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Have you noticed how home architecture has changed in recent years? We used to have homes with doors to each room. That’s rare these days; we’ve opted for something different, an open floor plan. No longer are families separated by walls and doors, they can see each other and communicate across vast spaces because of the absence of walls separating living and dining and kitchen areas. Only bedrooms seem to maintain the privacy status quo. 

I see a direct correlation between this phenomenon and our current social situation. We are no longer a people clustered in private, unseen groupings. Indeed, what was once visible only to a select few is now visible to all, thanks to the advent of the computer age and more specifically, the rise of social media.

Gays, lesbians, blacks, whites, rich and poor, middle class, Native Americans, Latinos, all seem to have a voice in the cacophony of social media. Everything is out in the open. No one is hidden anymore. With that comes the rise of special requests, the demands for change, the plurality of America reaching for a certain singularity. 

I was quite surprised watching the election returns, and yet I wasn’t that surprised. Disclaimer: though in my Facebook posts I declined to say who I voted for, I will do so now: I did vote for Trump. And why I voted for him is the result of a very anguished and tortured process that led me to think of Clinton, Johnson and only grudgingly, to Trump. I only made that decision just days before the election. Why? After all, he’s not anyone’s perfect candidate. Far from it, in fact.

And in this election, I wasn’t huddling behind a closed door in my own room. Neither was anyone else. We were walking around in an open-floorplan house, very aware of what our friends and neighbors were up to. This, quite frankly, is a new thing. The revulsion and exasperation we felt is precisely the result of our love of social media, and the stripping away of all that was once quite private. We’re not hiding, anymore. 

What follows are my takeaways from this very strange election.

1. Both Parties were repudiated. 

Those who are decrying and horrified that such a candidate as Trump could possibly be elected need to realize one thing: This wasn’t a repudiation of Hillary Clinton and Democrat platform ideals. Far from it. This was a repudiation, yes, but it wasn’t just against the Democrats. This was an outright revolt against the Republicans as well. Think about it, Trump defeated 16 seasoned politicians in the primary races, GOP stalwarts all (except Carson), handily. How was this possible? Trump, an outsider, a non-politician! 

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The voters were saying in very clear terms, “Okay, Washington, you’ve had your fun. But you have ignored us, all of us, for a very long time now, and we are sick of it. We are telling you your job is to represent us,  not the rich special interest groups who fill your coffers with cash and do so expecting special favors. We are telling you to stop shutting down the government like a bunch of crybabies when you don’t get your way. We are telling you to stop casting people who receive benefits (millions) as leaches when you allow corporations to receive basically corporate welfare (billions) and allow them to avoid paying their fair share. We are telling you to stop giving benefits we paid for to folks who are here illegally. We are telling you to stop raiding the Social Security fund, failing to pay it back, and then claiming the system is ‘broken’ and tell us we need to make do with less in our Social Security check. Less?? (One question, Washington: How?) We are saying, you need to get back to the business of real government, finding real solutions to real problems that affect real people.” 

2. Breakdown of the civil order. 

The voters were also saying in very clear terms, they are tired of the so-called protests and riots and road-blocking every time a police officer shoots a black person. The nation is weary of these so-called protests–fueled by instantaneous social media–which were in fact riots which led to looting, burning and beatings of whites and others. Many, not all, of these shootings were justified, but I’ll be the first to admit I think our police training is in need of overhaul. There have been those too quick to shoot without working to de-escalate situations, and that is a shame. I think there is ample room for discussion here. But discussion becomes quite limited when half a city is going up in flames and  Molotov cocktails are being thrown. This “us vs. them” mentality needs to go. Certainly, there are bad cops out there. And there are bad people who are black, white, Latino, Asian and so on… I’ve said it before, no one has a monopoly on virtue. But America is tired of the rioting and looting and burning of our towns. I don’t see much constructive discussion coming when the police feel the need to double down on people because they’re out of control. And real conversation is sorely needed in this day and age regarding how police respond to threatening situations. The Democrat’s failure to distinguish between legitimate protests and destructive rioting did not go unnoticed by the vast majority of Americans. And sending representatives to funerals of young black men killed while in the process of committing crimes is a slap in the face of all who live their lives peacefully and according to the law. 

