The View from Here


By: Justine Chichester

There are so many great quotes about friendship. One of my favorites came from the champ himself, Muhammad Ali.  He once said, “Friendship is not something you learn in school. But if you haven’t learned the meaning of friendship, you really haven’t learned anything.”

When I first came home from the hospital, I was not prepared for how different my life would be. Before my fall, before all of the tests and subsequent surgeries, before the couple of years in and out of the hospital and then in and out of rehab, I led a very active life. I had a background in theater and dance. I sat on the Board of Directors of a charity organization and managed to work full-time. But after one slip, one night in front of my house, all of that completely changed. I spent the next couple of years immersed in my medical issues. That became my life.

While I was in the hospital, I wanted nothing more than to be home. Once I was home, I felt derailed. Sidelined from life. The transition from the hospital back home was not easy for me. I felt homebound and unsure how to get back to my life as I once knew it. Everyday tasks that used to be so easy for me, were now so difficult. Wheeling around my house, where I used to walk, took a lot of getting used to. I wasn’t comfortable in this new life and as a result, I began to isolate myself from the outside world. Friends and family would call or email and I started not returning their phone calls or their emails. I watched the world go by as I slowly isolated myself from it.

I have been so lucky to have a loving family and a few close friends with me throughout this experience. To say that my best friend is persistent would be an understatement. She pushed through. When she called and I didn’t answer, she would send text messages. When I wouldn’t answer her text, she came to the door.  And she knocked on the door until I answered. She continued to try. She didn’t give up. While I felt like the world was going on without me, she helped me remember that I was not alone and I could rely on my friends to help me through this transition. As a result of her persistence, I answered the door. I let her in, and by doing so, I realized that I could rely on those close to me to help me adjust to my new normal. I started answering the phone and those emails. With the support of my friends and my family, I slowly began to participate in my life once again. I started getting out, and I was excited about meeting up with my friends and not feeling like I had to be so alone.

I’ve learned so much since that day two years ago. One of the most valuable lessons, though, has been the power of friendship. It is so important to reach out, even when someone may seem distant. Don’t give up on those you love, no matter how busy life can be. We don’t always know exactly what battles our friends and loved ones may be facing. Sometimes just letting them know you are there, and that they are needed, can make all the difference.


4-F – Disabled and Unfit for Military Service


Can you be drafted in the military if you have a disability?

What constitutes a disability that would make you ineligible to be drafted?

By Matthew W. Dietz

As a father of a 19-year-old in a volatile time where a tweetstorm of thoughtless insults can turn into a firestorm of bombs, I worry about the future of my son and all young men of his generation. Currently, the United States Armed Forces is an all-volunteer military force, and there has not been a draft since 1973. However, reactivating the draft is a possibility in the event of a need to supplement the military — all men between 18 and 25 are potentially subject to miliarmy-pic2tary conscription or “the draft.”  In the event that Congress and the President authorize a mobilization to increase the number of active troops, a lottery would be held based on birthdays which determines the order of men to be drafted.  Those with low lottery numbers receive examination orders and are ordered to report for a physical mental and moral evaluation at a Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS) to determine whether they are fit for military service.  Once the person is notified of the results, a registrant will be given ten days to file a claim for exemption.

Disability is a reason for an exemption. The United States military requires that all enlisted and commissioned personnel be ready for “active duty.” This means one must at all times be physically, emotionally, and psychologically ready to serve – to the military’s standards of fitness.  The military has standards for fitness to be inducted into the military, and the purposes of the standards are to ensure that inductees are:

(1) Free of contagious diseases that probably will endanger the health of other personnel.

(2) Free of medical conditions or physical defects that may require excessive time lost from duty for necessary treatment or hospitalization, or probably will result in separation from the Service for medical unfitness.

(3) Medically capable of satisfactorily completing required training.

(4) Medically adaptable to the military environment without the necessity of geographical area limitations.

(5) Medically capable of performing duties without aggravation of existing physical defects or medical conditions.

What Types of Disabilities are Disqualifying?

The goal of the military preparedness is to develop a fighting force without the need of special accommodation for disability. In as much as a person would need an accommodation, including, but not limited to, specialized equipment, medication, or additional services, may potentially lead to a danger to the unit.  As such, the military lists the conditions and impairments that are disqualifying.

