Health Update

Disability, natural disasters and emergencies

November 02, 2013 – ZARINA PATEL

Humanity has witnessed both natural and manmade disasters since the dawn of its existence. Many ancient civilisations, including, the Mohen jo Daro, the Eastern Roman Empire the Norse and the Old Egyptian Empire, were destroyed by the effects of natural disasters. It was floods, famines, earthquakes, tsunamis and plaque events, which completely wiped out many ancient human populations.

Disaster is a catastrophic event that brings about great damage, destruction, and devastation to life and prosperity.” Disaster management is the mechanism of co-ordinating and utilising available resources to deal emergencies effectively. An effective disaster management system can reduce and minimise the suffering of affected people. Cyclones, tsunami, floods, droughts, earthquakes, and volcanoes are a few examples of natural disasters, wars and nuclear attacks are fabricated disasters.

To minimise the loss of lives, injuries, spread of diseases, damage to properties, destruction of assets, loss of services, social and economic disruption and environmental degradation caused by natural and manmade disasters. The General Assembly decided on 29 December 2009 to designate 13 October as the date to commemorate the “International Day for Disaster Reduction”.

The day gives awareness of how people are taking action to reduce their risk to disasters. It encourages every citizen to participate in building disaster resilient communities and nations.

The theme of the 2013 International Day for Disaster Reduction (IDDR) was “Living with Disability and Disasters.” There are between 2.9 and 4.2 million persons with disabilities among the world’s 42 million forcibly displaced population. A person is disable if he has deafness, blindness and defects of vision, mental illness and retardation, cerebral damage, stroke, senility and dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, and, numerous forms of dependence on personnel, equipment and supplies for support to the vital functions that sustain life. The results of the first-ever UN global survey of persons living with disabilities on how they cope with disasters, illustrates why they die, or are injured, in disproportionate numbers in disasters.


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Disability Studies – A New Normal



Published: November 1, 2013  

THE temporarily able-bodied, or TABs. That’s what disability activists call those who are not physically or mentally impaired. And they like to remind them that disability is a porous state; anyone can enter or leave at any time. Live long enough and you will almost certainly enter it.

That foreboding forecast is driving growth in disability studies, a field that didn’t even exist 20 years ago. The reasons are mainly demographic: as the population ages, the number of disabled will grow — by 21 percent between 2007 and 2030, according to the Census Bureau.

At the other end of the generational spectrum are those raised after the passage of the Americans With Disabilities Act in 1990. They are now in college or entering the work force. They are educated, perhaps without even realizing it, in the politics and realities of disability, having sat in the same classrooms in a more accessible society


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Health Insurers Must Accept Prepaid Cards to Pay for ACA Coverage

On August 28th, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) published a new rule that will require insurers to allow prepaid debit cards as health-insurance payment.

Continue reading “Health Insurers Must Accept Prepaid Cards to Pay for ACA Coverage”


As Disability Program Nears Funding Crisis it Comes Under Attack

by Regina Weiss, Communications Consultant on October 31, 2013

Earlier this month, 60 Minutes, the nation’s number one news show, aired the segment “Disability USA.” CBS anchor Steve Kroft used the story of Huntington, West Virginia, where a law firm is under investigation for possible disability fraud—to imply that the federal disability insurance program (SSI Disability) is a “secret welfare system . . . ravaged by waste and fraud.”  The segment was scheduled to coincide with a congressional hearing the next day on the law firm’s practices, spearheaded by U.S. Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK), who was featured in the 60 Minutes report.

In “Disability USA” 60 Minutes painted a sensational picture of a lawyer purportedly colluding with a corrupt judge and ethically-compromised doctors to game the system and pocket millions of dollars by obtaining benefits for people who don’t qualify for them. The sensationalism was only increased when the attorney in question refused to answer questions at the next day’s Senate hearing—pleading the Fifth Amendment—and news reports circulated that the judge attempted suicide after the program aired.

In today’s media environment—where serious reporting and fact checking are increasingly scarce—this type of story is guaranteed a wide audience. Lost in all the noise, however, are basic facts about SSI Disability and the millions of Americans it helps. In fact, not a single person who receives SSI Disability benefits—in Huntington or elsewhere—was interviewed for the 60 Minutes story.

Criticism of SSI Disability is not new; the program has been under attack for decades by the same pundits and politicians who generally oppose federal government spending on safety net and social welfare programs. However, the past year has seen a number of one-sided, increasingly-negative and widely-circulated reports on SSI Disability from mainstream—and even so-called “liberal”—news outlets. This is an emerging trend that bears close watching.

Just as 60 Minutes used a single town in West Virginia to paint a picture of SSI Disability as a program that, supposedly, is widely abused, last spring a reporter for National Public Radio profiled a single county in Alabama to promote the same idea. In “Trends with Benefits,” NPR reporter Chana Joffe-Walt cited Hale County, where nearly one in four people receive disability benefits, to illustrate her belief that “disability has . . . become a de facto welfare program for people without a lot of education or job skills.” However, as Leonard Davis pointed out in The Huffington Post, what the NPR report failed to mention is that, according to the 2010 Census, nearly 20 percent of the U.S population is disabled. Should it be a surprise, then, Davis asked “that in some cherry-picked, hard-hit counties one in four or five could be receiving disability benefits?”

