Although few like to admit it, we are all susceptible to bias in our decision-making. Among the most common biases is short-sightedness based on previous personal experience. Planning for disability is a good example of this phenomenon.
This weekend will mark the 24th anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act. This important piece of legislation fundamentally changed the way that our country accommodates the needs of those with disabilities. It also removed barriers of access to employment, at least on paper.
There are many well-intentioned government programs that, due to certain provisions, are in some ways detrimental to those they are designed to help. This is how many Americans feel about Supplemental Security Income, which is similar to Social Security Disability Insurance. The major difference with SSI is that individuals need not have paid FICA taxes in order to be eligible.
If you pay attention to the news, you probably know that Social Security Disability Insurance is a fairly controversial and highly politicized issue. In recent decades, the number of Americans receiving SSDI benefits has risen significantly, and this has led to criticism that the program is unsustainable, “broken” and in need of reform.
Earlier this week, we started talking about diseases characterized by chronic pain without a clear and treatable cause. Those who suffer from migraines, for instance, may be able to experiment with various medications to treat and prevent these debilitating headaches. But other conditions like lupus, fibromyalgia and Complex Regional Pain Syndrome often produce chronic pain without an apparent cause and with limited treatment options.
There are a lot of good things to be said for the state of modern medicine. Unfortunately, there are also many medical conditions that doctors know too little about and treat with too little respect. Perhaps the best examples are the many conditions that result in chronic pain without a clear, treatable cause. Common examples include lupus, fibromyalgia and Complex Regional Pain Syndrome.
Any of us can become disabled at virtually any time. But for many Americans, disability is a fact of life from a very young age. Depending on the circumstances, some people can work a job upon reaching adulthood and some will never be able to do so. For those who cannot work, programs like Supplemental Security Income are a critical safety net.
Many of the limitations we face in life are either self-imposed or based on how others view us. That’s why it is so important to discuss and think about disability in non-defeatist terms. We may be confined by our physical limitations, but we don’t have to be defined by them.