I am posting a series of articles based on my life. I am calling them the “My Life” posts. Okay, so I am not being very original, but at least people will know that these are the posts in this series. You see, several friends and acquaintances believe I should write a book about my life. My girlfriend, Ashtyn, is a writer, so I have her to help me with the process. I have a habit of being long-winded, at times. In the meantime, I want to be able to share my opinions on matters; opinions I have formed based on my life experience, as well as all of the books, articles, and news sources I have read and studied. This is my very first post.

I have been arguing with a disabled man on Facebook for the past few days. I say arguing because he has no comprehension of what debate is. A debate is backed up by facts, figures, and opinions based on facts and figures. it does not involve name-calling and finger-pointing. While I have been attempting to debate my points based on knowledge I have acquired concerning politics, he has made broad statements like “all liberals are liars” and other derogatory remarks.

Wheeling Away

The thread evolved into a discussion on Social Security Disability Benefits, Medicare and Medicaid. This man does not work. He receives Social Security and Medicare because of his health. I would be fine with that except he is a hypocrite. He criticizes others, telling them to get jobs or volunteer. He complains they are not attempting to better themselves and that they spend all day spewing their thoughts on social networks or playing games. He believes that Americans should not become dependent on the government, yet he himself admits he is. He believes the Conservatives are right in cutting back on programs he himself professes he needs.

I feel very strongly about this because I myself receive Social Security and Medicare. I receive them through my father. He died and I get the money he paid in for the several years he worked. I also get the healthcare his checks paid for through the payments he made to Medicare. I am not taking what some call handouts from just anyone. My dad had many jobs. He was a Tool and Dye maker, he worked at a store I believe was called Big Bear, and for most of my childhood and a few years of my adult life, he was a Tax Commissioner Agent for the State of Ohio. That is just a fancy word for State Auditor. He audited large corporations for the state. My father paid his dues and died only a few months after retiring, so I am reaping the benefits of his life of hard work. I have no doubt, if my father was still alive, and I needed his help financially, he’d be helping me.

I also receive state Medicaid, which only covers the 20% of my medical bills that Medicare will not pay. This is vital. My wheelchair alone cost over $20,000. I would not have an extra $4000 sitting around to pay it. Medicare and Medicaid are vital to my health. If I want to remain independent, I need a wheelchair. I need a Hoyer lift. I need my sleep apnea machine so I do not stop breathing at night. These are necessities these programs help pay for, as the added expense of having a disability is quite hefty.

Eventually, I hope to receive waiver services to help pay for Personal Attendant Care. PCA care is essential to any severely, physically disabled person’s freedom. It allows us to remain in our homes and out of institutions like nursing homes. I am one week shy of 30. I cannot imagine the thought of being 30 and in a nursing home. Can you imagine being so young and having no hope for a future at such a young age? No hope for school or a job? The thought is terrifying to me. With PCA services, I can hire anyone to care for me. If Ash is sick or something happens to her, I know I have someone to get me out of bed or take me to the bathroom. These are necessities.

I am not asking to live off the government. I am asking to receive assistance for exorbitant medical expenses that will allow me the independence to become self-sufficient. These go beyond the cost of basic human needs. I did not ask for a disability. I did not bring it upon myself, so I am grateful there are services because I do have dreams of a better future. I dream for a better career. I go to a university, where I get good grades and strive to make my career path a reality. I would one day like to be able to make so much money I no longer need the state and federal benefits I receive. That cannot happen if I cannot continue to have these benefits I do have. Without them, I lose my chance at a future.

Programs like these do not need to be cut for a variety of reasons. First, workers pay in for Social Security and Medicare. They pay for today’s recipients with the promise the next generation will pay for them. The elderly of today deserve to get what they paid to the elderly of their working generation. As much as they pay in for others, they also pay for themselves…their future selves. They are entitled to this money. To cut it would be a travesty. The elderly should not have worries after retirement. It is their time to live out their final days in peace, and yet if the government cuts their services many of them will have to get jobs again if they can or be forced on the streets or into nursing homes.

Second, helping people with disabilities helps the economy. A friend who is a business major told me her economics class book said that PWDs (people with disabilities) have a spending power of hundreds of millions of dollars per year. I believe the total was around $683 million. She told me this last year, so these are recent numbers. When PWDs have money, they spend it. That is normal for anyone who has money. By allowing people to have these programs so they can be independent, PWDs have a greater chance of attaining employment (and eventually getting off government programs). Employment means money and money means spending. If you cut Medicare, Medicaid, SSDI and other similar programs, the unemployment rate for PWDs (which is already horrible) will continue to rise. Also, without money to spend, the number of PWDs’ spending power will plummet, and the economy will suffer for it. If nothing else, we need more programs to help PWDs attain employment because the unemployment level is ridiculous. The goal should not be to take away the programs already there.

It often seems that unless a member of the government has a family member or close friend with a disability (or they themselves acquire one), they do not really care so much about making cuts to the services that help PWDs. Once they have one or a loved one has one, they become fervent advocates in support of such services. A great example of this is Nancy Reagan championing Stem Cell research once Ronald was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Instead of waiting until these issues effect them, politicians need to look ahead. One day they will be elderly. One day they could become disabled. Disability is the only minority group a person can join at any point in their life. They should not only care about those with disabilities when they or a loved one becomes one themselves.

We cannot let the government cut these services because they want to save a few dollars. There are plenty of sources (like the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan) that are taking away money from good, caring Americans who want to work, who want to support themselves, and who want to better their lives. We are often the first on hand to help anyone in need in another country, yet we turn our backs on our own people, claiming they are lazy or demanding of handouts while doing nothing to help themselves in return. These services are not perfect anyway and they have flaws, but they are better than nothing and they do help those on them in many ways (reforming the system is a topic for another article).

Stifling anyone’s independence is the least American idea I have ever heard. This is supposed to be the land of the free. I believe we truly should be fighting for liberty and justice for all…even those of us with disabilities.

[tags]Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Health, Disability, Cut Services, PCA, Personal Care, PWD, People with Disabilities, Waiver[/tags]

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