Friday, July 27, 2012

Social Security Disability Insurance Reality Three: It’s Personal

How Is It That Everyone Knows the Answer Yet They Still Don’t Agree?

We all have different abilities or strengths.  By definition, therefore, we all must have non-strengths or non-abilities.   At some point, non-abilities are called disabilities.  Every non-ability and disability is relative to some fictional definition of normally enabled, (i.e., normal ability).  No one knows if they are disabled because there is no such thing as normally enabled. 
To illustrate just how subjective disability is consider a few examples.  We recently had a one day media flap (something that has become a fixture of the 24-7 news cycle).  It was about an Olympic sprinter who will be running on prosthetic legs.  Does the absence of legs constitute a disability?  The sprinter felt not and the Olympic Committee agreed.   
Consider Stephen Hawking, a paraplegic and winner of a Nobel Prize in Physics.  Einstein was probably dyslexic. Thomas Edison was deaf or nearly so in at least one ear and his eating disorder went beyond eccentric.  Moving away from science, we’ve had well-known Presidents who were “disabled” (e.g., hard of hearing and almost wheelchair bound).  It isn’t at all hard to list many “disabled” people who made historic contributions to just about every field. They were able to contribute because they didn’t accept the idea that they weren’t able. 
Now that seems harsh since the implication is that there is no such thing as disabled.  So, a disclosure is in order.  This isn’t all theoretical because I’m officially (i.e., by SS standards) disabled.  It is a difficulty I had to overcome my entire working life, but curiosity got the better of me, so, I checked.  My conclusion is that self-identification plays a huge role in disability. 
Disabilities are real, but whether they are disabling in a career/employment sense is quite subjective, subjective enough for economic conditions and political objectives to swamp medical reality.  I don’t consider myself dumb, but according to the SS Administration, I wasn’t smart enough to know I was disabled my entire career.  The alternative interpretation is that the SS Administration is unqualified to assess disability.  More than likely neither the disabled nor the government is qualified to make the judgment. 

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