Mother and disabled son sitting on the couch.

How to Talk Supportively to Disabled People

Q: How can I avoid offending disabled people in conversation?

Some people are born with a mental or physical condition that is qualifying for Social Security disability benefits. Others may be born without a disability but then gradually or suddenly become disabled at some point in their life through an accident or illness.  

In either case, applying for Social Security disability benefits through either (or occasionally both) of the two federal government programs offered by the Social Security Administration can help alleviate the financial burden. 

Arizona disability benefits attorneys know that most benefits recipients would prefer having their health back and going to work rather than staying on disability–not only to have greater financial income, but to feel they are making a contribution to their communities. Relying on disability benefits is nothing to be ashamed of, but many recipients have issues with their pride and look forward to possibly returning to work if they recover. 

As a society, people often make comments toward people who are members of groups that are different than their own. While often the comments are not meant in a derogatory way, the misguided attempts at empathy or support can be upsetting if taken the wrong way. If you haven’t walked in the person’s shoes, you can’t understand their experience. 

What not to say regarding disability

Avoid trying to downplay someone’s disability as if it’s just a weakness in a skill-set. Don’t say that everyone has some type of disability. A disability is not the same as a weakness. If they have to plan their day around it and need accommodations, it should be legitimatized. It’s better to acknowledge that you don’t understand their experience and then ask them to explain what it’s like to navigate life with their disability and ask if there’s a way you can help them.

Attempting to build-up a person with physical disabilities by pointing out their mental or intellectual strength is condescending. It’s also offensive to those with intellectual disabilities due to its implication that having a mental disability is worse than having a physical one. Instead, discuss and congratulate them on their specific intellectual accomplishments and show interest in what they do. 

Avoid giving unsolicited advice about their disability especially when you don’t know how the person will take that advice. It can be upsetting because it assumes the disabled person couldn’t or didn’t think of it themselves–and it’s even more annoying if the same tip is repeatedly offered. Chances are they already investigated the information you want to share. Unsolicited advice feeds into the disturbing stereotype that disabled people are helpless– so tread carefully when offering it and ask if they would like to hear about a suggestion before just blurting it out.

Don’t assume that you understand the discrimination of ableism just because you’ve experienced discrimination in a different protected group such as race, gender, religion, or sexual orientation. 

If you need assistance with an initial application for Social Security disability benefits or with appealing the denial of benefits, the disability attorneys of Arizona at Roeschke Law can help. Contact us today for a free consultation

From our office in Phoenix, we represent disabled people and their families throughout Arizona. We help them access the disability benefits they need and deserve so they can focus on healing. It’s all we do.

Disabled man with a mask on to prevent COVID-19

Facemasks, COVID19, and the Disabled Community

Q: What challenges do the disabled face regarding facemasks?

Disabled folks face many challenges—from applying for Social Security disability benefits in Arizona, to adjusting to or living with limited income, to navigating life in communities that may not be fully accessible to them, or living isolated lives. 

The COVID-19 lockdowns gave some non-disabled people—especially those who suffered unexpected financial losses– a small taste of how difficult long-term living in isolation with financial insecurity can be. Now that some areas are lifting restrictions and “opening up”, conflicts are arising regarding what the “new normal” should be with regard to safety in public places—and some members of the disabled community may get caught in the crossfire.

Across America, people are divided on the issue of wearing facemasks in public to help prevent transmission of the novel coronavirus. One camp believes wearing a mask is not only the law in many places, but also the responsible thing to do in order to protect each other from contracting the highly-contagious virus. The other camp sees America as the “Land of the Free”, resists restrictions on our freedoms, and views mask-wearing mandates as “tyrannical” and overreaching. Depending on the area and the ordinances imposed, many businesses won’t allow people to enter without a mask—and some others reportedly won’t allow entry to those who do wear one. 

How has the mask debate impacted the disabled community?