3. Emotional voting begets emotional responses

Look, I get it. People, especially young people, get excited over their candidates and their issues. But I have to sound a note of caution: Emotive voting is dangerous, because it leads to emotive responses if the beloved candidate loses. In every election, someone will lose. That’s the way it works. I know, it can be bitterly disappointing. Heartbreaking, even. But to have to run to a “safe space” to have a “cry-in” over the lost election is absurd. You are adults. You cast a vote. Your vote counted. If you didn’t win, that’s the way it works. Sure, be upset! Commiserate with your friends, have a drink or two, shed a tear, and then begin planning for the next election. This isn’t a vote for homecoming queen, this is serious business about the future of our country. Getting caught up in a “movement” is fine, but movements come and go. My hope is that young folks will temper the desires of their heart with the logic in their heads. 

Corollary to that is the response to the election. Protesting? Burning the flag? Blocking highways? See Number 2, above. Let’s be honest. Protest is something to do when there is an actual wrong committed against you. Your vote was stolen? Protest. Ballot boxes burned or dumped in a lake? Protest. You were turned away from a voting site by bigots determined to prevent you from voting? Yes, absolutely, protest. But you don’t have a mandate to protest just because you don’t like the outcome of the election. 

And on the other side, making derogatory comments, spitting, painting “White Power” graffiti and other nonsense is even more repulsive. Celebration is one thing. Spitting on people and calling them names and taunting them with threats of deportation is quite another, and despicable. That just makes those who do those things the very racist jerks they were portrayed to be by the media leading up to the election. Celebration is fine. Celebratory gloating and assault are decidedly not. People like that sicken me even more than the losers of the election protesting. 

4. There really is a longing to return to the days of Mayberry and Ward and June Cleaver, but not for the reasons you think…

I read over and over prior to the election that there was an element that wants America to return to the simple old days where we could live like Andy Taylor and Opie, or Ward and June Cleaver and Beaver and Wally, with all that wholesome goodness. Invariably, this was dismissed with scorn and derision as though someone professed they believed the earth was flat. Seriously, those TV fantasies were as fictitious then as now. But that said, there really is a longing to return to those days. But it has nothing to do with women’s place being in the kitchen and and blacks (and other minorities) “knowing their place” and the white man “reigning supreme.” None of that. At all. It has to do with basic economics. Because for all that period’s faults, one thing is very true: One decent job could pay for a house, pay all the bills, buy a car and a TV set and decent furniture, and buy plenty of food, and still have enough left over to save for college and retirement. If there are folks looking back and longing for the good old, days, that is why. Not the racist, sexist, homophobic crap. They want to quit having to work four to five jobs between two people just to make ends meet. My grandfather lived to be just over 90. He and my grandmother were simple folk, they worked in the hosiery mill and farmed a bit (peanuts and other crops) and went to church on Sunday. When they died, well, I don’t know exactly how much they saved, but it was nearly half a million dollars. Yes, you heard that correctly. They lived frugally and socked away nearly half a million dollars in 6o years of working.

That is what people want. They want that kind of opportunity for their lives today. It won’t come, not in this lifetime. But if we could convince our leaders that our lives would be better if we had that kind of economic opportunity once again, well then, imagine what our lives would be like. 

Yes, I know, wasn’t Clinton promising that? And would not her ideas be just as likely, if not more so, to accomplish that? Time will tell. She lost because I think people viewed her as a vote for the same old, same old Washington crap. She’s the consummate Washington insider, and this election was about rejecting that. 

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5. Obamacare hurt. 

I suspect that this election turned on one thing in particular: the exorbitant cost of healthcare. The promise of better, and lower costs of, healthcare never materialized for the middle class. In fact the opposite happened. Many on the lower end of the salary spectrum qualified for subsidies to offset the costs, but after a certain point, people were on their own, and the total costs were disastrous. Seriously, deductibles reaching $3000 to $5000 per year? Exactly who has that kind of money laying around? And insurance premiums, once a percentage of, say, a monthly mortgage, are now often way above the cost of a mortgage. Who can afford that? And now, of course, if you can’t afford it, you get slapped with a big penalty. That’s where a lot of the anger came from. Having the insurance companies release figures saying that people’s premiums were going to rise drastically again just before the election probably doomed Clinton more than anything. 

