Big Picture Approach

Importance of an Honest, Consistent, Big Picture Approach

Taking an honest, consistent, big picture approach can help you maximize your legal rights and protect against making rash and harmful decisions. By easing your encounter with legal, insurance, and financial aspects of dealing with PD, this approach can reduce stress and be good for your health.

Honesty

“Honesty” is important not only because it is the right thing do, but also because you are likely to be found out – and potentially lose benefits – if you are anything but truthful.

  • For example, if you are falsifying an SSDI claim on the basis you cannot work, not only may your medical records may indicate otherwise, but your actual activities as observed by others or revealed by you (e.g., with e-mail pronouncements about under-the-table compensation, etc.) can easily surface.
  • Anything other than honesty can undermine pending applications, undo benefits you are already receiving, or put your future credibility in question.

Consistency

“Consistency” is critical so that you avoid taking positions in different benefits contexts that undermine each other.

  • For example, are you able to do the essential functions of your job and seeking protection under the ADA, or claiming you cannot work and entitled to Social Security benefits?
  • Keep in mind you will need medical support for the various benefit claims may make over time.
  • The documentation will be the same for many of those benefits.
  • The question is what is your health status at a given point in time? And while that may be measured against different definitions of “disability” for different legal purposes, it is imprudent to try to shade or exclude facts that are beyond your control. Let the truth and consistency set you free.

Big Picture

“Big Picture” gives you a way to understand how your benefits fit together, how they are likely to flow over time, and to identify anticipated gaps that you might wish to fill if possible.

  • For example, you might initially determine that you have no meaningful employment law rights when first diagnosed with PD because you do not yet meet the ADA definition of “disability.” If your condition worsens, you may later be eligible for ADA protection. Later still, as you lose the ability to do your job or even to work at all, you will lose ADA protection. At this point, you may be eligible for Short and/or Long Term Disability income replacement. And when you can no longer work, you should be eligible for Social Security benefits.
  • Projecting your likely eligibility for tapping into these various resources can help you map out your finances, do some estate planning, prepare powers of attorney (one for finances, another for health care) to guide decisions if you are unable to make them, etc.

 

Content for this section provided by Mark Rubin, J.D., Chair of NPF's 5th Annual Young Onset Parkinson Network Conference, who has had PD since 1997.

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