Try digitalPLUS for 10 days for only $0.99

Readers Respond

News Opinion Readers Respond

The vicious cycle of applying for federal disability benefits

Reporter Yvonne Wenger's article on the troubling reality of applying for federal disability benefits reflects what we see daily at Health Care for the Homeless in Baltimore City ("After a disability, long waits for federal benefits," Oct. 28).

As Ms. Wenger noted, around 31 percent of all initial applications for benefits are denied. But for individuals who are homeless, and who often have much higher rates of mental illness, the acceptance rate is even lower. Many of these individuals are uninsured and thus unable to access vital treatment and services.

This creates a vicious cycle in which individuals are unable to get care, which in turn makes it more difficult for them to prove they have a disability. Being unable to prove disability makes it harder for them to get disability income and health insurance in a timely manner — even though disability benefits often mean the difference between having their housing needs met and life on the streets.

Under these conditions, mental health impairments can be even more difficult to prove due to a lack of objective tests and medical criteria. As Ms. Wenger noted, many patients don't have the required medical documentation on hand, or never had it, because they lack the insurance records that form the heart of a disability application.

Individuals waiting for disability decisions often endure extended periods of life on the streets, which lead to their health deteriorating and more frequent use of hospital emergency rooms. They're also apt to end up in jails, where often inhumane living situations worsen their condition.

As we move forward with health care reform, individuals will have increased access to health insurance. However, this does not guarantee access to the unless we revise our current system. Accessing the entitlement programs is a vital first step toward getting housing, treatment and other support services, but we also must look at the human impact of long waits for benefits among people who are most disabled but have a hard time proving it.

Margaret Flanagan and Katie League, Baltimore

The writers are disability specialists at Health Care for the Homeless of Maryland.

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
Related Content
  • Expanding opportunities for Baltimore high school grads

    Baltimore City Community College (BCCC) applauds David Wilson, president of Morgan State University, on his thoughtful commentary about the critical need to increase college enrollment among Baltimore City public high school graduates ("Making a long-term commitment to Morgan," May 9). He rightfully...

  • The Freddie Gray protesters are heroes

    The Freddie Gray protesters are heroes

    After reading the responses of Baltimore writers to the death of Freddie Gray, I too felt the need to weigh in ("Baltimore writers reflect on Freddie Gray's death," May 16).

  • Back-in parking is difficult, dangerous

    Back-in parking is difficult, dangerous

    I would like to add my observations to those of letter writer Wes Guckert, who extols the virtues of back-in angle parking in urban settings ("The best alternative to parallel parking," May 28).

  • What about all those prescription drugs?

    What about all those prescription drugs?

    We all saw what happened during the recent demonstrations — the television coverage of people using the protest as an excuse to rob from stores at Mondawmin Mall ("Baltimore descends into chaos, violence, looting," April 28).

  • Learning and vision have long been linked

    Learning and vision have long been linked

    I was somewhat startled when I read this headline, "Hopkins study links student vision, learning" (May 26). I thank reporter Erica Green and Dr. Megan Collins for calling to the public's attention the link between student vision and academic performance. However, to call this "a first-of-its-kind...

  • What's wrong with celebrating Under Armour?

    What's wrong with celebrating Under Armour?

    Letter writer Frederick C. Lohn criticizes the display of the Under Armour logo by Maryland's governor, Baltimore's mayor and a Maryland congressman ("Why the free ads for Under Armour?" May 6).

Comments
Loading

57°