Doctors versus the rabble on the subject of disability

“The Myth of Disability ‘Sob Stories’” (nytimes) is fascinating for the comments. The typical New York Times reader is gushing with sympathy.

[David desJardins] Everyone else at your university would benefit if instead of writing an op-ed about this in the newspaper, you filed a complaint with your administration so this professor is reprimanded and changes his behavior. If you just tolerate it then it keeps happening.

[Joy Abbott] The vast majority of people receiving Social Security Disability are genuinely disabled. It’s cruel to imply that everybody receiving disability is scamming the system, when in truth, only a very small percentage are running scams.

(Don’t work for a railroad, certainly, if you want to avoid disabling injury!)

What about America’s doctors? How about these for bedside manner:

[ras] As a primary care physician I see many people trying to game the system by applying for disability for things that have no objective measure, e.g. pain, back problems or depression. They impugn those with legitimate claims to disability, but they are very real. It’s human nature to look for an easy way out, a gravy train to ride as far as possible; but I can assure you that “sob stories” are not a myth and in fact explain a large fraction of the tremendous increase in disability claims in recent years.

[Maturin25] I’m an orthopedic surgeon. Many sustain serious injuries and impairments. However, malingering is rampant, both in the general public and in the US military.

[Kate Connor] While it is rude of the author’s professor to make those comments, and the concept that a disability confers special powers is nutty, we still see on a daily basis people who appear to scam the system. As a physician, I get forms every day from patients applying for disability in the state where I practice (Florida) and I do not think one in ten of them are disabled, and I DO know their medical history. (My practice is to make no statements, just send the medical records and hope they get denied.) …

Speaking Truth to Patients, however, is not as popular as Speaking Truth to Power. New York Times readers definitely did not enjoy hearing from these docs!


  1. Ken Hagler

    June 19, 2017 @ 2:29 pm


    I used to live just down the hall from a “disabled” couple in LA. The husband sat in a wheelchair and the wife pretended to be blind when needed to collect welfare, and walked and saw just fine the rest of the time.

  2. Neal

    June 19, 2017 @ 3:04 pm


    A related problem is that declaring a (not malingering) person disabled can have the unintended effect of making the disability permanent even they would otherwise recover from the problem which is (temporarily) disabling them. Unfortunately, in the current system the “disabled” designation may be the only way for them to obtain services they actually do need (and legitimately qualify for) at the moment.

    I wonder if some of the services we currently provide through social service agencies shouldn’t be provided through the health care system. For example, a physician could write a prescription for an apartment for their not yet terminal but clearly unable to work MS patient or prescribe two hots meals per day delivered for an elderly patient who is otherwise able to live on their own but can no longer cook for themselves. Granted, this pre-supposes we get away from fee for service reimbursement for physicians!

  3. jack crossfire

    June 19, 2017 @ 3:10 pm


    All the single women I ever met in Silicon Valley were disabled mothers of 3 & desperate to avoid going on the government dole at all costs. Our time together would have been a lot easier if they took the money & got scooters, so dating could be more than just long car rides, but they wanted to live in denial.

  4. Smartest Woman on the Internet

    June 19, 2017 @ 6:05 pm


    A professor at my university stopped me in the hall and said, “I know I shouldn’t say this, but now that you won the Rhodes, will you throw away your cane and your brace?”

    Nope. Never happened.

  5. billg

    June 19, 2017 @ 11:28 pm


    Florida doctor skeptical that 1 in 10 are disabled and require govt benefits? A wikileak’d document shows in the UK members of a certain religion have “24% of females and 21% of males claiming a disability”.

  6. Tom

    June 20, 2017 @ 3:48 am


    Malingering is apparently easily learned all over the world.

    In 2016, 60 children were diagnosed with the syndrome, which sees patients are rendered “totally passive, immobile, lacks tonus, withdrawn, mute, unable to eat and drink, incontinent and not reacting to physical stimuli or pain,” according to medical journal Acta Pædiatrica.

    The main ‘cure’ for the condition is for refugee families to be awarded residency permits – something even recognised by the Swedish Board of Health and Welfare.

    There have been some skeptical questions by health professionals but, you know … We’re Sweden!

    (So I would add that for best effect a certain complicitness might be needed too.)

  7. paul kramarchyk

    June 20, 2017 @ 8:10 pm


    Guess from 60 years of observation: 50% of “disabled” aren’t.
    Most abused privilege: handicapped parking tag
    2nd most: social security disability

    No. I did not read the article. No need.

  8. superMike

    June 20, 2017 @ 8:37 pm

  9. M

    June 24, 2017 @ 12:55 pm


    I have a mother-in-law, father-in-law and sister-in-law who are all on total disability. If you met them on the street or at a social function you would not guess such a thing about them. They all participate in normal, every day activities (except for actually earning an income) and they all have no shame in gaming the system to their advantage. Dear old dad has been disabled for nearly twenty years (back injury), mom for about ten (I have no idea what she claims to be her disability other than being an idiot) and sister for about seven years (back problems).
    My wife and I have a six-year old and we question how will we explain to our daughter why the grandparents and aunt have no job? You may think we have years to wait before such a question is raised by our daughter but it will be sooner than later. Other than telling our daughter an outright falsehood, we do not know how to explain their ruse.

Log in