Some situations where the wearing of a mask may be difficult for those with disabilities include those with: 

  • respiratory disabilities including conditions like asthma, cystic fibrosis and COPD;
  • intellectual or cognitive impairments like autism, Alzheimer’s disease and other learning disabilities or sensory processing disorders where it may be frightening, uncomfortable, or confusing to enforce mask-wearing;
  • facial skin disorders where masks may cause or increase pain or irritation;
  • hearing impediments or deafness where facemasks without transparent windows impair the ability to lip-read and otherwise communicate.

If disabled people with the above conditions were to go out publicly without a mask, they could be ostracized, criticized, otherwise shamed, or even harmed. And many medical conditions that qualify for Social Security disability benefits are precisely what make the disabled population vulnerable to COVID-19 and reliant on the vigilance and cooperation of others to wear facemasks to protect them.

If you need assistance applying for Social Security disability insurance, the disability attorneys of Arizona at Roeschke Law can help you. Contact us today to schedule a consultation. 

From our offices in Tempe, Tucson, and Phoenix, we represent disabled victims and their families throughout Arizona to get them the disability benefits they deserve. 

Why Would SSI Be Denied?

Why Would SSI Be Denied?

Applicants for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) generally expect to be approved for benefits. That is why they applied in the first place, after all. Sometimes, however, SSI applicants are denied. Reasons for a denial vary and can sometimes fall beyond the control of the applicant. In other cases, the applicant may have done something to avoid the denial. Review some of the common reasons for SSI denial and, when possible, work to avoid the common pitfalls that land people with a notice of denial.

Why Would SSI Be Denied?

One of the primary reasons for an SSI application denial is because the applicant earns too much income. SSI is a benefit program designed specifically for low-income individuals. Even more specifically, SSI is for low-income individuals who are unable to make more than the substantial gainful activity level.

One of the other central qualifications for SSI benefits is that your impairment which prevents you from substantial gainful activity last for a minimum of one month or will result in your death. Blindness is the only exception for this requirement. If your impairment will not last at least a month, then SSI will be denied. This, of course, is out of your control. However, if your impairment will last at least a month, but there is a failure in the medical evidence to support this assertion, then your SSI will be denied. The medical evidence, your medical records, must support the fact that your impairment will last at least a month in duration or eventually prove fatal. Your doctor needs to put in the records that your impairment prevents you from working and meets the durational requirements for SSI.

In some cases, an individual is denied SSI simply because the Social Security Administration (SSA) and Disability Determination Services (DDS), the agency tasked with determining medical eligibility for SSI benefits, cannot find you. You need to be sure to provide them with up to date contact information and respond to requests for scheduling examinations as well as complying with other requests. In addition to communication failures resulting in SSI denials, uncooperative applicants are also at risk of being denied benefits. You must comply with records requests and other SSI application requirements. Refusal to comply with SSA requests may very well lead to a denial of SSI benefits.

You may also be denied SSI benefits if you fail to comply with follow up with therapy prescribed by your doctor. While there may be legitimate excuses for failing to go to prescribed therapy, it can also be a valid basis for denying SSI benefits. Your SSI benefits may also be denied if your disability is due to drug addiction or alcoholism. While you may struggle with alcoholism or drug addiction and still qualify for SSI, a DDS medical consultant must decide whether or not the SSA would find you disabled even in the event you stopped use of drugs or alcohol

Social Security Income Attorney

Roeschke Law is committed to helping people access critical disability benefits. We are here to provide legal support to you throughout the process. Contact us today.

Disability Benefits claim

Hiring a Disability Benefits Law Attorney

Q: What should I look for when hiring an Arizona disability benefits attorney?

Most people go through their working years focusing on when they will retire and begin collecting those Social Security retirement benefits that were accruing over the decades through their payroll deductions. But sometimes life cuts that plan short unexpectedly. 

At any moment, regardless of age, someone could find themself mentally or physically disabled and unable to work due to an accident, illness, or injury. If they are no longer able to work, they may qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance, or “SSDI”, benefits. 

Sobering Disability Benefits Statistics

While many people think this won’t happen to them, these sobering disability benefits statistics may suggest otherwise: 

  • 8 million adults can’t work due to a disability
  • 475,000 Americans become totally disabled each year
  • 46% of mortgage foreclosures are due to a disability
  • an application for benefits takes an average of nine months
  • more than 75% of initial applications are denied.

