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MHA PA: Act Now! – “Stop the Cuts to Pennsylvania’s Most Vulnerable Citizens!”

http://www.mhapa.org/act_now_021610.htm

This link will take you to the MHA-PA website, specifically a page where they are encouraging folks to contact their PA Legislatures and let them know what kind of impact their decision to impliment a ‘cost of living decrease’ to folks on SSI in Pennsylvania.

MHA is also holding a rally to protest this decrease, details will be in a seperate post so they are easier to locate.

Workers World: “SSI cuts target state’s poor”

The following article talks about a march held in protest of what I’ve been refering to as “Pennsylvania’s Cost of living decrease for those on SSI”

http://www.workers.org/2010/us/ssi_cuts_0218/

PENNSYLVANIA

SSI cuts target state’s poor

By Betsey Piette
Philadelphia

Published Feb 12, 2010 8:16 PM

Nearly 200 demonstrators, many in wheelchairs, gathered at the Broad Street Ministry on Feb. 3 to march to City Hall in protest of $22 million in cuts to Supplemental Security Income. The cuts took effect in Pennsylvania on Feb. 1.

Many participants in this “funeral procession for justice” wore black or carried mock coffins and tombstone-shaped placards, underscoring the deadly aspect this devastating blow will have for 340,000 of the state’s most vulnerable residents, 67,000 of whom are children.

The state has tried to downplay the monthly SSI decrease of $5 for individuals and $10 for families as insignificant. The official announcement about the cuts was not even made until two weeks before they were scheduled to take effect, even though the state’s budget was approved in September.

For people with disabilities, seniors and children on SSI already struggling to survive on $600 a month or less, these reductions could mean the inability to afford the co-payment on an important medicine or to buy tokens to get to school. For people with incomes already just 77.7 percent of the federal poverty level, the loss of even $5 can be devastating.

Many elderly and disabled in the state rely on paratransit services, which can cost $20 for just one round trip. For families with children, $10 less a month — the cost of a box of cereal and a gallon of milk — might mean skipping yet another meal.

Nearly one-third of the state’s SSI recipients live in Philadelphia, where very few supermarkets are easily accessible without a car. For the 30,000 others living in the surrounding suburbs, grocery options are often limited to higher-priced stores like Whole Foods.

Speakers at the rally noted that as Pennsylvania state legislators and Gov. Ed Rendell are taking money from the poorest in the state, plans were dropped to tax corporations that are rapidly expanding drilling for natural gas. These companies are using the environmentally hazardous process of hydraulic fracturing.

Rally organizers handed out hundreds of fliers to people along the march route urging them to call Gov. Rendell and area state legislators to reverse the cuts.


Articles copyright 1995-2010 Workers World. Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article is permitted in any medium without royalty provided this notice is preserved.

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Follow up … Do I laugh or Cry?!?!

I know the post “Do I laugh or do I cry” was pretty charged and in many ways could amount to more of a rant rather then anything overly constructive with the exception of the idea that others can see copies of scanned documents I received I have to say there is a lot wrong with that particular post despite being based on the information I had at the time I wrote it.

Some thingsa I feel I need to clear up…

In the other post I said something about hoping that our state government doesn’t vote for a raise for themselves in light of the cost of living decrease they handed to folks on SSI.  In light of being in contact with a state representative, it is my understanding that the legislatures did NOT get an increase in their income this last time.

I also feel like I need to clarify that I personally don’t expect an increase in my Social Security benefits every year, and do understand that the economy hasn’t been too good in recent times.  I would have been mopre accepting if I had been told that my benefits would be frozen at their current amount until the economy improves, as opposed to having them decreased.  I don’t know numbers or anything to back this up, but I suspect there are others out there who hoped for an increase, but would have been understanding if they were told there wouldn’t be an increase and that benefit amounts were frozen.

