Half a million poor and disabled Americans left behind by Social Security

BY JONATHAN STEIN AND DAVID A. WEAVER: For Complete Post, click here…

ngd-So typical of SSA’s Disability Benefits programs…

The Social Security Administration’s (SSA’s) 1,200 field offices have been closed for the last 20 months, with devastating effects for disabled Americans. Pre-pandemic, more than 43 million Americans were served at SSA field offices; the people most in need of walk-in, on-demand services included people with low- or zero-incomes, housing instability, limited English proficiency, or significant physical or mental disabilities that were themselves barriers to access. With office closures, their inability to file applications and appeals and to correct bureaucratic errors has led to historically unprecedented declines in people receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) disability benefits.

In fiscal year (FY) 2021, SSA’s awards of SSDI benefits to disabled persons and their family members were down 25 percent relative to FY 2019. SSI disability awards, granted to people without much work history, were down even more, with a 30 percent decline.

Had SSI awards continued at the pre-pandemic level, there would have been 280,000 more SSI awards over the last two fiscal years. In the pre-pandemic years of FY 2017-2019, SSDI awards were declining only modestly; had that trend continued, there would have been 270,000 more SSDI awards in the last two fiscal years.

Even accounting for the fact that some SSI recipients also receive SSDI, these numbers suggest that the operational difficulties facing SSA since the pandemic began have resulted in about 500,000 fewer Americans being awarded disability benefits.

SSA admits that this awards decline is a major problem, and its own internal analysis shows the startling effects of field office closures. Only one month after field offices were closed in March 2020, applications for SSI from retirement-age adults, disabled adults, and parents of disabled children were down, respectively, by 55 percent, 32 percent, and 51 percent relative to prior year numbers.

Calling Helen Keller a fraud for her ‘unbelievable’ accomplishments is ableist

By Elsa Sjunneson: For Complete Post, Click Here…

‘Helen Keller is NOT real,’ one TikTok video argued. ‘There is absolutely NO way she was blind and deaf and wrote TWELVE books, learned FIVE whole languages, fell out of a building and DIDN’T die, went to Harvard, and had very very neat handwriting. She DOESN’T exist.’

Watching the video, I couldn’t help but think, ‘That’s funny – because I have learned five languages (albeit some of them badly). I didn’t go to Harvard but disability rights advocate Haben Girma did… and my handwriting can be tidy when I want it to be.’ And just like Helen Keller, I’m Deafblind.

Unfortunately this wasn’t just one video; last week a TikTok trend caught my attention in which people argued – some satirically and some very seriously – that Helen Keller couldn’t have written the books she wrote or accomplished the things that she did because of her disability. According to some of those who believe this theory, her handlers did everything for her and she just took the credit for it.

This instantly infuriated me because, at its core, this ‘joke’ or conspiracy theory implies I can’t do any of the things that I’ve done in my life either. It says that Deafblind people like me should be relegated to obscurity because our accomplishments are unbelievable.

Disability, “No True Scotsman,” And “Zero Sum Thinking”

By Andrew Pulrang: For Complete Post, Click Here…

ngd- Never ending devaluing of our community…

The most outrageous conspiracy theories now reach and influence mainstream politics.

One bizarre example is the recent social media trend of “debunking” the accomplishments of well-known deaf and blind activist Hellen Keller. The core argument seems to be that Keller’s accomplishments were not her own, but instead engineered by others. It’s an idea based on a mix of unmoored skepticism and pure ableism. Since it seems so amazing that Helen Keller did so much, (or so the argument goes), maybe common sense tells us that she really didn’t after all. What exactly we are supposed to think from there is a bit of a mystery. This sudden impulse to “go after” an almost universally admired figure in disability history is perhaps easy to dismiss, like belief in a “Flat Earth.” However, recent events suggest that we ignore this kind of thing at our peril, including when it comes from or affects the disability community.

Disability thinking and discourse have for a long time been especially plagued by two common but harmful logical fallacies – sometimes known as “No True Scotsman” and “Zero Sum Thinking.” They each have an understandable appeal, and some slight basis in real-life disability experience. But they are inherently flawed, divisive, and corrosive. And they are important not only for disabled people to recognize, but for non-disabled observers and allies, too.

