This article is copied from MSN.com:

As Walmart moves to phase out its familiar blue-vested “greeters” at some 1,000 stores nationwide, disabled workers who fill many of those jobs say they’re being ill-treated by a chain that styles itself as community-minded and inclusive.

Walmart told greeters around the country last week that their positions would be eliminated on April 26 in favor of an expanded, more physically demanding “customer host” role. To qualify, they will need to be able to lift 25-pound packages, climb ladders and stand for long periods.

That came as a heavy blow to greeters with cerebral palsy, spina bifida and other physical disabilities. For them, a job at Walmart has provided needed income, served as a source of pride and offered a connection to the community.

Now Walmart, America’s largest private employer, is facing a backlash as customers rally around some of the chain’s most visible and beloved employees.

Walmart says it is striving to place greeters in other jobs at the company, but workers with disabilities are worried.

Donny Fagnano, 56, who has worked at Walmart for more than 21 years, said he cried when a manager at the store in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, called him into the office last week and told him his job was going away.

“I like working,” he said. “It’s better than sitting at home.”

Fagnano, who has spina bifida, said he was offered a severance package. He hopes to stay on at Walmart and clean bathrooms instead.

Walmart greeters have been around for decades, allowing the retail giant to put a friendly face at the front of its stores. Then, in 2016, Walmart began replacing greeters with hosts, with responsibilities that include not only welcoming customers but helping with returns, checking receipts to deter shoplifters and keeping the front of the store clean. Walmart and other chains have been redefining roles at stores as they compete with Amazon.

The effect of the greeter phase-out on disabled and elderly employees — who have traditionally gravitated toward the role as one they were well-suited to doing — largely escaped public notice until last week, when Walmart launched a second round of cuts.

As word spread, first on social media and then in local and national news outlets, outraged customers began calling Walmart to complain. Tens of thousands of people signed petitions. Facebook groups sprang up with names like “Team Adam” and “Save Lesley.” A second-grade class in California wrote letters to Walmart’s CEO on behalf of Adam Catlin, a disabled greeter in Pennsylvania whose mother had written an impassioned Facebook post about his plight. Walmart said it has offered another job to Catlin.

In Galena, Illinois, hundreds of customers plan to attend an “appreciation parade” for Ashley Powell on her last day of work as a greeter.

“I love it, and I think I’ve touched a lot of people,” said Powell, 34, who has an intellectual disability.

In Vancouver, Washington, John Combs, 42, who has cerebral palsy, was devastated and then angered by his impending job loss. It had taken his family five years to find him a job he could do, and he loved the work, coming up with nicknames for all his co-workers.

“What am I going to do, just sit here on my butt all day in this house? That’s all I’m going to do?” Combs asked his sister and guardian, Rachel Wasser. “I do my job. I didn’t do anything wrong.”

Wasser urged the retailer to “give these people a fair shake. … If you want to make your actions match your words, do it. Don’t be a wolf in sheep’s clothing.”

With the U.S. unemployment rate for disabled people more than twice that for workers without disabilities, Walmart has long been seen as a destination for people like Combs. Advocacy groups worry the company is backsliding.

“It’s the messaging that concerns me,” said Gabrielle Sedor, chief operations officer at ANCOR, a trade group representing service providers. “Given that Walmart is such an international leader in the retail space, I’m concerned this decision might suggest to some people that the bottom line of the company is more important to the company than inclusive communities. We don’t think those two are mutually exclusive.”

The greeter issue has already prompted at least three complaints to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, as well as a federal lawsuit in Utah alleging discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Under the federal law, employers must provide “reasonable” accommodations to workers with disabilities.

Walmart did not disclose how many disabled greeters could lose their jobs. The company said that after it made the change at more than 1,000 stores in 2016, 80 to 85 percent of all affected greeters found other roles at Walmart. It did not reveal how many of them were disabled.

Last week, Walmart told greeters they would have the customary 60 days to land other jobs at the company. Amid the uproar, the company has extended the deadline indefinitely for greeters with disabilities.

“We recognize that our associates with physical disabilities face a unique situation,” Walmart spokesman Justin Rushing said in a statement. The extra time, he said, will give Walmart a chance to explore how to accommodate such employees.

Walmart said it has already made offers to some greeters, including those with physical disabilities, and expects to continue doing so in the coming weeks.

But some workers say they have been tacitly discouraged from applying for other jobs.

Mitchell Hartzell, 31, a full-time Walmart greeter in Hazel Green, Alabama, said his manager told him “they pretty much didn’t have anything in that store for me to do” after his job winds down in April. He said he persisted, approaching several assistant managers to ask about openings, and found out about a vacant position at self-checkout. But it had already been promised to a greeter who doesn’t use a wheelchair, he said.

“It seems like they don’t want us anymore,” said Hartzell, who has cerebral palsy.

Jay Melton, 40, who has worked as a greeter in Marion, North Carolina, for nearly 17 years, loves church, Tar Heels basketball and Walmart. His sister-in-law, Jamie Melton, said the job is what gets him out of bed.

“He doesn’t have a lot of things he does himself that bring him joy,” she said. Addressing Walmart, Melton added: “When you cut a huge population of people out, and you have written a policy that declares they are no longer capable of doing what they have been doing, that is discrimination.”

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The New York Times reported on the plan earlier this year:

After years of Republican-led debate over how to pare back Social Security’s rising costs, Democrats are flipping the script with an ambitious plan to expand the New Deal-era social insurance program while making gradual changes to keep it solvent for the rest of the century.

Read the entire store here:  https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/03/us/politics/social-security-2100-act.html

When applying for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits, earnings that post to your earnings record after you became disabled may suggest that you are working and not disabled under SSA’s regulations.  If the earnings do not belong to you, you might be the victim of identity theft.

If you believe you are victim of identity theft, there is much that can be done to correct SSA’s records. SSA’s form to correct the earnings record is the SSA-7008. Since this form is more commonly used for situations where people’s earnings need to be added, not removed from, the earnings record, make sure to give a clear explanation in the remarks section. Another option allowed in the POMS for disclaiming earnings (RM 03870.060) is to use a signed statement, such as the SSA-795.

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Reconsideration was reinstated in five of the 10 prototype states on January 1, 2019: New Hampshire; New York; Louisiana; Colorado; and California (Los Angeles North and West Branches). 83 Fed. Reg. 63965. “This means that for the residents in these locations who applyfor Social Security Disability Insurance Benefitsor Supplemental Security Income, or both, and who receive an initial denial determination on orafter January 1, 2019, the first step of the appealsprocess will be to request a reconsideration of that determination. If [SSA denies] an individual at the reconsideration step, they may then seek further review of their claim by requesting a hearing before an administrative law judge.”

Reconsideration will be reinstated in the five remaining states on a rolling basis by June 26, 2020:

• Pennsylvania: April 1, 2019

• Alabama: October 1, 2019

• Michigan: October 1, 2019

• Missouri: January 1, 2020

• Alaska: March 1, 2020

Given that one of SSA’s reasons for reinstating reconsideration in these prototype states is to“have a national, unified disability process thataffords all disability claimants the same appeal rights in all states,” NOSSCR expects that the reinstatement procedures/process, explained above,will be the same in the five remaining states oncereconsideration is reinstated in those states.

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