by Cheryl Coon
The information provided in this article is intended to give a general overview of the topic and is not intended as legal advice. For information specific to your situation, please talk with your Social Security/Disability professional.
Article #1) There’s No Shame in Social Security Disability Benefits
There’s a popular and ugly misconception that folks who have been found disabled under a Social Security disability benefits program are: (a) elderly;
(b) undeserving; (c) disabled for life; and/or (d) taking advantage of the system.
I can’t cite a scientific study, but in our 25 years of representing clients seeking social security benefits, none of Swanson Thomas and Coon’s clients fit that profile.
Our social security disability clients are young and old, wealthy and homeless. And their “impairments” – the word that Social Security uses – include: Fibromyalgia, Parkinson’s, anxiety and depression, ischemic heart disease, degenerative disc disease, Lupus, cancer, asthma, chronic pulmonary obstructive disease, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, traumatic brain injury, Crohn’s disease and interstitial cystitis, to name just a few.
I’ve never met a client who would rather receive disability benefits than feel healthy and be able to work. If I did, I wouldn’t represent them. Many of my clients could and probably will do some kind of part-time work eventually or perhaps volunteer. Social Security actually has a program for folks approved for disability benefits to encourage and support their re-entry into work, without losing their benefits.
But unfortunately, the labels I described above discourage many people from even applying for disability benefits and that’s a shame. It’s a shame because disability benefits can serve as a bridge to carry a person from one phase of his or her life to the next phase. If you’ve been diagnosed with a chronic illness and it’s reached a stage where you cannot work at your occupation right now, at least not on a full-time basis, disability benefits can help you through to another phase you may well reach – a time when you discover other interests and skills that fit better with the reality of your illness and allow you to return to work.
If you’ve been injured and it’s lasted more than a year and shows no sign of getting better soon, disability benefits can help you through difficult times until you’re able to resume your past or new work. And yes, in some cases, when you are not likely to ever return to work, disability benefits are your right.
Consider this – President Harry Truman said of Social Security disability:
It has long been recognized as an inescapable obligation of a democratic society to provide for every individual some measure of basic protection from hardship and want caused by factors beyond his control.
If you are eligible for Title II, the Social Security Disability Insurance program, it’s because you’ve worked consistently and, by the way, you’ve paid into the system every time you’ve received a paycheck. If the benefits you’re eligible for are under Title XVI, Supplemental Security Income, there’s no shame in that. You’re in good company with people who, for various reasons, don’t have enough of a work history for the Title II program. Maybe they are mothers who have raised kids rather than been in the workforce. Maybe they are too young to have amassed the necessary work history. Maybe they are veterans who suffered an injury in service and haven’t worked since then.
Probably you’ve heard that it’s a long and frustrating process. There’s some truth to that but not enough that you should fail to exercise your right to access these funds. The first step is to apply. If you get turned down the first time (and nearly two-thirds of applicants do), don’t give up. File an appeal within the time period allowed. Get a lawyer to help you. Keep trying until you get to the hearing stage because this is the stage when many folks finally get a positive decision. And keep seeing your doctor – the evidence of your regular visits and the relationship you are building with your doctor will prove invaluable when your hearing date finally arrives.
Remember that the Social Security disability program was set up for the situation you are facing. President Clinton said:
“Social Security. . . reflects some of our deepest values–the duties we owe to our parents, the duties we owe to each other when we’re differently situated in life, the duties we owe to our children and our grandchildren. Indeed, it reflects our determination to move forward across generations and across the income divides in our country, as one America.”
Cheryl Coon previously led the social security disability section of Swanson Thomas Coon & Newton of Portland, Oregon, where she represented disabled individuals seeking benefits, at all stages of the process from application to federal court appeals.
In June 2016, Cheryl Coon founded RDBO. Refugee Disability Benefits of Oregon. RDBO takes a unique approach, in which attorney Cheryl Coon, works closely with health care providers, case managers and counselors, as well as the refugees they serve, to ensure that refugees’ cases are presented competently and compassionately. We handle cases at every step of the disability process, from initial application to hearing to federal court.
The social security disability process can be frustrating. We believe it is important for potential applicants to be realistic about their chances for approval. We carefully evaluate the merits of each person’s case and suggest alternatives when we do not believe their case is strong. These alternatives may range from vocational assistance to waiting until a stronger medical record has been established.