Wait and See

Based on his statements and actions, a Trump presidency with a Republican-controlled Congress may seem to be the worst election outcome possible for disabled Americans.  In a poll cited by CNN, for example, people agree that mocking a reporter with the joint condition arthrogryposi was the most egregious error that Trump made during his campaign.

However, those worries may not entirely be warranted.  Trump is a businessman and a television personality.  He says what will get him a deal, acts in a way to give him an audience and, in the case of the election, promises what will get him votes.  For example, one of the hallmarks of Trump’s campaign was his promise to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.  Since winning the election, though, “Trump [has] said he would [at least] like to keep the portions of the law requiring coverage of pre-existing conditions and children living at home under the age of 26.”  From what I can determine, Trump simply wants his name tied to a major legislation.  (He wants to keep some of the principles of Obamacare, but replace the wording with some synonyms, so that people will call it Trumpcare?)

As for the Republican-controlled Congress, it is good to remember that most people, including Senators and Representatives, are related to or have some association with a disabled person.  During the Obama Administration, almost half of the brain injury-related legislation that became law were sponsored by Republicans, specifically 8 of 20.  As I noted in the past, Republicans do care.  While Hillary Clinton may have won the popular vote, it is best not to presume that a Trump presidency will negatively impact those with a brain injury or all of those with a disability.

Tomorrow is Election Day…

In August, I posted an article entitled “The Deciding Vote”, which discussed how gaining the vote of the disabled could effect the results of the tight 2016 Presidential race.  What I did not consider, though, is that some of those with mental disabilities have lost their legal right to vote.  “[It is] believed [that]… more than 30,000 Californians — and an unknown number of others in the U.S. — [have] lost their voting rights under state guardianship laws.”  (“A guardian is a person, institution, or agency appointed by a court to manage the affairs of another individual.”)  Given that the current polls show that this election is within the margin of error, these tens of thousands of votes per state could be of great import.

What constitutes a mental disability varies in each state.  For example, ALA [Alabama] CODE § 38-9C-4(7) states, “Persons with developmental disabilities and traumatic brain injury have the right to vote and participate in the political process, subject to applicable laws.”  About 30 other states, however, restrict the voting rights of those with traumatic brain injury and other neurological disabilities, such as autism and cerebral palsy.  For example, in California, “Five years ago, a judge ruled that a traumatic brain injury disqualified [a man, David Rector, from voting].”  (This year, after a trial in the San Diego Superior Court, David Rector regained his legal right to vote.)

To all those who have a disability that may be restrictive to others with the same disability, but who are legally allowed to vote themselves, I believe it is imperative to do so.  Show that your vote matters!

Click to view a full list of states that have laws related to voting for the neurologically disabled and a description of these laws.

“Concussion. Oh, oh!” says Trump

Beyond commenting on the “softening” of the NFL, Donald Trump, the Republican candidate for President has essentially ignored those with brain injury during his campaign.  Last week in Florida, though, Donald Trump spoke of brain injury at a rally in Florida when, “a woman who had fainted [during a Trump rally]… returned to the crowd.”  Commenting on her return, Trump said, “That woman was out cold, and now she’s coming back.”  While there is nothing wrong with that statement, he then returned to a topic he spoke of earlier in his campaign: namely, he spoke of the “softening” of the NFL, with its new post-concussion regulations.

Through continual blows to the head, NFL players are prone to CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy).  Harry Carson, a former Hall of Fame linebacker for the New York Giants who developed CTE, said in response to Trump’s views, “Once the brain is injured, you [can] never recover… So to make light of it, there’s a certain amount of ignorance that’s there.”  Carson also noted that many children look up to and try to imitate the actions of NFL players, which may lead to concussions and other brain injuries in them.

Political commentators always note when a candidate changes his or her views on a topic.  Trump, however, has stayed consistently pro-neurological disorder on this subject.  This opinion, though, expresses a disregard for Americans, merely for his entertainment.

The Deciding Vote?

