Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Double-Edged Sword of Disability Benefits

For those of my readers who don't already know, I work as a job coach for people with disabilities. 
My primary function is to help people with disabilities maintain gainful employment by providing them guidance and support on how to overcome their challenges.  One of my current clients has made me think long and hard about disability benefits in this country, especially for people with mental health issues.

Let me start off by saying that one thing that makes me feel great about my line of work is that I know the tax-payer dollars are being well spent.  My agency provides employment services for people with disabilities, so this is not a case where the state is just throwing away money.  I have worked with some clients who will never, ever be able to work full time, and thus will never ever be able to fully support themselves on their own.  They have fairly significant challenges that are nigh impossible to overcome.

Because of that, they receive SSI and typically SSDI as well to supplement their income.  A girl that I coached works as a stocker at a Walmart.  They brought me in to help her out because she was having some significant problems.  She is diagnosed with PTSD, mood disorder, Bipolar Disorder, pyschosis, and she has some mild cognitive impairments.  She works about 28 hours per week, which is actually very good, but emotionally and psychologically she would not be able to handle more than that.

Without her SSDI and SSI, she would not be able to afford living on her own.  So this is a case where it works out wonderfully.  Sure, we the taxpayer have to bear that cost, but I'm okay with that because it's not her fault she is so profoundly messed up.  But my current client has made me doubt some things.

He is doing a work assessment for food prep at a local restaurant here in Columbus.  Nearly every day he tells me about all of the things that frustrate him and would make him walk off of the job.  "I've done it before.  I've left a lot of jobs that way."  Today, he kept nicking himself with a potato peeler (the potatoes were wet and very slipery), and he very nearly quit.  I had to get him to take a 5 minute breather and collect himself, because if he walks off of the job during a work assessment, I have to report this to his vocational rehab counselor (the whole purpose of the work assessment is to determine if he's ready to re-enter the work force).

This has been going on for over a week now.  He's good at prepping food--rusty after not working in the last 11 years, but shaking off the dust.  But there are so many other factors that set him off and increase his frustration to the point where he simply wants to quit.  Until yesterday, I couldn't really understand his mentality.

I've had extremely bad days at work, and in my current job I have to put up with a lot of pressure.  If I just said "fuck it" and walked, I'd be completely screwed.  I have rent to pay, kids to support and put through Catholic school.  I simply could not just quit my job because I would have zero income.  And that's when it hit me.  He has not worked in 11 years, but still he manages to get by, and it's all because he receives a big fat check every month.

It's not like he lives like a king.  He can only afford to live in a low-income part of town.  For him to quit simply means that his life continues on with the status quo because so long as he is disabled--and he has been determined to be permanently disabled--he gets that check.  I found myself feeling fairly resentful.  I don't get to just throw my hands up and tap out when the going gets tough.  I just have to deal with it and move on.

I don't have a disability, so I have to keep trudging on no matter how hard it gets.

My current client is bipolar.  He was abused as a child, and he has fairly high anxiety issues.  It's not easy for him to work through frustration and handle pressure where someone like me would not struggle at all.  But something tells me that if he had zero income, he would not be so quick to abandon his post.

And that is the double-edged sword.  Disability benefits are there to help those who actually cannot help themselves, and that is a good thing.  But for some of them, it breeds a feeling of dependence.  I can't always determine whether or not that dependence is warranted, but I can't help but wonder what his attitude would be like if he knew this was his only shot at having an income.

Something tells me that he would not be so quick to give up if he knew he would lose his monthly check.  But something else tells me that he might just off himself if he knew that he had no other recourse but to put up with either working or being homeless.

I don't really have any answers for this except to say that all I can do is try to help him cope.  Part of me wants to give him a kick in the ass to get his head straight, but the wanring alarms in my mind tell me that such a kick in the ass would likely send him over the edge.  I am in a rewarding, but incredibly frustrating, line of work.


Anonymous said...

This is a fine line indeed.

It should never be easy to kick someone to the curb, which is one of the basic challenges of being Libertarian.

Hopefully, in a truly free market, both people would be taken care of somehow, someway. Family, Charity, Shelter... something.

