now," that "the majority of cases are appropriately found disabled" in light of corrections made by the Social Security Administration.

He also stated that many children found eligible on the individualized functional assessment (IFA), the group to be terminated under the House Ways and Means Committee bill, meet or equal the medical listings, the group for whom benefits would continue. He cautioned that by cutting off "IFA children," some of those children would fall through the cracks.

I strongly disagree with the characterization of Dr. Payne's testimony as a public confirmation that "children without disabilities are getting monthly checks."

The statement that "Dr. Payne said his agency was getting little guidance from Social Security while being pressure to increase its approval rate for children" is also inaccurate since it implies that the problem is on-going.

As stated above, Dr. Payne clearly testified that the problem had been corrected and cautioned against overreacting. Consistent with the quality of the coverage on SSI, this clarification is buried in the story, after maximum negative impact is achieved with front-page coverage.

Consistent with the biased coverage, the article fails to discuss other testimony presented, including that of the General Accounting Office recommending elimination of the IFA.

The GAO witness was strongly questioned and criticized by members of the commission for its report . . .

Ethel Zelenske


Turkey's Action

Permit me to register some of my objections to points raised in the editorial ''Turks in Iraq'' (March 23).

While the editorial acknowledges that the PKK is a separatist and terrorist organization, it seems to question Turkey's legitimate right to defend itself against its scourge.

The PKK, which found it increasingly difficult to operate in Southeast Turkey, took advantage of the power vacuum in northern Iraq and set up bases there in order to continue carrying out its operations.

No country should be expected to stand idly by and watch a group of ruthless terrorists infiltrate its borders to massacre innocent civilians and create an atmosphere of fear and intimidation within its borders.

The Turkish government has an obligation to protect its citizens from violent terrorist threats. The decision to send forces into northern Iraq was not taken lightly, but it had to be taken to fulfill Turkey's obligation to protect innocent civilians from further attacks.

Turkey is legally and morally justified in its actions, which is why the U.S. government supported the operation. Indeed, the whole international community has an obligation to denounce terrorism unequivocally.

We hope the U.S. public, while supporting the American military presence in northern Iraq to protect the Iraqi Kurds from Saddam Hussein's wrath, will also recognize and understand Turkey's right to protect its own citizens from PKK terror.

On the other hand, contrary to inferences in the editorial, Turkey is committed to democracy.

The government continues to take the necessary steps to fully align the Turkish democracy with that of the European Union based on the individual freedoms and liberties for its citizens, regardless of their ethnic background.

Nuzhet Kandemir


The writer is ambassador of Turkey.

Inflation Gauge

Alan Greenspan told a Senate committee that the Consumer Price Index overstates inflation by failing to account for improvements in quality of goods.

If this is true, people who receive inflation-adjusted government benefits enjoy a windfall that costs Uncle Sam about $30 million a year.

It is time to overhaul our chief inflation gauge in order to make it more accurate. To figure out how much of a price increase is due to quality change and how much to inflation is a most complex issue.

The Federal Reserve Board chairman believes the CPI overstates inflation by 1 percent. If that is correct, why was it necessary to raise interest rates six times?

Joseph Lerner


Equal Rights?

After reading columns by Susan Reimer and Ellen Goodman, the only conclusions that can be discerned are that, in their view:

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