Putting the Screws to the Adults that Fall In-Between

If my posts seem to be a little more “downbeat” than usual lately, it is because that is the way I am feeling with all that has gone on and is going on with heath care, medicaid, (let’s not forget our whole Social Security fiasco) and now new regulations regarding work/agency programs that can also directly impact my son.

Just look at all you have to look forward to when your child becomes an adult.

A few months ago I wrote the post below about Sub-Minimum wage and how, as much as people seem to want to do away with it all together, it has been beneficial for DC (please read the post below, Sub-minimum; Another View,  in it’s entirety before assuming anything about that last statement). He is working for an agency – an agency that created these jobs for people like him who will never be able to go out and get a job in the community at minimum wage without constant support. This is not to say that there are not other companies that have disabled adults working at sub-minimum that should be paying minimum wage. There is abuse and there are loopholes in any system and all entities that hold a below minimum certificate should be monitored closely. But, let’s not throw away the baby with the bath water.

He is not in a sheltered workshop. His program and others within the agency are open to the public.

A few months ago I received a letter that due to new federal regulations, all individuals making sub-minimum wage must attend “career counseling” once a year.

If you have been around here for awhile, I will just let you sit with that a minute……

??????????????

I would have liked to have been a fly on the wall for that- but okay, I get it. The government wants to be sure that there is no one working in GSE (Group Supported Employment) at sub-minimum that is capable of working out in the community. But really, every year?

Next came the notification that many of the programs at this agency (and other agencies, I imagine) have been re-designated as “Transition Programs” from GSE programs. Transition, meaning that the clients cannot stay in these programs indefinitely. They must eventually transition into community employment.

I had DC’s 6 month IP (no “E” as he is out of school) meeting today and the woman who was supposed to explain what his agency is going to do did not attend, so we will have to schedule another meeting, but this is what I have been able to piece together right now:

Because these programs are open to the public but our children do not GO OUT into the public, even though they have customers that they deal with on a daily basis, they have been re-designated as transition programs. What could possibly be the difference?

These programs/jobs that were created for our adult children who are in-between the adults that are not able to hold any type of job and the adults that are able enough to hold a job out in the community, are now to be considered transition programs leading to employment out in the community.  If they find that DC does not qualify as “able to transition” to a regular job in the community, he may end up in a day/recreation program instead of being able to go to work.

OR: The agency has to come up with different options for GSE employment; meaning sending crews or enclaves to grocery stores or other businesses at sub-minimum wage with support staff.

So, we have some states trying to do away with sub-minimum all together because they envision greedy employers who would rather pay sub-minimum wage than hire someone at minimum wage and they envision disabled adults being taken advantage of. Yet, the government is willing to do away with agency jobs that were created for our children and other adults that cannot hold a regular job, in favor of sending them out in groups with support to a grocery store (or where ever), taking a minimum wage job at sub-minimum wage. Isn’t this exactly what the sub-minimum critics are complaining about?

Even if this sort of program proves to be beneficial; there is the added obstacle of finding businesses that are willing to participate in this type of program. That is not always easy; I know this. I have heard it from many of the agencies that I visited before placing DC in his current program.

I really do not understand this at all, but once again, it is children like mine; the ones who are in the middle that no one seems to be taking into consideration….

(My caseworker did say that the wording was very foggy, so this is what they were able to decipher at this time. I will post updates and/or corrections as I learn more)

From August 2016:

Sub-Minimum; Another View
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I just received a letter from the agency that DC “works” for. To paraphrase; there are new federal rules that will impose limits on people earning less than minimum wage. The clients that are already earning sub-minimum can continue to do so, but they will be required to receive “career counseling” annually. Basically, they will no longer be able to accept new clients at sub-minimum.

I know that there is cheering and celebration going on after reading the paragraph above but I ask that you take a minute to read another side to this issue, because there are two sides to this. If your child is not an adult and out of school, the reality of the “other side” for many may not be something you might be thinking about right now.