Also, hopefully in a free market there would be no need for the woman to get taxpayer money because she could make it by on her 28 hours.

It seems the common problem in both cases is the cost of living, yes? It is truly amazing to me how a place with zero modern technologies, like an aborigine tribe, isn't considered being homeless... when in America it would be.

Until we build Acropolis type structures where an "apartment" would cost almost nothing in rent this will continue to be an issue.

Makes me think of an old game called "Rise of the Dragon" where the main character lived in the smallest apartment you could imagine.

Anonymous said...

I meant to say Arcology, not Acropolis... had ancient Greece on the brain after reading about their restoration efforts.

Anyways... I don't really have a good answer for you Jackie. It's a situation that like many of it's type doesn't have a solution, only tradeoffs.

Micky said...

Yeah, its definitely a tricky position to be in.
I got clean and sober over twenty years ago. Today I spend about half my time working with junkies and drunks who want their lives back.
I'm often torn between those that want help but dont want to to do the hard work, those that are using their addiction as an excuse for a bunch of excuses, and those that are just looking for some temporary shelter from the law, dealers they owe, or just bullshit their way into 3 hots and a cot.
Everyone needs to be dealt with on an individual basis, thats about the best you can do.
Many of their addictions are the cause of or the result of many of the things your clients suffer from and so dealing with the underlying issues is usually what takes the most energy.
They need certain elements to come into play in certain orders.
First, meaningful sobriety.
This usually involves detox for at least a couple weeks, then treatment which can range from out-patient for a month to a clinical lock down for a year.
This means they need to be qualified for some disability or at least welfare of some sort because the states bed space here in Hawaii is a fucking joke.
Dont sweat yourself too much Jack.
You do what you can, treat each one as an individual, each case on its own merits, and take it from there.
Its the best you can do.

I've learned that its okay to put your foot in their ass and expect more of them.
Just make sure they know you're there if they fall.

FreeThinke said...

"if he had zero income, he would not be so quick to abandon his post."

That's the crux of the argument, Jack. Before "Progressivism" and "Freud" (two arms of the same monster the body of which is Envy) that is EXACTLY the way it was for everybody not protected by a husband, a father and mother or a private income from inherited wealth.

It's a shame the Founders didn't really tells us what they actually meant when they said "All men are created equal."

The concept of "Equality -- as Marxists, Fabians, Liberals, Progressives, Socialists, and Statists tend to define it -- obviously defies the rules of logic. Just about any cross section of human beings you could examine would contain a scattering of the most UNEQUAL individuals you could imagine.

It might help you in your work to read The Excuse Factory, if you haven't done so already. I'm sorry I can't remember the author's name, but I'm pretty sure you could easily find the book on -- or maybe even at your local public library, if you still have such a thing.

I believe that those who are severely crippled, maimed, blinded, and hopelessly out of touch with reality (i.e. raving maniacs) ought to be supported by the public, because it would be barbaric just to "dispose" of them in a utilitarian fashion, and just as bad to allow them to die in the streets from exposure.

However, malingerers (i.e. able-bodied fakers who COULD work if they absolutely HAD to) should NOT be feeding at the public trough.

From what I've been able to gather you probably think it's not a good thing to listen to Rush Limbaugh, but he summed up the central argument of our time brilliantly and succinctly when he said, "No one beats Santa Claus."

I don't think I need to spell out the implications of that observation -- at least I hope not. However, I will return in a day or two to see for myself, if you accept the logic and wish to make the attempt to apply it to your current situation.

Needless to say, I think you're on to something.

The Welfare State may
be as great as they say,
But i wouldn't be missed,
If it didn't exist.


Jack Camwell said...

I think I get the idea without much of the context. I had to look up the entire quote though. It read "in a nation of children, no one beats Santa Claus." I guess that's a way of saying that the system will never change because too many people benefit from it.

My current client does have a lot of major issues. He's very bi-polar, and his medication doesn't work.

But it feels like the disability check is a crutch. Now, he hasn't walked off of the work assessment yet despite him wanting to all the time.

Jersey McJones said...

