By Barby Ingle, Columnist
Over the past 20 years I have had many ups and downs with my health and my finances. After losing my job and company, I had to rely on food stamps, church food banks, and county mental health support groups.
While speaking with others in the support group, I found out that there are a wide variety of disability benefits that come from federal, state and private sources, such as worker’s compensation for people injured on the job and military benefits for soldiers and veterans.
We need to invest time to make sure that the resources available to us are being utilized. There are Social Security programs, Medicare, Medicaid, state assistance programs, utility company programs, handicapped bus passes and car licenses, to name some of them.
Too many of my friends either didn’t know about them or felt embarrassed to ask for assistance.
Knowing what each one is and how it can be used is important. For instance, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) comes from general tax revenues, not social security tax funds.
SSI is designed to help aged, blind, and disabled people who have little or no income. It provides cash to meet basic needs for food, clothing, and shelter. Typically, you quality if you have a medical condition that has prevented you from working or is expected to prevent you from working for at least 12 months.
Social Security Disability (SSD) comes from federal social security taxes that people pay into in case of long-term disability. You must have worked and paid Social Security taxes long enough to qualify. Depending on the state you live in, you can complete the application through the mail, over the phone, or even online.
If you receive SSD, you can quality for Medicare 24 months after becoming eligible for disability. In my case, I became eligible for Medicare almost immediately, as it was a few years into my disability and they retroactively changed my disability date.
For others who apply sooner, you typically will receive your information several months before you are eligible to start Medicare coverage. I highly suggest that you fill out your papers immediately and return them. There are different requirements in each state for financial and disability levels. Medicaid services can included preventive care, immunization, screening, treatment, doctor visits, hospital visits, and vision and dental care.
Many states offer specific programs that can help you through daily living. It is important for chronic care patients to maintain independence to sustain their full range of experiences, rights and desires. Programs that provide training and support appropriate to the needs of each disabled person can be found in every state.
People disabled by pain may not realize at first that they are eligible for many of these services. They don’t think that their condition is debilitating enough to require handicapped parking, and underestimate the benefit of closer parking or how much energy it saves.
We should always be mindful of our energy penny bank. Handicapped permits and passes allow a disabled person to run errands, shop, go to doctor appointments, travel, and participate in other activities without wearing themselves out within the first few minutes of arriving at a destination.
If you have a disabling pain condition which may allow you to have a handicapped parking permit, talk to your doctor about it. Do not wait for your doctor to bring it up. Doctors are very busy and it is unlikely that this is foremost on their minds. Your doctor should not hesitate to sign the paperwork for you to get a handicapped parking placard if you are eligible under your state regulations.
Also be sure to get a bus pass for disabled riders. They are available in most states and typically give you free or discounted rides.
I used to take the bus often. If you find yourself in a city needing to take the bus, be sure to learn the schedule and let the bus driver know if you have any disabilities or need assistance. Ask him to remind you to get off the bus at your final destination or transfer location. I would forget my stop far too often. You learn to speak up when this happens and you miss a doctor’s appointment.
Patient transportation services are also available for some Medicaid and Worker’s Compensation patients. These companies ensure that patients are transported with the right level of medical expertise in the most appropriate vehicle, such as specialty vans that accommodate wheelchairs. Other modes of transport include ambulatory, wheelchair, stretcher, and air ambulance.
The insurance company is directly billed with a detailed invoice as to miles driven, time of transport, and drop off locations. Services are typically available every day of the year. You can set up this service with your claims adjuster or care manager. I know many who already use this service and love it. One of the iPain board members actually owns a company in Kansas and Missouri that operates this service. If you quality, ask for the help.
No matter what resource you need, don’t hesitate to ask for them. Get the help you need to become the most active person you can be. Not treating pain is unethical and immoral. When you qualify for assistance, it means you have earned it and it is there to help you help yourself.
For a list of other free or low cost services available to you, checkout the Patient Resources section of Pain News Network. We all pray it is short term assistance, but if long term or life assistance is needed, be the best you can be and take advantage of the help that is available to you.
Barby Ingle suffers from Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD) and endometriosis. Barby is a chronic pain educator, patient advocate, and president of the International Pain Foundation (iPain). She is also a motivational speaker and best-selling author on pain topics.
More information about Barby can be found by clicking here.
The information in this column should not be considered as professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It is for informational purposes only and represents the author’s opinions alone. It does not inherently express or reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of Pain News Network.