I agree that EVERYONE is entitled to be paid minimum wage, EVERYONE! The reality is that some of our children will never be able to work at Walmart, Target or hold a “regular” job. Should they earn minimum wage if they do not hold a regular job? Absolutely! Do I think my child deserves minimum wage? Absolutely again, but unfortunately the funding is not there to support it.

When DC was young and in school, I had no idea how any of this worked. I did not understand agencies or Group Supported Employment at all. I would have had the same knee-jerk reaction to him working at sub-minimum wage. I would have envisioned sweat shops and whatever other horrors that you might be envisioning right now.

My son works for a non profit agency – Group Supported Employment. He works in their greenhouse which is open to the public. He has staff supporting him all day, everyday. He earns less than minimum wage.

DC is 25 and will never be able to work without support – a good amount of support. The agency that provides his work program is funded by the state. Funding is cut each and every year – each and every year. We can all scream and yell that these programs need more funding, but the reality is that funding for programs for the disabled is cut every year. If his agency is made to pay their clients minimum wage, they could only afford to keep 6 of the 12 clients working in the greenhouse. Where would that leave my son and others like him? He has the right to feel productive. He has the right to do something meaningful with his time every day. Where would that leave him? Sitting home all day or in a day program (like a day care)? He loves his job. He likes to go to work every day. Basically what this letter is saying is that they will no longer be able to accept ANY client at sub-minimum, which in reality means they will not be able to accept ANY new clients at all – at least in their work programs. So where will all of the students leaving the school system go if they are not able to work at a regular job out in the community?

I do believe that agencies holding a below minimum certificate should be monitored closely, but to do away with them blindly is doing a disservice to those that are not able to hold a regular job.

This agency also supports and trains clients who are capable of going out and working in Walmart, etc. Those clients, after they are trained DO make minimum wage or more because they are paid directly by the company that hires them – while still getting support when needed and at times, transportation through the agency.

If your child is lucky enough to be able to work without support out in the community, that is great! If not, I hope that in the future these agencies are able to receive the funding and support that they need, because all of our children deserve that. Until then, please do not take away their opportunity to have a job like everyone else and benefit from the interaction with the public, while still having the support of staff to help them throughout their day.

I am in no way advocating for anyone to make less than minimum wage, I am saying that right now, this is the reality for my child. He is working like everyone else. He is in a place with staff, he is safe and he is being looked after.

For those of you that may be envisioning the “sweat shop” scenario; the “clients” attend the program for 6 hours per day. They do as much work as they are capable of doing. They are not forced to work. They are not doing hard labor or strapped to a chair to meet a quota. They are learning, they are socializing they are out in the community and making contact with the public. They are surrounded by and supported by agency staff. These “businesses” are created for the soul purpose of providing “employment” for their clients. They are not booming businesses and most of them are not profitable. Even though they are open to the public, they are providing a service to our kids, more than to the public (I can only speak of the agencies in our area, but I imagine that it is about the same in most agencies).

While the states continue to cut the funding of programs for people with disabilities, the Federal government in turn expects these already struggling agencies to now pay minimum wage. They are required to maintain a certain level and staff to client ratio, but when the funding disappears, the level of staff still must me maintained.

Think for a minute about where you think your child will be after he/she finishes school. Will he/she be able to go out and get a job and work without support? If the answer is no, or maybe not, then think about just what they will be doing instead. Will they stay home all day? Enter a day program/daycare? What do you think they would want to be doing? Would they like to say they have a job like everyone else around them?

As much as DC lives in the present and “what comes next” is not what is in his head most of the time, he does know that Mom is an adult and has a job. He knows that Doug has a job. He knows his friends have jobs. He knows that most adults have jobs. He knows that he is an adult. He likes that he goes to work. He likes that he has a job. But, unfortunately the government would rather see a large portion of this population sitting around at home or attending day/recreation programs than do something that might make them feel productive…. to have a job like everyone else.

