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England has a disability cliff

Tuesday, January 8th, 2013

We Americans are not the only ones with long term disability insurance problems.

Jason Reed, a British blogger for the Huffington Post, recently reported on a scenario that sounds very much like our own. Many disabled workers in England are treated as if they are taking money fraudulently while in fact they are suffering from chronic and serious disabilities. The countries and their systems are different, but the challenges are very similar.

According to Reed, the disabled in the UK rely on a government disability program, called employment support allowance (ESA), called the “incapacity benefit.” Large changes were made in the program last spring; claimants must now pass a working capability assessment (WCA) to receive benefits. This short medical test is conducted by a government contractor, Atos Healthcare and seems to have the same problem as our own IMEs. The high level of claimants who are termed able to work – in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary – has clogged the British appeals system with a huge backlog of appeals – a third of which are eventually resolved, at great cost, in favor of the claimant.

Whether in England or in the United States, living with chronic diseases like Fibromyalgia, Multiple Sclerosis or Chronic Fatigue syndrome (CFS) (called M.E. or Myalgic Encephalomyelitis in the UK) and the challenges of coping with an atmosphere of suspicion creates an added burden of stress and financial hardship.

We like Reed’s call for change. He says it’s time to reinvent the workplace and provide alternatives to those who could do some work, but on different terms – working from home, flexible hours, generally presenting a kinder workplace that is empathetic to those who are disabled. It’s a very different approach, seeking a welcoming and inclusive value in place of a cut-throat culture. Something to consider, for all of us.

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Frankel & Newfield does not currently handle any Social Security Disability Insurance claims.

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