Let’s Win the War Against Bullying of Disabled People!

By Audrey Ignatoff: For Complete Post, Click Here…

An important and groundbreaking bill, NJ A4519 was introduced into the New Jersey Legislature by Representative Daniel Benson, and cosponsored by Representatives Valerie Huttle and Anthony Verrelli. This bill, “AN ACT concerning the bullying of disabled persons”, will extend the statute of limitations for disabled minors and adults who have been bullied, abused, exploited, and neglected.

Minors will have up to 37 years and those over 18 will have up to 7 years after they realize that damage was done to them for any of the above actions. This is a civil action and actions against vulnerable adults may also be reported to adult protective services and to law enforcement.

Undoubtedly, this will provide a new layer of protection for the disabled and, hopefully, similar legislation will be introduced in other states. Not only will this type of legislation allow victims to be compensated for damage done to them but will also act as a deterrent against future abuses.

Bullying has emerged as a major public health problem displayed in various forms such as verbal, physical and psychological aggression. The effects of childhood bullying can cause problems such as depression, anxiety, PTSD, sleep problems, low grades, physical problems, substance abuse, and even suicide.  These effects can reach into adulthood and have a profound effect upon a person’s development and life.

It is estimated that fully 33 percent of all students have been bullied with 25 percent of them experiencing bullying daily. From 37 to 45 percent of adults have been bullied, many in the workplace. These figures increase even more in the disabled population.

Lawsuit claims Reynolds’ staff, AG’s office approved sexual-arousal experiments at Glenwood

By Clark Kauffman: For Entire Post, Go Here…

ngd- This is the same kind of thinking that allows men to believe they are doing a woman a favor by forcing sex on them…

A new whistleblower lawsuit alleges Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds’ staff and an assistant attorney general approved of sexual-arousal experiments on the mentally disabled residents of a state-run care facility.

The lawsuit, filed by six former employees of the Glenwood Resource Center, seeks more than $10 million in damages from the state, claiming the wrongful discharge of the plaintiffs contributed to a “drastic increase in patient deaths” at the home.

The plaintiffs in the case allege they were ousted in retaliation for the concerns they expressed about the former Glenwood superintendent’s efforts to alter the treatment plans of the profoundly disabled residents of the western Iowa home and use them as “guinea pigs” in experiments related to sexual arousal.

The lawsuit, filed in Mills County District Court, is based largely on claims made earlier this year in a separate lawsuit filed in federal court. In October, the federal case was dismissed on jurisdictional grounds.

As part of the newly filed lawsuit in state court, the plaintiffs claim for the first time that Reynolds’ office approved the plans for the sexual-arousal research in 2018.

The petition in the case cites Glenwood staff-meeting minutes from 2018, alleging those minutes indicate the experiments were “discussed and approved by the highest levels of Iowa state government.” The lawsuit claims the former director of the Iowa Department of Human Services, Jerry Foxhoven, discussed and approved the research with one of his top administrators at the time, Rick Shults. The two then made plans to present the program to the governor’s office, according to the lawsuit.

“On information and belief, the governor’s office approved defendants’ illicit research programs in 2018,” the plaintiffs’ petition alleges.

Pat Garrett, spokesman for Gov. Reynolds, did not respond to a request for comment on that claim.

The lawsuit also alleges that in April 2018, Glenwood’s then-superintendent, Jerry Rea, wrote that he had “received a commitment from the Iowa special assistant attorney general to begin work” on various psychological research programs, and that this assistant attorney general was “quite excited about the prospects” for work involving “in-vivo assessments of sexual arousal.”

Lynn Hicks, spokesman for the Iowa Attorney General’s Office, declined to comment on that allegation.

The lawsuit also asserts that former Glenwood medical director Mohammad Rehman, who reportedly received a vote of “no confidence” from the Glenwood staff in November 2017, remained on the state payroll until April of this year when he was forced to resign in lieu of being fired.

