As a legal aid and poverty advocate, I help people who are often underrepresented and marginalized. And YES, I personally struggle with acknowledging that the situation(s) I find myself in, in my personal life, can never compare to those daily struggles that my clients deal with. And YET, student loan monsters keep me up at night. And YES, the world we live in sometimes seems incredibly scary, because as we all know, sometimes really bad things happen. And YET, I recently took a part time job at a retail store in order to keep up with my own financial obligations. And YES, family members encourage me to find a job that could put me in a better financial situation. And YES, sometimes I dream..not about a fancy new car or even a nicer wardrobe, but about going a day without a creditor calling to remind me that I am behind on some bill or financial obligation.
And YET, I am privileged to represent the 96 year old client that is having her home health care services terminated by a Medicaid provider because she was approved for a GREATER amount of services. My vulnerable client was approved to receive 24 hours of personal care services (nursing home level of care covered by Medicaid) in her home. When the provider learned her services were approved for an increase from 16 hours to 24, they decided to terminate her because they do not want to serve her over night. This violates a lot of laws and is just plain wrong. It is my joy to help her and her family. What an honor to be her advocate!
And YES, I am excited to report that a client who had been wrongly denied Medicaid, three times, was approved two days before Christmas this year thanks to our advocacy. This client receives Medicaid thanks to health care expansion under the Affordable Care Act. Too bad the government decided that Medicaid applications are now two bifurcated applications. Traditionally, and until very recently, a Medicaid beneficiary could submit one application to apply for Medicaid and they would be considered under all eligibility categories. Unfortunately for our vulnerable client with chronic breathing difficulties, her traditional Medicaid application was denied three times and the client was never advised about the ‘other’ Medicaid application through the Health Care Exchange portal. We helped her submit the new application, but here–she was without Medicaid for six months, received three notices from the government which did not provide her adequate notice of her appeal rights or the process for obtaining Medicaid through this ‘expanded’ eligibility category. Without our help, the client would not have had access to support and representation as her claim was reviewed. She cried joyfully the last time we were in court and the government brought us a copy of the approval notice. “What a Christmas miracle for me, I’m gonna call my doctor today for an appointment!” she cried.
AND YES, last week I received an email from a veteran client. His application for VA benefits that we submitted in August, was approved! That’s record processing time for the VA and for our client, with absolutely no current income and he was thrilled to have a check in the mail from the VA for $1,000 right before Christmas. AND YES, it was more money than I had in my bank account, but I cried for joy for him. This disabled veteran, with a history of homelessness, struggles with a number of disabling medical conditions. For his benefits to be approved just in time for Christmas, meant so much to my client and to my colleagues and me. That income will literally change his life. AND YES, that’s my 9 to 5. Pretty cool, way to make a living, right?
AND YET, it’s too bad my credit card was declined when I tried to buy a burger at Five Guys last week; that was a humiliating and humbling scenario a few days before payday. AND YES, I realize there are grave and serious things going on every day in all corners of this world in big cities and small. There is an absolutely unacceptable amount of aggression and violence and injustice perpetuated disproportionately against people of color and women. There are discriminatory decisions made everyday that prevent people living with disabilities and the elderly from equal access to opportunities for all sorts of things, including aging in place or entertainment or other services. Crimes against women and children and sectarian violence against indigenous people or religious or ethnic minorities across the world and in our streets, rightly keep us up at night and our prayers duly focused on global issues.
AND YET, we MUST pray for and WORK toward peace in whatsoever capacity that we can. I have always said, IF we are a people of faith, we must be people of action. I will say it again. If we are people of faith, then we must be a people of action.
So people, I pray and hope and trust that the small struggles I deal with in my life can bring me closer in solidarity to the people amongst us who need even greater help. The situations that I see every day in my client’s cases and in the stories they tell and written on their faces, I do my best to find a legal or advocacy remedy that I can work toward. And YES, I do my BEST to then lift up those concerns and I TRY to let them go when I leave the office. Just like the stories of racial profiling and world conflict that I hear about on NPR and Pacifica Radio, I listen, I lift up and I do my best to educate others.
BUT THEN, I try to find an uplifting or joyful piece of music, or a good cup of coffee, or the smile of a friend’s baby, or something that I can truly be thankful for, like a call to your mother or your favorite poem. I try to find peace in my day, as best as I can, because otherwise, they win.