6. There really is a great divide.

This election fell along very sharp lines: rural vs. urban. Not white and black, not rich and poor, not gay vs. straight or most any other binary division out there, save one. It was the hip urban areas on the one hand and the poor vast, rural country on the other.A quick look at the map bears this out. And this also corresponds to some extent with education. Fewer folk in rural areas have college degrees, which makes sense. There are fewer jobs that require a degree in a small town in Iowa, for example. But one huge mistake the liberal elite made was to assume “uneducated” actually meant “dumb.” Thus they tended to classify Trump supporters as dumb, racist, homophobic, xenophobic and so on. To their misfortune. 

Look, I worked in EMS. In many cases the highest education there is an associate degree from a community college. Most didn’t have that, just the required certification courses to work in EMS. Yeah, I met some dumb folks. But the majority were smart. Very smart, often. I have three college degrees and with all my education, there were people, men and women, I worked with who clearly were smarter than me. You’d better be glad, too. After all, these are the folks who will save your life when your heart stops beating.

All too often, “uneducated” is code among the elites for “dumb,” but I know for a fact that is the most unfair and idiotic classification one can subscribe to. And those who subscribe to the elitist views “We’re right, our views are the only ones that matter, anyone who doesn’t agree with us is just plain racist and sexist, etc.” really don’t understand. Since the mid 1990’s when NAFTA went down, these rural Americans have felt the boot of the American Oligarchy on their necks, and the last thing they needed from the Bush and Obama Administrations was more weight on that boot. But it came in the form of fewer and poorer job choices, outrageous healthcare costs and the inability to ever get ahead. To dismiss the plight of these rural Americans is just plain wrong, and the elites who made light of their situation got a serious wake-up call on Tuesday. Rural America scratched its head and asked, “White privilege? What fucking white privilege?” 

7. Trump supporters are a bunch of racist hicks. Not!  Hillary supporters are a bunch of libtards who want to give away all our money to illegals. Not! 

This election was dominated by social media. And it was by far the craziest I’ve ever seen. I saw some of the ugliness really come out in 2012, when people were actually calling President Obama a n****r and a coon. No holding back, there. Really, there’s no excuse for that shit. But it cut both ways, especially this time around. And the mainstream media played right along. “Trump is a racist!” people would scream. But consider the source. A mainstream news outlet reported Trump wanted to deport illegals. True, he said that. Then liberal bloggers and websites started with, “Trump is against Latino/Hispanic people!” And then the Facebook posts start, “Trump is a racist!” Then, “If you support Trump that makes YOU a racist, too!” See how quickly one statement turns to dirge? Consider the sources, folks. If your only source of info is the echo chambers of like-minded liberals or conservatives, you will never get a clear picture of the truth. And the truth is so sorely needed in this day and age. Yes, Trump has said some deplorable things. But so has Hillary Clinton. Remember the book from one of her Secret Service detail describing how rude and nasty she was to the people under her? You get a good measure of how a person really is by how they treat those in a lesser station than they are. And it’s not very good ethics to treat those who serve you with contempt. So yes, both candidates got a lot of mud slung at them via Facebook, Twitter, blogs, and the biased news sources. Oh, screw that. They got a lot of shit slung at them! To me, it was childish, immature, and ultimately unnecessary. The truth is, Donald Trump is a compassionate man who is well aware of his good fortune, and has helped people from all walks of life in countless situations. And Hillary Clinton really cares about people and especially helping minorities and those of various nationalities find a place in this country, as well as helping lower income Americans rise above their stations. There is good about both of them. The election didn’t need the level of vitriol it obtained to determine that. Ultimately, none of that mattered. What did matter is that the people rejected a Washington insider and chose to elect a Washington outsider. They spoke to him clearly: shake it up. In a big way. 

8. The Electoral College really is needed

I’ve seen so many posts on Facebook lately that the Electoral College needs to be abandoned. Why? Take a look at the map. An ocean of red with tiny islands of blue. And yet if the vote count remains true, Hillary won the popular vote. So why don’t we just do away with the Electoral College and just accept the popular vote? Sounds reasonable, right? 

