Over two hundred Puerto Ricans were granted Social Security disability status because they claimed they could not speak English.
I missed this story last week, but it deserves some outrage even at this late date. The Washington Post reports that the Social Security Administration has realized that it makes no sense to grant “disability” status to Puerto Ricans: “Puerto Ricans who can’t speak English qualify as disabled for Social Security.”
Hundreds of Puerto Rico’s residents qualified for federal disability benefits in recent years because they lacked fluency in English, according to government auditors.
The Social Security Administration’s inspector general questioned the policy this month in light of the fact that Spanish is the predominant language in the U.S. territory.
Under Social Security regulations, individuals are considered less employable in the United States if they can’t speak English, regardless of their work experience or level of education.
In a report this month, the independent watchdog suggested that a more appropriate standard might be to consider local conditions when making benefits decisions.
Uh, no. A more appropriate standard might be to stop pretending that not speaking English counts as being “disabled.” That is insane.
There are some jobs where being a Spanish speaker might be a special advantage. I’ve seen jobs that look interesting that require knowledge of Spanish. Since I can’t get such a job “regardless of my work experience or level of education” should I qualify as disabled?
Imagine that we implement the proposed standards and “consider local conditions.” Can I then move to Puerto Rico and qualify as disabled since I can’t serve Spanish speaking customers?
We are told that not speaking English counts as a disability because it makes it difficult to get a job “regardless of … work experience or level of education.” But why shouldn’t a lack or work experience or education count as a disability? I think most people would say that you can change your work experience or your educational level, so it shouldn’t count as a disability. But you can avail yourself of English classes too! So it is a fraud on the taxpayer and the Social Security system to grant such people disability status.
What the Social Security Administration is doing is making it easier to live in the United States without bothering to learn the language. Is that a rational policy conducive to American interests? Of course not.
It blows my mind that the Washington Post can report this as if it is no big deal.
[A]uditors identified 218 cases between 2011 and 2013 in which the the Social Security Administration granted disability status to Puerto Rico residents because of the existing guidelines.
But how many others in the fifty states are granted this status? Apparantly, no one has been keeping track:
The inspector general recommended that the agency evaluate whether the rules are appropriate and determine the number of beneficiaries who have received disability status based on their inability to communicate in English.
What a novel idea: if you are going to give away free money, at least document the reason you are giving it away.
One last note: This Social Security policy may have especially insane consequences for Barack Obama’s executive amnesty. See here.