In A Nutshell

My photo
Despite being diagnosed with Fibromyalgia about a decade ago, I was able to work and lead a "normal" life, until I became severely ill with MS type symptoms one month after being laid off in June 2009, which meant no health insurance to properly address the problem. I spent 3 days in the hospital but since they initially did not want to keep me (one doc said I may have MS, but was overruled), I did not qualify for the financial aid for hospital bills because they did not think I belonged there. I was misdiagnosed with Labyrintits and sent on my way. I was told it would go away in a few weeks, that was 3 years ago and I have had the symptoms of dizziness, balance problems, vertigo, and pain every day since then. I went to a local free health clinic until they told me they exhausted all their options and could not help me any longer. I cannot drive nor work outside the home and only walk briefly with the aid of a cane, but also can't get disability because I have no real diagnosis for these particular symptoms. These are the chronicles of my (so far) dead-end journey riddled with bodies of good intentions.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Salvation Army, Act III

(Read up on Act I and Act II)

It seems I can't get away from the Salvation Army. From the holiday commercials, to emails in my inbox asking me for donations, to its presence on Facebook. See, my local news station, WTVR, has been running regular giveaways on Facebook that I have been entering. What the news station does is post links to merchants, you like their page, and then enter for whatever it is they are offering. Of course I have not won anything yet.

Imagine my surprise a couple of days ago when I saw a link there to the Salvation Army. Sure, I have seen the Salvation Army's prior pleas on the news site asking for donations. My posts to them about being turned down for help (they are advertising 40 programs when I was told of only 3) went of course unanswered.

Anyway, this was different. They are actually running a giveaway. Huh? I checked the page out because I was wondering how they could afford to give stuff away, when I was turned down for help. I even had the beastly idea of entering. It is not the prizes I am after (they are tickets for events I would not be able to attend anyway).

No, since all my emails and posts from me to them, asking to explain about their discrepancies in advertised services and what I was told, are being ignored, I figured it would make for good irony if they finally had to deal with me, if I won something. Alas, I decided against it. Let someone win the tickets who really "needs" them. Besides, my name is probably on some kind of blacklist by now anyway.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Celebrating Life

What would you do on your birthday and do you remember your milestone birthdays? While there probably are as many answers as there are people answering the question, one item probably would not make the top of the list: blogging. Yet, I chose to do that for my 44th birthday.

The funny, or sad thing (you decide) is that I can't remember any of my important ones, not the 18th, not the 21st, not the 30th. The one thing I remember about  my 40th is that I received a phone call saying I may have cervical cancer. Further tests revealed that I did not, luckily.

So, since none of us know if we'll make it to the next one (not being morbid, just saying that we should be grateful for each day we have) I decided to launch this. I should have done this from the beginning, but as they say, it ain't easy.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Dignity is for People with Health Insurance

It's time to try a new avenue once again. I am at the end of my thyroid prescription. I made it last twice as long because I only take half a dose. Yes, all medically trained people will yell at me for that, but it is what it is. Can't just call in a refill, because you have to see a doctor regularly because they will only give you so many refills. Plus, I still have to pay for the prescription. However, my paperwork for the free clinic expired a while back. Despite what  many may think or Dr.Oz says, you don't just walk into a clinic. You have to make an appointment first for a financial intake, then, if you qualify, make a separate appointment. Often just obtaining the first appointment can take months.

I wanted to see if there was another local free clinic because the one I went to said they exhausted their options in regards to trying to diagnose my balance and vertigo problems. I went online and saw another one (Crossover Ministries), so I called it. Much to my relief, she simply asked me a few yes or now questions.

"Do you have any income?"

"No." (It's much easier to say that than explain that I make money by writing, but not enough to make a living really. I do tell the whole story at the actual appointment, I found it's better this way)

"Did you file taxes for 2010?"

"No." (I did the calculations, but found out I would only get back $48 dollars so did not file for that year)

"Is family financially supporting you?"


"Are you on food stamps?"


"Are you on Medicaid?"