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Almost reasonable, but no. 

Look at the map. The red areas totally dominate. It’s not even close. And that’s important. For if we did away with the Electoral College, the entire election would be determined by people living in a very small geographic area. As one of my friends put it, if you did away with it, the entire vote would be determined by the State of California. Not exactly my recipe for a fair election. It seems our Founding Fathers knew what they were up to. They foresaw this very kind of situation happening. It would be mighty tiresome watching to see who the cities would elect, year after year, and the resentment would grow, and grow, and grow. Because no one else would ever have a voice. Ever. 

 9. Yes, Virginia, there is a conclusion

We have so much work to do. Our education system is in shambles, our infrastructure is crumbling, banks and Wall Street rake in billions in bubble economies which leave people effectively broke, there is a massive salary divide between top level managers and the average worker, our healthcare system is a joke, the list goes on and on and on. I began this essay with the observation we’re no longer living in blocked off rooms, so to speak, but in a new reality of open floorplan living. Our lives are no longer private, by choice. We tweet and Facebook everything from meals to bowel movements. We create memes to destroy our neighbor’s candidates and we tweet false facts. Just like the housing crisis was a bubble that destroyed America’s economy, we are living in an inflated sense of our own words.

But just because we have a voice doesn’t mean we have, or deserve, an audience. And that inflation of many people’s own words crashed in a big way Tuesday. So many folks never saw it coming. In the last days before the election, I began to suspect the tide had turned for Trump. One Facebook post did it for me, from a guy I know who was shocked at his new insurance premiums. His wasn’t the only such post, but the level of response to his statements made me think, this is a very angry America. 

All of us were wrong to so blindly trust the Federal Government to solve our problems. Of course, the Native Americans knew that a hundred years ago. So, how do we fix it? 

Communicate. Tell the corporations you disagree with their prices, and why. Or their cheap products, and why. Tell the boards of directors of corporations you disagree with their failure to pay decent wages. Tell the banks you will take your business elsewhere if they continue to charge exorbitant fees. Tell the grocery stores we will not purchase poisoned and dangerous food products. And so on. This election isn’t over. Every time we venture outside with credit card in hand we are voting approval of our current system, or not. Tell your Senators and Congressmen and Congresswomen you like or don’t like what they are doing, and more importantly, tell them what you think needs to be done. You get the idea. You aren’t dumb. Speak! Shout! Let your voices be heard from the Capitol Hill rafters! 

All I know is, our system really hasn’t been working for a very long time, but Donald Trump is only one person. Real change begins with us. 

Get busy.

 

 

 

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Okay, I’ve read the bullet points of the reform package. If I had to put together a package of reform measures, what would it include? Here’s my take:

1. Everyone has to be insured. Rationale: The only way to control spiraling costs is to spread the totals over a larger pool. That’s simple economics. I know, I know, you don’t want the government telling you what to do. I don’t either. So, play it this way: pay for insurance (reasonably-priced), or opt out of the health care system entirely. No more having your cake and eating it, too, in other words. The emergency department would not be required to see someone who has refused to participate in a health plan, for example.

2. Costs need to be capped at no more than 25% of a household’s income for insurance.

3. Expand Medicaid immediately to assist those who lost their jobs and insurance so that continuity of care is ensured. Or have a subsidy kick in to cover the cost of continuing one’s previous insurance.

4. Cap medical malpractice lawsuits and settlements. Malpractice insurance is a huge drain in physician income.

5. Work to foster a “this will save money…” atmosphere in health-care places of employment. This is a big one: All too often practitioners of healing arts simply shrug and say, “It’s okay, we’ll charge it to insurance…” No wonder costs have skyrocketed. It also goes to overall price schedules as well. As mentioned in my previous entry, an ECG now runs about $2000 in the ED. For what reason? No, make the cost of a service equal to what it’s worth. A technology older than I am really doesn’t warrant a price tag higher than my used truck. Let’s say the machine costs $25,000. Out of that, say it is good for approximately 2,000 ECGs. That means the cost of the machine is $12.50 per ECG over the life of the machine. So, the hospital needs to make money, to pay for salaries, upkeep of the machine, etc. So let’s set a price of about $400 per ECG. The machine is paid for, Cardiac Tech’s salary is paid for, and the cost to read it by the doc is paid for. Or have the doc bill it separately and use the extra funds to pay for newer technologies and/or equipment. But through the roof pricing “just because they can” has no place in this post-market crash economy.

