May is National ALS Awareness Month. Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), more commonly referred to as Lou Gehrig’s disease, is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that attacks nerve cells and pathways in the brain and spinal cord. More than 5,600 people each year are newly diagnosed with ALS. As many as 30,000 Americans may currently be affected by this fatal condition. Social Security can help.
People who have ALS meet the medical qualifications for Social Security disability benefits. ALS is one of Social Security’s “Compassionate Allowances.” The list of Compassionate Allowances conditions can be found at ww.socialsecurity.gov/compassionateallowances.
I would like to mention that this “Compassionate Allowance” was only made possible by the hard work of lobbyists and activists from the ALS Association and MDA — the Muscular Dystrophy Association. This was hard work and wasn’t done through the goodness of the US government’s nor Congress’ hearts. Just to show that efforts such as this, have to come from grassroots efforts, not by sitting back and thinking that what should be in the conscience of every human being, will automatically pop into the heads of our senators and reps in Congress. Unless, of course, enough members of Congress are touched by a single disease, it is not in their best interest to “do good things”. ALS is a rare disease and most people will never meet a person who suffers from it. In contrast, you would be hard-pressed to find any American who has not been touched by some form of cancer, either by himself or a family member, friend, acquaintance, or co-worker. For generations, people with disabilities were home all the time or locked in institutions. It wasn’t until 1990, that activists got the Americans with Disabilities Act passed. Still, these activists have to be out there 20 years later to enforce violations of the ADA.
Never doubt the value and power of the people! And I don’t mean the power to elect legislators, but rather, the power to keep on top of those elected to Congress to remember who put them in office. This is only done by aggressive lobbying, petitions, letter-writing and phone calling, and by the visibility of those affected, no matter how disabled and hard for the healthy public to look in the eye.
by Fern Cohen
I Ramble … I’m with Ms. Cohen, and would like to add — implementing the ADA mandate has never been about an act of kindness, It’s The Law!