Tag Archives: homelessness

Scheherazade’s Superpower

Shahryãr the fabled Persian king discovered his wife’s infidelity and ordered her death. Burka03

Concluding that every woman is the same as the first, and each in turn would always be unfaithful, King Shahryãr marries a new virgin every afternoon, and at morning’s light orders his bride beheaded before an opportunity to dishonour him could arise.

Seems reasonable.

The king carries on for years in this way until the marriageable women are either dead or have fled and then it is Scheherazade’s turn.

Scheherazade is a storyteller.

On their wedding night, Scheherazade asks the king if she may tell her sister, Dunyazad, one last beautiful woman in oriental style with mehendi in hijabbedtime story.  The king grants her request.

Scheherazade skillfully relates an inventive narrative that captivates the king.  Shahryãr sits, with Dunyazad, and is brought along by each image, turn of phrase, suspense, and narrow escape.  Morning arrives, but the story is not complete and the king spares Scheherazade to finish the story.

The stories never end for a thousand and one nights.  By that time, Shahryãr’s heart is Scheherazade’s, and her stories have saved them both.

Story is Power.

Human brains rely on narrative to understand a complex world.  The tighter the narrative, the more direct, and simple, the more a person feels he or she has mastered the concepts and can extrapolate fundamental, guiding principles.  If information, later-received, falls outside of the story, it is discarded as untrustworthy.

I am not criticizing this way of understanding.  And even if I were, it is not negotiable.  It is the The Thinker Statue by the French Sculptor Rodinway of the human bean.  And, it is inadequate only to the extent that beans exclude contradictory information.

When contradictory information is accepted, when it is welcomed and considered, when thinkers allow it to challenge their assumptions, draw out questions, deepen consideration and enhance understanding … … why … … why that’s the scientific method!

Over the course of the past decade, there have been a thousand and one stories in various media telling of people committing fraud on Social Security.  

The Legal Reference Librarians at the Library of Congress have been so inundated with requests for information about the Social Security disability programs in recent years, that to manage them, they published a basic primer to which they could refer reporters.  

More recently there have been stories telling that the Social Security Disability fund is to run dry by the end of 2016.  It appears the funding issue is subtly related to the prevalence of the fraud stories – but perhaps not in the way you might think.

On January 6, 2015, the first day of the 114th Congress, Republicans in the House of Representatives amended a parliamentary rule restricting reallocations of monies between the Retirement, and Disability funds.  Such reallocations have uneventfully occurred eleven times in the history of the programs.

Capitol building Washington DC pink flowers garden USA congressWhen Social Security raised the retirement age, more people in the “disability-prone years” were both unable to work, and unable to wait until they reached retirement age and so applied for disability.  The effect was that the Retirement fund was advantaged, while the Disability fund was disadvantaged.

So, the Retirement fund is hella huge right now, and the Disability fund is bust.  Time for an uneventful reallocation.  With a reallocation, both funds would be solvent through 2033.

Recall the funding drought is subtly related to the prevalence of the fraud stories?  If the connection isn’t clear, the Representatives behind the rule change help to clarify:

Rep. Sam Johnson (R-TX), justified the rule change with an interesting back flip by saying:

In 2016 the fraud-plagued disability program will become insolvent.  If nothing is done, Americans with disabilities will see an across-the-board cut of 20% to their benefits.  Unfortunately, the President and Democrats support raiding the Social Security retirement program to bail out the disability program.

Huh?  The rule change you put forward is the reason the disability program will become insolvent in 2016.  It wouldn’t have been insolvent without you guys making that change.

Oh, I get it!  It’s one of those tight little narratives – direct and simple!   Now I’m supposed to feel I’ve mastered the concepts and can extrapolate fundamental, guiding principles therefrom!  bigstock-Happy-Black-Woman-12039302Now, if other information, later-received, falls outside that narrative, I’m to discard it as untrustworthy!   I see what you did there!   You got me, Representative Johnson!  You got me good!

Rep. Tom Reed (R-NY), a co-sponsor said,

My intention by doing this is to force us to look for a long term solution to [Social Security Disability Insurance] rather than raiding Social Security [Retirement] to bail out a failing federal (Disability) program.  Retired taxpayers who have paid into the system for years deserve no less.

