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Bias a problem when disability can't be seen

It's very easy for the majority of us to slip into judgment mode. If you doubt it, think of the last time you happened to be in a shopping mall parking lot and you witnessed someone who seemed completely fine park in a slot reserved for the handicapped and toddle into a store.

Even if they had the necessary tag on their license plate or hanging from their rearview mirror, you may well have found yourself thinking or even saying to a friend, "they don't look handicapped."

That's a judgment based on your preconceived notion of what it means to be disabled. Maybe that word elicits images of someone who requires a wheelchair to get around or who displays an unusual gait. If a condition isn't visible, it is easy to conclude that there isn't any condition at all.

But federal data dating back to the 1990s suggests that there are a lot more people suffering from conditions for which social security disability benefits would be warranted than might be apparent to the naked eye. According to the Survey of Income and Program Participation done at that time, some 26 million Americans were considered to be severely disabled. Yet fewer than 7 million of the individuals required a wheelchair, cane, crutches or a walker to get around.

Possible forms of invisible disability may be many. They might be physical, as represented by conditions such as fibromyalgia. They can involve the nervous system, triggering symptoms that remain hard to detect. Some victims of brain injury might seem fine until subjected to some situation that sparks a reaction. And mental disorders such as depression can be debilitating.

Regardless of the nature of a disability, if it prevents you from being able to work and live life as you once might have done, you may have a right to seek Social Security Disability Insurance coverage. And to be sure that your case is handled as effectively as is possible, consulting with an experienced attorney is always advisable.

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Melissa A. Proudian, Attorney at Law
1500 W. Shaw Avenue, Suite 403
Fresno, CA 93711

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