Soundings

Abusing the System
Spring 1994

Some 250,000 alcoholics and drug addicts nationwide are now collecting about $1.4 billion a year in cash benefits under federal Social Security disability programs, according to a recent report based on an investigation by the General Accounting Office and the minority staff of the Senate Special Committee on Aging. For some of these recipients, their only disability is substance abuse.

Two out of three, or 172,000, of the substance abusers receive their grants with no strings attached—they are not required to seek treatment for addiction or have a guardian collect their checks on their behalf. And many of the other 78,000 fail to attend required treatment sessions or have guardians who are themselves substance abusers. The Social Security Administration monitors compliance with treatment requirements in only 18 states, and fewer than half the addicts and alcoholics in those states were actually being monitored, according to the report.

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