For me personally, I think the thing that frustrated me the most, is that I was told by Social Security I qualified for “X” amount of dollars in benefits, and then to have the State decide to decrease that amount, despite the fact that I hadn’t had any changes such as a job, birth of a child, marriage, divorse or any of the other things that can effect my benefits, I felt like I was being told yes I qualify for a certain amount, but the state wasn’t going to hold up their end of what on some level has the appearance of a contract based on my qualifications for the benefits.  My understanding had been that as long as I met the qualifications, and I reported any changes in regards to other income or  things like marriages, divorce, birth whatever, I would be receiving a certain ammount that wouldn’t decrease unless something on my end changed.  that is pretty much how Social Security portrays the benefits to people receiving them, I never once was told that my benefits could go down because of decisions made by my state or federal government.  In light of this, I would like to ask that Social Security at both the state and federal levels, better inform those receiving Social Security benefits that it is possible for the government to decrease benefit amounts without notice, based on what the government feels is best rather then them looking to see what the actual impact could be beyond the actual budget they are working on.  With something like Social Security, politicians and the general public need to realize that while it looks like just numbers on paper, behind every single number on that paper, is a life that will be impacted in some way by the decisions made about the numbers.  For folks who live below the poverty level, a change of $5 can be huge in terms of being able to meet basic needs like food, shelter, clothing, and for those who do try to work or are even in the process of going to college in an attempt to better themselves and gain skills that might make them more employable, the $5 decrease that PA State Government decided on, could mean the difference between being able to have money to pay for tranportation to get to class or work, so while I keep hearing about programs like “Ticket to work” or “Welfare to work” personally I find that decisions such as the one made by the PA state government to decrease benefits is pretty much counter productive for those trying to make an effort.  We are told we can keep our helth coverage for “X” amopunt of time while we work even if we don’t qualify for Social Security, but then if we don’t have the skills to get a job where the employer offers health insurance comparable to what we had, it puts us in a position where we have to choose between paying rent or paying for healthcare, and many will choose things like food, rent, transportation, and clothing over medication if put in that position.  For folks with mental health disabilities, putting us in a position like that can result in us not getting the medication we need to remain stable enough to continue to work, and result in us having to quit working and go back on Social Security or other benefits just so we can once again stabilize our disabling mental health issues.  For someone with a severe and disabling mental illness, it can take several years for them to stabilize enough to where they are able to return to work, but then they are risking putting themself back into a situation where they once again have to choose pretty much between sanity and insanity because of a high potential for not having access to health care coverage to prevent having to choose between medication and a basic necesity like food, clothing or shelter.  It’s a viscious circle and I know based on experience that there are people out ther who believe that if everyone on social security or welfare simply “got a job” everything would be better, but I have to ask these people are they saying it would be better for the individual being told to get a job?  or would it be better for the person making or implying such statements who obviously have no clue what life with a disability of any kind is like.  For me personally to be able to work I would need a guarantee that I would have adaquate health care coverage that was compareable to my current coverage with coverage for my mental health treatment being treated equal to the treatment avaiable to someone with a medical condition such as diabetes, which I have been told for years that for me, taking my meds is as important as insulin is to a diabetic, but yet I’m told that unlike the diabetic, if I’m working, heath insurance isn’t required to give me the same coverage for my medications and other vital treatment as a diabetic would be entitled to with the same health care coverage.

No, I don’t have a degree that I can say backs up anything I’m expressing, but I can say I have life experience that has taught me that because my disability is a mental health disability, I’m better off not working then I am to attempt to work.  Society through their policies has taught me that, but given a chance to work at a job that was friendly to my mental health disability and provided me with insurance compareable to what I have now, I would make an honest effort to try to work at least part-time.  Until I find that combination, I will do what I can to give back to society through my limited freelance writing, and other odd jobs I sometimes do mostly on a volunteer basis, just so I can feel like I’m making an effort to be productive in some way regardless of the views held by those who would claim I’m freeloading.

So while this may be in some ways, yet another rant, I hope that people will be more aware of the viscious circle that folks like me end up in because of society’s view of us and the fact that I believe that many, not all, but many politicians forget that there are lives that will be impacticted by changes made to the numbers they are juggling when balancing budgets.  I feel that special interest typ projects that by design will only impact an individual community, such as funding for stadiums for example should be where cuts should be made, not because stauims don’t serve a purpose, but because people can live without a stadium, they can’t live without food.