Physical Disabilities – There is a listing of a plethora of physical disabilities that are potentially army-pic1disqualifying for a person that is conscripted.  This includes issues regarding functioning of bodily systems and physical deformities.

  • Blindness or low vision that does not correct with glasses
  • Deafness of hard of hearing, even with the use of a hearing aid
  • History of Bariatric Surgery
  • Anything that interferes with the proper wearing of a military uniform or equipment
    • Limitation of motion
    • HIV or AIDS
    • Anaphylaxis due to stinging insects or systemic allergic reactions to food
    • Diabetes
    • Rheumatologic conditions
    • Migraine headaches or trauma as a result of head injuries
    • Chronic insomnia

Learning, Psychiatric, and Behavioral Disabilities –

The military is currently very selective with regards to allowing persons with learning or other mental disabilities to be inducted into the military. Part of becoming an effective soldier is to learn to suppress one’s individual needs for the needs of the unit.  Thus neurodiversity is not valued as much as conformance to the operation as a unit that can follow orders.   As such, many cognitive, learning, or developmental conditions would be disqualifying:

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) – A person may be disqualified from military duty if

  • The applicant has not required an Individualized Education Program army-pic6or work accommodations since the age of 14.
  • There is no history of comorbid mental disorders.
  • The applicant has never taken more than a single daily dosage of medication or has not been prescribed medication for this condition for more than 24 cumulative months after the age of 14, and prior to enlistment.
  • During periods off of medication after the age of 14, the applicant has been able to maintain at least a 2.0 grade point average without accommodations.
  • Documentation from the applicant’s prescribing provider that continued medication is not required for acceptable occupational or work performance.
  • Applicant is required to enter service and pass Service-specific training periods with no prescribed medication for 14 months.

In 2011, according to the Centers for Disease Control, approximately 11% of children 4-17 years of age (6.4 million) have been diagnosed with ADHD. Apparently, dependence on stimulants for ADHD is disqualifying.  These medications include Strattera, Adderall, Ritalin, Vyvanse and many other medications.  Currently, one in three children with ADHD take medications for this disability.

History of learning disorders, including but not limited to dyslexia – a person will be disqualified UNLESS applicants demonstrated passing academic and employment performance without utilization of academic and or work accommodations at any time since age 14.

Autism – Pervasive developmental disorders) including Asperger Syndrome, autistic spectrum disorders, and pervasive developmental disorder-not otherwise specified.

Psychosis – Current or history of disorders with psychotic features such as schizophrenic disorders, delusional disorders, bipolar disorders or other and unspecified psychoses.

army-pic9Depression – History of depressive disorders, including but not limited to major depression, dysthymic disorder, and cyclothymic disorder requiring outpatient care for longer than 12 months by a physician or other mental health professional, or any inpatient treatment in a hospital or residential facility.

Mood Disorders – Depressive disorder not otherwise specified, or unspecified mood disorder

  • Outpatient care was required for longer than 24 months (cumulative) by a physician or other mental health professional.
  • The applicant has not been stable without treatment for the past 36 continuous months.
  • The applicant required any inpatient treatment in a hospital or residential facility.

Adjustment disorders – History of a single adjustment disorder within the previous 3 months, or recurrent episodes of adjustment disorders.

Behavior Disorders – Current or history of disturbance of conduct, impulse control, oppositional defiant, other behavior disorders, or personality disorder.

  • History (demonstrated by repeated inability to maintain reasonable adjustment in school, with employers or fellow workers, or other social groups), interview, or psychological testing revealing that the degree of immaturity, instability, of personality inadequacy, impulsiveness, or dependency shall likely interfere with adjustment in the Military Services.
  • Recurrent encounters with law enforcement agencies (excluding minor traffic violations) or antisocial behaviors are tangible evidence of impaired capacity to adapt to military service.

Encopresis (fecal incontinence) after 13th birthday.

Eating Disorders – History of anorexia nervosa or bulimia, and other unspecified disorders of eating occurring after the 13th birthday.

Stuttering – Any current receptive or expressive language disorder, including but not limited to any speech impediment or stammering and stuttering of such a degree as to significantly interfere with production of speech or the ability to repeat commands.

