From my years of work in providing care for disabled people. I am well aware of the number of people who “fall through the cracks” of our vaunted welfare system. When one is disabled and cannot work, for whatever reason, it is “the Christian thing to do” for society to help them avoid the inevitable ruin for them and their families. However, for many the system as it currently exists falls far short of that target.
One family man of my acquaintance has fallen through that proverbial crack and, as the result his very life and the continuation of his whole family is endangered. As the result of construction work injuries that broke his back, coupled with the extreme hard physical effort expended in working as a roustabout in the gas fields, he could no longer do that kind of work and had to give it up.
As a man who was only in his thirties, he determined to make a living by doing odd jobs, which he did for a period of years as his health continued to decline. As the recession crept up, it was harder to make enough money to support his family so his wife of twenty years began working in the office of a provider of services for the disabled and, for a few years, made enough money to sustain the family while he played “Mr. Mom” for their two sons and worked part time at any odd jobs he could get.
They managed quite well for a few years but, eventually, the strain began its own vengeance and he developed ulcers which sometimes caused him intense pain. The recession deepened and his odd jobs became harder to find and ceased. His wife’s employer, a contractor for the state, began to be squeezed by state budget cuts until they were forced to cut the salaries of their employees. She helped her husband apply for his Social Security disabilty benefits. His application was denied because he had not been working under “covered” employment for too long. Then application was made through the Social and Rehabiliation offices. There they were told that the wife’s income alone would only allow them to receive food stamps.
Then their oldest son turned eighteen, graduated from high school and then left home. With one less person in the house, the food stamps disappeared! This year, the younger son turned eighteen and then graduated from high school. Now he can’t even qualify as a dependent for tax purposes unless he goes to college, which he would love to do. However, in the process of evaluation, it was learned that this proud graduate of the special education classes of our school system failed the entrance examinations because of a “reading comprehension problem.” Sorry, but the scholarships and additional fees paid by his parents are non-refundable!
As problems are wont to do, they keep getting worse. Two days after he finally received a diagnosis of duodenal ulcers, the kind that are prone to rupture and cause one to bleed to death internally, he was moving a very heavy object in his own yard and caused a groin rupture. So, here they are with no medical insurance coverage, a gross family income which cannot pay all their expenses, and the threat of death hanging over them. Unless they take the option offered by the Republican politicians by showing up in a hospital emergency room and “free-loading” the necessary treatment, proving that it is no answer at all, the man is simply living on borrowed time. They know that the collection agency will hound them until hell freezes over in their efforts to collect every single dime. The irony of this situation is that, except for the fact that our Governor has stated that he would not accept the offer made by “Obomneycare” to increase the levels of poverty in Medicaid adjudications, they could, at least, receive the needed medical care under its provisions.
Is it the prevailing theory of the Republicans that this is the way our America should run? Should we give tax breaks to the filthy rich and let the poor just die because they are not able to do sufficient work to maintain life? Is this what the many generations of my family, including five of my brothers, fought and many died, to preserve for posterity? Is this the society we want to leave for our own descendents? If this is not a nightmare, I never want to wake up.
This writer is an octogenarian who has spent a half century working with handicapped and deprived people and advocating on their behalf while caring for her own working-class family. She spends her “Sunset Years” in writing and struggling with The System.