Up to a Point


I used to get fired a lot and what I discovered was that if I immediately went down and applied for Unemployment then I’d get a new job within days.  If I didn’t apply for Unemployment then I’d linger for weeks without a job.  Was this the beginning of my “dependency” on government?

By 1991, I had been so damaged by antidepressants that I was a physical and emotional wreck.  I no longer was able to work and I ended up in a homeless shelter (with a rat climbing up the bed I was sitting on).  The shelter required that I apply for Social Security Disability so I did and I got it.

So all you people who want to blame me for being lazy and dependent on the government, you tell me—what was I supposed to do?  I was too sick to work.  Do you want me to stay in the shelter with the rat?  If that is your idea of how to treat people then you should be ashamed of yourself.  God is not going to take you into his house when you die and I hear that the “eternal flames” thing is a real bummer.

Oh yeah, I forgot: before the “I used to get fired a lot” part, my parents decided I needed to be “independent” so they told me I had to move out and go on Welfare, which I did.  Here’s the bottom line, folks:  my parents did a lousy job of raising me.  They role modeled a good Christian work ethic but they did nothing to prepare me to hold a job.

In my senior year of high school, there was absolutely no discussion of what I was going to do after I graduated.  No talk of college or a job.  No freaking acknowledgement that one phase of my life was about to come to an end.  Boy, was that scary.  Later in life, I had a friend who said that she and her husband believed that their kids were on loan from God and that their job was to raise the kids to be independent.

So what’s your philosophy about raising your kids?  Are you just custodial parents or are you talking to your kids about their future and what they’re going to make of it?

So, in 1991, I went on Social Security Disability.  That’s what it’s there for—to take care of people who can’t take care of themselves.  I couldn’t.  I tried.  I failed.  My parents and siblings failed, too.  They never offered to help.  That’s where government dependence starts:  where your family stops.  Throughout the history of humanity, families have taken care of their own.  Now, not so much. 

During the Great Depression, there was no money.  There was no money because there were no jobs.  It’s about the economy, stupid.  So, absent jobs and money, the government stepped in and started taking care.  And look where we are now.

Social Security was not enough for people to survive on, so a loving and caring government added Food Stamps.  Do you remember all those horrific stories of old people eating dog food?  The government that we love to hate couldn’t tolerate that and, since my sisters wouldn’t help me, my neighbors—in the form of the government—started helping me.  I appreciated it.  I knew that if I were in India then I’d be on the streets with a begging bowl.

Then we hit the power crunch and Social Security was not enough to pay for heat so, instead of raising Social Security for everybody, they added HEAP—the Heating Emergency Assistance Program—for the poorest of the poor.  Social Security, you see, was going to everybody, even really rich folks who don’t need it. 

What kind of nonsense was it that decided all old people should get Social Security whether they needed it or not?  It must have been a very different country then.  A country where the economy was booming and everybody was optimistic.  More colleges would be built, more people would get better paying jobs, and we’d go to the moon.

Hey, we did, didn’t we?  And children were supporting their parents through their taxes instead of directly.  Ah, America—you gotta love it, don’t you?  The country where independence means never taking care of your own.  The country where you go to a therapist to work through your guilt instead of going to your family and asking how you can help.

So antidepressants made me too sick to work, so I got Social Security Disability then, when that wasn’t enough to survive on, I got Food Stamps and HEAP.  Well, by then, the cost of housing was way beyond what I could afford on SSD, so I moved into a HUD-subsidized property.  Fair market value for a two-room, wheelchair accessible apartment was $950—and if that isn’t a crock of shit, I don’t know what is. 

So there were grab bars in the bathroom and an eye-level oven, big whoop.  How does that make the fair market value $950?  We’re not talking The Ritz, honey, we’re talking cheap building materials—windows that won’t crank open, walls that won’t hold a nail—so where is this $950 value coming from?  Well, it didn’t matter.  Based on income, I only paid $129 a month in rent.

Now I’m trying to figure out what’s next.  I’m too sick to go on in this “independent” living, in which the government—you, my neighbors—pay for my entire upkeep, but I can’t get anywhere else.  I need to be in a nursing home, but nursing homes only will take from hospitals, and my doctor won’t admit me to the hospital because Medicare won’t pay the bill so the bill will be sent to me and he doesn’t want me to be held responsible.

Honey, I haven’t been responsible for any of my financial affairs for decades.  You see, the weak link here is that the hospital is going to send the bill and the government isn’t going to pay it, which means they’ll have to eat it.

The government has been paying all my bills for twenty-one years and now, in this moment of despair when I need to move from HUD to a hospital so I can get into a nursing home, they’ve stopped paying.  And you know why?

Because I can’t take drugs, i.e., none of my illnesses can be treated with medications.  And you know why?

Because I took all those antidepressants, which busted out my immune system so that I’m hyper-reactive to medications.

So, because I’m sick, the government has taken care of me—up to a point.

This is a hell of a point to drop me.

About annecwoodlen

I am a tenth generation American, descended from a family that has been working a farm that was deeded to us by William Penn. The country has changed around us but we have held true. I stand in my grandmother’s kitchen, look down the valley to her brother’s farm and see my great-great-great-great-great-grandmother Hannah standing on the porch. She is holding the baby, surrounded by four other children, and saying goodbye to her husband and oldest son who are going off to fight in the Revolutionary War. The war is twenty miles away and her husband will die fighting. We are not the Daughters of the American Revolution; we were its mothers. My father, Milton C. Woodlen, got his doctorate from Temple University in the 1940’s when—in his words—“a doctorate still meant something.” He became an education professor at West Chester State Teachers College, where my mother, Elizabeth Hope Copeland, had graduated. My mother raised four girls and one boy, of which I am the middle child. My parents are deceased and my siblings are estranged. My fiancé, Robert H. Dobrow, was a fighter pilot in the Marine Corps. In 1974, his plane crashed, his parachute did not open, and we buried him in a cemetery on Long Island. I could say a great deal about him, or nothing; there is no middle ground. I have loved other men; Bob was my soul mate. The single greatest determinate of who I am and what my life has been is that I inherited my father’s gene for bipolar disorder, type II. Associated with all bipolar disorders is executive dysfunction, a learning disability that interferes with the ability to sort and organize. Despite an I.Q. of 139, I failed twelve subjects and got expelled from high school and prep school. I attended Syracuse University and Onondaga Community College and got an associate’s degree after twenty-five years. I am nothing if not tenacious. Gifted with intelligence, constrained by disability, and compromised by depression, my employment was limited to entry level jobs. Being female in the 1960’s meant that I did office work—billing at the university library, calling out telegrams at Western Union, and filing papers at a law firm. During one decade, I worked at about a hundred different places as a temporary secretary. I worked for hospitals, banks, manufacturers and others, including the county government. I quit the District Attorney’s Office to manage a gas station; it was more honest work. After Bob’s death, I started taking antidepressants. Following doctor’s orders, I took them every day for twenty-six years. During that time, I attempted%2
This entry was posted in American medical industry, disability, Government Services, Health Care, Housing, Medical care, Pharmaceuticals, Poverty, power wheelchairs, Values and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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