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Mercer Alliance to End Homelessness
Please consider reading and advocating for individuals with disabilities

March 28, 2013 -- National Public Radio has been airing a week-long series of programs under the heading, "Unfit for Work: The Startling Rise of Disability in America." What the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law and many other organizations have found startling are the false narratives and unsubstantiated claims in these stories that imply that people with disabilities are either taking advantage of government assistance or being victimized by it. The insulting depiction of low-income people with disabilities is particularly disturbing and it is why so many people are reaching out to NPR in protest.

Unfortunately, invalid claims about disability programs spiraling out of control have become commonplace and the public is being led to believe that these programs are on track to implode. See below for how you can take action.

Rather than seek out the expertise of public health and disability experts, the reporter minimizes or ignores much of the research literature that would answer some of the very questions she raises. Most disturbing are the wild and unsubstantiated claims, like one that purports that what low-income parents of children with disabilities really want are "kids who can pull a check." She describes disabilities as often "squishy," questioning the impact of a disability just because it is not readily apparent to a casual observer. The reporter fails to appreciate why people might have the same diagnosis but experience symptoms that vary in severity and impact on functioning.

The reporter also creates a false impression about disability determination, wondering aloud about a local doctor in a rural county in Alabama that has a high rate of disability claims, as though an individual's personal physician, rather than just supplying documentation of disability, were actually the arbiter of claims. For the public that is unaware of how decisions are made regarding disability, she left out critical information about disability examiners and the role of disability determination services.

In addition, the reporter fails to address the missing employment supports needed by many people with disabilities. The reporter could have explored expanded employment services, such as supported and customized employment, which would enable many people with disabilities to join or rejoin the workforce.

To correct the distorted views advanced by this series, the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities has released an analysis that puts forward the critical information that NPR either got wrong or overlooked. It includes information from Social Security Administration actuaries and other experts, showing that disability programs are vital and that disability claims are in line with demographic factors and population-based disability statistics.

Please join us in opposing biased and uninformed stories about disability programs and people with disabilities, by asking NPR to retract the series.

Take Action

  • Call your local NPR station and leave a message for the station manager urging them to retract the series, "Unfit for Work: The Startling Rise of Disability in America." To find your local NPR station, click here
  • On Twitter, use the hashtag #unfittoair and tweet @NPRnews.
  • On Facebook, post a comment to NPR's wall, noting that the article was full of errors and stereotypes about people with disabilities.
Learn more about "Unfit for Work: The Startling Rise of Disability in America".

Disability Evaluation Under Social Security

Disability Evaluation Under Social Security,(also known as the Blue Book), has been specially prepared to provide clients and other concerned professionals with an understanding of the disability programs administered by the Social Security Administration. It explains how each program works, and the kinds of information a health professional can furnish to help ensure sound and prompt decisions on disability claims.

The Adult and Childhood Listings of Impairments are included in this publication. These listings are just part of how we decide if someone is disabled. We also consider past work experience, severity of medical conditions, age, education, and work skills.

For the rest of the information press this link.

For More Information

Please Contact: Tarry Truitt, Director of Projects and Communications, ttruitt@merceralliance.org or 609-844-1008.


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