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Disability Insurance Observer: Complicated

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Figuring out how to administer public and private benefits programs for people with disabilities, and people who are just plain hard to employ, has always been a problem.

In the United States today, one obvious challenge is that the program rules push people with serious health problems, and moderate general employability problems, into panhandling.

When LifeHealthPro.com had its offices in Hoboken, N.J., for example, most of the panhandlers who operated near my office were haggard military veterans waiting for disability claims to make it through Social Security Administration (SSA) or Veterans Affairs Department disability claim determination systems.

Our office moved to Manhattan, and Daniel Famiano (photo, below), a panhandler who recently installed himself by the deli where I buy my breakfast, has been disabled from birth with a condition that causes his aorta (the big blood vessel that goes to his heart) to rupture, over and over again. He was working as a dog walker, and he said he’d still like to be working. But, in part because of his very serious disability, which could kill him at any minute, and in part because of mental and nervous issues, he has a lousy resumé, and the social workers in charge of his case have told him he has to refrain from working for a year to qualify for benefits. So, he panhandles.

Daniel Famiano

In other words: Various government agencies have shifted much of the cost of supporting a man with obvious medical and employability problems off onto the property owners of a block in Midtown Manhattan, and the businesses that rent space from those property owners.

There are tens of thousands of people with similar stories with cups out on sidewalks across America. They may not actually need to be fed. Someone will probably give them food. But they have a hard time coming up with the resources to have a decent, stable life off the sidewalk.

This points to a possible gap in disability and welfare programs: a lack of programs suitable for people who may have serious health problems and, also, are simply not cut out for holding ordinary jobs in this country, in this economy.

See also: Disability Insurance Observer: RTW TV

They end up filing for public disability benefits, and private disability benefits, when those are available, because they really do have serious health problems, but they would actually like to return to work, if they could.

It would be great to see someone apply the Uber/Kickstarter approach to this return-to-work (RTW) support gap. Maybe create an “RTWuber” program, for renting the time of people with disabilities, including mental and nervous problems, who would still like a chance to do paid work, without actually forcing them to live on the street to prove that they have problems with getting and doing conventional paid work.

See also: White House seeks disability employment recognition program nominations