That was it, luckily she did not question any of my answers and I got  my appointment for January 18, 2012, the earliest she could give me. I told her I would run out of my prescription before then, so she gave me the number for Care-A-Van. She said they provide services, but move around to different locations each day and as soon as I found out where they would be, I should immediately show up. I can read and hear between the lines, so the translation probably is:  "Lines will be long, there are no guarantees that you will be seen, and please leave your dignity at home."

Since I have to find someone to drive me there, I have put that option on the back burner as I do not want to subject someone to that inconvenience unless I absolutely have to.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Oh Snap

Now, I am not a person easily offended and I like to think I have thick enough skin. After all, as a writer that is almost a requirement because constructive criticism is the salt in the spread that butters a writer's bread. But, I was really put off when I saw the following tweet by one of my "followers:" 

I think Food stamp card is called SNAP cause the person next in line thinks. "oh SNAP!! she is paying with MY MONEY!!!

Even if it was meant as a joke, there is nothing funny about that. Besides, many of the people using food stamps have been contributing members of society or are even still working. Read about it on Reuters.

I looked up the sender and she is a registered nurse with a Master's Degree. While I know that the right thing to do would be to just ignore and forgive the ignorance, I can't help but wish a situation on her that will make her have to use food stamps one day. All it takes would be one tree through her house, one layoff, one divorce, or one illness.

Who would be saying oh snap then?

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Which Circle?

My daughter once had to do a creative writing exercise about Dante's Inferno and create nine circles of hell. Ever since then, we both have assigned government organizations their own circles. The Department of Motor Vehicles has one, so do the Unemployment Office and of course the Department of Social Services.

Despite knowing a lot of how the DSS works (not a fact I am proud of), it's always the first avenue people and organizations recommend, like they are some kind of miracle worker or something. The experience you  have depends on whom you talk to (most seem to hate their jobs and workload and it shows), but the end result is the same. They can only abide by the guidelines.

In Virginia, in a nutshell the guidelines are this: You can only get medical insurance if you are pregnant or have children under 18, same with cash assistance. Of course they don't tell you upfront, you have to go through the 15 page application and the interview. I put them somewhere between circles 5 and 9. Then again, once in a while you get a good caseworker who shows compassion, but of course it all leads to the same. After all, they have to abide by the guidelines. I wonder what's the lower circle: Having to work there or having to apply?

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Today’s Dr. Oz Topic: Are You One Paycheck Away From a Foodbank?

The other day it was on the TV show “60 Minutes,” today on Dr. Oz : A documentary on the new face of hunger in America. I speculate these shows are to show those who are not in that position that most people who do have to rely on food stamps and food banks are not lazy, nor are they illegal immigrants.

Nope, a lot of them are people like me—hard working individuals who downsized already until there is not much to take away and who have lost their jobs or who struggle with rising prices while wages stay stagnant. Also, they feature people who previously gave and donated, but now find themselves in a position to have to ask for charity. These shows also illustrate that it can happen to anyone, regardless of how much money they have now, or had before.

These shows evoke different emotions in me. I know I should not watch because the stories I hear are sad. Also, in the case of the ones who have it worse I feel guilty that I still have more. Then again, the ones who have more and rely on help make me wonder and debate if they should not have waited until they have less. Then I feel guilty for being judgmental.

But, there is also a strange kinship, like when they talk about the embarrassment it causes to use a foodstamp card or to walk into a food pantry. I still keep my foodstamp card face down when I take it out to swipe it, as if I am fooling anyone! The clerk knows. But, I figure the people behind me need not know. Even just a few weeks ago I would have never talked openly about having one. I suppose denial equals a semblance of dignity.

Anyway, at the end of the Dr. Oz show they gave a phone number for anyone who has trouble getting food. I haven’t called it so am not sure what services it links to, but here it is: 1-866-3HUNGRY

Beating a Dead Horse

Early this morning, and I do mean early, I received a call from Mayor Wayne from a local Salvation Army branch. This was a follow up on an experience I had when contacting the Salvation Army recently to ask for assistance. I was told I did not qualify because I was not pregnant nor had children under 18. (For more on that, see this prior blog entry.)