Disabled taxpayers of Social Security Disability Insurance have also paid FICA taxes for years.  But let’s not quibble over details.

Story is Power.  But if you don’t have a story, just keep saying a thing over and over again until all the beans just think it’s so.  That’s power too.   

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) consistently states that “over half of the people on disability are either anxious or their back hurts…. Join the club.”  

That’s simple, understandable … a nice frame.  I think I’ve mastered the concept – the Disability program is riddled with fakes and frauds.  Got it.

Rand Paul is an ophthamologist.  One would think he  would appreciate gradations of medical conditions.  A person has “vision problems” if she is blind.  A person has “vision problems” if she only needs reading glasses.  The same is true for people with psychiatric and orthopedic conditions.  

Senator Paul’s simplistic statements are given more weight because he is a Senator, and because he is a physician.  His statements provide that nice, simple framework for all the beans to think they’ve mastered the complex concepts involved in “disability” and can extrapolate fundamental, guiding principles therefrom. 

Fox News’ reporter Shannon Bream says that 100% of people receiving disability benefits are receiving them “under false pretenses.”

100%.  Not only is that simple, it guarantees that any contradictory information falls outside the narrative, and must be discarded as untrustworthy.  

Seems reasonable. 

The connection between the stories of fraud, the overblown proclamations of fraud, and defunding the Disability program is taut.

fortune-teller with a shining crystal ballMadame Dunk Tank predicts the future … … the orchestrated insolvency of the Disability fund will be used as leverage to attack the program, to attempt legislatively to deplete it, to cut benefits, and to defame disabled people who either receive disability benefits or apply for them.

Madame Dunk Tank foresees the pitting of “good” retirees against “bad” disabled people.

Madame Dunk Tank advises you to prepare for more stories of fraud … prepare for more invective leveled at disabled people.  They are ripe for the picking on.

While the stories of fraud are drastically overblown, there are instances of fraud to be sure.  Some of the stories of fraud are true even if, statistically, they are a blip.

I do not minimize fraud.  Social Security rightly has a Zero Tolerance Policy on fraud.  The Dunk Tank has a Zero Tolerance Policy on fraud. 

Social Security’s Office of Inspector General puts great effort into policing fraud.  And they would appreciate your help.  If you have information of anyone committing Social Security fraud, report it.  It is easy to report, and you may do so anonymously.  Click here to report.

fraud bride and political or police corruption money corrupt cybHaving said that, statistically, fraud is not a major problem for Social Security.

The nonpartisan Government Accountability Office in conjunction with the Office of Inspector General researched the question of fraud in the disability program and found that 0.4% of disability beneficiaries were likely receiving improper payments. 

In West Law’s November 2014 issue of Current News, a private, subscription-only (which is why I can’t link to it) publication on Social Security, it was reported that Social Security’s Office of Inspector General had audited a seven year period in California to determine the accuracy of payments to beneficiaries reported by the state as deceased. Only 22 of 1.2 million Social Security card-holders, were erroneously being issued checks despite the recipient having died.   That is an astonishing 99.999% rate of accuracy!  

Social Security should be lauded for that degree of near-perfection. 

I never saw that in the press.   One could imagine the tight little narratives – direct and simple – about the 22 mistakes though … out of context … with the projected millions of misspent dollars.  Thankfully I never saw that in the press either. 

Although fraud is not statistically a major problem for the Social Security Administration given the scope of its reach in assisting elderly and disabled people, increasing numbers of erroneous denials of legitimate claims for disability benefits is a major problem.

In Ghanim v. Colvin, 763 F.3d 1154, Chief Judge Alex Kozinski, in dissent makes an argument that when there is conflicting evidence that comes down reasonably on either side of the question of disability – especially where a claimant alleges a mental disability – that an Administrative Law Judge is well-justified to tip the scales in favor of an assumption that the claimant is likely faking the disability.  Judge Kozinski’s opinion actually cited the Wall Street Journal article Ex-NYPD Cops, Firefighters Charged With Disability Fraud.

bigstock-Portrait-of-judge-sitting-with-41940163And there it is.  Story is power.

Federal judges, and Administrative Law Judges do not remain above the fray.  They are human beans judging human beans.

Nothing more.  Even with the robe. 

Like the rest of us, judges read these tight, simple little narratives and the stories form the basis of their very human misunderstanding.

