Disabled Veterans Fight On Against Denied Benefits

Strict Deadlines, Disabled Veterans and Dismissed Cases


Three years ago, the Supreme Court said there are some filing deadlines so rigid that no excuse for missing them counts, even if the tardiness was caused by erroneous instructions from a federal judge.

The vote was 5 to 4, and Justice David H. Souter wrote a furious dissent. “It is intolerable for the judicial system to treat people this way,” he said, adding that he feared the decision would have pernicious consequences.

He had no idea.

The court’s decision concerned a convicted murderer who had beaten a man to death. But now it is being applied to bar claims from disabled veterans who fumble filing procedures and miss deadlines in seeking help from the government. The upshot, according to a dissent in December from three judges on a federal appeals court in Washington, is “a Kafkaesque adjudicatory process in which those veterans who are most deserving of service-connected benefits will frequently be those least likely to obtain them.”

@NYT: Click here to read the rest of the story 

 Related Stories

@AllBusiness.com: How the government is failing our disabled veterans

@60Minutes/CBS: Report on the delays disabled veterans encounter with the VA (Veterans Affairs)

Thomas Edison Overcame Dyslexia and Hearing Impairment


"Thomas Edison was more responsible than any one else for creating the modern world ....  No one did more to shape the physical/cultural makeup of  present day civilization . . . Accordingly, he was the most influential figure of the millennium." 

The Heroes Of The Age: Electricity And Man

Thomas Edison, known to many historians as 'The Wizard of Menlo Park' (now Edison, New Jersey) was one of the most prolific inventors of all time, holding over a thousand patents in the United States and many countries in Europe for inventions such as the phonograph, a long lasting light bulb, the motion picture camera, and the first commercially available fleuroscope, the forerunner to the modern day 'x-ray machine', to name but a few.

The incredible breadth and scope of Thomas Edison's achievements are all the more impressive because of the perseverance he showed in overcoming two disabilities along the way - dyslexia and hearing impairment. The former is sometimes debated, while the latter was believed to have been caused by a bout of scarlet fever and recurrent ear infections. In school, the young Edison's mind often wandered, and his teacher, the Reverend Engle, was overheard calling him "addled". 

Wikipedia explains that, around the middle of his career, 'Edison attributed the hearing impairment to being struck on the ears by a train conductor when his chemical laboratory in a boxcar caught fire and he was thrown off the train in Smiths Creek, Michigan, along with his apparatus and chemicals.

In his later years he modified the story to say the injury occurred when the conductor, in helping him onto a moving train, lifted him by the ears.'

There are also many people who believe Thomas Edition exhibited the traits of ADD - Attention Deficit Disorder. In fact ADD is often referred to as 'The Edison Gene'.As Teresa Gallagher writes on her website BornToExplore.org:

The very traits of Thomas Edison that are cited as being typical of ADD also happen to be consistent with his MBTI temperament type.  According to the official Keirsey temperament site, Edison was probably an ENTP (that is, he had preferences for extraversion, conceptual thinking, logic and divergent thinking).  This is one of the four most common temperament types that write to me about this website.   I'm familiar with ENTPs because I am one myself, as is my son. 

It is normal for ENTPs to be very talkative; to want to learn through exploration and experience rather than rote memorization; to experiment; to invent; to have little tolerance for boredom; to have an intense desire to discover something NEW and ORIGINAL; to be an enthusiastic entrepreneur or a catalyst; to TELL everyone about their discovery.   Young ENTPs are notorious for their non-stop chatter and high energy levels.   As far as ADD types go, they are primarily Discoverers, rather than the thrill-seeking Dynamos or the quiet Dreamers.

Modern day ENTPs probably include entrepreneurs Steve Jobs (Apple Computer) and Ted Turner ("The Mouth From the South")."

On the subject of Dyslexia, Wikipedia further chronicles:

'Dyslexia[1] is a learning disability that manifests itself as a difficulty with reading decoding, reading comprehension and/or reading fluency. It is separate and distinct from reading difficulties resulting from other causes, such as a non-neurological deficiency with vision or hearing, or from poor or inadequate reading instruction.[2] It is estimated that dyslexia affects between 5% and 17% of the population.[3][4][5]

Dyslexia has been proposed to have three cognitive subtypes: auditory, visual and attentional[6][4][7], although not an intellectual disability, it is considered a learning disability[8][9], and a reading disability[8][10]. Persons with dyslexia may have an IQ that ranges anywhere from 70 to well above average, however a standard IQ test would be an inaccurate assessment of intelligence.[11]'

Famous People With Dyslexia

As well as the persons featured in the photo montage, other famous people who've managed great achievements, while coping with dyslexia include, in no particular order, John Lennon, Sir Winston Churchill, George Washington, John F. Kennedy, Sir Richard Branson, Agatha Christie, and another prolific inventor,  Alexander Graham Bell.

  Read More On These Subjects

@Dyslexia.com: More famous people with Dyslexia

@ThomasEdison.com: Read more about the iconic inventor

@Wikipedia: Read more about the life and achievements of Thomas Edison

@xtraordinarypeole.com: Hear an except from "Thomas Edison Lights Up Ted's Day"

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The Shining Star of Perseverance

The Shining Star of Perseverance Award is given to a person who has demonstrated exceptional perseverance in the face of disability. Ten extraordinary individuals have been recognized with the award since its establishment by Assurant Employee Benefits in 2003, and this May another inspiring individual will join their ranks. Each Shining Star honoree is given a unique award trophy created especially for them by an artist who has also experienced disability.

