Professionally Disabled

Ready for a touchy subject?   I have been in practice for over two decades and I have seen a lot of patients.   My estimate is around 100,000.  Over that time I have seen many patients who are disabled and truly need help.    That being said, I have seen many more patients who have gamed the system to get on Social Security/Disability in order to get paid.  They are either frauds or truly believe that what ails them prevents them from working.  I remember seeing a young woman in her twenties on disability for asthma.  She was on NO medication and better yet, she smoked two packs a day.  I asked her who helped her get on the program (thinking that I would find some local doc who I would shame) but she replied, “My lawyer”.   She is just one of  many who I have seen that are defrauding the system.  Heck, they are defrauding me.  I have seen such other reasons as “anger problems”, “dyslexia”, “illiteracy”, “can’t work with people” and on and on.  In this light, a great article just came out in Investor’s Business Daily.  Please take a read.  Below are some highlights to make your day as you rest up this weekend from your hard week of work:

  • In 1960, some 455,000 workers were receiving disability payments. In 2011, the number was 8,600,000.
  • In 1960, only one-fifth of disability benefits went to those with “mood disorders” and “musculoskeletal” problems. In 2011, nearly half of those on disability voiced such complaints.
  • “It is exceptionally difficult — for all practical purposes, impossible,” writes Eberstadt, “for a medical professional to disprove a patient’s claim that he or she is suffering from sad feelings or back pain.”
  • Between 1996 and 2011, the private sector generated 8.8 million new jobs, and 4.1 million people entered the disability rolls.
  • Between January 2010 and December 2011, there were 1,730,000 new jobs and 790,000 new people collecting disability.
  • In 2011, 15% of disability recipients were in their 30s or early 40s.
  • Concludes Eberstadt, “Collecting disability is an increasingly important profession in America these days.”
  • The government transfers some $130 billion obtained from taxpayers or borrowed from purchasers of Treasury bonds to disability beneficiaries every year.

Amazing, huh?  For shits and giggles, please comment by giving some of your craziest examples of friends, acquaintances, patients or people you know who have faked disability.


Douglas Farrago MD

Douglas Farrago MD is a full-time practicing family doc in Forest, Va. He started Forest Direct Primary Care where he takes no insurance and bills patients a monthly fee. He is board certified in the specialty of Family Practice. He is the inventor of a product called the Knee Saver which is currently in the Baseball Hall of Fame. The Knee Saver and its knock-offs are worn by many major league baseball catchers. He is also the inventor of the CryoHelmet used by athletes for head injuries as well as migraine sufferers. Dr. Farrago is the author of four books, two of which are the top two most popular DPC books. From 2001 – 2011, Dr. Farrago was the editor and creator of the Placebo Journal which ran for 10 full years. Described as the Mad Magazine for doctors, he and the Placebo Journal were featured in the Washington Post, US News and World Report, the AP, and the NY Times. Dr. Farrago is also the editor of the blog Authentic Medicine which was born out of concern about where the direction of healthcare is heading and the belief that the wrong people are in charge. This blog has been going daily for more than 15 years Article about Dr. Farrago in Doximity Email Dr. Farrago – [email protected]

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21 Responses

  1. Mike says:

    Greatest scam ever foisted on the American working public. Archie Bunker’s nemesis, the welfare recipient of the 70’s, is gone. Very few collect welfare checks. Check, for any city in the nation, more than 1/3 of the population is collecting a disability check. 1/3rd of the population! And the number rises every year.
    You can, under federal law, collect a check because you are 100% fully disabled and unable to work, and by law, collect a paycheck, not even under the table, for working up to a set number of hours per week. Had a guy 100% disabled due to heart see me for a pre-employment physical for a courier job. Bad heart, can’t work, wants to drive the hospital’s truck. I said no, either you is or you ain’t able bodied. Hospital HR got mad and sent to another doc for the rubber stamp.
    Under welfare, you answer to a case worker whose job it is to make sure you go to job interviews and seek gainful employment. IF you don’t, you might lose your welfare check.
    State disability case workers have only one function. To sign up applicants for disability. IF all truly disabled persons are already signed up for a lifetime of benefits, where is the case worker’s next client (and job security) going to come from? My experience, if I complete a form for a healthy patient indicating they are not disabled, case workers will first contact my office, with their own professional opinion as to why the patient is disabled, then advise the patient to see a more “understanding” physician who will agree with whatever they request. Once you get a check, you are going to get a check FOR THE REST OF YOUR NATURAL LIFE.
    Corruption from the bottom up, dishonest patient gets a Lifetime, COLA, monthly check. Dishonest doc gets long lines of loyal patients. Case worker gets job security. And politicians are re-elected for borrowing money to hand over to the lazy for their “sittin’ around” checks.
    The 51% have already won, our country’s fate is sealed. Where were you when we needed you, Chris Christie ?

