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May 21, 1982 - Image 6

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Michigan Daily, 1982-05-21

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Opinion

Page 6

Friday, May 21, 1982

The Michiqan Daily

The Michigan Daily
Vol. XCI1, No. 13-S
Ninety-two Years of Editorial Freedom
Edited and managed by student';
at the University of Michigan

I

Useful rules
T HE REAGAN administration cannot decide
what is more important-civil rights or
ending federal regulation of the private sector.
First the administration wanted to give
segregated colleges federal tax exemptions.
That didn't work, so it tried to exempt em-
ployees of federally-aided schools from sex
discrimination regulations. The Supreme Court
struck that down, so now Reagan's gang is
going to reward Grove City College in Pen-
nsylvania for refusing to stipulate that it has
complied with civil rights laws.
Secretary of Education Terrel Bell reversed
a ten-year-old policy of denying a college's par-
ticipation in the guaranteed student loan
program if it does not sign a form verifying its
compliance with civil rights laws.
At a time when federal support of such loan
programs is shrinking, the government should
not be extending them to those who refuse to
comply with federal regulations. Bell seems to
forget that these regulations were not drafted to
hassle small colleges or give zealous
bureaucrats something to do. They were
designed to ensure that federal funds are not
being used to support racist or sexist schools.
In spite of President Reagan's attempts to
patch up relations with the black community,
his commitment to civil rights will remain
tenuous until his actions match his words.
"IT'S OUR LATEST DEPLOYMENT SYSTEM -.
THE SIXPACK"

Cuttin
By James Crawford
Jane Kemp would like nothing
better than torreturnto her
teaching career here in
Washington, D.C. But after her
IQ dropped by over 50 percent
following brain surgery in 1974,
her memory began to fail and her
bouts with depression increased.
She was forced to retire on Social
Security diaability benefits.
An inoperable tumor on the
right side of her brain continues
to grow and increasingly impairs
her mental functions. As a result,
she requires frequent rest,
medication and psychotherapy.
THUS, MS. Kemp waa ur-
prised, to say the least, when
Social Security wrote her last
July: "Current medical evidence
in file indicates that your con-
dition baa greatly improved. You
should now be able to engage in
medium work."
Accordingly, her modest mon-
thly check was cut off.
A bureaucratic oversight?
Evidently not. Aked to recon-
aider, Social Security officiala
reaffirmed their decision, rejec-
ting a plea on Kemp's behalf by
the chairman of neurology at
George Washington University
Medical School in Washington,
D.C.
JUNE KEMP's predicament is
not an isolated case. Throughout
the country, disabled persons are
facing sudden, and often ar-
bitrary, oss of benefits because
of a maaive review of their
claims by the Reagan ad-
ministration.
Faced with an historic deficit
and running out of dicretionary
spending to cut, the White Houae
is looking everywhere for ways to
pare down entitlement programs.
Social Security Disability In-
surance is one of the costliest of
these-$18.7 billion annually to
4.6 million disabled people and
their dependents.
But in an election year the
Social Security budget is the last
thing the administration wants to
touch, especially after the
firestorm that met its proposal to
refinance the system in 1981.
SO INSTEAD of cutting
benefits, the administration is
quietly cutting beneficiaries,
many of whom it considers
"non-disabled." By 1984, it hopes
to terminate checks to the 25 per-
cent of current recipients who,
according to Social Security
Commissioner John A. Svahn,
could really be working.
The administration's critics
say there are not nearly so many
frauds and malingerers on the
disability rolls. They point out
that qualifying for benefits has
never been tougher. Last year,
Social Security turned down two
of every three initial applications
for the program.
Testifying recently before the

the safety net

House Subcommittee on Social
Security, Sen. Donald Riegle (D-
Mich.) condemned the abrupt
termination of support for
legitimately disabled workers.
Riegle found it "bizarre" that
several of his constituents who
are confined to psychiatric
hospitals have been determined
well enough to work.
IRONICALLY, almost two-
thirds of those who appeal these
terminations are winning back
theirtbenefits. But while waiting
five to 12 months for a decision,
their disability checks are cut off.
Most, said Riegle, are "forced to
find alternative funds for basic
substance, perhaps by selling
their homes or (other)
possessions."
Few would deny that the
disability program was poorly
adminstered in the 1970s.
Because only a small percentage.
of recipients were ever checked
to see if they had recovered,
some abuses were inevitable.
To address this problem,
Congress mandated a review of
all non-permanent disability
cases at least once every three
years, starting in 1982. The
Reagan administration,
however, believed it could save
$200 million by accelerating these
"continuing disability in-
vestigations" (CDIs) and begin-
ning them in March 1981.
SINCE THAT time, Social
Security has reviewed about'
400,000 claimants and removed 45
per cent of them from the rolls.
Jane Yohalem, a staff attorney
at the Mental Health Law Project
in Washington, D.C., reported on
the organization's study of CDIs
in 14 states which found that
"perfunctory review"
procedures and "inadequate
medical evidence" were used to
justify terminations. Often,
treating physicians were never
even contacted.

Richard J. Peckham, a Social
Security staff attorney from
Wichita, Kan., accused the ad-
ministration of applying stricter
criteria for disability than
authorized by law and
regulations. As a result, claiman-
ts are being dropped from the
rolls who are "unfit for work of
any kind."
MARK COVEN of Greater
Boston Legal Services claimed
that while Social Security
reviews athigh percentage of
decisions that are favorable to
claimants, it seldom scrutinizes
denials.
Commissioner Svahn conceded
that this "leads to a built-in bias
in theusystem that results in
states using a rule of 'When in
doubt, throw it out.' "
The administrative law judges
who rule on the appeals currently
are reversing 60 percent of
decisions to terminate benefits,
primarily because they apply
less restrictive standards of
disability than the states.
MANY OF those who aren't
reinstated, however, have dif-
ficulty coping with the sudden
loss of livelihood. At least 12
suicides nationwide have been
linked to Social Security
decisions to stop benefits since
March, 1981, according to a staff
study for Senator Carl Levin, (D-
Mich.).
Robert Tuttle, a 46-year-old
father of three who had been
disabled with a back injury since
1967, shot himself last November
outside his Social Security office
in Lansing, Mich. He left a note
that read: "They cut my Social
Security. They are playing
God ... I cannot live on
Welfare."
Crawford wrote this story
for the Pacific News Service.

4

I

Wasserman.
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15

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