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Fund Medicare Not Warfare: Fight for Social Security Disability Rights!

Posted Nov 11 2010 12:00am

I connected with my truest self tonight. So I have a slight confession to make. My last post stated boldly that I am proud to be a Democrat. And that's not quite true. I'm proud that I know the Democratic party is the lesser of two evils. I don't tend to be truly proud to be part of any political party. In my heart, I would be closest to the Green Party. I've voted for Ralph Nader before. And then I voted only for Democrats. Because there were few options. But there is a reason I'm mentioning this.

In 2003, when President Bush II was getting ready to start two big-old wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, I protested. I lived in Alexandria, Virginia at the time, and I was sick. I was not just mentally sick, but physically sick as well. I had been physically sick for years, and still didn't know for sure what the problem was, but I frequently fell down and would get to the point of passing out. I couldn't stand up for long without dizziness and weakness. And so, when I wanted to go be part of the Code Pink for Peace vigil outside the White House, I had to rent a wheelchair to do it. So that's what I did, and that's when I truly became an activist. I went to that vigil regularly for months and I participated in numerous rallies and marches.

And that's who I really am. An activist. One of my favorite quotes is by Alice Walker. "I'm an activist", she said, "It pays the rent for living on this planet". For a long time now, mental health issues and mental health advocacy have been a big focus in my life. Also, women's rights issues and activism for women's rights have been a big part of my life. But beyond that, when it comes down to what I really care about it's a very progressive way of thinking. I don't know that I come across that way on this blog. This blog is personal, and the personal is political according to an age-old feminist phrase, and so, I am writing a political post again. I only do this once in a while here. Bear with me, and please don't run away in horror if you disagree. It's really okay to disagree with people and still talk to them or correspond or read their writing. I've learned this as I've gotten older. I do feel old now, compared to when I was an anti-war vigil attendee and activist marching on Washington in 18 degree weather. But I'm also aware that I need to hold onto that part of me because that is a vital part of who I really am, and I don't want to neglect my true self. I want to live an authentic life.

Tonight, I had the chance to see a performer named David Rovics who sang at some rallies I went to back in those days in Washington. I hadn't seen him since then, but I'd always loved his political songs. Seeing him sing in person reminded me of my core self. I felt, at once, at home again. His songs were revitalizing and a great breath of fresh air in an otherwise bland political atmosphere. There has never been much real progressive, anti-war activism where I live in Florida. There's a little bit here and there, but it's nothing like marching on Washington. And I had the mental health issues on my mind, and that was a distraction. Work and school are distractions too. But I know now, from this feeling of being at home tonight, that I need to get involved in anti-war, anti-globalization activism again, or, at least, I need to connect more with other like minded people where I live. I don't have a lot of friends. Those I do have, who live where I live, don't have my political leanings and interests. I need friends who do.

When I made a sign in 2003 that said "Fund Medicare, Not Warfare", the war on Iraq had not started yet. We were hoping to prevent it from starting. Obviously that didn't happen. There was no "Medicare-for-all" campaign then, like there is now. I just knew it made sense. Fund Medicare. Provide healthcare for disabled and elderly people. Do not fund weapons. Simple common sense. I would later, over the years, find countless people online and in writings who agreed with that sentiment. Yet, still today, our government has officials who want to cut Medicare and other important, necessary social services programs. Now that the House has been overtaken by Republicans there is even more danger of this as I mentioned in my previous post.

Today I learned from the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law , that the Social Security Administration is debating changing the rules in Social Security to make it harder for people who have mental illnesses to get Social Security Disability benefits. Here is some information about the proposed changes
What’s Bad About the Proposed Listings
The specific problem with the proposed Listings, for both children and adults, is a reference to standardized test results and the scores a person must have on those tests in order to meet the new standard. The definitions of the minimum scores are arbitrary and exclusionary.

First, there are no suitable tests that validly measure ability to work, nor is there any research showing a link between the tests of mental functioning that do exist and the ability to work that needs to be measured for the SSA process. Nonetheless, SSA would encourage its disability examiners to use “standardized tests.”

If a test is used, under the proposed rule an individual’s score must be two standard deviations below the mean for the level of functioning to be considered “marked,” and it must be three standard deviations below the mean for the level of functioning to be considered “extreme.” So in addition to encouraging the use of tests that cannot measure what needs to be measured, SSA has created a stringent— and flawed— standard in terms of the score required to qualify. This change would drastically reduce the number of children and adults with serious mental disorders who qualify for disability benefits.


So, now please take out your own activist hat and do a good deed for yourself and other people who live with mental illnesses or other disabilities. We must let the Social Security Administration know that we won't put up with this discrimination. We must use our voices. We must prevent them from making it even harder for a person with mental illness to get the "benefit" of a poverty level income when there is no other way for the person to survive. Here is what Bazelon is asking you to do. Please do it
Please ask SSA to revise its proposed mental impairment Listings —and please circulate this alert widely. The deadline for comments is November 17.

You should make the following points in your message to SSA
The proposed use of standardized tests to measure the functioning of people with serious mental illnesses is a flawed approach, with no scientific basis.
SSA should drop all reference to standardized tests in the mental illness sections of the proposed Mental Impairment Listings, especially the requirements for people to score so low on such tests in order to qualify for benefits.

Under the proposed rule, every year thousands of people who cannot work would be unable to qualify for federal disability benefits.
When you submit your comments, refer to Docket No. SSA-2007-0101 so your comments are connected to this particular regulation.

To send your message , use one of these methods
Internet—go to http://www.regulations.gov and search for docket number SSA-2007-0101 and follow directions.

Fax to 410/966-2830

Mail to Office of Regulations, Social Security Administration, 137 Altmeyer Bldg., 6401 Security Boulevard, Baltimore, MD 21235-6401.

Tell your government that funds warfare with no regard for its massive waste of money, not mention incredible human tragedy, that we need healthcare, and we need disability benefits, and we need the money they're wasting on weapons to be redirected towards helping rather than killing people. Tell the government to fund Social Security like it should, and stop this blatant discrimination against people with mental illnesses. Speak up and use your voice and be heard!

As tomorrow (today now, it's late) is Veteran's Day, think about all the vets who have suffered, died, or committed suicide due to PTSD and post-war depression, whose lives matter and how they should be brought home now. Now. And think about the veterans of another kind of war, the hell that is a severe mental illness, and how we need help too, we need to be rescued, we need a place of peace from the nightmare. We need to know there's a lifeline. A government should be about helping people live their lives, not limiting them or ending them. Living them. In honor of all the soldiers and civilians lost to all wars, I say, fund Medicare, not warfare, just like I said it in 2003, because no war ever led to "peace" or accomplished much of anything good.

You can here some David Rovics music for free (and download it too) here.
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