6. This may bite, but require recipients of Medicare and Medicaid to submit to drug testing, and revoke their standing if they fail the tests. I’m serious. There are legitimate needs out there, and someone who isn’t working because they choose to sit around and get high isn’t my problem. And I choose to make sure it STAYS “not my problem.” I know there are those who have been addicted and who struggle to stay clean and sober. Fine, I’m all for helping honest efforts to improve. But the ones who draw public funds (Medicaid and/or Medicare) and who are using what little money they have to buy illegal drugs have lost my sympathy. Make random drugs tests part of the process. I have the feeling a large number would drop from the rolls.

7. Provide cost breaks to those who make an effort to improve their health.  If you participate in a gym or weight-loss regimen, get a discount for doing so.  Provide card-swipe locations at popular trails or other types of proof of one’s working out and exercise regimen.   Assume all insureds smoke, drink and weigh too much from the outset, then provide discounts to those who can be verified to be making a solid effort towards health-care maintenance.

8. Include dental care as a regular health-care issue, not as a cheap add-on. Really, 50% coverage? The costs of dental care are also skyrocketing. Why not 80/20 like most other insurance plans? Same for vision and hearing. Hearing is especially important to me. (I’m nearly deaf). Why do the blind get money for being blind, but the deaf do not? I’m not begging for money, but from a health-insurance standpoint, it would help things a lot to have coverage for hearing issues as well as vision.

9. Those on disability automatically qualify for Medicaid. I found this out in my disability search. In NC, an individual like myself must be disabled to qualify for Medicaid. However, in my case and most others, I still won’t get it. Why? I’ll make just a few dollars more than the maximum allowed to receive Medicaid, even though I would be on disability like they require. Mind boggling, isn’t it? I fail to see why someone who makes 1002.00 per month on disability is ineligible while the person who makes 903.00 or less is eligible. The drug prices alone for meds I require cost nearly $400.00. That means I net around $500. Not even enough to make a house payment or apartment rental. Not only do they want me in poverty, but they want me in abject poverty, getting my food from food banks, my housing from Section 8 housing, utilities under a special arrangement with the utility companies, etc. No, that’s not what any person would want. And why am I, being male, discriminated against when others who are female are given whatever they ask for? I get kids are important. I have one, thank you very much. But what does my son have to do with my own health situation?  Not a darn thing, unless you count the effect of being a dad on my stress level.  No, no more discrimination of males and childless people in the health-care game.  It’s based on my needs and my health situation, as well as income, not on my sex or child status. 

For better or worse, that’s my take on it. Comments welcome.

My Disabled Government

March 10, 2010

I am on pins and needles at the moment. And it’s not an Indian fakir’s trick, either. Just a fact of my existence for the past 11 months.

I have a couple of disorders, you see. A well-controlled seizure disorder, and a profound hearing loss. Both have affected me greatly in life, limiting my choices and stunting many opportunities for me early on. I kind of pat myself on the back that I got as far as I did; many with significant life-limiting problems never do.

It all came crashing down for me in January, 2009, though. I had just taken a job with Garner EMS and Rescue, and I was on top of the world. New job, great pay, great place to work, nice employers. Then, after many years of being seizure-free, the condition reared its ugly head at work and sent me to the hospital on one of the very ambulances I worked on.

Long story short, I lost my job shortly afterward. My doc greatly increased my medications (up from the dosages I’d taken for many years) and I became a walking zombie.

With my hearing so bad, and my seizures back in the picture, and not being able to or cleared for work, I realized my only option at the time was to apply for disability.

Thus began my nightmare. I entered the tunnel.