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“Hoeffel Disturbed by DPW SSI Cuts; Urges DPW To Reconsider Changes & Calls for Public Hearings”

http://joehoeffel2010.com/press-release/hoeffel-disturbed-dpw-ssi-cuts-urges-dpw-reconsider-changes-calls-public-hearings

This link takes you to a page on Joe Hoeffel’s website where he is calling for public hearings for those effected by the recent cost of living decrease to be able to voice their views and perspective surrounding the cut.

“Budget cuts victimize the disabled”

This article excerpt found in the January 26, 2010 Philly Daily News and can be read in full at this address …. http://www.philly.com/dailynews/opinion/20100126_Budget_cuts_victimize_the_disabled.html

“If $5 and $10 cuts don’t seem like much, consider this: People who are “totally and permanently disabled” – physically unable to work at all – get no more than about $700 a month in federal SSI payments, and many get less. (That’s at least $2,430 lower than the federal poverty line of $10,830 a year for an individual.) In that world, $5 means a lot – the copay on necessary drugs, for example, or the last few dollars for the electric bill or the rent.”

“Editorial: SSI cuts are a cruel plan”

http://www.philly.com/inquirer/opinion/83227462.html

This article came from the Philadelphia Enquirer on February 1, 2010

I loved this article in more  ways then many can imagine, it is about PA’s cost of living decrease as I’ve started calling it. (oh and I broke my new rule about not including the complete article on this one, it said a lot in it’s short length.

Editorial: SSI cuts are a cruel plan

As of this week, several hundred thousand elderly poor and disabled Pennsylvanians will be nickel-and-dimed to help balance the state’s $28 billion budget.That’s wrong, and all the more unconscionable given a state budget that benefited fat cats while resorting to an expansion of casino gambling to raise revenue.

In reaching their months-late budget deal in October, Harrisburg lawmakers and Gov. Rendell necessarily nipped and tucked state spending in hundreds of other ways.

That’s not a bad thing. But the process went off the rails when it came to a decision to cut the state’s modest monthly supplement provided to nearly 350,000 poor and disabled receiving federal Supplemental Security Income (SSI) checks.

The aggregate savings from the cuts of $9.4 million this year and $22.9 million next year represent a pittance in overall state spending. But the monthly reductions of $5 to $10 will come from SSI recipients already trying to live on only $700 – more than 20 percent below the poverty level.

To some of the disabled – including nearly 130,000 people in Philadelphia and four surrounding counties – the SSI reductions could represent the cost of a prescription co-pay, or a transit fare to the doctor’s or grocery store. But it’s as much the harsh message the state is sending with these cuts that’s so objectionable.

Remember how lawmakers and Rendell spared natural-gas drillers from paying a new extraction tax? That levy is being collected in many of the other states where the Marcellus Shale is being tapped.

How about the decision to saddle the state with another expansion of casino gambling to raise $200 million a year? Those state winnings represent a hidden tax on many people who can least afford it.

With such skewed priorities in place, the SSI cuts appear cruel and unnecessary. Although the cutbacks are set to start today, they should be rescinded as soon as possible.

Wouldn’t you just know, the SSI reductions only came to light recently. But now that the secret is out, there’s an understandable clamor growing from advocates and some lawmakers to remedy this insult to the elderly poor and disabled.

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Do I laugh or cry?!?!?!

Ok many of you know that Pennsylvania is in the process of decreasing what they give to folks for the state portion of Social Security, the amount had been $27.40, but is decreasing to $22.10 well today, February 1, 2010.

Saturday I got more mail from my County Assistance office of which I’ve kind of begun cringing at the sight of the CAO return address, not really knowing for sure if I really want to know what they are doing to me now or not.  Well, I hesitently opened the letter, and like the one that told me I was going to be losing about $5 per month starting today, this one was also 2 pages, but as I read it I wanted to both laugh and cry.  I’m still kind of shocked about it to be honest.

