CARE FOR THE POOR
The Wal-Mart cashier holds his body stiff, bending when he walks, the strained look on his thinly bearded face suggesting continuing discomfort, if not outright pain.
Dal Schrader is more than just tired. He is partially paralyzed, with one leg longer than the other. He can't hold a fork or a pen with his left hand, and the medicines that control his seizures leave his right side shaking.
Social Security Disability Insurance was built for people like Schrader, but to qualify, he must first drop to part-time work and earn less than $1,010 a month while his claim is processed, which can take one to three years.
Many with less severe difficulties do qualify. Over the past 20 years, the disability rolls have burgeoned. In 1990, Social Security spent $20 billion a year on disability. Today, it spends more than $128 billion.
And much of this growth went to often hazy claims that are hard to prove, including mental disorders and back pain. Like most federal entitlements, the disability program faces an existential crisis, as limited resources stand in the way of expectations.
The baseball that hit Darlene in the face changed more than her appearance. It made her the butt of classmates' jokes. More importantly, she had trouble breathing. By 16, she wanted it fixed. Tony was also 16 when he reached the same conclusion about his oversize jaw.
They are part of a small but significant trend: teenagers turning to plastic surgery to solve physical deformities, correct congenital defects, or make them look and thus feel better about themselves.
Determining whether to do a procedure requires good communication between doctor, patient and parent, and plenty of parental support. Impetus to go forward must belong to the teen, warned Dr. Catherine Begovic, a plastic surgeon in Beverly Hills. "The responsibility of the doctor is to be sure the teenager is the one initiating it. I usually meet with them and their parents on multiple occasions before proceeding to get a good understanding of motivations and expectations," she said.
Teens tend to ask for plastic surgery to fit in. Adults seek it more to stand out, Begovic said.
Hollie Curtis has already left for work by the time her husband, Aaron, has baby Abigail ready to drop off at the sitter on the way to his own job. In the late afternoon, they do it in reverse, Hollie picking up the 5-month-old baby because her shift ends first.
That also means Hollie is responsible for dinner most nights, while Aaron handles the baby's late-night fussiness. He'll help with cooking on the weekend.
They are one modern American family, juggling work and family time with an evolving set of challenges. A new report by the Pew Research Center says moms and dads who both work — and that's 60 percent of them — spend roughly the same number of combined hours on paid jobs, housework and child care, though the breakdown is not the same.
"Moms are spending more time outside the home and dads are doing more housework," said Kim Parker, associate director for the Pew Social & Demographic Trends Project and one of the report's authors. "There are still gender gaps. Moms are still spending more time with the kid than dads, but dads are there three times more than they were 50 years ago."
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