Thursday, February 18, 2010

Guest Post: "Disability and Health Care - what it really means" by Beverly Johnson

The LGBT community is so diverse and seems to become even more so every day. There is no single way to be gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, transgendered, intersexed questioning or curious. For a while I've been asking readers to share their stories here and I finally found someone brave enough to be the first. 

Beverly Johnson is a 40+ year old lesbian living near the Roanoke Valley. After becoming disabled through a job related injury she had to readjust and rethink much of her life. Bev says, "It was the best 'bad thing' that ever happened to me." She met her partner/wife after this life changing event and they have shared nearly 10 years together. The two share a home in the country with their four-legged fur-kids, where Bev's writing and her wife's art are fed from the inspiration around them. Bev hopes to open the eyes as well as open a few hearts, especially in the LGBT community. Check out Bev's website, the Azure Phoenix for some really cool and diverse pride wear.

You work a job, have a home, lead a life to which you are accustomed to, and in the blink of an eye it is all gone. When you go to apply for that long term disability insurance that you paid extra for through your workplace, you find that your benefits have been canceled because you are no longer an employee of the company though which you acquired your insurance. And you are no longer an employee because while the doctors were making an assessment of your situation and injuries, the company you gave 50+ hours a week to decides to dissolve your contract (more politically correct than being fired) something they are allowed by state law to do if you can no longer perform the job for which you were hired.

You result to Medicare and Social Security Disability in order to have some money coming in. Then you will hear things like; "Gee, I wish I could sit home and draw a check once a month" and "it must be nice to have free health care." Ignorance must truly be bliss.  Nothing is free. Medicare comes out of the pitiful amount of Social Security one draws and it does not cover all expenses. You cannot find additional coverage if you are disabled and under the age of 50. Once you reach 50, you can get additional coverage through AARP, if you can make it that long without the care.

I joke about having the best parking spaces and that my cane comes in handy for unruly children and rude adults. I joke about how I cannot be related to a Weeble (remember that toy) cause Weebles wobble but they don't fall down - and I fall down all the time. Joking is a coping mechanism, that eventually, at least for me, leads to smiling again, except on really bad days.

What else happens when you become disabled? Approximately 90% of the friends you ran around with, camped with, went on trips with and had parties with - suddenly become invisible. All the times you lent your back to helping someone move, or watched a neighbors home while they gone, is out the window if you need a ride to the store or someone to help you mow your lawn.

You nurse your 16-year-old truck because you cannot afford a new or used one. Banks will not touch you for loans because your income is set and below poverty level. You find a second hand dorm refrigerator when your full sized one dies because you cannot afford a new one AND you make do with that for 4 years. You learn to fix everything imaginable in your home because calling a repairman at 50$ an hour is so not going to happen. You sell everything you can on eBay to pay the light bill. Every piece of clothing you buy comes from Good Will, because you can't afford the 19.00 jeans from Wal-Mart. You save to buy room heaters because replacing your heating system is 5 x's more expensive.

Then there are the spouses and partners of the disabled. If you are married (legally so), well you have a bit of a break because most companies will allow for spouses to take time off caring for a disabled husband or wife. But if you are unmarried (either living together or a gay couple), your partner does not get time off for caring for “friend”, only family members. And, for those straight couples out there, they often divorce or never marry for strictly a financial reason after one of them becomes disabled.

Sometimes even your family does not understand why you can no longer be somewhere at the drop of a hat. Why you ask for assistance with grocery money because your prescriptions for the month were more than your mortgage, and then there is the keeping up of appearances.

On the heels of all the talk about health care reform, I have heard so much hatred and discrimination that I am ashamed of the people. I heard just tonight that Medicare was one of the reasons that health care is in the shape it is in. So tell me, why is it OK for our tax dollars to pay for congress and the house and the president to have the top of the line medical care and not OK for our tax dollars to cover those who are in need or for that matter, even the average citizen? Double standards are shocking are they not? It's like saying "you are beneath", "you are less than", you have no rights even if you did what you were supposed to do and worked hard and paid into the system all those years".

Grow up America and stop your whining. So what if you cannot afford a new car or a gym membership every year? Heaven forbid if your cell phone is not the latest and coolest one on the market. Oh have mercy if you cannot afford to go out and eat once a week - even to McDonald's.

There needs to be reform all around, but reform does not mean exclusion of those who do not meet a certain standard to which YOU think they should be accustomed to.

Back to being disabled and health care. Read, make yourself informed, and I am NOT talking about the political rhetoric that is using hatred and fear-mongering to make you buy what they are selling. Go to sites, which specialize in advocacy for the disabled, ill and elderly. Listen to those who are on the front lines. Think for yourselves instead of letting parties and movements sway your emotions.

But hey, what do I know? Here I am advocating change, not that I matter, after all, to so many I am getting it all for "free". Bitter? Sometimes. But I would never wish what happened to me on another, even if it would be a learning experience and a wake-up call.

Have something to share? Express yourself in 750 words or less and send it to rev.stevescyberpulpit@yahoo.com. It can be a commentary, funny story, poem or just something you want to get off your chest.  
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3 comments:

  1. Thank you, Bev, for being such an advocate for the disabled!! I can really see you giving a speech to Congress one day.

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  2. Very well written...an eye opener...honest and in our faces...as it should be. Love it.Thanks Bev for being who you are...we all need the strength of your words and your passion. Things are wrong..very wrong here in this land of the free...this land of civil right and equality for all...? America...you need some major renovations in your egotistical,exalted and hypocritical front yard.It is way past your bed time, you spoiled,selfish child.(If you have been to Europe..the EU, Scandanavia etc..you know where I am coming from..we don't exactly embrace/or even want to see positive,progressive change to benefit all..we call it nasty socialism).

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  3. Great post. And on top of all this, there are the problems people with disabilities face when they try to get access to health care itself: inaccessible facilities and equipment; providers who don't understand disability; no sign language interpreters; no lifts. See http://www.dredf.org/healthcare/index.shtml for more on these issues.

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