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Are Americans biased against SSD benefit recipients?

The Social Security Disability Insurance Program has been in the news recently, but not for the best of reasons. As reports suggest, the SSDI fund is expected to be exhausted by late 2016 and that is a concern for many SSD benefits recipients and applicant. However, along with that, another concern that many applicants and recipients in New Jersey may have is whether other Americans who do not receive SSD benefits are biased against them because of their disability and the idea that they receive government benefits.

According to a recent study conducted by a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard University, Americans are, in fact, biased against those who receive government disability benefits. According to one researcher, many Americans who hear about a disability evaluation do express a bias when they know that the disability evaluation is for providing government benefits such as SSD benefits. A recent study by the Harvard postdoctoral fellow reinforced that point.

The study involved a 1,000-person survey. The survey required them to read multiple vignettes about people with disabilities and then rate the severity of each condition and the degree to which they believed it to be a disabling condition. However, before the respondents read the vignettes, they were divided into two random groups -- a treatment group and a control group. Respondents in the treatment group read an additional line in the vignettes, which said that individuals with qualifying disabilities would be eligible for SSD benefits.The treatment group, which read the line about disability and government benefits, considered the medical conditions mentioned in the vignettes to be less disabling that those in the control group.

People who are suffering from disabilities shouldn't have to also suffer from discriminatory treatment from other people in the community. People who are unable to work due to injury or illness need help from Social Security Disability Insurance, but they often find that SSDI and other programs can be difficult to navigate. When they have trouble getting the benefits they deserve, no doubt the conscious or unconscious bias of other people can get in their way. It's important at times like these to have the help of attorneys with experience of the system and compassion for their clients.

Source: Los Angeles Times, "Bias against the disabled is as American as apple pie," Rourke L. O.Brien, Jan. 21, 2015

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