In addition to dealing with the physical pain and/or stress of a disability and the financial fallout and fear that comes with it—especially if the disability was sudden onset– the complex disability benefits application process is too much for many people to handle on their own. That’s why many people seek a skilled Arizona disability benefits attorney to handle the initial application or appeal a denial of disability benefits. 

What should I look for in a disability benefits attorney?

Specialization in the area of disability benefits law, ideally to the exclusion of other areas of practice. You don’t want a dabbler. 

Experience and a proven track record of success in disability benefits law. Someone may specialize in only this field, but if they just started out, you may not want them learning on your case. Testimonials are often helpful.

Credentials count, too. Membership in Social Security disability law organizations, like the National Organization of Social Security Claimants’ Representatives (NOSSCR) give clients added security that the attorney knows their stuff. 

If you or a loved one need assistance with a disability benefits application or an appeal of an initial denial of benefits, the disability attorneys of Arizona at Roeschke Law can help you. Contact us today for a free consultation.

From our offices in Tempe, Tucson, and Phoenix, we help disabled clients and their families throughout Arizona access the Social Security Disability Insurance benefits and Supplemental Security Income benefits they need and are entitled to, so they can focus on healing and get on with their life.

Man filing for unemployment benefits while on SSD.

Can I Collect Unemployment If I Was Fired While on Disability?

Having disability insurance can provide critical compensation while you are unable to work. Whether it be short term or long term, disability insurance will pay a portion of income for a set period of time. This can alleviate much of the financial pressure those on disability leave may face. While disability insurance serves an important purpose, it is only to help cover part of your income while you are unable to work. It does not protect your job. There are some federal and state laws in place that will, in certain instances, protect employees on disability from losing their jobs. Whether your job will be protected by these laws, however, will depend on other factors such as whether or not you qualify for the protections and how long the protections last. In any event, should you be terminated from your job while on disability leave, it is important to understand your options. For instance, you will most likely want to pursue the possibility of collecting unemployment should you find yourself in this situation.

Can I Collect Unemployment If I Was Fired While on Disability?

It is possible for a person who was fired while on disability to go on to collect unemployment benefits. Unemployment benefit laws, however, are consistent across all 50 states in requiring that a benefit applicant be not only physically capable of working, but also available for duty and actively interviewing for jobs. This means that, as long as you remain unable to perform your job due to disability, you will be unable to collect unemployment benefits.

People who are terminated while on short term disability leave, however, will likely be eligible for unemployment benefits as soon as they recover from their temporary disability. Those who are fired while on long-term disability, however, usually suffer from a permanent medical condition from which they may never recover enough to be able to go back to work. In these cases, unemployment benefits are not going to be an option. As long as you remain unable to return to work, you will not be approved for unemployment benefits.

If you are terminated while on disability, you may also want to see whether your rights were violated when your employer fired you form your job. Some federal and state return to work laws provide protections for qualified employees of covered employers. These return to work laws may protect your job while you are on disability leave or shortly after you return to work post-disability leave. For instance, the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), is a federal return to work law providing protections for temporary disability. FMLA provides for up to 12 weeks of unpaid job protection while eligible employees, working for employers covered by FMLA are on disability leave. Furthermore, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal law that has return to work provisions to provide protections for employees on disability leave.

Disability Attorney

Being on disability leave, even when receiving disability benefits, can be a time of uncertainty and anxiety. Waiting to recover and not knowing about your job situation when you are able to return to work can be overwhelming. Know your disability rights. Know your legal options. For disability questions, Roeschke Law can help. We are here to support you in any way we can. Contact us today.

Home office for disabled person working remotely.

Post-Pandemic Remote Work Options for the Disabled

Q: Will disabled people benefit from remote work opportunities after the pandemic?

One possible benefit that could result after the coronavirus global pandemic resolves is that the world will embrace the new reality of working from home. This would be a wonderful thing for many people – especially the disabled.

