Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth." Genesis 9:13

Sunday, May 19, 2013

The dependency class? REALLY?

which is about proposed cuts to SNAP (aka food stamps).  It's a hotly debated issue of course.  But the most wrong thing I've heard today is this ""It seems to me that the goal of this administration is to expand the rolls of people who are on SNAP benefits, the purpose of which is to expand the dependency class," said Republican Congressman Steve King of Iowa.".

I don't care how you feel politically about this.  It doesn't matter.  Dependency class?????? That's a horrible thing to say.

What these politicians don't see is how cocky they are.  They don't think that they or anyone they care about would ever need such a thing as government assistance.  (For the record people who feel this way often include someone like me, on disability, as part of the dependent, despite the simple fact that I paid into social security and now I'm cashing in my INSURANCE, as in Social Security Disability Insurance.  I didn't plan to use that either, for the record, and I know that it is plenty difficult to get approved for it or for SSI (Social security income, which is a tiny income that is not insurance based).  

But SNAP?  Two years ago I couldn't imagine being on anything of the sort.  I was earning well over $80,000 per year, I had health insurance, I was going to have surgery but with the best doctors in the world I knew I'd be back to work not long after my short term disability kicked in.

I was wrong.  I was very, very wrong.  There certainly wasn't a way to anticipate what happened to me.  I'd been fighting bipolar while working for nearly 10 years.  There were jobs available everywhere if I needed/wanted to change and the year before I'd been able to make much more than I was making then by working in temporary, 9 week spots. 

But that's not what happened.  I got worse after surgery, not better, and soon my 6 months of short term disability ran out.  The same week I was denied long-term disability based on pre-existing condition.  Going back to work wasn't even a remote option.  My mother helped pay my mortgage and SNAP paid for me to eat for the next few months until I was approved for SSDI.

I grew up in an area where poverty is everywhere.  I went to school with kids who still had outhouses and no running water.  Sometimes 25%-50% of my class was on free lunches and our school had a free breakfast program as well that I think was open to everyone based on the overall neediness in the district.  For plenty of kids school was the only place there were things like milk or fresh fruit/vegetables.  I babysat for a family who lived in low income housing one summer through a program that was paying for the mom to earn her GED.  She was deaf, had married an abusive man young, had 3 kids and then got away from him only for him to return and rape her, resulting in a 4th pregnancy.  I doubt she was 30.  Things were a little different then with benefits and programs but I remember that I used to buy the kids a snack each time because I didn't have time to eat between my first job and my time with them and their refrigerator showed how hard it was to stretch their food stamps.  They had milk, free cheese and something else from that program (bread?), cereal, Ramen noodles, and various healthy but very cheap items.  There was rarely meat in the house at all.  It was clear they struggled in a way that I had no concept of.

Because I grew up around such poverty, much of it due to living in an area where coal mines had supported families for probably the entire time people had lived there and then the mines closed when I was 2, saturating the job market with people who would do anything to earn whatever they could and numerous people hoping for each and every job, I know that poverty happens against one's will.  I know that it is not usually someone's fault.  Yet I never dreamed I would be on food stamps myself one day.  But I was. 

Even now, even after I won't be paying mortgage anymore, I struggle financially.  I had to ask my mom for money this month just because moving boxes has meant my driving has increased dramatically and I can only afford 2-3 (3 is stretching it) tanks of gas per month.  When gas prices go up I have to drive less.   Tomorrow I have to drive to the city to get a lithium level drawn and that will blow my gas budget for the month.

The funny thing is that when your income allows no bending even change that is positive can be financially challenging.  In February I'll finally have Medicare.  Part A is free.  Part B (the part that pays for doctor's visits, labs, etc) is $89/month.  I will have to buy a drug coverage ($30 estimated) and because my 20% of Part B stuff will add up and be impossible to pay I'll also buy a Medigap plan that helps reduce that.  Dental insurance (private) is $30/month and I wear glasses so I'll need to buy those or pay $150/year in a lump sum for vision coverage.  I will still have financial assistance with a few medications that one company produces, but essentially even though now I pay for meds or stopped taking meds that aren't covered by programs this all adds up to I will be paying a good bit of money, especially with the Part D (medication) donut hole that means I'm responsible for a large amount of money for meds.  The amount is decreasing so I don't know how much but it is significant.  So essentially I transition to having insurance and not needing "charity care" anymore, which should be a positive but it is extremely expensive when you don't have much income.

My point probably got lost here, but it is this:  You never know what is going to happen to you.  I never dreamed I could go from making enough money that even with ridiculous medical bills (I paid out of pocket for counseling, had many co-pays and paid $400/month for one medication my insurance refused to cover) I could still save for things I wanted without it being painful.  Now I know what it is to face months with no income at all, and a lifetime where I'll always fight to avoid debt simply making ends meet.  Our congressmen don't think this could happen to them.

It can.

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