As part of the lawsuit, the plaintiffs claim the problems at Glenwood began in September 2017 when Rea, a child psychologist from Kansas, was hired to run the home. Before coming to Glenwood, Rea was superintendent at the Parsons State Hospital and Training Center in Kansas. He also served as an adjunct assistant research professor at the University of Kansas where he studied sexual behavior and arousal among individuals with intellectual disabilities. In 1998, Rea allegedly received a patent for a device used to measure sexual arousal.

According to the lawsuit, Rea was hired by DHS partly because of his “close personal relationship” with Shults, to whom Rea reported after taking the superintendent’s job.

Using $60,000 in state money, Rea allegedly renovated his personal residence at Glenwood and utilized the services of Glenwood’s maintenance team to assist in the renovation. Then, he allegedly embarked on what he reportedly described as a process of “creative destruction,” cutting costs and attempting to make Glenwood more relevant as a research facility.

According to the lawsuit, Rea and others at DHS “intended to use, and did use, highly vulnerable Glenwood Resource Center patients as the subjects, or guinea pigs, in research experiments” involving sexual arousal. They allegedly did so without first obtaining authorization from the residents, and “were forced to later scramble to get consent on behalf of the patients who had been experimented on, after receiving notice of a new Department of Justice investigation” of Glenwood in 2019.

In an effort to conduct the research, Rea allegedly changed the medications being given to some of the residents, which resulted in some of them experiencing adverse effects, such as seizures. Then he allegedly purchased, with state money, silk sheets or silk boxer shorts, sexual lubricants, photos that included pornographic images and a dedicated computer for the research. Brodie allegedly objected to the purchases but was overruled by Shults.

The Last Children of Down Syndrome

By Sarah Zhang: For Entire Post, Go Here…

Every few weeks or so, Grete Fält-Hansen gets a call from a stranger asking a question for the first time: What is it like to raise a child with Down syndrome?

Sometimes the caller is a pregnant woman, deciding whether to have an abortion. Sometimes a husband and wife are on the line, the two of them in agonizing disagreement. Once, Fält-Hansen remembers, it was a couple who had waited for their prenatal screening to come back normal before announcing the pregnancy to friends and family. “We wanted to wait,” they’d told their loved ones, “because if it had Down syndrome, we would have had an abortion.” They called Fält-Hansen after their daughter was born—with slanted eyes, a flattened nose, and, most unmistakable, the extra copy of chromosome 21 that defines Down syndrome. They were afraid their friends and family would now think they didn’t love their daughter—so heavy are the moral judgments that accompany wanting or not wanting to bring a child with a disability into the world.

All of these people get in touch with Fält-Hansen, a 54-year-old schoolteacher, because she heads Landsforeningen Downs Syndrom, or the National Down Syndrome Association, in Denmark, and because she herself has an 18-year-old son, Karl Emil, with Down syndrome. Karl Emil was diagnosed after he was born. She remembers how fragile he felt in her arms and how she worried about his health, but mostly, she remembers, “I thought he was so cute.” Two years after he was born, in 2004, Denmark became one of the first countries in the world to offer prenatal Down syndrome screening to every pregnant woman, regardless of age or other risk factors. Nearly all expecting mothers choose to take the test; of those who get a Down syndrome diagnosis, more than 95 percent choose to abort.

Denmark is not on its surface particularly hostile to disability. People with Down syndrome are entitled to health care, education, even money for the special shoes that fit their wider, more flexible feet. If you ask Danes about the syndrome, they’re likely to bring up Morten and Peter, two friends with Down syndrome who starred in popular TV programs where they cracked jokes and dissected soccer games. Yet a gulf seems to separate the publicly expressed attitudes and private decisions. Since universal screening was introduced, the number of children born with Down syndrome has fallen sharply. In 2019, only 18 were born in the entire country. (About 6,000 children with Down syndrome are born in the U.S. each year.)

Navy sued by two vets for failing to assure full disability ratings, case could affect thousands of sailors, Marines

By CAITLIN M. KENNEY: For Entire Post, Go Here…

wo veterans have filed a lawsuit against the Navy for not assigning accurate disability ratings and costing them benefits in a case that could affect thousands of sailors and Marines.

