#WeAreEssential Week 3 – SSI & SSDI #FixTheGlitch

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This week, in addition to using #WeAreEssential to talk about HCBS and Paid Family Medical Leave, the disability community is using #FixTheGlitch. We need to ensure that all Americans are able to receive their Recovery Rebate that was included in the CARES Act and that everyone who files taxes and meets the eligibility guidelines will receive.

Many people with disabilities who receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), and certain VA benefits are not required to file taxes; therefore, they will not automatically receive payments. The IRS and Social Security Administration worked together to fix the problem for people who receive SSDI, but not SSI or VA benefits. This situation is creating confusion amongst beneficiaries and increasing barriers to stimulus checks, as it is unclear who needs to fill out the IRS non-filer form (best practice is to fill it out if you did not pay taxes in 2018 or do not plan to pay them for 2019).

This week’s asks are focused on the IRS/Treasury, the Social Security Administration (SSA) and Veterans Affairs (VA), as well as Congress:

Sample text to tweet/email the IRS/Treasury, SSA, and VA:

#FixTheGlitch and share data and make these payments automatically. #WeAreEssential

Sample text to tweet/email Congress:

Please tell IRS/Treasury, SSA, and the VA to #FixTheGlitch by sharing data and making stimulus payments automatically, and if they will not, please order Information sharing amongst agencies in the next COVID-19 bill. #WeAreEssential

Don’t forget to tag Paraquad in your social posts so that we can lift up your voice and make sure the disability community is heard!

Sharing a Few Good Vibrations

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Paraquad is joining forces with other community leaders to make a regional impact on the health and safety of vulnerable populations through the COVID-19 Regional Response Team. Paraquad is ensuring the social and economic needs of people with disabilities are addressed.

“While our ability to provide direct services is impacted, our commitment to ensuring people with disabilities remain living in the community has never been stronger,” said Aimee Wehmeier, Paraquad’s President.

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Paraquad team member Kat taking groceries to participants.

Most of Paraquad’s board and staff have a disability so problem-solving and resourcefulness are second nature. It’s no surprise how quickly employees shifted to meet the emergent needs of the community. Staff are making well-check calls, purchasing and delivering groceries and supplies, making masks, providing information and resources and even providing emergency care.

Paraquad is using funding from the St. Louis Community Foundation and the Craig H. Neilsen Foundation to meet the immediate needs of the community.

“At a time when we could be consumed with our own health and safety concerns, we are surrounded by people who want to help,” stated Dr. Kerri Morgan, Paraquad Board Chair.

To ease the loneliness of social distancing, Paraquad launched a Facebook group, the St. Louis-area COVID-19 Isolation Chamber to share stories, build connections, and provide relevant COVID-19 updates.

In addition, the Paraquad Health and Wellness Center is creating a series of short, adapted exercise videos to help members stay active at home. Check out the videos on the Paraquad Health and Wellness Center Facebook group.

Thank you for supporting Paraquad as we continue doing what we do best: empowering people with disabilities to remain living independently—especially through this COVID-19 crisis.

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#WeAreEssential Week 2 – Paid Family and Medical Leave

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This week, members of the disability community are adding Paid Family and Medical Leave to our list of asks (don’t stop talking about HCBS).

Families First Coronavirus Response Act included two weeks of paid sick leave for people who were diagnosed with COVID-19, needed to self-isolate to avoid becoming ill, or to take care of someone who was diagnosed or instructed to self-isolate. The Act also authorized 12 weeks of leave for parents who need to take care of children of all ages who lost their typical source of care.

However, many people feel that this didn’t meet their needs. Individuals who work for organizations with less than 50 employees or more than 500 employees, and many health care workers, are not eligible for leave. In addition to the limited eligibility, caregiver leave is only paid at 66% of an individual’s salary.

This week’s asks are targeted to Congress.

Tell Congress to:

  • Expand Paid leave for people with disabilities who need to self-isolate.
  • Ensure non-parent caregivers can take leave to care for their loved ones who have lost care.
  • Pay caregivers like everyone else!

The best way to reach your members of congress is via Twitter, Facebook, and Email, since everyone is working from home. You can find your members of congress here.

If you have an experience with paid leave (either good or bad) and COVID-19, reach out to the Public Policy and Advocacy by calling (314-289-4277) or emailing Sarah and she will help you craft a story to share across social media channels.

#WeAreEssential Week 1 – Home and Community Based Services

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Home and Community Based Services (HCBS) allow people with disabilities to live independently in the community. COVID-19 is negatively affecting people’s access to HCBS—if personal care attendants don’t come to work because they are sick, and if the person with a disability can’t find another attendant, he or she could be forced into a nursing home, disabled people could be forced into institutions and out of their homes.

