Letters: Series On Disability, Safety Practices At Grain Silos

Audie Cornish and Robert Siegel read emails form listeners about a series of the federal disability program and an investigation into safety practices at grain silos.

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Time, now, for your emails. And many of you have written in, in response to our weeklong series on the federal disability programs. Your letters run the gamut from praise to full-throated anger. Among the critical letters, one pattern emerged - from listeners who are on disability, or have a loved one who is.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Judy Levine of Lansdowne, Pa., writes that she is 58 and highly educated, but was compelled to apply for disability because of arthritis and, in her words, decreasing employment options. Levine goes on to say: After being accepted into the program, my feeling of relief from fear and stress has been enormous. I experience a sense of disapproval from your series, as if those of us receiving disability payments have been getting away with something. I want to remind you that Social Security disability beneficiaries have been paying into the system throughout our working lives.

CORNISH: Hearing our story yesterday about disability lawyers, Michelle Palmer of Rogers, Ark., thought we presented them as sharks. She writes that disability applications are routinely denied without any explanation to the applicant. My brother, whose physical and mental disabilities make it impossible for him to work - are the same disabilities that made it impossible for him to navigate the complicated and convoluted process of challenging his original denial. Without the expertise of a lawyer who specializes in Social Security law, my brother would most likely be homeless and unable to support himself.

SIEGEL: As we said, this series has also gotten plenty of praise. Sharon Sheffield lives in Tupelo, Miss. In response to our story on Monday on Hale County, Ala., where one in four working-age adults receives a disability check, she wrote this: This story depicts a true picture of what happens in the South. For decades, people here, if they got to finish high school, usually went directly to work. Most of the time, it was a sewing or furniture factory with back-breaking work. It makes you old very quickly. So much of that type of work is gone now. All has been sent overseas. Middle-aged people who are riddled with arthritis and health problems don't have many options left.

CORNISH: We also received many letters applauding yesterday's story about the tragic death of two teenagers in a grain silo in Mount Carroll, Ill. Christina Rodriguez of Carterville, Ill., writes: As an Illinoisan, I've heard from time to time the news that someone has died in this horrible way. But Will Piper's firsthand account was heart-wrenching and made the impersonal, personal.

SIEGEL: The story also resonated with Lew Ludwig of Granville, Ohio. He writes this: Your coverage of the deaths caused by walking down the corn struck me deeply. Growing up on a small family farm in Indiana, I knew exactly what you meant by the term, and the horror that would follow. I was shocked to hear that this technique is still in practice and heartbroken to hear young Will's tragic story of losing his friends.

CORNISH: Thanks to all who wrote in. Please keep your letters coming. Just go to npr.org and click on Contact Us.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SIEGEL: You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News.

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