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Happy “Twenty-Sixteen”

Here we are again. An entire year sped by in the blink of an eye. DC will be celebrating his 26th Birthday next week, or as DC likes to call it – his “Twenty-Sixteen Birthday”.
Even though he has been announcing it daily since the calendar flip to March if you were ask him how old he is (or will be) he will almost every time tell you that he is 18. That is always his first response. When asked a second time, he will tell you Twenty-Six. He does know the number, what that number means to him other than cake, friends, ‘out to eat’ and gifts, I really do not know – but he knows the number. Twenty-six!

He does know how to say the number, it’s the “th’s”, “st’s” and “nd’s” that he just can not grasp. He tries but they do not make sense to him. I remember the time that he announced to anyone who would listen, including the check-out girl at the grocery store, that it was “Mom’s Fifty-tooth birthday”. So instead of his 26th;  DC’s ‘Twenty-Sixteen” birthday it is.

I wrote the following last year on his 25th and there is really not much more I can say about this boy of mine. He makes me proud every single day. On the other side of that joy; the older he gets, the older I get and my worry about the rest of his life gets overwhelming at times. I want to know that he will be happy. I want to know that he will be well cared for. I want him to have the best life possible. I want to KNOW all of this now. That is the only thing I want or would ask for if granted a wish.

Happy Twenty-Sixteen beautiful “boy”. I love you ‘Magly’.

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From March 2016, imaginatively titled:

Twenty-Five!

 

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This week we celebrated DC’s ‘twenty-five birthday’ (DC-speak).

TWENTY-FIVE!!!!

I just cannot wrap my head around that fact. I cannot believe so much time has passed. I cannot believe that the little boy that I once carried around… everywhere, is 25 years old. I have heard about his ‘Twenty-five’ birthday all day, everyday since the calendars changed from February to March, but it really did not hit me, emotionally until the day before, when some tears were definitely shed.

‘Happy tears’ – I told him. He loved that.

He has come so far in those 25 years….

 

From the boy whose only word until he was almost 7 years old was “”Momma” –

To the boy that eventually moved on to –

“Mommy” – and then –

“Mother” when he’s feeling a bit more formal and/or reciting Disney.

To the man who at times decides that “Vickie” is appropriate because in his mind, he is an adult and he should call me by my adult name.

 

From the boy who was always the loudest person in the room but could not tolerate noise or crowds –

To the man who is still the loudest person in the room, but can tolerate noise and crowds so much more easily, most of the time.

 

From the boy with the very limited menu who I thought would never gain any weight –

To the almost 6ft, 200lb man, still with a limited menu, but a bit more open to trying new things.

 

From the boy, who due to a delayed reaction from almost choking, completely stopped eating for almost a month –

To the man who can still have the random delayed reaction,  but now his Mom can usually recognize it and figure it out much more quickly.

 

From the boy who could not stand to be away from me at any time and had no interest in his peers and socializing –

To the man, who still must know exactly where I will be, but looks forward to spending time with his friends and attending social activities.

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From the boy who, I was told would never speak

To the man who never stops talking.

 

From the boy who was always lovable with me when he was a baby but had a very low tolerance for his head, ears, face and so many other touches that I remember saying,  “If he wasn’t so lovable, I would think he hated to be touched”

To the man, who will still hug and kiss his Mom (and is not embarrassed to do so), but will also hug his friends, his family and just about anyone he wants to, whether they want a hug or not.

I cannot be more proud of my boy…. I cannot love this child more. He amazes me everyday. He makes me laugh everyday. He fills my life with worry. He fills my life with love. I would not trade the last 25 years for anything in the world. He is the joy of my life.

If I had only one wish; my wish would be for the rest of his life to be as happy as it is right now and that he will be just as full of sunshine and light as he is right at this moment……

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Re-Blogged: Why You Should Be Wrestling With the Idea of “Handouts” in Healthcare

As most of you know, the older I get (and although I have everything I am supposed to have and more in place),the more I obsess and worry about what will happen to DC when I am gone. There are days when that is all that I think about and days when I just can’t bear to think about it.
This is a very hard read (emotionally) and it took me a few tries to get through it, but it is an important read…
Don’t be afraid to share it.
via: Running Through Water

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“I read a story this morning in the news about a woman in Texas who stopped on the side of the road to chat with a homeless man.  Her curiosity got the best of her since she passed him in the exact same spot on the side of the road four times a day for three years. You can see it here.  He was very thin, unshaven, filthy.  We’ve all passed “him” on the side of the road, haven’t we?”