#WeAreEssential HCBS Sample Tweets & Facebook Posts:

  • Disabled people in institutions are not disposable. Congress must act now to support our communities! #WeAreEssential
  • Coronavirus numbers have increased dramatically in nursing homes and long-term care facilities – more than 400 as of last week (a 200% increase). Congress needs to support these workers. #WeAreEssential
  • My civil rights and my life will be at stake if I cannot stay in my home during the #coronavirus outbreak. Congress needs to support home and community-based services in coronavirus relief! #WeAreEssential

You can use this language, along with a photo of you in your home or with your attendant to post on social media. Be sure to tag your members of Congress (they can be found here) and Paraquad so we can share your story!

#WeAreEssential Campaign – Introductory Blog Post

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Over the next 4 weeks, the disability community, lead by AAPD and Center for American Progress, is building a social media campaign and rallying behind #WeAreEssential to ensure that disability needs are included in the next COVID-19 response packages. There will be a different theme each week so that people with disabilities can share their stories:

Week 1 (April 6) – Home and Community-Based Services
Ask: Tell Congress Medicaid funding for home and community-based services must be increased.

Week 2 (April 13) – Paid Family and medical leave
Ask: Congress and the Department of Labor need to expand paid family and medical leave and ensure that everyone is paid fairly while caring for their loved ones.

Week 3 (April 20) – SSI & SSDI and the Recovery Rebate #FixTheGlitch
Ask: #FixTheGlitch Congress must compel agencies to work together to share data so that all eligible individuals can get the rebate checks.

Week 4 (April 27) – Medication and Supplies
Ask: Tell the President to invoke #DefenseProductionActNow. There is an extreme shortage of supplies such as ventilators and face masks. At the state and local level, people must be able to access their medications.

Each week, we will provide background information on the topics as well as templates and suggestions for you to use to reach out to your elected officials. These are unprecedented times, and innovative advocacy is crucial to the success of our cause. The disability community needs to be creative to ensure they are not forgotten. Right now, the best way to contact officials is through social media and email.

If you are new to digital advocacy and have any questions, please reach out to Sarah at 314-289-4277 or sschwegel@paraquad.org; we are all learning about new tools and how to organize without meeting in person.

How to Qualify for Social Security Disability Benefits after a Spinal Cord Injury

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Nearly 300,000 people in the US live with debilitating spinal cord injuries, and more than 12,000 per year suffer a spinal cord injury, usually as the result of an auto accident or some other type of accident. Anyone with a spinal cord injury can file a claim for Social Security disability benefits as long as the injury has lasted at least three months and is expected to make it impossible for you to work for at least 12 months. Disability benefits can be used to help pay for housing expenses and other costs so that you don’t have to worry about getting by while you cannot work.

Medically Qualifying for Disability Benefits Due to A Spinal Cord Injury

In order to get your claim for disability benefits approved because of a spinal cord injury you will need to meet the requirements listed in the Social Security Administration’s Blue Book. The Blue Book requirements for a spinal cord injury are very details. In order to qualify you must have a documented spinal cord injury that causes one of these three conditions:

  • Complete loss of function of any part of the body because of spinal cord injury, such as paralysis of an arm or leg. Paraplegic and quadriplegic people can automatically qualify for benefits under this part of the listing. But others can qualify under this part of the listing as well. Spinal cord injuries can paralyze other muscles and qualify for benefits because of that. For example, spinal cord injuries that cause paralysis in the stomach, intestines, or bladder.
  • Abnormal ability of movement in at least two extremities (either an arm and a leg or two arms or two legs) resulting in extreme difficulty in the ability to balance while standing or walking, to stand up from a seated position, or to use the arms and/or hands.
  • A significant physical spinal cord problem not quite severe enough to be extreme, combined with a serious limitation in any one of the following mental areas:
    • The ability to understand, remember, or use information.
    • Social interactions
    • The ability to concentrate or to work quickly.
    • The ability to take care of oneself or adapt to new changes.

You will have to submit medical evidence including a doctor’s diagnosis, scan and test results, and statements from caseworkers or other professionals that provide proof of your condition in order to have your claim approved.

Medical Vocational Allowance

You also might qualify for disability benefits under the Medical Vocational Allowance. If you don’t meet the criteria in the Blue Book listing but can’t work because of a spinal cord injury you can file a claim for disability benefits and ask for a Residual Functional Capacity evaluation. If the evaluation finds that there is no full-time work that you can do with your injury your claim for disability benefits can be approved even if you don’t meet the Blue Book listing requirements.

Filing for Social Security Disability Benefits

Applying online for Social Security disability benefits is a good option for most people but if you have questions about the application or need help filing because you want to ask for a Residual Functional Capacity evaluation you can make an appointment at your local Social Security office to apply in person. If you apply in person don’t forget to bring copies of all of your medical documentation with you.

Resources:

Paraquad: https://www.paraquad.org/

SSA’s Blue Book: https://www.ssa.gov/disability/professionals/bluebook/AdultListings.htm

Medical Vocational Allowance: https://www.disabilitybenefitscenter.org/glossary/medical-vocational-allowance

Residual Functional Capacity: https://www.disabilitybenefitscenter.org/glossary/residual-functional-capacity-rfc

Apply Online: https://www.ssa.gov/benefits/forms/#h3

Local SSA Office: https://secure.ssa.gov/ICON/main.jsp