Advertising Pays

Bill Neinast

Advertising pays.  If you question this adage, consider the law firm of Binder and Binder.

Anyone who watches TV for any amount of time is well acquainted with this bunch.  They are featured in TV ads almost nightly with that serious looking “lawyer” in the big hat assuring us that they will take care of us with the Social Security Administration.

How many they have taken care of and for how much is not easily ascertained.  What is known, though, is that Binder and Binder has done quite well in taking care of its lawyers.  Last year, the Social Security Administration paid a billion dollars to lawyers representing clients before it.  Seventy million dollars went to Binder and Binder. That is a pretty good return on their advertising dollars.

The Federal Disability Insurance Program is the Social Security program running wild that was highlighted on CBS’s 60 Minutes program on Oct. 6.  In considering the statistics highlighted that night, it is hard to decide which is scariest.

Consider 12 million people being covered.  That is up 20% in the last six years.

The annual budget for the program is $136 billion.  According to CBS, “That’s more than the government spent last year on the Department of Homeland Security, the Justice Department, and the Labor Department combined.  It’s been called a ‘secret welfare system’ with its own ‘disability industrial complex,’ a system ravaged by waste and fraud.”

Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn, MD, is on a committee considering the problems under the disability program.  He said on 60 Minutes, “…my investigation and my common sense tells me that we got a system that’s being gamed pretty big right now.”

This concern was echoed by Marilyn Zahm and Randy Frey, two of the country’s 1,500 disability judges, who were also on the panel.  They believe that the system is flooded by cases that should not be there.

Zahm noted that, “In 1971 fewer than 20% of claimants were represented.  Now, over 80% of claimants are represented by attorneys or representatives.”

Another attorney in this legal factory for manufacturing claims is Eric C. Conn of Stanville, Kentucky.  That is in the border area of Kentucky and West Virginia where more than a quarter million people--10 t0 15% of the population--are on disability.

Jennifer Griffin, who processed disability claims from that area, mentioned on 60 Minutes that she began complaining to her bosses six years ago about the “outsized” number of claims, some with questionable medical evidence, coming from Conn.

It turns out that Conn runs the third largest disability practice in the country.  He calls himself Mr. Social Security and his ads “guarantee success.” He collected more than $13 million in fees from the government in six years. 

This cancer is growing all over the U.S.  

Just a few days before the program aired on CBS, Dr. Stuart Yoffe and I had a discussion of the subject.  

Dr. Yoffe is the medical consultant to the jail administrators in a number of Texas counties and has substantially reduced the medical bills for prisoners in the local jails.

He mentioned that there are prisoners in every one of those jails drawing Social Security Disability while they are being housed and fed by the counties.  He has examined some of those and has doubts about their disabilities. 

He mentioned one female in particular.  Her file is inches thick because she periodically has herself arrested so that she can be incarcerated, claim a disabling illness, have it checked or “verified” under the jail’s medical procedures, and file yet another claim for disability.  He questions a number of those claims and is suggesting that she be investigated for fraud.

In a similar vein, the day after the 60 Minutes program, I discussed the matter with a member of the local law enforcement fraternity.  He mentioned a family in Washington County in which all four members--both parents and two children--were on Social Security Disability.  The parents claim was that they were mentally disabled from working.  

In the officer’s opinion, all four were capable of working but would rather live off the government largess or, as they say in Kentucky and West Virginia, “get on the draw.”

So here’s the perspective.

The American taxpayers are paying $135 billion a year for or because of advertising.

Some of that goes to individuals who are fully justified in receiving it.   Much, if not most of it, however, is paid in violation of the legislation that provides if there is any job in the economy you can perform, you are not eligible for disability.

Way too much of it goes to lawyers who advertise long and loud about taking care of those poor unfortunates who might not even know they are disabled.

Now do you still question whether advertising pays?


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