Just when you think that the federal government could not be more moronic in the spending of money, you read a story like this. The Social Security Administration (SSA) has been approving disability benefits for hundreds of Puerto Ricans because they do not speak English. However, these “disabled” individuals are living in a predominantly Spanish-speaking territory. Having worked for the Puerto Rico House of Representatives years ago, the story seemed to me a belated April Fool’s joke but it appears to be true.
The Office of Inspector General (OIG) found that the SSA was misapplying a rule that is intended to provide financial assistance to individuals who are illiterate or cannot speak English in the United States. Under the rules, Puerto Ricans are allowed to receive disability benefits for their inability to speak English as well. I am not sure of the basis for the original rule as a form of disability, but speaking Spanish in Puerto Rico should have been obvious to anyone as not a disability — even in the often twisted logic of bureaucrats. However, the SSA decided that a person applying for disability in Puerto Rico who cannot speak English “may increase his/her likelihood of receiving disability benefits.” What is equally bizarre is that the agency does not even keep track of how many beneficiaries who receive disability insurance for not being able to speak English.
The OIG located 218 such cases of Puerto Ricans were awarded disability due to “an inability to communicate in English.” This included hearings where people were asked to speak, read, write, and understand English. (That itself would appear a curious hearing since the person needs only fail to respond to English and not read or write in English to presumably show this particular “disability.”).
Once again, however, there is no indication that anyone will be fired or disciplined in any way for this waste of money.