  2. Village Idiot says:

    I had a female in my practice that got disability at 18 y/o for being fat and afraid to go to WalMart! I have since gone from Primary Care to the ER where EVERYONE is “disabled”.

  3. BVR says:


  4. BV says:

    This is a huge problem . We are approaching 10% of the population on disability with less manual labor than ever before. Anxiety, obesity, and pain qualify.

    It accelerated under Bill Clinton (the same Pres who brought us the affordable housing and the bubble) who, to repay the attys who got him elected liberalized the appeal process.

    Remember at the same time people are on disability in their 20s the rest of us are told to increase taxes, and wait until we are 67 to collect SS ourselves and medicare.

    One person on disability costs the same as 10 normal people. Because they pay in for only 10 years and then collect for 40. Instead of paying in for 40 and collecting for 15. And they do work under the table for cash.

    I have had one week where three of my friends played golf on public courses and all three played 18 holes with people who later told them they were on disability.

    I had a patient come in for new larger breast implants. She was on Medicare at age 35. So I asked why. She could not remember, then said her lawyer got it for neck pain. I stated the larger implants would make that worse, and she replyed that was not an issue.

    I know physicians, one an anesthesiologist making 400k a year, also was in the Army reserves, got arthritis in his neck, and got the VA to declare him totally disabled , so he gets a government check for his service disability in addition to his 400k.

    Another nurse anesthetist who makes 180k had hodgkins while in the service, cured, but still gets a monthly check.

    I saw a 23 year old who had Hodgkins completely cured 2 years before on total disability, now wanting rhinoplasty.

    I know a physician who diagnosed his own Parkinsons, and with the first finger tremor stated he could not do anesthesia anymore and collected on his policy.

    I know a surgeon who had a minor heart attack 10 years ago, had the cardiologist write out disability so he collects 200k from that, dropped call and weekends and runs an HBO unit and collects another 600k a year from that, all while working a 40 hour week. He does the same things he did before the heart attack except call and weekends and makes double what he did before.

    The system is corrupt and broken thanks to lawyers. We need a disability specialty where you have to be certified after 20 years of previous practice and elected for honesty. Only after 2 out of 3 physicians have certified you, are you eligible and then you are banned from any recreation that conflicts. If you are caught cheating you go to jail and lose eligibility forever. In addition any outlier disability doctor (the ones in the top 5% of approvals by rate or two standard deviations, also get dropped )

  5. LaRayne says:


    I am one of the many LELT 🙁 ARNP’s out in the community, I have also have seen my share of those who want to be disabled. For some reason ANYONE can fill out those papers for disability, I don’t feel that it is my place as a family practice arnp to disable someone with ortho issues, soooo I have discussed and collaborated with(of which I do frequently) the ortho docs who were more than willing to see these patients ,to truly determine if they are disabled. One MD actually told me that “if they can breath through a straw they can work” LOL I have seen these patients for other medical issues and I know that they fish and hunt on a regular basis, but after seeing my ortho dr, I would guess that here in my area of Washington we will have fewer people on disability.

  6. Sir Lance-a-Lot says:

    … And, ALSO, one of my partners’ spouse is a lawyer in a private office. The top-earning partner in his office makes significantly more than any of the others by doing nothing but Disability cases.

    Turns out the Government pays him extra when he succeeds in getting someone on Disability, and pays him no matter what – no cost to the Disability-seeker, and no downside for them at all.

    It’s a cut-and-dried thing for this guy: follow the formula, get the client Disability, get a big check from Uncle Sam (that’s US), do it all again.

  7. Sir Lance-a-Lot says:

    I saw one guy a couple of years ago as an Urgent visit –
    About 22yo, muscular, tattooed, very capable.
    After the visit, as I was typing, I noticed the chart said “Medicare” (which is to say, “Disability” at that age). Looking into his history, I saw his pcp’s notation that he was completely disabled due to dyslexia.
    I kid you not.