I see a little social Darminism lurking it's ugly head from the right wing these days.

Disability as another part of the welfare state is a reflection of the opportunities in a society, not the other way around. Conservatives do not understand this concept.

That's why you have a conundrum, Jack. You think more for yourself than do most conservatives.


Micky said...

Yeag Jersey, are you sure that came out right ?
cant have people thinking for themselves ?

Since Obasmas election the rate of fraudulent disability claims has skyrocketed.

So please, dont suggest anyone is being selfish without looking at your own pigs at the trough first.

Micky said...

Full disclosure, of a personal Nature.
I’m in a really fcking bad mood…
I’m spreading the word to gather prayers.
Pray for Patty.

Shes a street person I’ve been trying to sober up for ten years.
Shes had he periods of clean,buts always short and insignificant.
She sleeps under bridges, alleys, bus stops, is a mess, surprised she made it this far. Her partner, supposed husband, is not in any better health but a chronic meth head brain damaged past comprehending what entails his survival. Useless to her.
She went to emergency three nights ago with bad stomach pains, She has stage four stomach cancer.
I’ve been seeing her everyday in her room trying to offer support no matter what her choices.
Yesterday we discussed what vague details she would give me. I gave her purpose by reminding her of family that needs her love and the effect she can have on those in continued life.
At that point she took the cue and request the clergy drop by her room.
I left yesterday feeling great hope that she was looking for inspiration.
This morning, to my shock and dismay I found her curled up in the corner in an alley sleeping under her numerous bags, drunk off her ass.
The hospital said she needed immediate surgery, she opted out by a bullshit excuse of needing a second opinion.I think, because she’d realized that she was soon entering a phase in life that required hard work starting with sobering up and then a regiment for the next year of rigorous application and tenacity.
Shes digressed to a point of not caring if she lives or dies.
I was so sure we’d reached an enlightenment for her and found myself sunken in grief, anger and frustration because it looks like shes going to die on the street in a pile of garbage.
The effects of her liter of vodka a day on her stomach will no doubt ravage a stomach thats already halfway down shit creek.
Had she opted for the surgery yesterday there was hop.
Today I believe my friend will be dead shortly.

A collective prayer that some moment of clarity will hit her soon will be much appreciated.

Shes never done anything to harm anyone, but has reached a point where meaning is oblivious.

Pray for Patty

Jersey McJones said...

Micky, please tell me you are not one of those guys who was born in 2009 and believes Obama is to blame for the Great Recession. There's no way you're that stupid.


Micky said...

Jersey, the recession was well on its way and the product of nothing but a bloated government full of rinos and progressivism.
It could been dealt with much more efficiently and expeditiously if your ilk hadn't tripled down on the Bush stimulus of 750-800 billion dollars.
After a 3 trillion + dollar infusion (Obamacare aside) into select liberal interests the only thing weve seen is a minor bump in employment at the rate of 250,000.00 per job.

Everyones costs are up, healthcare is thru the roof(as I and many predicted years ago) retail inflation is up, median incomes are down, were dropping another few billion into the IRS, immigration, food stamp dependents have doubled, and fraud in most every area of public assistance is astronomical.
Liberals have no business near the cash register, or the national security front.

Micky said...

"There's no way you're that stupid."

As opposed to the many ways you're really stupid ?


Erminia Cavins @ Parmele Law Firm said...

I do agree that disability is a double-edged sword. There are those who make claims to support their living while there are those who use their disability just for the checks. On the other end of the spectrum, some get rewarded easily while others go through the wringer to earn approval. I think there's no quick way around it, but I do think everyone needs to gain better awareness, understanding and patience regarding disabilities and SSDIs.

Jules Doodnath said...

Hi, Jack! I agree that your line of work is both rewarding and frustrating. Being able to help people with their disability claims and continue with their lives is definitely rewarding. But it can also be frustrating when the instances float when you're thinking whether some of them truly deserve the state's help or not. This is also the reason it takes a lot of processes before someone's claim can be granted. That is why, it's great to know that there are people like you who are dedicated to giving fair and just help and services for these people. Kudos to you!
Jules @ DJ&H Process Service, Inc.