Thursday, June 27, 2013

I think she's right, but ...

Rep. Duckworth is getting a lot of praise and some criticism for calling out a man who apparently exaggerated a possibly minor injury that was by no normal mode of thinking service-related in order to gain advantages in federal contracting. I qualify these statements because I'm very uncomfortable with one aspect of Rep. Duckworth's condemnation.

To be clear … I think she's probably got it right about this particular guy. My instinct, too, is that he cynically used a fairly minor injury in order to exploit a loosely-structured program for his business' benefit.

However, I think it is damaging in completely different ways when one group of people with disabilities goes after another, comparing the relative severity and pain of disabilities, and especially when they go after people who "look fine", as if they must be cheating. I think it is almost more important to teach people not to judge disabilities on outward appearance or superficial evidence, than it is to catch real cheaters. The bottom line is that watching this video clip, I can't tell whether or not Mr. Castillo is in pain, or how much pain. His claim that he can't play with his kids is almost certainly ridiculous ... and yet, how do I know?

What makes the difference in Rep. Duckworth's favor here … just barely … is her ultimate point. When a handful of people really do cheat, it damages the credibility and viability of entire programs.

Still, I cringe whenever I see self-appointed disability police deciding who is and who isn't sufficiently disabled. That is a dangerous road.

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