I think that’s an apt description. A life formerly characterized by the normal brightness of human existence is reduced to trudging through the dim halls of government bureaucracies.  It begins by going to the Social Security Administration and applying. Believe me, they want to know everything about you. I also had to address my new lack of health insurance. I also applied for Medicaid, believing like most folks it is for folks who are in destitute situations who cannot afford regular health insurance. COBRA is a joke. Yes, I could elect to continue my nice Blue Cross health insurance, but how does one afford the $500 plus premiums when one does not have a job?

So, armed with my information, I went to the county satellite office to apply for Medicaid.  That wasn’t easy. But I have a life-threatening condition, and it must be treated with medication. So, as much as I hated the thought of being on the public dole, what choice did I have? No job, I wasn’t allowed to drive, no insurance, and no clearance to work.

The caseworker was rather obnoxious. She smiled politely and said, “Your application for Medicaid is denied. You must be disabled to receive Medicaid, and they have not approved you for disability yet.”

“Okay. But if they approve it, then I’m eligible for Medicaid?”

“Yes, then you can collect Medicaid. However in your case, if you apply again, we will issue another denial at that time.”

“What?”

“Yes, you see, under Medicaid guidelines, you will make too much money on disability to be eligible for Medicaid.”

“But you just said I had to be on disability to get Medicaid.”

“Yes, but you will earn more than the maximum allowed. So at that point we will deny you and close your file.”

Riiiighhhht. I walked out of there totally befuzzled. I have worked hard all my life. I have worked well over 30 years, putting myself through school and holding full-time jobs since I graduated. One period of unemployment in 1991, for six months. Then hard work ever since. I have paid into the system for many years. And yet I’m penalized for doing the right thing. As my lawyer told me later, those who work less, spend more time on welfare and generally spend their lives as guests of the system seem to get all the benefits.

Back to my case. I applied for disability and began the waiting process. I got a letter in late summer. My application for disability was denied. I can think, reason and communicate, they said.

Did they even read my application? That was my whole application basis. No, I can’t think, reason and communicate like I used to. That has all been stripped away. My mind only functions well a few hours a day; the rest I’m more or less in a sedated funk. By then, I’d heard enough about the system to realize I needed a lawyer.

Among the things various people told me: they deny everyone outright. They will not approve unless you have a lawyer. They are trying to discourage people from applying by making it hard on them. And so on. I hired Mr. Michael Duncan, a very experienced lawyer who used to be a Social Security Disability examiner. Mr. Duncan and his wife, Mel, helped me understand the process better. They don’t always “read” your application. They are just looking for keywords and phrases in the documents. In other words, you can write a book on me, but it won’t fly. Just type: profoundly hearing-impaired, seizure disorder, significant sedation from medication, and nothing else, and your chances go way up. They work with doctors and others to get the wording just right before it’s sent to Social Security.

We appealed the decision. I waited again. And waited. And waited. In November, 2009, I get the letter. Denied again. Mel Duncan called to ask me what to do. “Do you want us to file the next appeal?”

“Yeah, why not? Go ahead,” I said. A week later, she called, and said it had been filed. “This is your best chance to be approved. Many, many cases are denied on the first application and appeal. But when it goes to administrative review, a judge will review your case and decide if they were wrong. And if so, you will win. Most of our cases are won there.” Great, so how long will it take, I asked her.

“Your case will probably come up in eighteen to twenty-months, give or take.”

I hung up the phone shaking my head. No damn way could I wait that long. I have bills to pay and my creditors are starting to get itchy about it. There was no choice in the matter. I had to find some kind of work.

Or start robbing banks. Preferring the legitimate route, I did manage to find a part time job in late January.

Then, I got a letter from the Social Security folks. My administrative review was coming up March 8, 2010. What??

I fired off a quick email to Mr. Duncan, wondering what kind of magic he had performed to get it moved up. He emailed back and asked me to come in. We met a few days later and we reviewed the case. He told me he was as surprised as I was, but he believed that it was moved up because the SSA is under significant pressure from Washington to do something about the backlog of cases on the dockets. Whatever the case, we were now at the top of the list.