2008 Honoree: Corporal J.R. Martinez, U.S. Army (Retired)

Corporal J.R. Martinez, U.S. Army (Retired) joined the U.S. Army in September 2002 and was deployed to Iraq in February of 2003. In April of that year, he was serving as the driver of a Humvee when his left front tire hit a landmine and he suffered severe burns to more than forty percent of his body as well as smoke inhalation. Following immediate care in Landstuhl, Germany, he spent 34 months at the Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas, where he underwent 32 different surgeries, including skin grafts and cosmetic surgery.

After his recovery, he joined the Coalition to Salute America's Heroes as a national spokesperson in 2004. In that role, he works to promote the coalition's financial assistance and support programs to other wounded service members and inspire others through his story of resilience, perseverance and optimism.

@assurantemployeebenefits.com: Read more about the Shining Star of Perseverance and other honorees

Artist Alison Lapper vs. Disabling Attitudes

Alison Lapper's Digital canvas 'Faces'   

If you visited London, England in 2005 or in subsequent years and found yourself in the vicinity of Trafalgar Square, then you may remember being confronted by the large white marble statue of a nude woman with no arms and shortened legs who is pregnant.

If the image was indelibly etched in your mind, but you had no idea who the subject was - now you can know that it's Alison Lapper. Her disability at birth, in 1965, was the result of a medical condition called phocomelia and the first 19 years of her life were largely spent in residential institutions for persons with disabilities.

After graduating from Brighton University with a degree in art, Alison says, " I began creating a body of work which deals with the themes of beauty and disability. Can disability be beautiful? Can it evoke more than revulsion, pity or sympathy? I am showing that it can, that there is beauty in everything".


Alison documents her journey in her autobiography: 'Alison Lapper - My Life In My Hands'. You can read an excerpt from it at the Guardian.

In September of 2005, she shot to national prominence in the UK when the statue of her by Marc Quinn was unveiled atop the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square. As Alison writes, "I know a lot of the media interest was sparked by the controversy over the statue. Should there be a statue of a naked pregnant disabled woman in Trafalgar Square? Surely it wouldn’t fit in. The Square is such a traditional place. But I always thought it was exactly the right place for a statue like this. It makes a powerful statement about where we are trying to go in the 21st century – a future with truly equal opportunities for all."


"Just as important to me is the fact that the statue is transcendingly beautiful and suits its place in the Square. I have watched people gazing at it for some minutes at a time and I can see that they are moved by it. Not simply experiencing sympathy for the disability it represents but something beyond that. I think they appreciate it’s beauty as a work of art and are surprised to find themselves liking it, and realising that it works in the Square so well."

Alison Lapper with son Parys @ 2007 Life Awards

But the unveiling of the statue was not without controversy which evoked a public debate over not only the 'art' of the statue, but also whether Trafalgar Square was the appropriate venue. In what amounts to a snobbish and uncompassionate piece of commentary, Brendan O'Neill showed the same the disabled public, that he accused 'the new elite of having for the general public. As he writes:

"At the same time, Alison Lapper Pregnant is profoundly patronising to disabled people. Lapper herself has said: "The sculpture makes the ultimate statement about disability - that it can be as beautiful and valid a form of being as any other." Is that really the "ultimate statement" on disability - that it is "valid"? The most common definition of valid is something that is "useable or acceptable until a fixed expiration date or under specific conditions of use". What happened to the idea that we should see disabled people not as special cases but as equal members of society? Alison Lapper Pregnant takes us back to the days when disabled people were something to gawp at and gossip about; it is a more sophisticated version of those old Spastics Society collection boxes outside corner shops that depicted sad little girls and boys with bad legs."

Perhaps the best rebuttal came in the comment thread that followed the piece in which 'indraadnan' wrote:

"What does the statue of Alison Lapper say about us as a society?

I'm afraid that when Brendan reduces the shifts in our values to the growth of identity politics, he is, himself, being superficial.

Maybe we need to take a more honest look at our past and own up to the fact that once upon a time, not that long ago, we would have been too uncomfortable with Alison's form and circumstances to have put her in the spotlight. Discomfort arising from fear, guilt, pity.

To place her statue in Trafalgar Square is to mark a moment in our development as a society when not only can we bear to look, but we can celebrate her beauty and power - Alison is certainly powerful - for what it is. We've grown up and beyond only valuing people for how much they can accumulate or conquer. In the future this may not be anything remarkable - but for today, I think it is worth marking. It is a sign of confidence and a promise for the future that we will be able to face difference and live with it , knowing that value arises from everywhere.

I don't want to appreciate achievements ONLY, particularly in a largely material society. I'd like a better balance between 'being' and 'doing' overall, and Alison's statue helps us to achieve that."

'Nuff said.

  Read and Watch More About Alison Lapper

@AlisonLapper.com: Learn more about Alison's life and art

@Guardian.co.uk: Beauty unseen, unsung - Excerpt from Alison Lapper's autobiography

@Wikipedia: read more about Alison's life and achievements

@Google.com: Index of videos about Alison  Lapper