Suicidal behaviors – History of suicidal behavior, including gesture(s) or attempt(s) or history of self-mutilation or injury used as a way of dealing with life and emotions.

PTSD or OCD – History of obsessive-compulsive disorder or post-traumatic stress disorder

Anxiety – History of anxiety disorders, panic disorder, agoraphobia, social phobia or other acute reactions to stress UNLESS:

  • The applicant did not require any treatment in an inpatient or residential facility.
  • Outpatient care was not required for longer than 12 months (cumulative) by a physician or other mental health professional.
  • The applicant has not required treatment (including medication) for the past 24 continuous months.
  • The applicant has been stable without loss of time from normal pursuits for repeated periods even if of brief duration; and without symptoms or behavior of a repeated nature that impaired social, school, or work efficiency for the past 24 continuous months.

Current or history of dissociative, conversion, or factitious disorders, depersonalization (300.6), hypochondriasis, somatoform disorders, or pain disorder related to psychological factorsarmy-pic10

Current or history of psychosexual conditions, including but not limited to transsexualism, exhibitionism, transvestism, voyeurism,and other paraphilias. Whenever I think of this factor, I cannot help but remember Maxwell Q. Kinger from M.A.S.H.

 Medical Marijuana is Disqualifying!

Current use of Marijuana, or any of alcohol dependence, drug dependence, alcohol abuse, or other drug abuse is disqualifying.  A history of such use may be disqualifying as well.

Documentation Required to Establish Disability

As part of my practice, when a person requires an accommodation, I am a stickler for developing a history of disability and receipt of accommodations, and then when subsequent accommodations are needed, the proof will be at hand.  In the same way, this information is essential in establishing ineligibility for the draft.  It is good practice to obtain all copies of Individual Education Plans, reports of disability by doctors, and prior requests for accommodations, and provisions of accommodation, as well as a medication log.  All of this information should be kept in a binder as well as electronically.

But, what happens if you want to serve your country?

Rest assured, you can play a role to serve your country. If you believe that you are still able to serve, you can always seek a waiver of disability.   But even with a disability, you can work in a civilian role in the military.  A federal mandate states that all U.S. Military bases must have 10% of their civilian workforce composed of individuals with disabilities. The U.S. Navy boasts that they have been ranked number five in the nation among all employers—private sector corporations included—who employ individuals with disabilities.


Department of Defense – Medical Standards for Appointment, Enlistment, or Induction in the Military Services – Policy No. 6130.03  –

Army Regulation 40–501, Medical Services – Standards of Medical Fitness –

DIG Builds Partnerships


In 2016 DIG Builds Partnerships at the INTERSECTION of Domestic Violence and DisabilityTwo roads crossing

In 2016, one of DIG’s greatest accomplishments was becoming part of the solution for the serious problem of access to domestic violence and sexual assault services for persons with disabilities.  We did this by spending the year building partnerships with three organizations that are the pillars in our community for serving victims of abuse. They are MUJER ( Mujeres Unidas en Justicia,Educacion,y Reforma, inc.) CVAC ( Coordinated Victim assistance Center of Miami Dade County), and Dade Legal Aid.


With a grant from the Office of Violence Against Women, US Dept. Of Justice (only 6 awarded in the country) we spent this year creating a Charter that will direct our work together for the next two years.

One organization can never offer all the services victims/survivors with disabilities need when experiencing violence and abuse. With funding so scarce, it is almost impossible for one organization to serve everyone and offer all services. That is why the only solution is creative and meaningful collaborations. The Miami Inclusion Alliance (MIA)’ that we formed this year,  is such a collaboration. The four of us have come together to forge a partnership that will lead to a safer, more accessible system of care for victims who are persons with disabilities.  This partnership will allow each of us to expand our understanding of victims/survivors’ needs and combine our resources to create a system of services that is more complete and integrated.

What Can Be Achieved when you build the right Collaboration?  NEW and CREATIVE SOLUTIONS

To do that you must:

  1. Involve the right organizations and people.
  2. Learn about each organization.
  3. Create a shared mission and vision, and shared values.
  4. Develop clear expectations regarding roles and responsibilities.
  5. Determine how best to work together.
  6. Keep safety and access at the forefront.
  7. Dedicate sufficient time and resources to the collaboration. *


That is what we have done in 2016 and we look forward to even more important work in 2017.