Like Shahryãr of the Persian folk tale who concluded that every woman would be unfaithful because his first wife had been, judges take the tight little narrative of the fraud stories and conclude every disabled person who comes before them is likely also to be a fraud.

This is perhaps why the most recent data from Social Security’s Office of Chief Actuary regarding awards of benefits shows a decline from 56.1% in 2000 to just 34.8% in 2010.  And the downward trend continues.

Erroneous denials of legitimate claims is a major problem.  

When a legitimately disabled person is erroneously denied benefits the person remains disabled.  That fact is not changed by the denial.  An erroneous denial does not change reality.

Let me explain it this way:

Social Security Retirement and Disability Benefits, and Supplemental Security Income are available to elderly people as a matter of course.  There is nothing to prove, other than age, to receive them.  So, there is no opportunity for erroneous denials in the case of the elderly.

Have you ever noticed the homeless population in the United States is mostly not elderly?  I had not noticed it myself until travelling in the middle east and Africa. 

The demographic of the homeless population is much older in countries lacking a well-run social safety net like Social Security.  Although homeless people almost always look older than their years, the people I saw sleeping in the streets in the middle east and Africa looked to be in their seventies, and eighties. 

I have never seen a homeless person in the United States in that age range.  And that’s the kind of thing I notice.

Homeless Man Sleeping On A Bench

Our elderly are spared the fate of living in the streets because Social Security reliably, and without question (with no erroneous denials) provides support.

If Social Security afforded Administrative Law Judges discretion in determining benefits to the elderly, there would be mistakes, and we would see homeless elderly in the United States. 

Living the life of a disabled person with (in most cases) absolutely no income for years and years and years, while going through the years’ long disability adjudication process is astonishingly difficult.  This is a lot of time.  And it is hard time.  It stands to reason disabled people are not doing this in a complex scheme to commit fraud.  

I know this is information that falls outside the simple narrative, but take it in.  Consider it.  

When a disabled person is awarded Supplemental Security Income he receives at most $733 per month.   At most.  The amount can be less, but never more.  

When a disabled person is awarded Social Security Disability Insurance benefits, the average monthly benefit is $1,165 per month.  This benefit is based on how much the person paid in FICA taxes, so the number is not a fixed amount – that’s why I can only give the average.

Madame Dunk Tank avoids technicalities so as not to bore, but it is important to know that a disabled person can receive a little from both programs, but that is only when the amount received from Social Security Disability is less than $733.  When that happens, Supplemental Security Income kicks in to “supplement” the Disability benefits up to $733.  So, even if a person receives concurrent benefits, the amounts are not more than the lower amount. 

News flash:  Nobody gets rich on disability. The benefits meet only very basic subsistence living.  Recipients of disability benefits are still either at or below the poverty line.  It stands to reason disabled people are not doing this in a complex scheme to commit fraud.  

An erroneous denial of a legitimate claim is a tragedy.  It is a tragedy for the disabled individual, for their families, and for the society that steps over and fears its disabled, desperate, homeless people who live in its streets.

An inadmirable Administrative Law Judge once told me, “it’s no skin off my teeth if I get it wrong. They just go away.” 

Seems reasonable. 

The claimant may or may not go away.   But assuredly the problem does not.  

Closeup of business crowd raising hands

By a show of hands, how many attorneys out there have had at least one client successfully commit suicide upon receiving a denial of Social Security Disability Benefits?

Yeah.  Me too.

But, given their options, after an erroneous denial,  the choice seems reasonable. 

Meh

bigstock-Group-of-multiethnic-people-wa-48743327For the past week or so, the Google news-clipping service has delivered articles on Social Security disability to my inbox faster than I can read them.   There is U.S. disability rolls swell in a rough economy from the Washington Post;  Social Security Disability Insurance needs major reform from the Washington Post Opinions page; As jobs disappear, disability rolls grow from The Washington Times Communities; Disability Income Becoming Lifetime Unemployment Program from The New American … and about fifty more – most of which simply re-package the other articles.

The gist is that numbers of recipients of disability are rising and are unsustainable, Social Security’s disability programs have become a defacto unemployment program because of difficult economic realities, and the disability determination process is too subjective.   Admittedly I am giving these articles short shrift – they are worth reading – but I’m not at recapping them here.

