I write to respond to the April 23 column by Cynthia Dill on disability claimants and the disability program. I am a lawyer who has represented disability claimants for 25 years.

Ms. Dill suggests that people “sign up” for disability when they choose not to work or cannot find work, and that the disability program then prevents them from attempting to work. She also suggests that disability and substance use go hand in hand.

She refers to “white men not working, collecting benefits while high on drugs and low on life.”

I find much to admire in disability claimants. Most would far prefer to work, many have excellent work histories and many have repeatedly tried to work in the face of debilitating conditions.

Like any population, some have substance issues, but the large majority do not. Indeed, substance issues make claims much more difficult. Most apply for the benefits because they need the benefits.

Ms. Dill is incorrect in saying “once disabled, work is no longer an option.” The disability program includes work incentives, and people do return to work and discontinue benefits.

Also, you cannot just “sign up” for benefits. Applying for benefits is an arduous process, often involving a hearing with an administrative law judge and often taking over a year. Fewer than half of claims are approved.

We all agree that, all things equal, people are better off working. But all things are not equal, and some people cannot. No question, there should be greater resources – access to medical insurance, work incentives, job training, accommodations – to make it easier for people with limitations to work. But we should work together toward these goals rather than pointing fingers at a vulnerable population and a program that is a critical part of the safety net.

Dan Emery

North Yarmouth