Disability Resources You May Not Know About

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.

A Pained Life: Hey Handicap!

By Carol Levy, Columnist

You may have seen a story in the news a few weeks ago about an Ohio woman with a prosthetic leg who left a note on the windshield of a car parked in a handicapped spot. The car had no handicapped ID, placard or license plate, so it appeared it was parked illegally, taking a place someone with a handicap (and proper ID) might have needed.

The owner of the car responded to the note in a very, very nasty way – leaving a note of her own:

“Hey handicap! First, never place your hands on my car again! Second, honey you ain’t the only one with ‘struggles.’ You want pity go to a one leg support group!” the note said.

There was no excuse for what she wrote. When a picture of the note was posted on Facebook, it went viral.

I abhor it when I see someone without proper ID parking in a handicapped spot. I have a handicapped license plate which allows me to park in the designated spots. Why should or would someone who does not need it take a space reserved for the handicapped, absent being lazy and self-centered? Does it not occur to them they are possibly making life much harder for someone truly in need?

There is nothing about me that looks disabled (at least not until I take off my sunglasses because of a facial paralysis). As a result, I get "the look" sometimes when someone watches as I exit my car.

Only once did someone actually accost me. She came flying towards me, nostrils flaring, her voice shaking with rage.

"How dare you park there? There's nothing wrong with you!" she said.

I was ready to respond in kind. I could feel the blood rushing to my face. My body tensed, ready to engage.

I should not have to defend myself, especially to a stranger. My pain is none of her business.

And then a calm came over me.

This can be a perfect teaching moment.

“You know, not everyone has a visible disability,” I told her. “I don't need to be on crutches, use a cane or be in a wheelchair to be disabled. I could have lung disease, heart disease, cancer, any number of things that makes me physically fragile and yet look fine to the outside world."

I watched as her face registered a variety of reactions. She went from indignation, to surprise, to maybe even a scintilla of understanding. As upset as I had been by her remarks, a sense of relief replaced my anger. Maybe one more person now “gets it.”

What bothers me about the story of the disabled person leaving the note on the windshield was that she did not consider the possibility that maybe the person who parked there was invisibly disabled.

It is possible that she forgot to put her handicapped placard on the mirror or dashboard. It is possible she was parked legally and legitimately needed the spot.

I see that in myself at times. How dare she park there? Look how healthy she looks!

And then I catch myself. My disability is invisible. How dare I not give others the same consideration without having to prove it.

Carol Jay Levy has lived with trigeminal neuralgia, a chronic facial pain disorder, for over 30 years. She is the author of “A Pained Life, A Chronic Pain Journey.” 

Carol is the moderator of the Facebook support group “Women in Pain Awareness.” Her blog “The Pained Life” can be found here.

The information in this column should not be considered as professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It is for informational purposes only and represent the author’s opinions alone. It does not inherently express or reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of Pain News Network.