I have only posted twice in this month for a simple reason – politicians, including political candidates, largely ignore the disabled vote while speaking and/or campaigning.  A blog entry on the Huffington Post site explains it well, and though this article is from last year, the statements stay true and relevant.  The number of disabled Americans is unfortunately large and continues to increase. Clinton’s lead in the polls is small.  True, “[in the 2012 President election}, the voter turnout rate of people with disabilities was 5.7 percentage points lower than that of people without disabilities.”  However, that means that 15.6% of disabled Americans did vote.  This year, the number of disabled voters will likely vastly increase, just as it will for the generally population.  Ultimately, the disabled vote could make the difference in who becomes the next Commander-in-Chief of the United States.

Tax Returns Could Trump Trump’s Philanthropy Claims

Donald Trump often speaks of all the donations he makes to various charities.  In January, Trump held a fundraiser for at least 40 veterans-focused nonprofits, which raised $4.5, $5.5, $5.6 or $6 million, depended on which member of his staff you ask and when you ask them.  Some of this money was donated by Trump himself, with the majority of the money coming from fundraiser attendees.  The Bob Woodruff Foundation received a check for $75,000, which Woodruff said, “We can put it to very good use to help our vets and their families.” Also, in May, “[Trump] gave $1 million to a nonprofit group helping veterans’ families.”

Recently, The Wall Street Journal looked into the history of donations from the self-proclaimed philanthropist to all charities throughout the years.  The title of the article that followed this investigation is “Trump promised millions to charity.  We found less than $10,000 over 7 years.”  (I think the title of this story explains the findings of the Journal, although it can neither be proven nor repudiated without Trump’s tax returns.)

Conventions Are Staged, Too


DaPresident Dana White delivers a speech on the second day of the Republican National Convention on July 19, 2016 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump received the number of votes needed to secure the party's nomination. An estimated 50,000 people are expected in Cleveland, including hundreds of protesters and members of the media. The four-day Republican National Convention kicked off on July 18.na White, the president of the Ultimate Fighting Championship, is not an athlete, but he works in athletics.  He is not involved in politics, but yesterday he spoke at the Republican National Convention.  And Dana White doesn’t have a brain injury, but he makes sure other people do… And it’s with the help of Donald Trump that he can do this all.

In a 4 minute speech, White used the knowledge he acquired from acting as a Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) promoter, to promote Trump for President.  He describes Trump as his friend, noting that, “Just for the record [he] has nothing to do with my business.”  (To counter that statement, know that the first 2 UFC fights were fought at the Trump Taj Majal, and Trump continues to host UFC events at his Atlantic City casino.)  He then goes into Trump’s three characteristics that will make him a great President.*

When UFC fighting first came out, in 1993, it was considered a blood-sport.  The description of the sport is not simply rhetoric, as, after time in the ring, fighters drip with blood.  Last year, Wanderlei Silva, a former fighter, claimed that the UFC fixes its games.  (World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc. admits to fixing their games.)  However, if we accept the games as being fixed, that doesn’t make them any safer.  For example, the comparatively tamer World Wrestling Entertainment is being sued by more than 50 former fighters for the brain trauma they suffered in the sport.  Since the sport is essentially “fake”, being scripted and choreographed, the WWE is “directly responsible for wrestlers’ injuries”, according to the lawsuit.

According to a study in the American Journal of Sports Medicine, about one-third of professional MMA matches end in knockout, indicating a higher incidence of brain trauma than boxing or other martial arts.  “The researchers [of this study] at the University of Toronto proposed introducing rules like in boxing where a fighter gets a 10-second count and evaluated after a knockdown. They also proposed more training to help referees to identify fighters who are defenseless or have lost consciousness so they can stop fights more quickly.”  This year, the UFC extended its partnership with the Cleveland Clinic in the “Professional Fighters Brain Health Study”.

Yes, the UFC is trying to better its sport, to prevent head injury thereby allowing athletes to stay in the sport longer.  Technically, Trump is supporting this investigation.  However, do you think that the man who likes to see head collisions in football wants to make the UFC safer?  Will the sport continue to be as popular if its rings are not filled with blood after a fight, thereby decreasing his game sales?  Assuming the UFC is here to stay, Trump needs to think about his point of view.  It’s one thing to except that a sport is going to happen, it’s a whole other thing to give it a place to happen.

