Sometimes, I really feel as if I should just give up. In fact, if it were not for the encouraging emails I get from many of my readers telling me to "hang in there" and "keep up the good fight," I probably would have stopped addressing bogus emails that spread lies and misinformation about Social Security a long time ago.
It's so darn frustrating for a number of reasons. For one thing, as soon as I set the record straight on one little bit of Internet gossip, some more pops up. Also, I know that these titillating tall tales spread far and wide, reaching way more people than my little column does. So even though I'm putting up a good fight, I definitely am losing the war to those who revel in repeating ridiculous rumors.
And that leads to the third reason I find these exercises so maddening. I know that these rumor-mongers aren't really interested in knowing the truth. They use the Internet to find far-fetched fairy tales that reinforce their already narrowly held and close-minded views. And then they email those pieces of puffery to like-minded folks who, in turn, email other people — and pretty soon the whole country starts believing this stupid stuff.
The latest one that was passed along to me by many readers was allegedly written by a Florida emergency room doctor. He begins his xenophobic epistle with this little bit of hyperbole: "I live and work in a state overrun with illegals."
He then goes on to discuss all the illegal immigrants he treats in his emergency room. How he finds out they are "illegal" in the hectic and sometimes chaotic conditions of an emergency room puzzles me. My hunch is he figures that if they speak Spanish, they must be illegal.
Anyway, next he gripes about all the supposed government benefits these folks are getting. He rants and raves about how hardworking Americans get far less from their government, and he says that we shouldn't have to take this anymore and that it's all those darn liberals in the White House and Congress who are messing things up and that we have to "throw all the bums out" in the next election — and blah, blah, blah.
Every statistic cited in his email is totally bogus. I'll just tackle a few of the most outrageous lies involving benefits administered by Social Security.
Lie: "If immigrants are over 65, they can apply for SSI and Medicaid and get more than (an American) woman who has worked hard all her life and paid taxes and yadda, yadda, yadda..."
Truth: The only people who qualify for Supplemental Security Income and Medicaid are U.S. citizens. Even immigrants living here legally can't get SSI. Certainly, illegal immigrants can't get SSI. (As a reminder to my readers: SSI is a federal welfare program that is paid for out of general tax revenues but that is managed by the Social Security Administration. The group that constitutes the highest percentage of SSI recipients is composed of elderly women — and all of them are U.S. citizens.)
Lie: "The federal government provides a refugee with a total income of $2,470 per month."
Truth: This is absolutely ridiculous. I don't see how anyone can believe this hogwash. If you think it's true, go down to a Social Security office, and tell the people there you are a "refugee." Let me know whether they hand you a check for $2,470 and tell you those checks will keep rolling in every month. To qualify for Social Security benefits, you must work and pay taxes for a minimum of 10 years. And if you worked just that minimal amount of time, you would get a very small benefit — less than $500 per month.
Lie: "Someone who has paid into Social Security for 40-50 years can only get a monthly maximum of $1,012."
Truth: The maximum Social Security benefit currently paid to someone retiring at 66 is about $2,400 per month. And many folks work beyond age 66 and are getting much more than that — some in the $3,000 to $4,000 per month range. In effect, there is no "maximum" Social Security benefit, because if you wanted to, you could keep working until you are 100 years old and continue to build up the amount of your Social Security check.
Lie: "(A good old-fashioned American woman) is only getting $794 per month because she was born in 1924 and there is a Catch-22."
Truth: There is no Catch-22 that deprives people of Social Security money. I'm sure the alleged doctor is referring to something called "the notch." The notch was a scam perpetrated on seniors about 20 years ago. Misleading mailings were sent out to millions of senior citizens, trying to convince them the government was cheating them out of Social Security money. The whole thing was a swindle designed to get seniors to send in money to bogus groups and organizations. And these rip-off artists raked in hundreds of millions of dollars. To this day, there are many seniors who incorrectly believe they have been cheated out of Social Security money.
If this "Florida emergency room doctor" practices medicine as poorly as he understands government benefit programs, I sure hope I never need critical care in the Sunshine State.