Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Disability's New Rules Get Mixed Reviews

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Disability's New Rules Get Mixed Reviews

Article excerpt

For seven years, Richard Severance, 49, received a disability

check and Medicaid because he was an alcoholic, which the

federal government considered a disability.

That ended in January when a new federal law went into effect

that prevents people from receiving Supplemental Security

Income, Medicaid or Medicare if alcoholism or drug abuse was

their only disabling condition.

Ironically, Severance calls the change a good idea.

"I think they were enabling me to keep drinking," said

Severance, who now manages a residential building. "All I had to

do was sit back and get a check and didn't have to work. Had

$407 in my pocket."

The new law has drawn mixed reviews from local social service

officials. Some say the change encouraged people to get jobs,

while others fear people with more than one medical disability

but no one to help them prove it are being unfairly terminated

from the program.

Last year, the Social Security Administration notified about

209,000 people across the nation, including 4,500 Floridians,

that their disability benefits would be cut off unless they

could prove that alcoholism or drug abuse was not their only

medical disability.

About 67 percent of those contacted were terminated from the

program, while another 30 percent continue to receive benefits

because of having another medical disability. About 3 percent

are waiting for a decision and continue to receive benefits

until a decision is made.

In Duval, Clay, Nassau and Baker counties, 262 people received

notices, of which 222 were terminated from disability, 31 are

still receiving disability and nine cases are pending.

Ed Snyder, director of operations and alumni services at

Gateway Community Services, applauds the policy change that

prompted two people he's familiar with to get jobs.

"They're both working and have better self-esteem than they had

before, lying around collecting these checks," he said. …

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