 

Continue Reading: Clutching at the Heels of the Disabled: Why You Should Be Wrestling With the Idea of “Handouts” in Healthcare

There’s Still More! (Seriously, there is!)

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We are about to venture into the ridiculous….

If you read my last post you will know that I because of an account I had, I was required to pay back Social Security $12,000.00 in benefits – which I knew was dead wrong.

It took them all of 4 days after receiving the account information and the spend down documentation to send me a letter informing me that I had to pay back a year and a half of DC’s Social Security benefits in the amount of $12,000.00.

After sending two appeal forms and hearing nothing I finally got to talk with someone (On December 17) who informed me that the issue was disposed of! They were very quick to let me know I owed them a large sum of money but very lax in notifying me that the case was disposed of. Understanding the incompetence of this agency, I asked for a letter verifying that fact. I was assured that a letter was going out that day.

In the meantime, I was notified that my step-father, without my knowledge and against my expressed wishes, made DC the beneficiary on a small life insurance policy in the amount of $1500.00. He is not allowed to have more than $2,000.00 in resources at any one time. $1,500.00 is less than $2,000.00, you say? He should be all right, you say? No! That is not how it works. To determine his resources, they take the highest amount of money in his account for the month and add the extra resource to that (If he did not have an account, then they just take the amount of his monthly check and add from that). The highest balance will always be the amount of his Social Security check, so it will always come up over $2,000.00, not by much but it will be over (a friend of mine’s son had his benefits suspended for a .20 <twenty cent> overage).

And Hey! – Fun Fact!

If you would like to be called stupid, hysterical and be screamed at by everyone that you know and are related to, just have something like this happen. It is just fun, fun, fun.

Just to answer all of the “questions” asked “very loudly” of me (because everyone else without adult children with special needs knows better, you know).

No! I cannot just not accept it because the insurance company is required to report it under his name as abandoned. This means that his benefits will be suspended until I spend it down (without actually having the money because I did not accept it) and will still be on the hook to pay back whatever amount they determine I should pay.

No! I cannot take it and deposit it in an account out of state, because the act of taking it makes it a resource. It does not matter where it goes.

No! I cannot deposit into his Special Needs Trust, an Able Account or a Burial Fund, unless his trust etc., was the designated beneficiary to begin with. Yes, depositing it into one of those places MAY qualify as spending it down, but it would still be considered a resource because it was paid out to him BEFORE going into one of the accounts mentioned above.

My step-father’s executor gave the insurance company my contact information. The insurance company, because DC is an adult, needed his guardianship papers so that they could legally talk to me.

Yes! I do have to send them his guardianship papers! We, as parents of special needs children HAVE to go to probate and become the legal guardians of our children when they turn 18 because in the eyes of the state and federal government – special needs aside – they are adults, and should legally be able to make decisions for themselves. If I were not his guardian, I would not be able to talk to his doctors, meet with his day program, chose a day program, make appointments… you get the picture. Bottom line is that HE IS AN ADULT AND BECAUSE THE POLICY WAS IN HIS NAME, THEY ARE NOT ALLOWED, LEGALLY TO TALK TO ME ABOUT ANY OF THIS WITHOUT HIS GUARDIANSHIP PAPERS!

Yes! They could make me pay back $12,000.00 over $1500.00 – they tried to have me pay back $12,000.00 over $2,600.00.

Even though I knew all of this (because I DO know things), I contacted an attorney who verified everything I just wrote.

He also said that I could actually use some of his monthly expenses as part of the spend down.