Medical Marijuana – Effects on Your Home and Job


By: Matthew Dietz


On November 8th, over 71% of Florida voters approved Amendment 2, which explicitly allowed medical marijuana to be provided as a treatment for patients with the following disabilities: “cancer, epilepsy, glaucoma, positive status for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Crohn’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, or other debilitating medical conditions of the same kind or class as or comparable to those enumerated, and for which a physician believes that the medical use of marijuana would likely outweigh the potential health risks for a patient.”

Florida joins the 27 other states and the District of Columbia to approve medical marijuana for the treatment of conditions or recreational use. The legal questions that it raises are important.  When can it be used?  Can you lose your job if you use marijuana, or can you lose your housing if you use medical marijuana?

Primarily, a person with a disability could not rely on the Americans with Disabilities Act for protection for a right to use medical marijuana.  Marijuana is treated like every other controlled substance, such as cocaine and heroin and continues to be illegal under federal law. The federal government regulates drugs through the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) and cannabis is classified as a Schedule 1 drug, which means that the federal government views marijuana as highly addictive and having no medical value.  Accordingly, under the ADA, marijuana is considered to be an illegal drug, and users of it are explicitly exempted. ( See .) In addition, there is no protection under the Federal Fair Housing Act for the use of controlled substances as defined under the CSA.  ( See .)

However, the Florida Fair Housing Act and the Florida Civil Rights Act contain no such limitations based upon the federal definitions of Controlled Substances.  Instead, the regulations under these laws rely on the definitions of controlled substances under Chapter 893, Florida Statutes.

 Can you be fired from your job?

While there is a right that allows the use of medical marijuana for certain disabilities, whether employers can refuse to hire or fire a person who uses medical marijuana is not that clear.  Similar to many other states, Florida has promoted drug free workplaces, and if an employer implements a drug-free workplace and complies with the drug-free workplace requirements, an employer may require testing for drugs and alcohol, including marijuana.  See § 440.101, Fla. Stat. et seq.  To the extent that an employer does not comply with the requirements of Florida law for a drug free workplace, it cannot rely on the exemption to test, fire or hire employees.  However, all workplaces for state employees are deemed to be drug-free workplaces.( § 112.0455, Florida Statutes.)

To the extent that an employer is not a “drug free” workplace as defined by Section 440 or 112, then medical marijuana would be treated as any other prescribed medication that may impair a person’s ability to do a job. The employer must consider each individual’s circumstances to determine whether a reasonable accommodation of the underlying disability is possible and the person can still do the job with the accommodation.  In other words, if a person can do the essential requirements of the job while on medical marijuana, then the accommodation may be appropriate.

There are two exceptions.  The first is whether the use of marijuana creates an undue hardship to the operation of a business, which means an action requiring significant difficulty or expense.  The other issue is whether the use marijuana causes a real, and not stereotypical, direct threat to the safety of the employee with a disability and other employees, then the employer may be permitted to not hire an applicant or terminate an existing employee for the use of medical marijuana.

 Can you be evicted from your home?

Similar to other entities that are obligated to follow federal law, federally subsidized housing is established by the United States Housing Act of 1937, and is administered by United States Department of Housing and Urban Development. The Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988, required HUD to enact guidelines that landlords must maintain a drug-free housing policy on the premises of public housing, and defines “drug-related criminal activity” as illegal use or possession with intent to use a controlled substance as defined in the CSA.

However, there are no similar restrictions for housing that is not public or HUD subsidized housing that must follow HUD guidelines.  As such, the use of marijuana would be treated like any other medication or legal smoking device.  If a person lives in a facility that bans smoking, the resident would need to ask for a reasonable accommodation under the Fair Housing Act to smoke.  However, because of the effects on other residents, some housing providers may deem the accommodation not to be reasonable, or to cause a fundamental alteration to the housing services offered.  In order to respond to issues regarding reasonableness or fundamental alteration, I would suggest an ionizer or other devices to ensure that the smoke smell does not leave the confines of the home.

