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Just Thoughts is the blog of the Empire Justice Center, New York’s statewide, multi-issue, multi-strategy public interest law firm focused on changing the “systems” within which poor and low income families live. Here staff and guest authors will share stories, announcements and perspectives on timely issues related to our work.    



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60 Minutes Gets it Wrong


CBS aired a 60 Minutes story on October 6, 2013, featuring Senator Tom Coburn (R - OK), who claims that the Social Security disability system is being “gamed,” and is in need of an overhaul.  The truth is that close to 12 million American workers and their families depend on the Social Security Disability programs for life-sustaining funds needed to help pay their basic living expenses.  60 Minutes has unfortunately joined recent media mis-portrayals of these essential disability programs.

In March 2013, we responded to a similar report on NPR’s This American Life60 Minutes is guilty of many of the same misrepresentations and omissions.  The piece implies that the Social Security Administration has opened the floodgates for unemployed workers who cannot – or don’t want to – find jobs.  This simply isn’t true.  The standard to receive disability benefits is very stringent.  In fact, less than 40% of adult applicants are approved for benefits.

The 60 Minutes report is also highly critical of some lawyers who represent disability claimants before SSA and may engage in unethical conduct.  We also condemn any incidents of fraud, but in our view those incidents are indeed isolated.  We support protecting the integrity of the system.  In fact, claimants need advocates to navigate the very complex regulatory and adjudicatory world of Social Security.  That is one of our key roles here at the Empire Justice Center – we help those in need navigate the complex legal and medical maze of pursuing federal disability benefits.  We know firsthand the gauntlet our clients are made to go through.  In a time when Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) approval rates are declining, our success rate is over 80% - underscoring how necessary our services are to our clients.

Read some of the critiques of the 60 Minutes piece:



Tags: SSA | Social Security | 60 Mintues | This American Life





Empire Justice Center to “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes”

Issue Area: Domestic Violence

On Saturday, October 5, 2013, Alternatives for Battered Women, Monroe County’s licensed domestic violence organization, will hold its annual “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes” event at Ontario Beach Park.  The Rochester office of Empire Justice Center is so proud to have a team walking this year.  This major event by Alternatives for Battered Women is their kickoff event for Domestic Violence Awareness Month.  The Walk raises funds to support their work with victims of domestic violence, as well as awareness of the topic. “Walk a Mile” was founded by a man, and stands as a call to action for all men to stop violence against women-and all victims.  The Walk is an international event, and for over a decade has had tens of thousands of participants and raised millions of dollars for local rape crisis centers, domestic violence shelters, as well as education and prevention programs.  To learn more about the local event, click here.  For more information on the history and mission of the Walk, click here.

 

Throughout the year, Empire Justice Center works hard to address domestic violence issues from a variety of angles.  From providing training and support to domestic violence organizations, legal advocates, and others to advocating for change to both legislation and public policy, we strive toward the goal of making the lives of victims of domestic violence, and all New Yorkers, better.  At the Walk, we’ll do this good work in stilettos—or sneakers!

 

Domestic violence is a pattern of behavior that is intentionally used by the abusive person to gain or maintain power and control over their intimate partner.  Coercive tactics can include physical, sexual, psychological, emotional, and economic abuse or threats.  Abusive conduct injures, humiliates, frightens, isolates, threatens, intimidates or manipulates its intended target. Where there are children in a home infected by domestic violence, they may also suffer consequences as witnesses or direct victims of abuse.  Domestic violence can happen in new, dating relationships, as well occur over time in more long-term partnerships without regard to gender, sexual orientation, age, race, faith community, and socio-economic status.  To learn more about domestic violence, visit the New York State Coalition Against Domestic Violence website.      

 

To learn how to create a local Walk a Mile team of your own, click here.  Please join Empire Justice Center in our support of this most worthy of causes--whether you do it with your feet or your pocketbook!  We also encourage everyone to participate in or host a domestic violence awareness event in their community in the month of October.  Together we can stop abuse.  



Tags: Empire Justice | Domestic Violence | Alternatives for Battered Women