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Harmed, But Not 'Destroyed'

March 16, 1997

Here is an alternative view of Mary Vincent, the woman mutilated by Lawrence Singleton ("He Destroyed Everything About Me," Feb. 25).

I was swimming laps in a public pool near Tacoma, Wash., a couple of years ago when Vincent strode across the pool deck in her bathing suit, wearing no prostheses. She made no attempt to conceal the fact that her arms had been amputated. Despite the uncomfortable stares of bystanders, she walked over and checked on her kids in the kids' pool before sliding into the lane next to me and proceeding to swim laps with a kick board.

Many times after that, I encountered Vincent swimming, blow-drying her hair in the dressing room or watching her kids play in the heavily used facility. It is a natural tendency of victims to hide, more so when the scars are so obvious. But, by her actions, Vincent was clearly saying, "I have a right to be here, to move among you, no matter what happened to me in the past."

No one would disagree that Vincent's lot is hard, but despite her words, "He destroyed everything about me," my observation is that Lawrence Singleton did not destroy Mary Vincent.

ANN JAPENGA

Palm Springs

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Mary Vincent was victimized by her maniacal attacker and then by the federal and state disability agencies that stopped her disability checks due to some purported "income" from an insurance settlement.

In my volunteer work at a Valley poverty law office, I see this situation frequently. The extra income that triggers the denial of benefits may be interest paid on a burial fund, an unexpected refund of some expense, a gift from a family member or friend. What is always surprising to us is how the disability agency is able to learn of these insignificant bits of income.

Almost daily, The Times carries articles setting forth the loss, misplacement or misuse of tens of thousands or millions of dollars by government agencies--overpayments to contractors, stolen checks, sinkholes into which office and medical supplies disappear.

Agency supervisors are always at a loss to explain such malfeasances. But let a disability recipient get an extra $50 and the sky falls: The warning letters go out and future benefits are reduced until the overage is corrected.

ROBERT E. GREEN

Sherman Oaks

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