Usually articles such as Dorothy-In-the-Poppy-Field-the-wizard-of-oz-4640408-1024-768[1]these full of think tanky talking points, and blinkered analytical methodology have me mumbling invectives, but this go ’round, I can barely  … … stay awake.    Zzzz zzzz zzzz ….

I am struck by policy conversations that assume disagreeable realities can be negotiated away merely because they are disagreeable, and they are called out as such.

To illustrate:  there are events and tasks and duties in my life that I do not like, and very much want to … negotiate away.

bigstock-Nervous-patient-about-to-be-ex-29642117bigstock-Dirty-dishes-41021827bigstock-Sexy-girl-cleaning-toilet-sim-15330869

 

 

 

 

 

But I cannot.

I will change diapers, scoop poop, clean toilets, clip toenails, floss teeth, go to the groin-ocologist, fold laundry, cook dinner, wash dishes, empty trash, get checked for glaucoma, age, lose my mental and physical capacities, get sick, burden loved-ones, and die.   I mostly cannot negotiate this stuff away, though I have tried.

When I read the articles about Social Security’s disability programs, it seems they’re trying to negotiate away what is not negotiable.

To my ear the articles seem to say they do not like the huge swell of baby boomers who are aging, bigstock-Dramatic-close-up-portrait-of--49964171becoming sick and injured, and now, after decades of paying taxes, require the assistance of Social Security’s disability programs.    Okay.   Me either … I guess.

Take note:   We did not so much mind that huge swell of baby boomers as they cranked up the heat in every aspect of the economy on their way from their bouncing babyhoods until now.   When they were filling up the schools, and universities, when the bell-bottoms were flying off the shelves, and they were starting families and buying homes – we loved ’em.   When the boomers were young and productive and consuming, they were all the rage.   But, now that they’re old and in the way, they’ve aged into unpleasant, needful takers.   Non-negotiable aged, unpleasant, needful takers.

The United States Census Bureau defines the demographic birth boom as occurring from 1946 to 1964, almost two decades.  Those born in 1946 are turning 67 in 2013.   We are in the relative front end of this population wave.   Olly olly oxen freeee … ready or not, here they come!

The articles also are very much opposed to the idea that Social Security’s disability programs might be functioning as long-term unemployment programs.   They do not like that the bad economy has made jobs scarce and so workers with weaknesses are unable to compete in this highly competitive job market – and they are passed over.   Okay.   I don’t like that either, but not liking it does not make it go away.

As an attorney, I sit across the table and look into the faces of people for whom this is reality.   These people are not negotiable.  Their illnesses are not negotiable.   Their financial plight is not negotiable.   The Administrative Law Judges who adjudicate their claims also sit across the table and look into the faces of people for whom this is reality.   The judges diligently read medical records, and do their best to determine whether these living, breathing human beings meet the rules for disability.   We stare this situation down.   It is not an abstraction to us.   It is reality.   We do our best to assist individuals, and families, and society through these hard realities.   We do not like it either, but we – the attorneys and the judges and Social Security itself – have not caused this situation.   We are doing our best to manage it.

It reminds me of Colonel Jessup’s speech from the famous “you can’t handle the truth” scene in the 1992 film, A Few Good Men:

Jessup: You can’t handle the truth! Son, we live in a world that has walls, and those walls have to be guarded by men with guns. Who’s gonna do it? You? You, Lieutenant Weinberg? I have a greater responsibility than you can possibly fathom. You weep for Santiago and you curse the Marines. You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know, that Santiago’s death, while tragic, probably saved lives. And my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives! You don’t want the truth, because deep down in places you don’t talk about at parties, you want me on that wall. You need me on that wall. We use words like “honor”, “code”, “loyalty”. We use these words as the backbone of a life spent defending something. You use them as a punchline. I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom that I provide, and then questions the manner in which I provide it! I would rather you just said “thank you”, and went on your way. Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a weapon, and stand a post. Either way, I don’t give a damn what you think you are entitled to!

Kaffee: Did you order the Code Red?

Jessup: I did the job that—

Kaffee: Did you order the Code Red?!!

