Being Disabled In America
Updated September 13, 2016
Following is a presentation by Donald Coggan, founder of Ability Mission, at a PechaKucha Night in March 2014. The situation for people with disabilities has only grown worse.
Having a disability isn't something that you WANT to deal with, no matter where you live.
But what is it like to be disabled in America, the world's third largest country and the one with the biggest economy?
It depends a lot on one thing… MONEY.
Sophie Tucker got it right when she said, "I've been rich and I've been poor. Rich is better."
It was true back in the early 1900s, and it's still true today.
Let's examine the word "DISABILITY" and see how it's used in the US.
Of a total population over 300 million, there are more than 50 million people WITH a disability.
This means they have at least one physical or mental impairment that decreases normal functioning.
And of that total, 10 million are ON Disability, meaning that they collect benefits from the Social Security Administration, or SSA.
How big is that number? Well, it's one-third of the population of Canada.
And some say it's like the ENTIRE country of Greece collecting government benefits.
Those benefits are there to be used, but not everybody signs up for them. What's going on? Well, we're about to find out.
Disabilities can be there from birth. OR they can creep up slowly in the case of diseases. OR they can arrive suddenly without warning due to an accident.
A physician "OFFICIALLY" determines two things: the presence of a disability AND eligibility for benefits.
Let's return to that timeless idea of "rich is better."
In this case, "ALWAYS RICH" means those who ALWAYS have enough money to pay for the health care they need.
No matter what the service is, they can pay for it with the health insurance they can EASILY afford. OR they can even pay for it directly.
Surprisingly, those who are ALWAYS POOR don't have a problem either.
They make the most of a welfare lifestyle that is often passed down from one generation to another.
They know how to work the system of entitlement benefits and they get every single penny they're eligible for.
The numbers show that many low-income families are switching from WELFARE, which is a STATE benefit, to DISABILITY, which is a FEDERAL benefit.
In fact, states now pay private companies like the Public Consulting Group to search their welfare records and move as many people as possible onto Disability.
The BIG problem is for those who BECOME POOR because of their disabilities. They suffer a loss of income, but have little or no reduction in expenses.
Their disabilities don't allow them to resume their former lifestyle, a lifestyle that prevented them from learning how to live on government benefits.
A disturbing study by Harvard University in 2009 said that 45,000 deaths PER YEAR are linked to inadequate health insurance coverage.
How this relates to the ALWAYS POOR or BECOME POOR is a good question. We only know that for the ALWAYS RICH it's not a problem.
This illustration from a report by National Public Radio shows that a lot has changed in 50 years.
Back pain and mental illness accounted for 18% of all cases in 1961. By 2011, they had risen to 53%.
With FOUR TIMES the number of back pain cases, there's more uncertainty in both the diagnosis AND the treatment.
When an MRI shows an abnormality in the spine, surgery doesn't always correct the problem. And more surgeries are not necessarily the answer.
It's much the same with TWICE the number of cases of mental illness.
Is it possible to diagnose a mental illness with the same precision as say, a kidney infection, or appendicitis, or a broken leg?
The common person would say no.
It's a growing problem for both patients and doctors.
Patients want that back pain, or those hallucinations, mysterious or not, to go away.
And most of all, they want a diagnosis that will help them submit a successful application for benefits.
Some people DO apply successfully.
Others get refused and they have to APPEAL the decision before a DISABILITY JUDGE, employed by the Social Security Administration.
The common person, hindered by disabilities, is at a disadvantage. Multiple appeals are not unusual.
Enter the "DISABILITY LAWYER." Well-known Binder & Binder handles 30,000 disability cases a year that generate nearly $70 million in fees.
Given the complexities, applicants have little choice but to hire advocates, and give them a percentage of their benefits.
This pattern is a common theme of the 2000 stories published on Ability-Mission.org, ESPECIALLY for those who BECOME poor.
Before disabilities came along, many lived a good life - the AMERICAN DREAM they say - until misfortune swept it all away like a giant tsunami.
One story after another tells of a person becoming DISABLED, sometimes suddenly, like in an accident.
Rising costs and no real income lead to BANKRUPTCY.
Many become HOMELESS, or suffer WORSE, as the Harvard study might suggest.
For many, being disabled in America means a life sentence to unwanted poverty.
There's NO RELEASE. The ONLY WAY OUT is to escape. And half a percent of the 10 million people ON Disability actually do break free.
But that's only 50,000… not much when you consider the 45,000 of the Harvard study.
Of those who do break out… some do it in GREAT ESCAPE style.
An outstanding example is Jon Morrow, the blogger. As a quadriplegic, he knew he needed to make a hundred thousand a year to cover his costs on his own.
He did it, and he still does it, so there IS hope, if only for an exceptional few.
What Can You Do?
If you're looking for a way to improve your disability situation (or that of others), you can start by signing up for our free Disability Help Guide.
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