Both People with Parkinson’s and their caregivers may have statutory (government created) rights to be free from discrimination on the basis of disability and to participate in certain disability-based benefits programs.
- The right to be free from discrimination primarily stems from the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and also state or local antidiscrimination or human rights laws that sometimes provide even stronger rights to protect against discrimination based on disability. Unfortunately, however, there are many matters not covered by the ADA, and even if your situation might be addressed, enforcing those rights is not necessarily cost-effective or easy.
- Further, People with Parkinson’s may qualify for benefits under the federal Social Security programs, either Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) if they held jobs through which they had contributed to the system through the payment of taxes, or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) if they did not. While vitally important for many, be mindful that the process of securing benefits can take quite some time, perhaps as long as several years, and considerable effort.
- There are numerous other laws that provide people with disabilities and other Americans rights, or regulate programs that are offered by third parties including employers, health care being an obvious arena where both hold true – Medicare and Medicaid for those eligible, private health care insurance when offered at work, and medical leave for eligible employees under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) due to the employee’s own serious health condition or the need to care for a family member with a serious health condition.
In addition to statutory rights and protections created by government action, an individual may have rights that are provided under various legal agreements, such as contracts.
- Examples of contractual rights include employment agreements, business shareholder or other agreements, a long term disability income replacement contract (or contracts), either provided by the person with Parkinson’s employer or purchased privately before the onset of disability (disability insurance policies); life insurance policies or credit card agreement provisions that waive future payments after disability; and long term care policies that will pay benefits for care, usually at home or at a long term care policy. There can be considerable overlap between the various legal arrangements that might provide you rights and often the definitions, requirements and terms from one to the other can be quite different. And of course, a person with Parkinson’s other established contractual rights, such as pension rights, should remain in force irrespective of disability.
Once you identify the source(s) of your rights, the important questions become:
- What are your rights from those sources?
- When do they become rights or when are they secured?
- How do you exercise such rights? Are there reporting obligations to avoid jeopardizing those rights?
- How do they fit together? Might your statements or claims under one arrangement adversely affect your rights under another?
- How can you maximize the bundle of rights that can be brought to bear to help ease the difficulty of managing your diagnosis of Parkinson’s?
Content for this section provided by Mark Rubin, J.D. and Martin M. Shenkman, CPA, MBA, JD, PFS, AEP.
For more insights on this topic, listen to our podcast episode "Talking to Your Employer About PD Series Part 1: Where to Begin?" and “Talking to Your Employer About PD Series Part 2: Disability Inclusion and Accommodation at Work”.