Pinching Pennies Because of a Chronic Illness
Our American Dream Remains Unconquered
Pinching Pennies Because of a Chronic Illness – If you are reading this chances are you are facing some financial difficulties due to the fact that you or your loved one became sick or disabled. Your world has been turned upside down and you are unsure which way to turn. You may be college educated, had a great promising career and everything has just come to a halt. No one prepared you for this…no class, no individual, no one! Why? Because very few people talk about what it’s truly like to live on Social Security Disability or even a low-income while battling a chronic illness. No one knew you would be sick someday!
When I became sick I was working mom and going to college to further my career. My husband also worked and we were doing okay. We have 3 children who were all very active in school and sports. While I was working I was bit by a dog which later resulted in a condition called Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy. This condition spread like wild-fire and I became unable to work any job.
I received Workers Compensation which was roughly 80% of what I was making and because I had just dropped my hours to focus on college my take home pay was $250 a week. At that time my husband had to cut his hours to take care of me because I could do nothing for myself, including driving and we could not afford a care taker. We faced the biggest, hardest battle we have ever faced. With his hours being cut and my low weekly pay we had to cut corners as much as possible. Bills started piling up and we tried to seek help through our state, but according to them we made too much although our bills were more than what we made. We fell behind on our house payment and were on the verge of losing our home.
I applied for Social Security Disability and thankfully I was approved within 6 months. My disability was lower because I was 30 years old when I became disabled and it was offset because I had Workers Comp. I received a total of $700 a month. We ended up getting a lawyer to handle the dog bite and to cover the medical bills that were quickly piling up. When the settlement came in we were ecstatic as it meant we could keep our home. What we didn’t realize was once the lawyer was paid and the medical was paid, we ended up with hardly anything. It was enough to pay some bills and get us above water again. Because I received a settlement, my Workers Compensation was cut to $109.18 a week and my Social Security Disability never went up.
We were quickly drowning again and my husband had to go back to work full-time plus. He ended up working 65+ hours a week of physical labor to get us by and not making much by doing so. The guilt I felt was indescribable. I wished I could help financially and above all I wished I had never gotten sick. I started couponing and budgeting every penny. Even including the kids in cutting coupons and helping come up with low-budget healthy meals. My husband worked so hard and so many hours over the next 6 years he underwent 5 surgeries. Each surgery meant time off to heal, more co pays, and little to no money coming in.
Battling Workers Comp was very stressful, fighting for treatments and for them to cover my medications felt like a job in itself. We were a family of 5 making less than $30,000 a year and could not receive any help because we were making too much! Times were beyond hard! Even with having Medicare for my condition, I still had a 20% co pay which we didn’t have. Battling this painful disease, fighting for my family to stay afloat, watching my husband come home exhausted only to have to care for me and my children, with no help to turn to…. quickly became my worst nightmare.
If your going through a similar situation I just want you to know, I understand. I can’t promise it will get better, but I can tell you that you have to stick together. The stress of battling a chronic illness and financial worries is a horrible mix. I guess that’s why I cringe every time some politician say they are going to fix the system…do they remember us? The ones fighting to stay afloat? What about our families? How are we supposed to live when the cost of living keeps going up, but there is no increase in Social Security Disability? and for those who became sick when they didn’t have all their points to collect a full award for disability..,what happens to them? Our system is broken, our bodies are broken, and there seems to be no way out. Our American dream remains unconquered and not by our choice!
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