ON MENTAL ILLNESS: The Business of Living Disabled

Jack Bragen
Friday December 22, 2017 - 01:35:00 PM

Living as a disabled adult is not as easy as you might think, unless you are categorized as incompetent. If incompetent, others handle all of your responsibilities, you do not have independence, there are a lot more restrictions, and life is relatively simple.  

However, if you are in charge of yourself, as most disabled people are, there are numerous business aspects to living as a disabled adult in California. 

Someone with a psychiatric disorder needs to keep up on her or his prescriptions. This can be more demanding than you might think. Since numerous psychiatric consumers have to take multiple prescriptions, keeping all of the prescriptions filled can be a substantial task. One must make multiple phone calls to the pharmacy, to one's psychiatrist (for psychiatric prescriptions), and to one's medical doctor (for non-psychiatric prescriptions). It seems to be up to the consumer to run the show. The consequences of not keeping up with medication refills can be dire. If you run out of a medication and thereby abruptly stop taking it, you could go into withdrawal, and this could be a very big problem. It could entail physical suffering, a return of symptoms, and even medical complications. 

Additionally, one's drug plan, whether it is Medicare Part D, or other, may arbitrarily choose to stop covering some of the medications that we badly need. Finally, we have to deal with the caprices and the prejudices of some pharmacists and some pharmacy workers who lack basic understanding of mental illness, and who may make derogatory comments, or who may not do their job properly of filling medication prescriptions.  

Other than keeping prescriptions filled and taken according to directions, we must deal with, among several other things, housing. Some of us must have to have a very strict budget so that we can be certain the rent check doesn't bounce. Utilities must be paid on time and fully, including when the electricity and/or heating bill seems outrageous. We need communications. A cellphone is no longer an option, it is a necessity; more so than a landline. Internet is not a luxury; it is needed in order to function in society in any normal manner, and this service has to be paid.  

Keeping appointments with counselors and psychiatrists is a must. If we have medical issues, which most aging mentally ill persons do, we have to deal with those. Thus, the week is filled with appointments.  

If we wanted to get a job to supplement income, it ought to be a weekend job so that we can make it to all of our appointments and other obligations. If we did get a job, we must deal with reporting the income, and with how this affects our government benefits, including Social Security and housing subsidies. If we have more income, it can trigger an increase in other expenses, such as us paying part of the Medicaid, or losing Medicaid.  

If we have a vehicle, it will need gasoline, insurance and upkeep. This can be out of reach for a number of mentally ill people, who simply cannot pay car expenses. Then you're taking buses and other public transportation. This can mean standing at a bus stop in pouring rain or searing heat. And it means that you cannot just get in your car and go somewhere when you need to. 

Public benefits don't pay for much dentistry. You might be stuck losing teeth that could otherwise be saved if you could have seen a decent dentist. 

On SSI, the maximum amount you are permitted to save up is 2000 dollars or 3000 for a married couple. In some emergency situations, this will not go very far. 

If you have adopted a pet dog or cat because you would be helped by the companionship, you have to bring that creature to a veterinarian on a regular basis for shots or health problems. How are you supposed to pay for that? 

If you live on 900 per month, and if you want to live in decent conditions, you probably will need a Housing certificate, and you will need a good credit rating (if you do not want to live in a blighted neighborhood). A good credit rating requires a credit history, and this history must include paying all of your bills on time. And you are supposed to do this on 900 dollars per month.  

With a housing certificate, there come annual inspections of your unit to make sure everything is working, that the place is being kept acceptably clean and tidy, and that you are not operating a meth lab in your unit. Also annually is the requirement to report for a recertification appointment, in which you furnish banking information, pay stubs, and in which you fill out forms. 

If you collect any SSI, something that allows you to obtain Medi-Cal and have meetings with doctors fully paid, you must periodically meet with the Social Security Administration to make sure you are not a multimillionaire collecting SSI.  

Living as a disabled adult requires some skills. Short of that, you could live with less responsibility in a more restricted situation, but if you do, you might question, what is the point?  

For a nondisabled person, all of the above might seem easily enough accomplished. Yet, most nondisabled people have enough financial resources to cushion them from many of life's hardships. 

If you look normal and act normally, people will make assumptions about you. You are expected to have an I Phone or an Android phone. You are expected to have money at your disposal to pay for things. You are expected to have a car, and to be able to drive long distances. Other assumptions are made. Assumptions like these aren't always correct. 

While on a daily basis it isn't as demanding (compared to working) to live on Social Security as a disabled person, there are some demands. We're not getting a free ride, and some things are expected of us. In some ways it is easier to work and earn a living, and in most ways, working for a living is a better situation. Thus, being disabled isn't a lifestyle choice; it is just that some of us are forced into it by our disabilities and by life circumstances.