The hearing was yesterday. A short, simple process. We entered a tiny courtroom and I was sworn in. The judge made a few opening remarks and asked me to identify myself for the record, and he then made a few comments, and asked my lawyer to present the case. Following that, he asked my lawyer to ask some questions, standard questions they ask in each case. I answered them, and then the judge asked if I had anything I wished to say. I just reiterated my key points… “Being severely hearing impaired is very tiring. You have to be highly focused all day long, reading body language, reading lips, looking for context clues, then trying to focus on the sounds to understand what is said to you. It means constantly multi-tasking and that is very tiring and exhausting, but that is normal for hearing impaired folks. If you add to that mix significant doses of medication which impair your mental faculties, you lose that ability to focus for any length of time, and meaningful communication is impossible.”

My lawyer jumped in and said, “That is a key point of our case, Your Honor, and that is something I had never realized in all the years I’ve done this, but it makes perfect sense, if you’ve lost your hearing you must have pretty good concentration to be able to compensate for the loss of auditory hearing, and that’s been disrupted for him. And too, he is right on the line of what we consider disabled with his hearing, anyway. Just slightly more and it would be automatic for him.”

The judge nodded and said, “I have enough information at this time to make my decision. My decision will be in writing and will be mailed to you both within thirty days. Court is adjourned. ”

Mr. Duncan pulled me out and into a conference room. “Do you remember when we met I said to watch for him to cut it short?”

“Yeah,” I said.

“Well, that’s just what happened. He never called on the vocational expert and we never got to Step Five of the hearing, he cut it off after Step Three. That is usually a very good sign.”

“So you think we won?”

“I can’t say. But I would say your chances are better than 50-50 at this point.”

Ahh.  So after a year, I perhaps, could-be, just possibly maybe, am seeing light at the end of this tunnel.  And so–again–I wait. I don’t want to believe. I can’t hope. Yeah, it would be nice to know I’ve won. But I won’t believe it until I see it.  So many questions linger, though.

Why is this process so crazy? There is nothing to catch folks like me who can’t work (and no, in the months following the seizure I was in no shape to be doing anything for a while, mainly because of the heavy sedation from the medications). If you lose your home, tough. If your car is repossessed, tough. If you can’t pay for medications and treatments, tough. And of course, if you have a job, that is proof positive you aren’t disabled. That last part, I’ll buy.  If you have a full-time job then you can’t really say you’re disabled. But once you’re out of work due to a medical issue, then it would seem that some kind of short-term disability would be helpful in enabling people to stay afloat. Or at least lessen the severity of the impact when you do fall flat on your financial face. But there isn’t anything for that.

Another issue. Medicaid isn’t a great program, but it does help a number of people. So why am I not able to collect it when so many others, who paid far less into the system than I did, do collect? The more you pay in, the less you qualify for Medicaid. The less you pay, the more you qualify.  On disability, your income is based on how much you paid into Social Security over the years. So someone who barely worked and only made minimum wage at that, gets Medicaid. I did the right things, and held good jobs, and I’m penalized at crunch time for that. Can I cry “foul!” here?

The process is too long, too cumbersome, and weighted on the wrong end of need. I have seen a good number of disability recipients who don’t really have disabilities. They have “mood swings.” Or they have a bad back. One guy on disability for a bad back came to buy a car from me. He didn’t have any trouble moving around, you could say. I wonder, how do they make these decisions?

I don’t know. Mr. Duncan told me my education will count against me. I have a master’s degree. What in the world does that have to do with my current health status? Nothing as far as I can tell. I get that they might assume that someone with education might be more likely to find a different job.

Not if you are truly disabled.

Again, the less you’ve worked, if you are a chronic addict, if you have less than a high school education, then your chances of getting disability will quadruple. Why is this?

A key point: this is not welfare. This is about life-limiting ailments and losses of function that prevent full-time employment, and this is what all Americans pay for in our social security taxes. I just happened to have two major conditions (plus a third, depression). I can’t see being back at a full-time job in this sedated, deaf condition. So, I am asking the government to help me out. It’s what I’ve paid for all these years.

I myself had given up. I didn’t expect to ever see the judge. As hard as it was, I had just found a small part-time job (didn’t really pan out, but it was a start).  Problem was, as far as full-time work, I just couldn’t find anything I could do.

But my case came up much, much faster than the norm, and I was heard. And once again, I wait, hoping that this time, my government won’t act as disabled and unfocused as I am, and will do the right thing.