". . . "There's more myth than fact about disability programs," Vallas said. Anecdotal news reports of children faking disabilities to fool examination doctors are laughable, she added.
It isn't clear why Maziah was turned down three separate times by SSI, since officials both in Harrisburg and Social Security headquarters in Baltimore will not comment on her case.
She is suffering from nerve damage that occurred when she was stuck in her mother's birth canal and was pulled out forcibly, said Mills, who, in a separate case, is suing the hospital where Maziah was born for the injury.
Stein quoted a Social Security Administration judge as conceding that Maziah "has no strength and very limited motion" in her left arm, and is "unable to participate in bilateral playful activity due to non-functional left hand." Further, the judge is quoted as saying, Maziah "has balance issues that affect her ability to move about independent of support." But the same judge found that her condition was not severe enough to warrant payment of benefits.
Stein said he can't understand why those impairments don't qualify the child for benefits. He added that he wants the case to "reveal the failings in the system of saying paralysis of the arm is serious, but not very serious."
Maziah can't climb stairs alone, change her clothes, put on shoes, or be potty-trained because of the damage, her mother said. She's beginning to throw tantrums out of frustration, Mills added.
Research shows that families caring for children with disabilities are more than twice as likely as other families to face homelessness, lack of food, and utility shutoffs.
"We don't have many clothes for her," Mills said, standing in the family's bedroom where parents and child sleep. "She has no sneakers, I won't be able to give her Christmas presents, and I'm $1,300 behind on the rent. I can't take her to her therapy when I want because I'm working every day and every weekend.
"I just don't know what we'll do."