Both the 60 Minutes and the NPR stories purport to show that it’s all too easy to receive SSI Disability benefits. Yet, as Michael Hiltzik reported in The Los Angeles Times, two-thirds of all applications for the disability benefits are denied, with just ten percent of those granted on appeal.

In both the 60 Minutes and the NPR stories, the underlying premise is that recent growth in the number of Americans receiving SSI Disability benefits—growth of about 20 percent over the past six years—somehow proves that the program is widely abused. NPR’s Joffe-Walt called the rise in Americans receiving disability “startling,” while Senator Coburn asked 60 Minutes viewers, “Where’d all these disabled people come from?” The truth, however, is that there’s actually nothing at all mysterious or startling going on; as the Social Security Administration itself points out, the growth in SSI Disability claims is primarily due to a rapidly aging population and other demographic trends.

While the current growth in SSI Disability claims is unsurprising—and was predicted by the Social Security Administration two decades ago—the ease with which stories like “Disability USA” and “Trends with Benefits” may be taken at face value—and take on the false mantle of “truth” as they race around the internet, is of real concern.

The SSI Disability fund, which currently provides modest benefits—averaging $1,130 a month—to about 11 million aging, disabled and low income Americans, is grossly underfunded and in danger of running out of money in just a few years if Congress fails to act. Given the extraordinary battles shaping up in Washington over the federal budget, the placement of misinformed, one-sided narratives about SSI Disability—painting it as a widely abused program for millions of people who just don’t want to work—will only serve to make it more difficult to put the program on sound fiscal footing so that it is available to all those who we know—based on the federal government’s own analysis—will need these benefits in the coming years.

For excellent, detailed reporting on the growing trend of misinformation, please see Disabled Are New Target for Charges of Cheating by Neil deMause.




Disability of 2-year-old raises questions on federal aid programs

By Alfred Lubrano, Inquirer Staff Writer

Posted: November 05, 2013

In her coat, Maziah Mills-Sorrells looks like any other 2-year-old, an animated sprite, all bounce and spirit.

But when Maziah’s mother, Essie Mills, took the child’s coat off in front of their apartment the other day, Maziah’s left arm dropped lifelessly, her hand scraping the cement porch.

Maziah didn’t feel it, just as she felt nothing last year when she fell and broke that same arm.

Afflicted with a rare condition known as Klumpke’s palsy, Maziah has had a paralyzed arm since she was injured during childbirth. Doctors say it’s permanent.

Maziah and her parents live in poverty in West Philadelphia. They have tried and failed to get child-disability benefits from the Social Security Administration. Officials won’t comment on why.


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Judge: “City Does Not Have an Adequate Plan” for Evacuating Vulnerable During Disasters

Thursday, November 07, 2013


A federal judge has ruled that New York City is not adequately prepared to evacuate disabled residents during emergencies, a problem that came to the forefront during Sandy and Irene.

Judge Jesse Furman, of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, said the Bloomberg administration in many respects had done an “outstanding” job preparing for emergencies, but said there was a mixed record when it came to accommodating handicapped residents.

“Most significantly,” Furman wrote, “the city’s plans are inadequate to ensure that people with disabilities are able to evacuate before or during an emergency; they fail to provide sufficiently accessible shelters; and they do not sufficiently inform people with disabilities of the availability and location of accessible emergency services.”

The plaintiffs, which included the Brooklyn Center for Independence of the Disabled and the Center for Independence of the Disabled, New York, had said the city violated the Americans with Disability Act for a number of reasons:

  • many of the evacuation shelters were inaccessible to people in wheelchairs;
  • there was inadequate transportation to help disabled people evacuate, especially from high-rises;
  • emergency officials had no plan to find and rescue those trapped after an emergency.

After the ruling, the city’s law department released a prepared statement:


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Autism Signs Spotted In First Months Of Life

By Shaun Heasley

November 7, 2013


Autism can be detected in infants as young as 2 months by tracking their eye movements, researchers say, marking the earliest signs of the developmental disorder ever observed.

Researchers found that between the ages of 2 and 24 months, children who were later diagnosed with autism looked less and less at other people’s eyes as compared to kids who did not develop the disorder.


The discovery, which is being heralded as a major development, could allow for earlier intervention and ultimately lead to better outcomes, experts say.

“Autism isn’t usually diagnosed until after age 2, when delays in a child’s social behavior and language skills become apparent. This study shows that children exhibit clear signs of autism at a much younger age,” said Thomas Insel, director of the National Institute of Mental Health. “The sooner we are able to identify early markers for autism, the more effective our treatment interventions can be.”


The new finding comes from a study published Wednesday in the journal Nature that looked at 110 children from birth. Of them, 59 were considered to be at high-risk for autism because they had a sibling on the spectrum. The other children were deemed low-risk since they did not have any first, second or third degree relatives with autism.


Researchers used eye-tracking technology to assess the children 10 times between the ages of 2 months and 2 years. Subsequently, they compared data collected on children who were later diagnosed with autism to that from the other kids in the study who were not.

“We found a steady decline in attention to other people’s eyes, from 2 until 24 months, in infants later diagnosed with autism,” said Ami Klin, director of the Marcus Autism Center in Atlanta, who worked on the study.


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