I already knew the drill, but he advised me to report it as soon as possible. As soon as I received the check (on Dec. 24th) and a copy of the policy I called SS (on the 27th, the first day they were open after the holiday) and reported it. Since I was able to use his expenses as part of his spend down, I was able to fax that and all of the account information to the number I was provided, so at least his SS would not be suspended until  they determined how much I had or did not have to pay back.

Not having heard a thing by January 25th I called again. This time I was speaking with a man, who I was familiar with, not personally but via people that I know that have had to deal with him, so I was on guard. First, I explained about the appeals and that back on December 17th I was told that the first situation was waived and has been promised a letter verifying that.

He went from zero to 100 and screamed “IT WAS NOT WAIVED!” – I began to panic (this is why I wanted a letter. I wanted it in writing). I explained again that I was told that it has been waived and that I would receive a letter stating that.

“IT WAS NOT WAIVED, IT WAS DISPOSED OF! IT WAS DETERMINED THAT IT WAS NOT A RESOURCE AND YOU DON’T GET A LETTER FOR THAT!” 

At this point, all I could think of was the Soup Nazi “NO SOUP FOR YOU!” but I remained calm, trying not to laugh and explained that this did not make any sense. If I had not called that day I would still be waiting for an appeal date. Why would they not send a letter notifying me that it was waived (there’s that word again).

“IT WAS NOT WAIVED AND YOU DON’T GET A LETTER FOR THAT”.

If someone told me this story, I would definitely think it was a joke or Alternative Facts, but it is not. He was acting as if it was somehow my fault that THEY were wrong and I was now being punished with “no letter for that”.

I repeated again that this did not make any sense and would it not be common practice to notify someone that the issue was “disposed of”?

One more time, he yelled that “YOU DON’T GET A LETTER FOR THAT! YOU WERE GIVEN THE WRONG INFORMATION! Since he seemed incapable of talking to me without yelling at me, I asked for a supervisor. He put me on hold and instead of a supervisor, he came back and said I would be getting a letter for my records.

Next I had to ask him about issue #2. Had anyone received the faxed information regarding that second insurance issue? I just wanted to be sure that someone received it because it was reported and I did not want them to suspend his benefits because they had not received the information with the spend down. Surprisingly enough, there was no more screaming.

He did not see anything in the records, but he said he would transfer me to the person that would have received it. Of course, I got voice mail and to my dismay it was the same caseworker that I had to deal with during the earlier issue.

Did I get a call back? No I did not.

After a week, I called back and left another message. This time she did call me back and – Oh, how nice and sweet she was! I am sure she was hoping that I would not bring up the first incident.

She told me that she did receive the information but she had not had a chance to go through it. I would be notified if she had any questions or if there would be any benefits to pay back.

Being that it is now the beginning of March and they only took 4 days to charge me $12,000.00 the first time, I am cautiously optimistic. Because the account was something that I had no knowledge of and I reported it, spent it down and got them all of the information they required within days of receiving it (not to mention the fact that I already had to spend $2600.00 of my own money due to their “error”), I am hoping that the spend down was enough and this would be the end of it.

– Cautiously optimistic.

I have done everything I was required to do and I verified that someone had received everything, so I am done! I will not be calling anyone to check on the status and if, in fact this is the end of it, there is probably not going to be a “Letter for that” either.

Oh, and I did finally receive the promised letter about the first incident.

“This letter is to inform you that your over-payment has been” ….

Wait for it….

“WAIVED.”

Even though I was informed loudly that this had not been waived, but disposed of, they could not even be honest and put that in writing. They opted for  “WAIVED” so as not to admit any liability on their part at all.

***

FYI, Fortunately, the television I bought for him during the first spend-down, fell off his dresser (I bet that’s a sentence you’d never thought you would hear or read) so it had to be replaced. That and his monthly expenses made spending it down much faster. The new TV is mounted to the wall – the mount was also included in this spend-down.

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The DAY after I finished writing this – yes, the very next day, I received a letter from Social Security – I will be required to payback one month (the Month of December) of his benefits to them. I wonder if they can just deduct it from that first $2600.00 that I was made to spend?? Oh, and just a little annoyance (if I opt to pay upfront) – “Please be sure to use the enclosed envelope to mail your payment back to us.”

