Los Angeles Social Security Disability Insurance Attorney Vincent Howard of HOWARD LAW is familiar with the falsehoods and vitriol that is regularly circulated when it comes to the value of the SSDI program and who benefits.
Much of it is narrow-minded and riddled with inconsistencies and misunderstandings.
Recently, Debra Shifrin, the president of the National Organization of Social Security Claimants' Representative penned a thoughtful response, which was published in the Cleveland Plain Dealer in her native Ohio.
She notes that while this program provides life-sustaining funds necessary to allow some 14 million disabled workers to afford the very basic life expenses, it has been under attack. Politicians, media pundits and others have attempted to paint a picture that reveals SSDI recipients as living lavishly, eating potato chips and soaking up reality television all day on their big screen, while the rest of us work hard to allow them to do this.
But this picture couldn't be farther from the truth.
As Shifrin and I both know, having represented Social Security Disability claimants for many years now, the truth is the people collecting these benefits are your neighbors.
It's the co-worker who was in a terrible car accident and suffered serious brain injuries that impacted her vision and memory skills.
It's the landscaping entrepreneur who developed severe back injuries as a result of the repetitive physical labor. He tried working as a clerk at a local retailer, but that job still required movement and minor lifting that proved excruciatingly painful.
It's the single mother who works as a manager at a local restaurant and has endured several bouts of treatment for an aggressive and recurring malignancy.
A lavish life?
Consider that the average SSDI beneficiary receives about $13,000 annually. That is barely above federal poverty rates.
SSDI benefits allow these people to stay in their homes, to feed their families and provide other very basic necessities.
It's a critical lifeline, a last resort.
And let's not forget, these are individuals who have paid into the system. Beneficiaries can only collect if they have been contributors. The program is self-sustaining that way. This is not a hand-out.
From the outside looking in, sometimes a disability might not be obvious, so it's important not to judge. In some cases, we've had clients who have tried to work despite a debilitating injury - only to worsen their condition.
The process necessary in order to be awarded benefits is long and arduous and it involves an intense period of medical examinations, mountains of paperwork and a system that is critical of your every statement. No one is simply taken at their word. Every claim must be backed up with extensive documentation, witness testimony and sometimes even photo and video evidence.
Contrary to what some may believe, it's not simple and it's not easy. Most are denied right out of the gate. That's why having an experienced attorney is so valuable, because if you've never been through the process, it can be incredibly daunting.
Yes, SSDI rolls have increased, but that was something that was anticipated for years with the aging of the baby boomer population. To characterize it as something negative or somehow indicative of a culture of increasing laziness is not only unfair, it's wrong - and that kind of misconception has the very real ability to harm those very neighbors you care so much about.
Los Angeles Disability Benefits Attorney VINCENT HOWARD at HOWARD LAW can help. Call toll-free at 1-800-872-5925 or send us a message online.
Social Security Disability Insurance benefits our neighbors, Debra Shifrin, April 27, 2013, The Plain Dealer
Are SSDI Judges Approving Claims to Clear Backlog? April 28, 2013