Jan 17, 2014

Disability Shaming

     I don't think I've ever seen a newspaper article dealing with disability that is as rancid as the one in the New York Post today. The article tells us that Kevin Simpkins is a New York city firefighter. On November 1, Simpkins was driving a fire department van when he was T-boned by another vehicle. Simpkins pulled the driver from her vehicle moments before it was engulfed by flames. The fire department plans to give Simpkins an award for bravery for what he did after the crash. Simpkins tried to go back to work after the accident but lasted only a week before he went out complaining of neck and shoulder injuries. He has filed a claim for disability benefits but it's not clear whether he's seeking temporary or permanent benefits.
     See anything remarkable about Simpkins story? I don't. He was involved in what was obviously a serious car crash. I don't have any problem believing that Simpkins received significant injuries. At this point probably no one, including Simpkins, knows how long it will take him to recover from his injuries or what residuals he may have. His return to work for a week before realizing he couldn't handle it is nothing rare. That sort of thing happens all the time. What's the problem with Simpkins filing a disability claim? 
     Why did the New York Post think it appropriate to try to shame Simpkins for filing a disability claim? They have a few reasons. Simpkins had tested positive for marijuana in the past and was suspended by the fire department for a week. He wasn't supposed to have been driving the van because he had been barred from driving fire department vehicles because of the positive marijuana test. However, there's no allegation that Simpkins was intoxicated at the time of the crash. Otherwise, Simpkins had had a conversation with a neighbor where he suggested that he wasn't all that happy with his fire department job. Also, Simpkins is black and has been involved in a lawsuit against the Fire Department alleging racial discrimination in hiring. That's it. 
     Marijuana may be legal in New York and other states within a few years at the rate things are going. There's no evidence that marijuana had anything to do with this accident. Simpkins wasn't supposed to have been driving that vehicle but that has nothing to do with how seriously he was injured. What difference does it make that Simpkins had some conversation with a neighbor suggesting that he thought he could do better than working at the Fire Department or that Simpkins had filed a discrimination lawsuit? The issue is the severity of Simpkins' injuries. Is the New York Post planning to investigate every city employee who files a disability claim to try to find something derogatory to publish? Will anyone filing a disability claim seem pure enough to the New York Post?


Anonymous said...

much of the shame is probably directed at the fact that he incurred his injury 10 weeks ago. To be eligible for SS disability, his impairments must be disabling for at least 52 consecutive weeks.

Pretty hard to imagine that he could win that argument at this point.

Anonymous said...

He's not applying for Social Security; he's applying for disability through his work. That policy likely defines disability as the inabiilty to do HIS job, not the inability to do any job.

Anonymous said...

Annonymous 3:31 To be eligible for SS disability, his impairments must be disabling for at least 52 consecutive weeks.

or be expected to last at least 52 weeks.

May or may not be difficult at all depending on the extent of his injuries.

Anonymous said...

Credibility is a finding in all disability findings, or at least should be. This doesn't mean that the claimant isn't injured it just means how much faith we can put in his allegations of the severity of injuries and resulting limitations.

Anonymous said...

People file claims all the time right after stopping work. There's no requirement that you already have been out of work for a year, only that you are expected to be.

Then there are the ones who try to file while they are still working...."but I need to get the benefit and then I'll stop working"...um...no.