There is no envelope, there never is ……….

The #Rword – Times have changed but still there is work to do

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A few years ago, I wrote the post below because an old friend of mine emailed me a flyer she found from a Bike-A-Thon we participated in when we were just 12 or 13 years old. I was shocked when I looked at it – shocked that this was acceptable back then.  But it was and I am sure we did not think a thing about it at the time.

I wrote about it because I thought it was a good example of how far we have come regarding the use of the R-word. Not quite far enough, but we have made some headway.

My belief in how far we have come has been shaken a bit and that comes as a rude awakening…..

  • When I hear my neighbor through the wall, screaming at someone “That’s ‘F-ing R-word – ed” –  I know that we still have a lot of work to do.
  • When I call someone out on Facebook for posting a meme that says “You look like a ‘F-ing’ R-word” and the response I get back is “I’m sorry if I offended you but they really do look stupid.” Not only does the reply make it glaringly obvious that they do not understand the reason why we object to the use of the word (if you mean, STUPID, then just use STUPID!) but also- I know that we still have a lot of work to do.
  • When a co-worker makes a mistake and says to me “I’m really not retarded” – I know that we still have a lot of work to do.
  • When I realize that some of the people around me only refrain from using the word because I am there and because they believe they are offending me because of DC and not because they understand why it is offensive and degrading to be used with anyone at any time – I know that we still have a lot of work to do.
  • When the use of the word “Libtard” has become so commonplace recently, that no one seems to object to it…….

I am SURE that we still have so very much more work to do…..

So, take a look back to see and be proud of just how far we have come, but remember that there is still so much more work to do.

From April 2015:

Bicycle races are coming your way…. (How the times have changed)

 

Bicycle Long ago (long, long ago) when I was 12 or 13, my friend Sue and I participated in a Bike-A-Thon. We met up with a couple of friends Joe and Ron, who were also participating. I remember it being a lot of fun with the exception of Susan smashing into and ruining Ron’s bike gears. We had so much fun that we went around the route twice (much to the dismay of the people who pledged by the mile – I was young; this did not occur to me at the time).

For years afterwards I tried to remember what this Bike-A-Thon was for. What cause were we supporting? No one I asked could remember either. As an adult, when I think back on it, yes we had fun, but I am horrified that this organization thought it was okay for a bunch of 12 and 13 years olds to ride their bikes down these very busy main roads. It was not like it is today, roads were not closed or even sections roped off. We were on our own on these very busy main roads, most with no sidewalks or shoulders, until we came upon a check point. But this is the way it was. We didn’t think a thing about it back then.

Well, Susan was cleaning out her mother’s attic a week or two ago and found the actual map of the course we took on this Bike-A-Thon and on it was the name of the Bike-A-Thon.

Backing up for just a minute. This morning I read an article that had the R-Word in the title. It was a good article and I wanted to share it (I eventually did), but I was so apprehensive about the R-word in the title. It needed to be there, it really did, but I was so uncomfortable with it that I really thought a lot about it before sharing it.

Having said that, below is the map that my friend found. She was just as apprehensive about sending it to me as I am sharing it here. Bike-A-Thon My heart skipped a few beats when I first saw it. I sat on it for a few weeks, but I thought that if you are as appalled as I was (and still am) at reading the name of the Bike-A-Thon, then let’s look at it as a glowing example of how times really have changed. It is so hard for me to believe that back then, this and a few other words I am guilty of using as a child were just okay. We didn’t know any better back then. We certainly should know better now.

I have gotten into plenty of discussions over the use of this word. Most of the discussions have been with people who really didn’t understand what the problem was as long as they were not using it to disparage someone with a special need – but they ARE! They are using it as slang for “stupid”. They are taking a word that was once used as an actual diagnosis and using it to describe “stupid”. I really do not understand why this is so hard to explain to people.

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A version of this article was published on The Mighty – When an Old Flyer Reminded Me How Far We’ve Come With the ‘R’ Word