Disability attorneys of Arizona help those who are overwhelmed and don’t know how to get disability benefits in Arizona.

The process is complex and time-consuming and while it’s possible to submit an application without the guidance of a skilled disability benefits attorney, the reality that 2/3 of initial applications are denied leads many applicants to trust an attorney when applying for disability benefits.

How to choose the right disability benefits program

In a nutshell, the Social Security Administration administers two different disability benefits programs. Social Security Disability Insurance “SSDI” is for applicants who have previously worked and paid into Social Security through payroll deductions prior to becoming disabled. Supplemental Security Income “SSI” does not require work credits, but is a means-based program for applicants with extremely limited income and assets.

Qualifying for disability benefits under either program requires satisfying the government’s definition of being disabled as well as other requirements that are individual to each program.

Many disabled people are able to work–or would be able to return to work–with the right accommodations. Before the pandemic, many employers did not embrace the idea of having their workforce working from home. With no other choice but to adapt to working remotely during the COVID-19 lockdown, employers will hopefully realize the benefits to their businesses and their employees—both disabled and non-disabled – and continue to offer work from home possibilities even after the pandemic is over.

Depending on the nature of the business, costs of operating a brick and mortar business could be reduced. Cutting commuter costs and time can increase employee appreciation, loyalty, and productivity. Eliminating the transportation-related barrier to employment by allowing remote work could be a game-changer for the disabled community.

Sometimes the “last hired and first fired”, disabled workers may still find it challenging to obtain a new position during the expected high unemployment rate and post-pandemic economic downturn. But remote work options may help even the field.

If you need assistance applying for disability benefits or appealing the denial of benefits, the disability attorneys of Arizona at Roeschke Law can help you. Contact us today for a free consultation.

From our offices in Tempe, Phoenix, and Tucson, we help disabled people and their families in all aspects of disability law. It’s all we do.

Social security disability claim

How Much Does Social Security Pay a Month?

There are several key requirements you must meet in order to be eligible to receive Social Security Disability benefits. One such requirement is that you must have worked a certain amount of time in jobs that are covered by Social Security. In fact, the actual benefit payment you receive every month will largely depend on your average lifetime of earnings prior to becoming disabled.

How Much Does Social Security Disability Pay a Month?

The severity of your disability does not factor in your monthly Social Security Disability payment. The only factor used to determine your monthly payments is your average lifetime of earnings prior to when your disability arose. This amount will, however, be potentially reduced accordingly for some other disability payments you may be receiving from other sources. However, Social Security Disability, unlike Supplemental Security Income, does not deny applicants based on having too much income or access to too many financial resources.

Only “covered earnings” are used in averaging your lifetime earnings for Social Security Disability purposes. “Covered earnings” includes income from jobs that have paid into the Social Security system. If you have ever reviewed your paychecks and seen that money was withheld for either “Social Security taxes” or “FICA,” then that is what is meant by jobs where your earnings would be considered “covered earnings.” The majority of earnings are classified as “covered earnings.” The average of your covered earnings is referred to as your “average indexed monthly earnings (AIME). The Social Security Administration (SSA) will then apply a formula using your AIME to reach your primary insurance amount (PIA). Your PIA is the basic amount that SSA will use in establishing your monthly benefit amount.

Your PIA will be subject to applicable reductions. Reductions are not applicable based on receiving disability benefits from private sources. Private sources of disability payments may come from something such as a private pension or private insurance benefits. These private sources of payments will not affect your monthly Social Security Disability benefits payment. Payments from other public disability benefits, however, may affect your benefits payment. Receiving workers’ compensation benefits for an on the job injury, for instance, may justify a reduction in your monthly benefits payment.

There is also a limit on how much you may receive from SSDI and other public disability benefits. The combined total amount of money you receive from SSDI along with all other public disability benefits you receive cannot exceed 80 percent of your average earning amount prior to becoming disabled. Should the amount exceed 80 percent of your average earnings prior to becoming disabled, the excess amount would most likely be deducted from your monthly SSDI benefits amount.