(Currently, in combat sports, there is a call from some for fighters to toss away their gloves and fight bare-handed.  That call sounds awful and horribly unsafe, and would increase hand injuries.  For the head, bare-handed fighting is actually safer (safer, not safe).)

*First, White says that Trump has excellent business instincts, presumably talking about his instincts with the UFC – even though, as White said, “[Trump] has nothing to do with it.”  Second, Trump is a hard worker.  Third, Trump is a loyal, supportive friend.  Being a good friend is a great feature, but I’m not sure how it applies to the presidency, though there was talk about Trump buddying up with Putin.

Trump & Sanders Ignore Woodruff’s Vets/TBI Letter – Clinton Responds

In 2006, Bob Woodruff was a star in the field of news reporting.  He had just earned the position of anchor of ABC’s renowned news show World News Tonight.  Being a diligent journalist, in January 2006, he traveled to Iraq to report on the ongoing war.  Then the unforeseeable happened: He and cameraman Doug Vogt stepped on a roadside bomb that then exploded.  The two men were immediately taken to the U.S. Air Force hospital south of Balad where Woodruff had head surgery to remove the most severely damaged parts of his skull.  Following his time in Iraq, Woodruff was transferred briefly to Germany, then to America.  In a hospital in Maryland, Woodruff was put in a medically induced coma for 36 days and finally, in March 2006, was transferred to a hospital in his hometown of Westchester, New York.

After this incident, Woodruff took a break from news reporting to recover and then in 2007 returned.  However, like many of those with TBI, he went back to his “old life” too quickly.  He was not successful in news reporting, forgetting words and similar things that happen to those who suffer a brain injury.  (Personally, I don’t think Woodruff was wrong for trying to go back on air when he first did.  He remembered what he loved to do and pursued it.  If he hadn’t done this, it would have haunted him forever and, more importantly, he wouldn’t have known what he had to improve before he could return to the air again.)  However, in time, he was able to return to work as a journalist and, “since then, he has reported from around the globe on a variety of subjects for the [ABC] network.”

It’s good to remember that, with every brain injury, there is something positive that comes out, whether it be one thing or many, whether it be in business, family, etc.  For Woodruff and his wife, Lee, their personal experience with brain injury allowed then to understand some of the struggles that veterans with TBI, PTSD and other neurological injuries face, leading them to found a nonprofit focused on veterans and brain injury, the Bob Woodruff Foundation.  The mission of this foundation is to “stand up for heroes so that we can find, fund, and shape innovative programs that help our impacted veterans, service members and their families thrive.”  The more than $30 million donated to the Foundation has been used to fund education and employment, rehabilitation and recovery and quality of life.

In January 2016, Woodruff sent a letter to presidential candidates Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump.  To date, the only candidate that has responded to this letter is Clinton.  For Mr. Trump, the lack of response is particularly surprising, as he often talks about how America needs to rebuild the military and says the VA is “absolutely unacceptable”.  As an American and a brain injury survivor, I am quite interested in the responses of Trump and Sanders to Woodruff’s questions.

Horror in the Happiest City on Earth

Much news has come out relating to the mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, FL on early Sunday morning.  This weekend, America had the largest mass shooting in its history, with 49 people killed and 53 others injured in a span of only a few minutes.

Unfortunately, of those hurt, “Those with head injuries could not be saved,” said Dr. Michael Cheatham of the Orlando trauma center.  A police officer was saved by his Kavlar helmet, worn as part of the police’s military-style equipment, which now shows the severe damage done by the bullet.  As for those who did survive, post-traumatic stress disorder is a major concern.

On Monday, Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer said, “I don’t think we [Orlando] change a bit.”  Dyer’s statement is an admirable wish, however no person or city can be the same after such an incident as they had this weekend.  Hopefully, though, Orlando can quickly return to being the city of theme parks and everyone can get past, but not forget, the horror of this weekend.

(At this point, many times over, Donald Trump has expressed his views on the Orlando massacre.  Obama has made a statement to which part, but not all, is a response to Trump’s comments.)