Jessup: YOU’RE GODDAMN RIGHT I DID!![2]

images[3]Well, think tank article writers, you can’t handle the truth!  We live in a world that has sick people, and disabled people, and workplaces too busy to provide make-work projects for them.   The American workforce is the most productive workforce in the entire world, and sick and disabled people cannot survive there.   Our sick and disabled and aging people need to be provided for so they’re not littering our streets, so they’re not overburdening families to the financial breaking point.   Who’s going to take care of those people?   You?   Social Security has a greater responsibility than you can possibly fathom.  You bellyache about Social Security disability.   You whine that the adjudication of claims is subjective and complicated.  You have that luxury.  You have the luxury of not knowing what I know, what every Social Security worker and judge knows – what every hospital social worker knows.  And our existence, the attorneys and the Social Security Administration itself, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives!   You don’t want the truth, because deep down in places you don’t talk about at parties, you want us adjudicating these claims.  You need us adjudicating these claims, dealing with the mentally and physically ill, and the aging people in our society.  We use words like “zealous advocacy” and “due process.”   We use these words as the backbone of a life spent defending something.  You use them as a punchline.  I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to one who rises and sleeps on the safety net the Social Security Administration provides, and then questions the manner in which it provides it!  I would rather you just said, “thank you,” and went on your way.  Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a disabled, homeless, mentallly ill person, and take him into your home – for the duration.

Do I represent disabled people in their claims for disability?

YOU’RE GAHDAMN RIGHT I DO!!

 

“I used to drive a Volvo …”

LEIRIA, PORTUGAL - FEBRUARY 2: Pedro Black drives a Volvo 122S during 2013 Amateur Winter Rally, in Leiria, Portugal on February 2, 2013.  I will never forget when … working with a woman in her mid-forties who had … been clobbered in a car accident, sustained a brain injury, lost her desk job to symptoms, having been replaced by a worker with no problems  … was left by her husband, having been replaced by a woman with no problems … became homeless … provided me a moment that brought me up short by reaching across the table, holding my hand … waiting until I settled into full attention … … and brought me to who she was before all of this with, “I used to drive a Volvo.”

A safe, sedate, sober, swanky Volvo … and now this.

We all live in bodies … soft, vulnerable bodies.

The Shame of Disability

The process of obtaining Social Security disablity benefits is soul-depleting.

To be awarded disability benefits, claimants must disclose their entire medical file to the Social Security Administration, and must prove an inability to perform any job whatsoever on a sustained basis, in a competitive workplace, no matter how simple and undemanding the job might be.  Moreover, this impairment-related inability must have lasted at least one year.

Most people find the process positively humiliating.  It is demeaning to Unhappy Woman Hiding Her Face With Hand On Itstand before a court and admit that you are, in the words of a client, “a huge loser.”  The process affords little opportunity to save face.

The vast majority of claimants come to the process after having tried absolutely everything to avoid it.  Many have exhausted their sick leave, their savings and retirement accounts, and the good will and charity of their families before even making the application.  And, after having put off making the application for as long as possible, they discover the process can take many, many years before they are granted benefits – if granted benefits at all.

Having delayed applying until already financially depleted, claimants court homelessness, and often become homeless.  They “couch surf” with friends and relatives, straining those relationships often beyond repair.  The most fortunate of claimants wind up in thrown-together apartments in the basements, or garages, of friends or family.  When someone has no family, they fare much, much worse.

One client without the benefit of a family to take her in, lived “down by the river.”  She came to me bigstock-old-broken-bike-26064467excited one day because she had found an old bike frame thrown out, and she had dragged her sleeping mat onto it so that the mat was off the ground and didn’t draw up moisture.  I couldn’t imagine how uncomfortable it would be to sleep on top of a bike frame, but for her it was a home improvement that delighted!

For all the years I have observed people trying to keep body and soul together while waiting for a favorable resolution to a disability case, I have yet to understand how they live on absolutely no money at all – sometimes for two, three, five … years.  They ask, “what am I going to do?”  I have no answer.

There seem to be different strategies for managing pennilessness, depending on how well-off one is to start.  Once any savings are drained, the retirement funds go next, then selling automobiles, furniture, personal effects, usually selling the family home, or losing it to foreclosure, borrowing from family-members, and friends, moving in with relatives, applying for food stamps, for Unemployment Benefits, going to food pantries, sleeping in parks, knocking on the doors of churches ….

It is humiliating.bigstock-Woman-Depressed-Series-27253388

This is the reality of disabilty.