 Emerging treatment options

Choosing how a person with a disability enhances their lives or ameliorates the effects of a disability is an element of the right of self-determination. To have persons without disabilities remove this choice is invidious discrimination.

What is Substantial gainful Activity or SGA according to The Social Security Administration?


By: Lesly Lopez 


To be eligible for disability benefits, a person must be unable to engage in substantial gainful activity (SGA). A person who is earning more than a certain monthly amount (net of impairment related work expenses) is ordinarily considered to be engaging in SGA. The amount of monthly earnings considered as SGA depends on the nature of a person’s disability. The Social Security Act specifies a higher SGA amount for statutorily blind individuals; Federal regulations specify a lower SGA amount for non-blind individuals. Both SGA amounts generally change with changes in the national average wage index.

Substantial Gainful amounts for 2017 are:

For statutorily blind individuals for 2017 is $1,950.

For non-blind individuals, the monthly SGA amount for 2017 is $1,170.

What is Substantial Gainful Activity anyway?

Social Security Definition of Disability: To meet our definition of disability, you must not be able to engage in any substantial gainful activity (SGA) because of a medically-determinable physical or mental impairment(s):

That is expected to result in death, or that has lasted or is expected to last for a continuous period of at least 12 months.

We use the term “substantial gainful activity” to describe a level of work activity and earnings. Work is “substantial” if it involves doing significant physical or mental activities or a combination of both. For work activity to be substantial, it does not need to be performed on a full-time basis. Work activity performed on a part-time basis may also be SGA. “Gainful” work activity is:

Work performed for pay or profit; or Work of a nature generally performed for pay or profit; or Work intended for profit, whether or not a profit is realized.

We use SGA as one of the factors to decide if you are eligible for disability benefits. If you receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits, we use SGA to decide if your eligibility for benefits continues after you return to work and complete your Trial Work Period


-Substantial Gainful Activity (Social Security Administration)

-Social Security Administration. 2017 Red Book: How we define disability? 2017 edition.


Highlights of the Year (2016)


By:Lisa Goodman


Food….how could that relate to this month’s topic, “highlights of the year” Here’s how- At DIG we celebrate the highlights with food!


All jokes aside the highlights of this year has been in the cases we were successful in and the positive changes that were made as a result. Unfortunately, confidentiality prevents me from disclosing the specifics so I resorted to talking about food! (Haha)


We’ve converted the Friday pizza parties from the days of school to celebratory morning bagels after a case settles. Who am I kidding? We still celebrate with pizza parties. Sometimes pizza is also a must after a very difficult week.


2016 Highlights:


January- Our first Lunch and Learn. Debbie Dietz and Sharon Langer presented information about domestic violence to our office to educate us on the subject matter they were working on for one their grants. Since it’s almost a fact that people listen better when there’s pizza involved, pizza was served!


February- Welcome Lunch for the Spring Interns. We took the spring interns to lunch to get to know them a little out of the office. The best way to open up is over food!


March- Much needed  stress relief pizza.


April- H.O.P.E.  Luncheon at Jungle Island.


May-FAWL’s Third Annual Leadership Summit. While this event did not technically revolve around food, lunch was served. The highlight was being there to hear Sharon Langer speak. This counts!


June- “Welcome Lunch for our summer interns at Flannigan’s.


July- 3rd Lunch & Learn.


August- “Thank you lunch” with our interns at Sergio’s.


September – The WalletCard Fund Raiser at Shake Shack


October- Cupcakes from Veritext


November- Breakfast bagels


December – Stress relief Pizza / Holiday Lunch


As you can see, there’s been many highlights throughout this year. I hope 2017 brings many highlights for us and for each of you!




What makes me happy?


By: Lisa Goodman


This month’s topic for the blog is “what makes me happy” and nothing makes me more happy than writing this article while doing what makes me happy- being on vacation.

imagesI’m sure being on vacation makes most of you reading this article happy. How could it not?? It’s so nice being able to take a break from reality and everyday life.

This well-deserved break took months to actually happen since I live in an area prone to hurricanes. I had to cancel vacation plans before but waiting only makes me appreciate it more. I love what I do but who doesn’t love taking a break from it all.


Since I’m on vacation this article is going to be shorter than usual. Back in the ocean!

Hope you all do something nice for yourselves. You deserve it!!!