First of all, Mayor Wayne said they did not EVER tell this to people inquiring about assistance. I really did not know what to say to that because I am sure that is what they told me – unless I was having a big Fibro moment. He quizzed me about my situation and in the process he figured out they may have assumed I was asking for a homeless shelter and then he said that yes, their shelter only accepts pregnant women and children. Mhm.

He did explain that their services included food baskets, help with utility bills, and they could help me if I owned a house. Well, I told him I was waayyy beyond losing the house (had I known then …but I figured as a homeowner I certainly would not take up resources that should go to less fortunate people than myself). Also, since I lived in a hotel now helping with a utility shutoff notice would not work as my financial issues were not related to that.

Then came his inevitable questions I had answered before many times:

“Have you tried the Department of Social Services and applied for Medicaid?”

Out comes my answer that by now sounds like I simply rehearsed it:
“Yes, but Medicaid is only for pregnant women and children under 18. Same for cash programs.”

“And you can’t work?”

“Uhm, no, I can’t drive, walk, sit or stand for very long.”

“There are free health services, I can refer you.”

Good thing it’s not a video phone call as I roll my eyes and launch into the spiel how I already did that and they were unable to diagnose me because it’s beyond their limited resources. If I could simply walk into the Mayo clinic, like famous people do, believe me, I would do it. Alas, I keep that last thought to myself.

“Well, you need to get on disability!”

I am not one given to uttering expletives, but what wants to come out is something along the lines of: “No ….!” Instead, I politely do what I call the “Ring Around the Rosie,” or perhaps I should call it the White Elephant.

I explain once again that while everyone who looks at me knows that, but since I have no proper diagnosis I can’t file, and I can’t get a specialist who can diagnose me without health insurance. I can’t get health insurance because I can’t work and I can’t work because I have debilitating condition.

I had contacted one of those firms you see advertising on TV who supposedly help you get disability and this is what they explained: The SSA does not determine a disability based on what they can plainly see, that would be too simple, there is a process involved, every one knows that, and they are not exactly keen on handing over money. 

And, you MUST be under a doctor's care to show that you have an interest in getting better. My question about how to obtain one without health insurance was basically answered with that that was my problem. Besides, before economic decline it was hard to get SSI, you think it got any easier? Again, I keep those last thoughts to myself.

Now there is silence at the other end.

In the meantime, inside my head there is anything but silence. I wonder, not for the first time, why high ranking people inside of charity organizations are not familiar with the most basic guidelines of the agencies they try to refer people to.

“Well, let me give you the number to the Daily Planet, call them.”

I thank him and hang up. But, I have a hunch, so before calling the Daily Planet, I look them up to see this:

Safe Haven is a 21-bed, free-standing facility that offers transitional housing with comprehensive and integrated health and support services for individuals suffering  from severe mental illness coupled with chronic homelessness. It provides 24-hour staff supervision and guidance with the ultimate goal of transitioning clients into permanent housing and independent living. By referral only. For more information about referrals, please call ...

Just by reading that I can see I do not qualify. I will call regardless, but …what is that saying the Native Americans have: “Once you discover you are riding a dead horse, you should dismount”

Monday, November 28, 2011

If You Want to get Off the Boat You Need to Become Pregnant

I was kind of hesitating to go this avenue, but what the heck. A friend of mine suggested I try the Salvation Army for help. Besides, it's the holiday season and long ago I spent one afternoon as a bell ringer. And, to use the corny worn-out phrase that all parents use at one time or another, that was up north in the cold outdoors in a blinding snowstorm ... yep, it really was.

So I called the local office, but the whole conversation lasted less than 45 seconds. I barely got past stating my name and a brief overview of my situation, and the man (he did not even give his name) asked me if I was pregnant or if I had children under 18. Uhm dude, those questions do not usually pop up after at least the third date! I answered no to both of course and he said that they could not help me then.