The myth of disability is that it is easy to obtain, and rife with mildly-impaired scammers.  For that myth to persist, one cannot know how long it takes to get disability, the personal information you have to divulge to the Social Security Administration, how hard it is to prove, and how absolutely difficult life is for the years during which a case is pending.  Also, for the myth to persist, one cannot realize how little the financial gain is on the other end.

Claimants insist to me they are not “one of those scammers,” but, in fact, “really need this.”  The need to differentiate themselves from the negative mythos of disability is very real.

stop pretending and faking. Face reality or truth and stop telliDespite the fact that disabled people want others to conclude they’re not “one of those scammers,” they will not fully divulge the medical problems, and functional deficits they have that cause them to need disability benefits.   They minimize their diagnoses, symptomology, and functional deficits because … it’s fantastically embarrassing not to do so.

Wouldn’t you do the same … if I were to ask you, “what’s wrong with you?”

It is nearly impossible to save face in the process of proving disability, but people naturally try to save face as much as possible outside of the official process – in what they say to friends, neighbors, even their doctors … and definitely reporters.

A National Public Radio / Planet Money story done by Chana Joffe-Walt Portrait of a school teacher sitting at a desk with a blackboardairing in March of 2013 on All Things Considered and This American Life missed this fact about human nature.  Ms. Joffe-Walt took as fact things said as if their being said made them true.  She failed to burrow down into the facts, even by doing something as basic as reading an actual decision or two written by Social Security judges, to make sure that what she was reporting was the truth.

Ms. Joffe-Walt interviewed a retired judge, Sonny Ryan (not a Social Security Administrative Law Judge) who said he’d asked a man in his courtroom why he was on disability.  The man claimed he was on disability for high blood pressure and diabetes.  Ms. Joffe-Walt, just left it there – as though it was true … that a man was receiving Social Security disability benefits only for hypertension and diabetes.  It must be true – a former judge seemed satisfied with the answer, right?  I guess that’s why Ms. Joffe-Walt didn’t find the actual man, read his favorable decision, to see if it was actually true.  If she had, she would have learned that he was not receiving disability benefits for hypertension and diabetes.  There’s no way he was on for hypertension and diabetes.  I will grant that he likely said he was on for hypertension and diabetes … but he was not.  I would bet the title of my truck on it.

bigstock-Portrait-of-funny-surprised-wo-36732706Instead of journalism about the disability program, and the people receiving disability benefits, the listeners of Planet Money, All Things Considered and This American Life got mere speculation … gossip really, cocktail-party banter – misleading and inaccurate – in a week-long, long-form series, no less.  National Public Radio has not retracted the story, nor aired anything on the subject more thoroughly investigated.

It is common for disabled people when asked why they are on disability to reveal only the least embarrassing ailments to explain it.  So the explanation is about the bad back, the bum knee, the diabetes, the hypertension, but carefully excludes the truth of the cognitive impairment, the severe fecal incontinence resulting from a prior bowel resection, or the debilitating panic disorder.

I once represented a person who was mildly mentally retarded, and had an anxiety disorder – likely from being relentlessly bullied while in school for being “slow.”  Despite those challenges, she had an impressive work history having worked for decades as a cook, a job that required frequent heavy lifting of water-filled pots.  She suffered a serious crush-injury to a hand that required numerous surgeries.  At the end of all the surgeries, and rehab, the hand remained functionally inadequate to the task of lifting water-filled pots; she was unable to do her past jobs.  Then, in middle age, and with significant cognitive deficits, she was unable to transition to sedentary work.  After two failed applications for disability benefits, and several years of trying, she was finally found disabled, and granted benefits.  She was finally, and mercifully, off the streets and safe.

If you were to ask this person the reason for being on disability, she would tell you it was her hand.  And she would be wrong.  The injury to her hand alone is not disabling.  The mental retardation alone is not disabling.  But, in combination, these things were disabling.

But in the telling of her story, she would have left out the detail about the cognitive impairment.Old School Myths  In fact, she would do everything in her power not to reveal that to people – naturally.  She told me, “I keep my head down.”

The Chana Joffe-Walt’s of the world, and presumably her listeners, would hear that this woman was disabled merely because of an injured hand, and would think the injury did not warrant disability benefits.  And they would be right.

And without any further inquiry into whether that was the whole story  … the myth … would persist.