“Military disability retirement benefits are critical to veterans who are injured during their military service, and who depend on them for access to health care and other benefits for the service member and his or her family,” according to a statement by the nonprofit National Veterans Legal Services Program, whose attorneys filed the lawsuit Nov. 10 in the District Court for the District of Columbia.

The lawsuit states the Navy was not following its own regulations between April 30, 2002, and June 27, 2019, for assigning disability ratings for conditions that prevented a sailor or Marine from continuing to serve in the military.

The two plaintiffs named in the lawsuit, former sailor Kenneth Springs and former Marine Nathaniel Reese, suffered from medical issues during their service that made them “unfit” to continue their work and leave the military. They are suing the Navy because they received a combined disability rating that was lower than what they were required to receive, according to the lawsuit.

VA Must Pay Retroactive Benefits to Blue Water Vietnam Vets

By NICHOLAS IOVINO: For Entire Post, Go Here…

The U.S. Veterans Administration must honor the terms of a 1991 settlement and pay retroactive benefits to thousands of Navy veterans who served on ships off Vietnam’s coast for Agent Orange-related health problems, a federal judge ruled Thursday.

“It makes a huge difference to veterans and their families,” plaintiffs’ attorney Stephen Kinnaird of the firm Paul Hastings said in a phone interview.

The VA had argued that despite a recent law and court ruling entitling so-called Blue Water Navy vets to benefits, it never intended to include them in a deal it signed three decades ago. In that consent decree, the VA vowed to automatically reconsider past denials of benefits for conditions that it later found were tied to Agent Orange and to grant retroactive benefits.

Used ubiquitously by the U.S. military to clear forested areas in Vietnam, the toxic contaminant dioxin in Agent Orange has been linked to a slew of health problems, including leukemia, lymphoma, throat cancer and many other diseases.

A few months before the consent decree was signed in 1991, Congress passed the Agent Orange Act, which requires the VA to assume all veterans who “served in the Republic of Vietnam” from 1962 to 1975 were exposed to Agent Orange.

On Thursday, U.S. District Judge William Alsup rejected arguments that the settlement was never meant to include Blue Water Vietnam Navy vets who served on ships in Vietnam’s territorial waters but never set foot on the country’s soil or entered its inland waterways.

“The objective and reasonable intent of the consent decree was to require automatic readjudications for all persons entitled to benefits under the Acts,” Alsup wrote in a 10-page ruling.

American Airlines Policy Effectively Bans Power Wheelchair Users From Flying to 130 U.S. Airports

By John at Wheelchair Travel: For Entire Post, Go Here…

ngd- Just another reason to never fly with American Airlines Again. If you know someone who uses a power chair, email American Airlines and let them know what ogres they are

One week ago, I checked-in for what was supposed to have been my first flight since March — a 900-mile American Airlines flight from Gainesville, Florida (GNV) to Dallas, Texas (DFW). The route is a familiar one to me and I flew it most recently in February. It is operated by a CRJ-700 aircraft, a type that I have flown well over 50 times with a power wheelchair across a variety of airlines, including 21 times with American.

Check-in was appearing to go as normal, with my boarding pass printed and my luggage tagged and placed on the conveyor belt. The American Airlines supervisor asked for the weight of my Permobil F3 power wheelchair and I responded, just as I always have, with 450 pounds.

After providing this information, the supervisor retreated to his office to “check on something” — the first sign that this was not going to be a typical flight experience. After about 5 minutes, he returned to tell me that American Airlines had instituted a new policy and that my wheelchair was now too heavy to fly on any of its regional aircraft. The airline refused to transport me to Dallas or on to my final destination of Roswell, New Mexico.

Affected Michigan Airports:
FNT — Bishop International Airport
GRR — Gerald R. Ford International Airport
AZO — Kalamazoo/Battle Creek International Airport
LAN* — Capital Region International Airport
MQT — Sawyer International Airport
TVC — Cherry Capital Airport