He then told me to go to Department of Social Services and surely I could get help and health care there. Nope I said, same deal: they only give life preservers to pregnant women and children, everyone else is left to swim, or sink with the boat. Of course I did not put it that way. But now I am starting to understand why pregnancy is so appealing to some.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Underwear Fairy

“Now, why did you not tell me you needed new underwear and conditioner?” My friend berates me in her email. “I found out you been washing your hair with hotel shampoo and that it’s falling out. You know I would have sent you some.” 

“Well, think of it, would you ask someone you never met except for online ask for those kinds of things?” Plus, I was thinking to myself, it’s embarrassing enough to admit to oneself, much less someone else, that you can’t buy those things. Sure, a plain bar of soap can keep you clean enough to not offend anyone with smell, but it won’t exactly make you feel pretty or good about yourself.

Now, I knew how she found out about the hair, but the underwear? How did she know? Oh yeah, I had made a comment on Facebook in regards to a discussion on Christmas presents how as a child I did not appreciate getting socks and underwear, but now would. That must have been it.

I wish I could say that emailing back and forth about underwear sizes and colors was the most undignified thing that’s ever happened to me, but nope, it’s not. Well, now you know why my blog is named the way it is.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Sorry, YOU Don't Qualify (If I can ever afford a tombstone, these words will go on it.)

Wow, after almost three months I finally got through and got an answer. Who and what? Well, since you asked.

I was directed to Catholic Charities by a friend a couple of months ago to see if they could assist me get out of the never-ending cycle of not being able to earn enough money because of the health issue to make a living. I went to their local website to look for instructions on how to apply. The instructions specified to send an email and they also listed a phone number. I called the phone number during regular business hours and got a recorded message, so sent an email instead.

I received a phone call in response to said email and after stating my situation, the lady told me I had to call the intake number, but they were only taking calls twice a week for an hour and a half each day. That is what I did and after literally pressing the re-dial button thousands of times over a three months period, I was so surprised to hear a ringing sound and a voice at the other end, that I almost hung up by mistake.

"How can we help you?"

"I am inquiring about assistance because I can't work outside of the home because of illness. I have to pay my lodging bill next week, but do not have enough for that. I also need some time of health care."

"Do you have any past due bills?"

"Mhm, I have old hospital and doctor bills. But, that's not what I was calling about. I live in an extended stay hotel so I have to pay ahead of time. But, if I don't make the payment, I will be homeless because, unlike rent or mortgage, you can't negotiate a later date."

"Why do you live in a hotel, isn't that expensive?"

"Yes. But I can't qualify for an apartment, even though they are cheaper, because you need to have a job and make three times more than what the rent is. I tried explaining that I now pay a higher rate, so if I am able to pay that I can pay for a cheaper apartment, but that did not work. They say they have to abide by guidelines."

"If you do not have a job, how are you paying your bill?"

"I am using what I had saved up when I was still getting unemployment."

"I am sorry, but we cannot help with this. We can only help with past due bills, like for utilities. If you become homeless, you can call back."

"So, if I can't pay my bill next week and become homeless, what number do I call?"

"The same one."

"Uhm, it took me 3 months to get through."

"I apologize for that inconvenience. But, the need is very high lately and we have very limited funding. Have you tried calling the United Way or gone to the Department of Social Services?"

"The Department of Social Services only provides cash and medical assistance for pregnant women and families with children under 18. United Way has referred me to several agencies, but the agencies, when I called them, told me I do not qualify for their programs."

"Well, I am sorry, but good luck to you."

"Thank you."

There is a whole lot more I want to say, but there is no need tying up the line for someone they can really help.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

I Am Now a 99er

It's not a mile stone to be proud of. For those of you who do not know, a 99er is a person who has exhausted all 99 weeks of unemployment benefits. It's really hitting home now, there is no more safety net left. I had hoped to heal before that money ran out, but there are no changes in my health. Looks like whatever I have is here to stay. I suppose it's time to bite the bullet and make that dreaded call to the Department of Social Services. Manana.