Well the letter basically said that because my income had changed that effective today (2-1-2010) my food stamps would be increasing.  the amount isn’t huge, but it was a $2 increase in my food stamps, so while I’m glad I got a portion of the $5 I lost back, I find myself dumbfounded, because I’m pretty sure that the 3 mailings I received from my CAO this past week (the 3rd was telling me they had received my application for LIHEAP) that the $5 that the state claimed they would save on me today, was pretty much spent just in mailings. 

Here is a scanned copy of the letter I got telling me about the decrease in my state portion of my SSI (more will follow it) …..  I received this on Saturday, January 23, 2010 ….

SocialSecurity-State-supliment-decrease

Notice they explained the decrease in a single sentence … well here is the page they included with it telling me all about my right to appeal …..

SocialSecurity-State-decrease-page2

On Saturday,  January 30, 2010, I received the following letter telling me about the increase in my foodstamps ….

1-30-2010-CAO-Notice_Foodstamp-increase

It was accompanied by a second page as well that told me about my right to appeal in fact, it was identical to the second page of the previous letter, so rather then posting it I’m going to ask you to take my word on the idea that it was identical.

Now why am I sharing these scanned copies with the world?  Simple, to point out not only that I like many others had been told I qualified for a specific amount in Social Security (I personally receive Disability and SSI), and then I basically like many  others in Pennsylvania who receive SSI get told that despite the fact I was told I qualified for a specific amount, the state is going to decrease the amount they contribute.  So, even with the $2 increase in my food stamps, I’m still being shorted $3 of what I was told I qualified for.  So basically the state is ripping me off.

I know there are those out there who would think they are all high and mighty because you work and don’t receive benefits from the government, but before you start slamming me with comments telling me I’m lazy let me point out that in order for me to qualify to receive Social Security Disability, I had to work, so yes, I have worked, and have held several jobs over the years, but because of my disability I wasn’t able to continue with those jobs for very long.  I keep trying and hope that I will find a job I am able to do well at over the long-term.  I am a volunteer at a Service Dog organization, and I do some freelance writing, in addition to this blog and other projects I try to help with as I’m able to, so I’m not just sitting back collecting money and not giving anything back to society.  So if you plan on hitting me with that line of thinking, I assure you it won’t get very far here.  Yes, you are entitled to your opinion, but you should also know that while you may be on a high horse now, looking down in disgust at folks like me, you yourself could be a single car accident or other life changing event from being in exactly the same position I am in financially.  I hope that nothing happens to anyone, but it is something to keep in mind for those who feel they are better then me because I receive benefits from the governeent and they don’t.

My point is this in my case, I earned the ability to receive these benefits, and now I’m being told my benefits will be decreased through no fault of my own, so yes, for lack of a better word, I’m pissed!  I’m also angry, because I know there are folks who want to work but have never been able to who are also losing money from their benefits.  Those of us on Social Security are living well below the poverty level, so since we are now living lower today then we were yesterday, I would like to ask if anyone knows who’s wallet is being padded with the money I was told I qualified for and have had pretty much stolen from me?

For the sake of the politicians, in Pennsylvania, I certainly hope you opt to NOT vote for a raise for yourselves this year in light of screwing so many people over here in Pennsylvania.  I know for a fact there are efforts being made by various groups challeniging this state decision, and I certainly would think that if you want these groups to promote you as someone who is friendly to folks like me when you are up for re-election, that you strongly consider keeping your overly high pay-rate where it’s at and NOT increasing it., because that would simply be like adding insult to injury in my eyes and the eyes of many others in Pennsylvania who got hit with this year’s cost of living DECREASE!

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WordPress Tags: Pennsylvania,Social Security,February 1, 2010,food stamps,LIHEAP,government,volunteer,opinion,election,PA cost of living DECREASE,Zemanta,Sestak,Governor Rendell,Rendell,Maintain,pamhi

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