WASHINGTON, D.C. — A U.S. Senate investigation into the Federal Disability Insurance Program, with its annual budget of $135 billion, focuses on the border area between West Virginia and Kentucky
Records show about 250,000 people there, more than ten percent of the population, receive disability payments each month.
Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) sits on the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Investigations. He said the program that was created in the 1950s to help people who cannot work because of illness or injury is now propping up the economy in some of the poorest regions of the United States.
“You take a good concept that’s well meaning and then you don’t manage it, you don’t monitor it,” Coburn told CBS’ “60 Minutes” in a story that aired on Sunday night. “Pretty soon, you end up in places like in West Virginia, certain counties, where, you know, you’re born to be on disability.”
“Wall Street Journal” Reporter Damian Paletta first raised questions about possible fraud with disability awards from David “D.B.” Daugherty, a former Social Security appeals judge in Huntington, back in 2011.
Records showed Daugherty, who has since retired, approved almost 100 percent of the disability cases he considered. The national average approval rate is 62 percent.
Both Daugherty and Eric Conn, a disability lawyer based in eastern Kentucky, have been named in a federal civil suit that claims the two schemed to defraud the federal government of millions of dollars through awards for bogus disability claims.
Conn was part of the “60 Minutes” story which aired a day before a scheduled hearing in front of the U.S. Senate Committee on Government Affairs that was supposed to focus on the Federal Disability Insurance Program, which is run through the Social Security Administration.
It was not clear Monday morning if that hearing was going to happen because of the ongoing partial federal government shutdown.
National statistics showed almost 12 million people are on disability now, a number that has jumped 20 percent during the last six years.
Paletta was a guest on Monday’s MetroNews “Talkline.”