Social Security Disability Attorney

Applying for Social Security Disability benefits and calculating how much you will receive each month can both be complicated. While these public disability benefits programs can be critical to providing individuals with the ability to make ends meet, they can be extremely difficult to understand. Roeschke Law is here to help. For all of your Social Security Disability questions, we are here with answers. Contact us today.

COVID-19 molecules.

Potential Roadblocks to COVID-19 Treatment for the Disabled

Q: Will the disabled be passed over if COVID-19 treatment resources are limited?

Disability attorneys of Arizona are dedicated to helping disabled people get the disability benefits they deserve. 

Applying for Social Security disability benefits is generally a time-consuming and complex process in which approximately 2/3 of initial applications get denied. So, many people opt to hire a skilled attorney to handle their application—or to appeal a denial of social security disability benefits–in the hopes of expediting the process. It can be stressful to handle the application and appeals process alone and, sadly, some applicants have died before they were able to access their benefits. 

Now, the disabled have a new-found fear—COVID-19. 

The government-mandated social distancing requirements of COVID-19 have already impacted some disabled people’s access to direct support professionals whom they rely on for things such as transportation to regular medical and other appointments, access to groceries and medication, bathing, cooking, cleaning and more. 

But the biggest fear many disabled people have is that they will be passed over in favor of non-disabled COVID-19 patients when limited inventory forces doctors to choose who will get a ventilator and who must do without—and possibly die. 

This isn’t paranoia.

Disaster preparedness plans can discriminate against the disabled

Disability advocates claim the disaster preparedness plans in several states make those with intellectual disabilities like Autism, Down Syndrome, and Cerebral Palsy “a lower priority for life-saving treatment” and are discriminatory. The language of some state plans specifically “deprioritize the disabled” while other plans are vaguely written and leave the disabled vulnerable to an unfavorable interpretation. 

The emergency preparedness plan in Arizona directs doctors to “allocate resources to patients whose need is greater or whose prognosis is more likely to result in a positive outcome with limited resources”.

State laws regarding managing COVID-19 differ and can change on a moment’s notice. Parents and caretakers of non-verbal and/or intellectually disabled adults and children are panicking at the thought that strict bans on any visitors would leave their disabled loved ones alone, confused, frightened, unable to communicate or advocate for themselves in the event of a COVID-19-related hospitalization. This was the case in New York–the epicenter of COVID-19 cases in America– until disability advocates pressed the governor to enact an Executive Order allowing the disabled one companion/visitor. 

In a society where disabled people often are discriminated against and treated unfairly– intentionally or unintentionally–it is more important than ever for disability advocates to stay vigilant in protecting this vulnerable population. 

If you need assistance applying for Social Security disability benefits, appealing the denial of benefits, or have questions regarding any other disability benefits issue, the disability attorneys of Arizona at Roeschke Law can help you. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation. 

From our offices in Tempe, Phoenix, and Tucson, we represent disabled clients and their families throughout Arizona in all aspects of disability law.

Someone on a non-ada compliant website.

Litigation Rising on Behalf of Disabled Over Non-ADA Compliant Websites

Q: Do websites have to accommodate disabled users?

Disability attorneys of Arizona understand the many barriers that the disabled face on a daily basis and work to help them access Federal Social Security disability benefits.  

Applying for disability benefits is a complex process and two-thirds of initial applications are denied. Trusting your application for benefits or your appeal of a denial benefits to a skilled attorney may increase the chances of success and allow you to focus on your health or other matters. 

Whether you were born with a disability or became disabled during your lifetime as a result of an illness, condition, or injury, you may unfortunately encounter accessibility, prejudice, discrimination, and other challenges as a member of the disabled community.

What types of discrimination do disabled people face online?

One form of discrimination against the disabled is a business website that is non-ADA compliant. Websites and all of the content thereon must be accessible to all visitors. Many blind and deaf people use screen-readers to allow them to shop or access information from business websites, but if the website lacks the necessary HTML coding to communicate with the screen-reader software, the screen-reader cannot relay the information to the disabled viewer.

For example, those who are blind or visually impaired must be able to access the information they can’t see through audio functionality. Similarly, those portions of the website which offer audio or video, must have text and/or subtitles so the deaf or hard of hearing visitors can access that information. 

