When I lived in Michigan, if I had a problem concerning one of the government agencies I utilized to help with my healthcare needs, I called one of my Senators. For Medicaid, I would call Deborah Cherry. When Medicaid tried to claim I had no disability and cut me off, Senator Cherry got on the phone immediately. For issues with Medicare and Social Security, I contacted my Representatives and Senators in the U.S. Congress (Senator Cherry is a Senator for the state of Michigan). Within a few days the problem was fixed, no questions asked. This is a major part of the jobs Senators and Representatives do for their constituents. It is a part of their JOB. It is one of the most important parts because it shows their constituents, the ones they want to vote them back into office, that they give a shit about the people they are supposed to be representing.
I started having major problems with my wheelchair in January. I had minor problems throughout the past year. I was told the chair I was sold was several years old by the time I owned it (a fact I did not know upon purchasing said chair). I was in desperate need of a new one. In January, when the chair started having more major problems, I know that things would continue to get worse. I am due for a new chair in August of this year. However, I have no other way to get out of bed, so Medicare is supposed to make an exception for such extenuating circumstances. I got all the paperwork from my doctor, the eval at the wheelchair clinic, which stressed how much more I needed on my chair to make it so I could even sit comfortably. I also contacted Sherrod Brown, because I figured I had a fight with Medicare coming up, and since it is an election year, I figured it would be good to have someone in Washington fighting on my side.
The reason I suspected a fight would happen is from past experience with Medicare. Last time I got a chair, Medicare tried to get out of paying for it by insisting I could walk and stand independently. I had letters from doctors supporting the fact I could not walk since 1996 and the last time I stood was in 2002, but it was not done independently. I could stand up if I hung on to the bed, prior to fracturing my tibia. Since this was five years ago it was way after I stopped standing or walking. The guy who provided medical equipment for me had to go to court. We were one court away from the Supreme Court when it was finally settled that YES I was definitely not walking nor standing. With this in mind, I knew Medicare would reject my first approval for the new chair I desperately need.
Just an aside, I identify as liberal (though not with many of those who the media claims are liberal – I believe in liberty and justice and fight for equal rights and fair treatment for all). As such, I tend to lean towards voting Democrat. I usually contact them first for assistance merely because, in my experience Democrats will respond when asking for help. Although, when Medicaid was giving me problems after I first moved back to Ohio, Jarrod Martin, the State Representative for Ohio’s district 70, who just so happens to be a Republican, helped me get things straightened out within a week! It is the first time a Republican has actually helped me out and responded for my need for help. However, Sherrod Brown would have HAD my vote had he not treated me the way he has (or the way his staff has).
It took a while to get Sherrod’s office to respond. After the first email, I received a response within a week, but then it took time for them to get back to me. In fact, it took 2-3 months for them to respond after they initially followed up on getting more details for them to proceed. When they did, instead of emailing or calling (the method they had used to contact me previously), they sent a generic letter in the mail. All it said was Medicaid needed my doctor to say I needed more on my chair due to a change in my physical condition or for my wheelchair to be unable to be repaired. I informed his staffers during their initial contact with me that these things were ALREADY done, so this letter did nothing but show me Sherrod Brown’s staffers do not listen nor do they seem to give two hoots about someone like me, who must rely on government agencies so they can live independent, successful lives.
My doctor wrote a prescription, a recommendation to the wheelchair clinic, the clinic’s evaluation said due to my need for more support, massive changes needed to be made on my chair. ATG Rehab also stated my chair was discontinued (the current one) so it could not be fixed and it was already starting to break down. Apparently, Medicare decided none of this was good enough. After receiving that letter, I didn’t respond. I was mad and felt it best I just drop it. I just wouldn’t vote for Sherrod in the next election he runs, which is this year.
I did have my doctor write ANOTHER letter though, basically stating even more about what Medicare required, but when he sent it back to ATG Rehab, I was told that six months had passed so Medicare wouldn’t accept any of my paperwork. I had to begin the process over. I cannot get in to the wheelchair clinic until October, now, but I have a Physical Therapist who may be willing to write something up. I had appointments all this week to get the ball rolling, but sadly I do not think i will be keeping most of them. That is because my chair has finally died…for good. I am bedridden. I cannot go anywhere and I have no other way to get around.
When I contacted Sherrod’s office I stressed what this exact scenario would do. I live an active life. I am in a competitive film program. I make films all summer if I can. I have two jobs where I am required to go to work. I have responsibilities I cannot handle from bed and yet here I am stuck. I told Sherrod’s office that bedridden me is pretty much career suicide. If I cannot get to class, I must drop out of the program I have worked so hard to get into and stay.
What’s worse is ATG Rehab. A technician came out to look at my chair because I have been forced to recalibrate the chair every day for the last few months to even get the chair to move. All he said was the actuator was bad, then he left. He gave us no advice, nothing to say he could fix it. He asked when I was getting a new chair. He yelled at my girlfriend. He got an attitude and left. He could have told me do not sit in the chair or use it, but he didn’t. Instead, I got trapped, a town away from home. My tilt/recline went out first, then my chair mode and finally the entire controller system. I have severe pain if I cannot tilt or recline, especially in my hip and knee. I couldn’t for almost three hours. It was agonizing and my son had to spend his time rubbing my leg just so I could wait to get home. No kid should have to do that. Still, I am grateful he is such a good kid and was willing to do it.
I had to wait for bus #1 to get home for 45 minutes. Then we transferred after another hour waiting for bus #2. I went right to bed and had to take a pain pill because the damage to my leg was so extreme I couldn’t function. The pain has subsided some, but it still aches. I also had the wheelchair completely shut off without warning. I couldn’t even move and it wouldn’t turn back on when I tried to get on bus #2. Luckily, it eventually turned back on and I could make it home, but now the chair is so screwed up I cannot use it. I am stuck in bed for who knows how long. I cannot go to work, to school, to film or even to my living room. I have to lay here in pain with nothing but my computer. If they had worked to get this settled months ago when I first contacted Sherrod Brown, I would have a chair. Now, exactly the scenario I told Brown I feared the worst has happened.
Nobody deserves to be stuck in bed indefinitely. I am afraid I will lose my jobs, because I am stuck. I am afraid I will let people counting on me down. I want to be out living my life, making money in the hopes I one day make enough I don’t need these government programs for help buying a wheelchair or other equipment. Sadly, I am not there and I am stuck on them.
Brown needs to realize his constituents elected him to represent their interests at agencies like Medicare and Social Security, as well as in Congress when passing legislation. He seems to have forgotten us back home, but I haven’t forgotten nor will I forget when I got into the voting booth this November. I won’t be forgetting on this blog, on Facebook, Twitter, or anywhere else online, because right now I have nothing but time.[tags]Sherrod Brown, Senator, Ohio, Problems, Wheelchair, Voter, Election, Medicaid, Medicare, Disability Broken, Democrat, Government[/tags]