Letter: ‘Work beasts’ don’t understand

In response to “It’s not fair to the work beasts” published in the Advocate on April 27:

I have assisted claimants in their attempts to qualify for Social Security disability benefits for the better part of 35 years. I was astounded that columnist Froma Harrop could get her anecdotal stories published in a daily newspaper.

In Louisiana approximately 70 percent of claimants are denied at the initial level. Many times these claims are denied based on a 15-minute medical examination by a state-agency-selected physician (often hired by an out-of-state company) with little or no consideration of the treating physician’s records and/or opinion about ability to work.

The author attributes the increase in disability recipients to “easier requirements giving more weight to self-made diagnoses of back pain or mental anguish.” That is untrue. The Social Security Administration has tightened the requirements.

Just one example is if a person was obese and had another medical problem, such an individual formerly met the requirements for disability. This basis for disability was eliminated several years ago. Now more factors must be taken into consideration.

Also, the administrative law judges who preside over appeals have more knowledge of medical conditions and procedures with each advancing year and do not substitute self-diagnosis for cold, hard medical facts. Harrop should sit in the waiting room of my office for a week and talk to the claimants I am assisting in qualifying for benefits.

Perhaps she could speak with the 50-plus-year-old former blue-collar laborer who was denied disability benefits even though he has chronic liver disease and should be on dialysis — but has no insurance.

How about the 50-year-old woman who worked in housekeeping and laundry-room jobs all her life but now has carpal tunnel syndrome and arthritis in multiple joints in addition to being diagnosed as a schizophrenic and is unable to read.

Over the past year I have had several women as clients who were diagnosed with breast cancer and benefits were denied even though they were still receiving treatment for the breast cancer. It’s kind of hard to work when you are going through chemotherapy and have uncontrollable vomiting following a treatment. I had one male denied even though he had a diagnosis of anal cancer and was undergoing treatment.

Harrop should do her research before writing a column and somehow getting it published.

Gary Sells

Nonattorney disability benefits advocate

New Orleans