Unfortunately, there are many websites that are non-ADA compliant whether intentionally or unintentionally. Recently, there have been multiple lawsuits nationwide against large and small businesses by disability advocates. These suits—often brought by the hundreds by a single attorney– seek attorney’s fees and compliance within a certain time frame and are generally not for monetary damages (though money may sometimes be paid to the plaintiff in exchange for keeping settlement details private). 

Many business owners question the motives of the handful of attorneys bringing hundreds of such suits and are frustrated by three things: (1) not knowing their websites needed to be ADA-compliant in the first place, (2) not being given a warning and chance to become compliant before commencement of litigation, and (3) the lack of clear federal regulations on how websites can become ADA-compliant.

What are businesses doing to avoid making their websites non-ADA compliant?

Despite the lack of definitive regulations, “courts have recognized web accessibility standards called Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 (WCAG), created by an international consortium of volunteers”. Among the recommended requirements are that:

  • “Content must be coded for audio translation by screen-reader software.
  • There must be on-screen captions in videos for screen-reader software to read to the blind and descriptions for the deaf.
  • Sites must include accessible drop-down menus for those who use a keyboard as an alternative to a mouse.”

Business owners should not rely on the above recommendations, but rather should always consult their web developer and their attorney for guidance on the compliance issues of their particular websites.

If you need assistance applying for Social Security disability benefits or appealing the denial of benefits, the disability attorneys of Arizona at Roeschke Law can help you. Contact us today for a free consultation

From our offices in Tempe, Phoenix, and Tucson, we help disabled clients and their families throughout Arizona in all aspects of disability law. 

Blind individual's service animal.

When Pigs Fly: Changing the Service Animal Definition on Airplanes

Q: What service animals can I bring on a plane?

Getting through the arduous process of applying for disability benefits is faster and easier with the assistance of a skilled Arizona disability benefits attorney.

Qualifying for Social Security disability benefits means meeting the federal government’s definition of being “disabled” which is “suffering from a physical or mental impairment that prevents engaging in substantial gainful activities and that has lasted, or is expected to last, for 12 months or more or result in death”. The Social Security Administration maintains a “Blue Book”—a list of many recognized qualifying physical and mental impairments, though the list is not exclusive. 

What disabilities warrant service animals?

Some disability recipients suffer from impairments that require support from service animals, such as guide/service dogs for the blind or deaf, and for those with other disabling conditions like PTSD, seizures/epilepsy, and more. Unlike typical pets, these service dogs receive specialized training to perform specific tasks to support their disabled owners. 

It used to be that properly-trained canines were the only service animals allowed inside airplane cabins to support the needs of their legitimately-disabled owners. In recent years, standards have loosened so significantly that airplane cabins look like “flying barns” –complete with pigs, iguanas, ducks, turkeys, and even a peacock—who boarded under the guise of being “emotional support animals”. In reality, most are family pets of non-disabled owners who are attempting to skip out of the fees of flying the family pet. 

Having a wide variety of apparently untrained animals loose in a cabin not only mocks legitimate service animals but also causes the potential for dangerous interactions between these animals and other passengers. In some cases, passengers have been bitten by these animals. 

Narrowing the definition of a “service animal”

Disability advocates are hailing a recent proposal by several airlines to adopt rules that would narrow and redefine what a “service animal” is and restrict airplane cabin access “to only a canine that has been specifically trained to help a person with a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or mental disability”. Any animal that doesn’t fit the new definition of a “service animal” would be subject to size and species restrictions, would require carriers and would be subject to an additional charge.

The proposed rule – which has been endorsed by more than 80 veterans and disability groups – is expected to take effect after the period for public commenting on the proposal expires. 

If you need assistance applying for Social Security disability benefits, or appealing the denial of benefits, the disability attorneys of Arizona at Roeschke Law can help you. Contact us today for a free consultation

From our offices in Tempe, Phoenix, and Tucson, we help disabled clients and their families throughout Arizona in all aspects of disability law.