Normal vs New Normal

2015-0702 Normal vs New Normal ssdi-665x385
Picture Credit: Larry H. Parker

One of the many reasons I believe a new normal is better than an old normal has to do with social security disability.

I think it is fairly safe to conclude nobody who is a recent survivor of life-threatening adversity is in charge of, an adviser to, an auditor for the United States social security disability fund (SSDI). This means all strategic planning, financial calculations, payments , and audits of the fund are performed by “normal” people who do not have a diagnosed brain injury.

According to an article published by many reputable news agencies and newspapers, the social security disability fund overpaid approximately $17 billion during the past 10 years. The good news is the normal people were able to recover $8 billion of the $17 billion.

This event raises several questions in my mind:

  • Why did it take 10 years for the social security inspector general to notice the problem?
  • Why could the fund recover only $8 billion?
  • What measures were put in place to prevent this from happening again?
  • Were all of people in charge of oversight fired? If not, why not?

Why is it the normal people get away with doing their job so poorly, but many of us who are experiencing a new normal have difficulty finding a job because recruiters have misconceptions about what we can and cannot do?

Click here to read another Beyond Adversity post.


  1. “The government accountability office claims due to “budget constraints and huge backlogs of people applying for disability is what delayed them from reviewing income information”

    Cheryl Bates-Harris, who runs the Social Security program at the (National
    Disability Rights Network), states: They don’t want to admit responsibility; instead they are holding beneficiaries responsible … for critical failures within it’s system.

    1. Esther, it does not shock me to hear a government official would blame the customer. Failure of a government organization must be the fault of someone other than a government employee. I used to design software for government agencies. When I discussed an easy fix to the reduction of fraudulent claims, I was specifically instructed not to include the fix in the solution. I find it offensive that a government agency which paid $1.7 billion per year for 10 years to dead or incarcerated people would not have noticed and corrected the problem sooner.

  2. According to an article that appeared in the In Inquistir, “The [social security] agency issued nearly $1 trillion in payments this year. For fiscal year 2013 — the last year for which we have complete data — approximately 99.8 percent of all Social Security payments were free of overpayment, and nearly 99.9 percent were free of underpayment,” wrote Mark Hinkle, Social Security spokesperson, via email.

    Although a 99.8% success rate sounds good to some of us, it really is not. A $1 Trillion payout with a $17 billion dollar error is the same as saying there are 17,000 defects per million opportunities (DPMO), a yield of 98.3%, and a process sigma of 3.2. Even though the math is not perfect, and some of the data is a few years old, if the same numbers were used to evaluate the airline or investment industries:

    • 17,000 planes will crash out of every million flights
    ­ Atlanta’s Hartsfield–Jackson airport accommodates more than 890,000 flights per year
    ­ If the airline industry used the social security error-acceptance model, approximately 17,000 flights into or out of Atlanta would crash every 1.2 months.
    • For every dollar you invest today, you investment will be worth 1.7% less each year

    The reason why the fund is running out of money is the fund is run by people who incorrectly believe 99.8% success rate is good enough.

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