U.S. Senator Rand Paul (R-KY), a 2016 Republican White House hopeful, speaks to a group of state legislators at Murphy's Diner in Manchester, New Hampshire on Jan. 14, 2015.
Brian Snyder/Reuters

Rand Paul: Half of disability recipients are ‘gaming the system’


Likely 2016 candidate Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky declared Wednesday that half of the 10 million disability recipients in the United States are “gaming the system.” 

“Over half of the people on disability are either anxious or their back hurts. Join the club.”
Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY)
“The thing is, in all of these programs there’s always somebody who’s deserving. But everybody in this room knows somebody who is gaming the system,” the Republican said. “What I tell people is, if you look like me and you hop out of your truck, you shouldn’t be getting your disability check. Over half of the people on disability are either anxious or their back hurts. Join the club. Who doesn’t get up a little anxious for work every day and their back hurts? Everybody over 40 has a little back pain.”

Paul’s claims appear to be a vast oversimplification: the Social Security Administration’s 2013 data – the most recent annual summary available – lists that mental disorders and musculo-skeletal and connective tissue problems account for approximately 63% of all claims, or roughly 6.4 million people, but that number includes every single physical injury and mental illness disabled Americans sustain – far more than just back pain and anxiety.

His remarks aren’t out of the blue: Congressional Republicans have been targeting disability heavily this month, attempting to use Social Security’s disability program as leverage in their larger plan to overhaul Social Security. In early January, they voted to change the rules and forbid Social Security’s retirement trust from continuing to fund the program’s disability’s trust after it runs out of cash next year. If that were to occur, disability payments would be slashed by 19% for more than 10 million recipients.

A video of Paul’s remarks was uploaded to YouTube by the Democratic opposition research firm American Bridge following an event the senator attended Wednesday in New Hampshire.

The comments are reminiscent of controversial remarks by former 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, who was caught on video saying that “47%” of the country would not vote for him because they’re receiving payments from the government.