    Also, this week, one of my partners saw a couple for “red spots” (abrasions / blisters) on their feet.
    Both on Disability, they had just come back from a Visit to Disney (1,500 miles away in Florida).

    I am more disgusted by the medical system, and by my “fellow Americans” every single day.

  8. Wildman says:

    How about an attorney who gambled himself to pennilessness then sued the government asserting his gambling addiction was a disability? He won $7 million as a disability settlement. I crap you not. Local guy ended up with two airplanes and a 47 foot yacht as a result of his largess. God bless America. In ten years when we are squatting in caves wearing animal skins and picking parasites off of each other we can all say we saw it coming.

  9. Sharon says:

    I had a 27yo woman in my office for a URI and I asked her why she was disabled. She replied that she had hepatitis C and type 2 diabetes. Her only medication was metformin and her hemoglobin A1C was 7.3. I looked at her and told her I, too, have hepatits C and type 2 diabetes and I get chemotherapy every six months and I’m working. Maybe I should go on disability?

  10. Elizabeth says:

    I have only a high school education but I understand mathematics and I take issue with your statement, “I have been in practice for over two decades and I have seen a lot of patients. My estimate is around 100,000.” Doubtful! There are only 525,600 minutes in an entire YEAR.

    • Doug Farrago says:

      100 to 150 pt visits a week x 50 weeks (approx) = 5000 to 7500 pt visits a year x 20 years = 100,000 +
      You failed math I guess?

      • Ray says:

        What do the minutes /yr. have to do with patients /20 years? I do not get it. But I love this discussion, why can’t we ALL go on disability? I had an able bodied 20 year old hit me up for disability, I said “C’mon, you have got to be kidding me!”, then he tried to hit me up for a Mojo card. 20 years in the trenches my good friend. Only some of us know what that truly means. Band of Brothers. Ray

        • Doug Farrago says:

          You know a man in this company who wouldn’t double-time Currahee with a full pack, just to piss in that man’s morning coffee?

    • Sir Lance-a-lot says:

      I guess a high school education isn’t worth much these days.

      Cheer up – neither is a med school education.

  11. Stella Fitzgibbons MD says:

    I agree about those who look as if they could be working. Keep in mind, though, that what would be a major inconvenience for you and me would pretty much destroy the earning power of someone with a 6th grade education. Should we undertake to give them the education they weren’t interested in, couldn’t stay awake for because of the next-door crack house, or aren’t bright enough to complete? How would you suggest going about it?

  12. Dr Bonz says:

    A 32 year old 250 lbs 6’3 guy who obviously WORKED OUT in a gym almost as much as I WORKED in my office, comes in to see me for his shoulder problem. He had hurt his shoulder at first, slinging a car battery up and into a truck and then secondarily while “exploring caves” while on “vacation” in Kentucky a week later. After his exam I asked him if he needed a temporary off work slip and he proudly told me that he didn’t work due to his “disability”. When I asked him why he was considered disabled, he told me that he was “depressed” and had “anger issues”. Obviously not too depressed or angry to go exploring caves on vacation or to earn extra (under the table) cash money working on cars though. I am an orthopedic surgeon and I see this literally every day. I myself have never filled out any paperwork allowing anyone to actually succeed in this nonsense. So WHO IS DOING IT and HOW DO WE STOP IT?

    • Dr. Hockey says:

      Ortho, PMR, pain management docs, etc. You all have my greatest sympathies for what you have to put up with. At the onset of my practice I decided not to see workers comp patients since I did not want police, truckers, etc. lined up at my door saying their hemorrhoids were due to long hours in their work vehicles. One of the best decisions I ever made!

  13. Ken says:

    Degenerative disk disease is my pet peeve, and the number I have seen who use this as a diagnosis is TNTC. Take a normal aging phenomena, add a big helping of self-pity, stir with enabling Neurosurgeon, and throw in a greedy attorney (or is that a redundancy?) and you have a life of narcotics, parking stickers, and government subsidies.

  14. Bill says:

    I’ve been a physician for 15 years and have NEVER seen a person in the office or ER who was “Dis-Abled”. I ask them “What was your ability before you became “disabled”. Most of them can’t answer. Its the biggest scam ever invented by the politicians.

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