Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Despite popular opinion, needing government assistance sucks

I saw this on a FB friend's wall today:

It really upset me. I hate the line of thinking that people in various government assistance programs are lazy leeches. The majority of us are not.

First of all, there is a great deal of shame that goes with being poor. I'm currently on medicaid, and used to be a food stamp recipient. The process of applying for these programs is draining and humiliating. You are basically asked to provide your life story and all your deepest darkest secrets. You are made to feel like the lowest scum of the planet. Also, you really don't get much. I got $16 a month worth of food stamps. It did help, but it almost wasn't even worth the grueling application process.

I'd like to tell the story of why I'm in need of assistance. I hope it will enlighten some people.

I used to work at a nonprofit organization for adults with developmental disabilities. In addition, I worked in the retirement day program, which meant that the people I served had degenerative disabilities on top of everything else. It was extremely tough, but extremely rewarding work.

Two and a half years ago, I was assisting a man with gait issues to walk. He fell, bumped my knee, and took me down with him. I wound up with a high ankle sprain (less common and more severe than your average ankle sprain) that didn't heal properly. I had surgery, but my tendon had a bad reaction to the suture, so I had a second surgery. Again, the tendons had a bad reaction, and I was left with chronic neuropathy in both legs (it sucks.) After many doctor visits and a fight with WC insurance, two weeks ago I had surgery #3. I have a new, very experienced surgeon, so I'm hopeful that the 3rd time's the charm.

I lost my job because the company I worked for was too small to find an accommodating position for me (no hard feelings there; it is what it is), but I do receive worker's comp benefits.

If it weren't for the Medicaid expansion program, I otherwise wouldn't have had medical care for things other than the worker comp injury. I'm grateful for the program, and those who contribute to it. I don't know what I would have done with out it.
I feel that for people who are posting the above meme, this should be pointed out: I'm also grateful to myself, since, as someone who worked for 18 years prior to this, I contributed to medicaid and SS as well!!!!

Unfortunately, there are indeed bad apples who abuse these programs. It angers me because it makes people like me--the vast majority--look bad. Those bad apples are the minority. The media doesn't report "And today 2 million welfare recipients did not abuse the program" because that's not exciting news. The two people who did abuse it--that's exciting news.
Let me give an analogy to help my point. When you go into a restaurant and receive bad service, you're pretty angry about it. Sometimes, you are so angry that you tell your friends about it, and post a review on Yelp. But when you get good service, how often do you take the time to write a review? Sadly, I rarely do (though recently I've made a point of doing this.) Something good happens, and we move on with our day. It's the same thing with people on assistance programs. There's no need for the media to report on the good recipients, because there is nothing to report.

People often make jokes about how lucky I am that I don't work and don't have to get up to an alarm.
Yeah, that's definitely nice. Not working has it's perks, I won't lie. But the negatives far outweigh the positives. I'm bored. I'm in pain twenty for hours a day. I can't do the things I used to be able to do--like walk, dance, go bowling, etc. I often have the mental motivation to do something, but the physical energy is just not there. I really miss being able to work. I feel useless and depressed, and it is not a good feeling. What I miss even more is working in the human services profession. It was so rewarding.

Before I was injured, I used to look at my pay stub and see the Medicaid and SS deductions and think, "Crap. That's a lot of $ I don't get." But now that one of those programs has helped me so much, I'm grateful, more than I can say (there will probably be a future post coming soon about how this might all be taken away soon, but that wasn't what I wanted to address in this post).

I hope people who share memes like the one pictured above, and those who complain about giving $ to assistance programs, will listen to my story and maybe think about it differently. If it doesn't, just remember that life is ironic. The person complaining about giving $ to medicaid could experience some disaster in the future and then be in need of the very program they complained so adamantly about. Life's a bitch that way.

Comments, thoughts, opinions welcome, so long as they are civilized.

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