So I spent Friday and Saturday attending the Partners in Policymaking sessions that are being offered in our states capital. It was amazing. We spent Friday afternoon developing vision plans for the next five years. We did this with the help of a wonderful facilitator named Jenn. Allin all, the whole class had a few laughs and learned about structuring vision plans into the form of a tree and its many branches. The leaves of the tree were the steps needed to accomplish the goal (branch). The trunk of the tree represented where we wanted to be in 5 years.
I did my vision on our youngest son getting back into public school and getting through Junior High.
Want to know what my number one goal is in getting him through 4,5,6,7, and 8th grade? Understanding. Understanding of what a Traumatic Brain Injury is, and exactly what his diagnosis means for his future. This is our understanding of his condition, as well as helping those who work with him to understand his condition.
After the evening meal, we learned about how a bill becomes a law in the United States Congress. How our congressional reps get anything accomplish in their time in office, I will never fully understand.
On Saturday, we developed three strategic items that we wanted our congressional reps to work on changing, or enacting legislation for. The we broke the entire class into 3 teams. Each team took a topic.
- Medicaid/Medicare and Prescription drugs
- SSI/SSDI – COLAS and Fraud detection
- Education Rights and Bullying
We spent the morning familiarising ourselves with what we learned yesterday and then just before the noon break, broke into our teams and came up with 3 – 5 bullet points of discussion regarding our team’s topic. Plus we worked out who was going to say what when the time came for our team to present our topic to the representative from the congressman or senator’s office.
Plus we had to name our team, or coalition as it was called.
My coalition was called the “Right to Live Responsibly Coalition”. Why did we call our group this? People with disabilities are responsible members of society. We pay taxes on goods and services, we pay rent and mortgage payments. We advocate for the right to live responsibly on a fair and adequate amount of disability payments.
Our topic was SSI/SSDI – COLAS and Fraud detection.
In our team, we have 5 people with disabilities, and 2 support staff. We discussed concerns for the team. The number one concern dealt with housing and living on their own. Interestingly enough, only one of my coalition members lived in an apartment all by himself, albeit with regular support staff. (These people amaze me in how they live their lives).
A simple fact. If you received SSI last year, you received 674 dollars a month. That rate was unchanged for the previous four years. This year, if you receive SSI, you got a raise. Now you are receiving 694 dollars a month. What does 20 dollars a month buy you?
Fraud, do you know anyone who would jump in line to live off of 694 dollars a month? Neither do I. So, rather than automatically assuming that anyone who applies for disability is trying to defraud that system, why not assume that people are disabled, and then work on catching the fraudsters? For example, the IRS uses and audit system, by which they audit a certain number of tax payers each year. Why not do the same with people on disability. Audit a statistical sampling of the recipients each year and prosecute those who are fraudulently collecting disability.
It was nice to speak with staffers from our congressional delegations offices and have them be receptive to our ideas and willing to discuss how bills become law.