by Jack Bragen

Disabled people are being subjected to baffling and unkind treatment at the hands of the government. New rules have been written that have made it increasingly hard for disabled and poor people to survive and get our basic needs met.
This is a trend that has continued for the last 30 years, but now it has reached a point where it is difficult for a disabled person to even hope to obtain adequate food and housing and transportation.
At one time, disabled people could get into good housing and could afford to go out to a restaurant a couple of times a month, or maybe order a pizza. We might have been able to afford reliable transportation, and might have been able to go grocery shopping without sticker shock.
Former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger slashed SSI and Medicaid when in office, and these benefits have not been restored. For most people living on SSDI/SSI, we can’t afford to get by unless our families help with some of our expenses.
If we seek part-time employment to try to shore up the economic gap, we soon find we are confronted with endless amounts of red tape, as well as further reductions in SSI, healthcare and housing benefits. And this is just one example of the many ways in which it is becoming harder for disabled people to survive.
The housing situation for disabled people has become increasingly difficult. Section 8 has adopted practices that make it a lot easier to get bumped off their list. To make matters worse, almost no landlords accept Section 8, and most of those who do are renting out units in bad neighborhoods where it is hazardous to step outside one’s front door (or stay home, for that matter).
Thus, many people who are disabled and who can’t afford the skyrocketing rents are merely one pen stroke away from homelessness.
Social Security has adopted new intimidating methods for interviewing disabled people. These methodologies are quite bogus and are designed to induce fear. In the interview, you are told that you are speaking “under penalty of perjury.” This strategy is apparently intended to frighten disabled people into ‘fessing up.
In my last interview with Social Security, I flipped out and said I was taking “the Fifth Amendment.” There was no real reason for me to do that. They had succeeded in scaring me to the point where I had become irrational.
Food prices have risen. Some supermarkets have become places that cater to rich customers. Those with less money are relegated to Wal-Mart, Dollar Tree, and the food bank. If you do not have the appearance of someone who is affluent, and you go to a supermarket, people start making remarks to you. You are presumed a criminal because you have gone to a supermarket in an older car, and in clothes that bespeak not being in the rich people’s club.
Owning a car isn’t affordable for lower income people any more. The expenses of owning a vehicle are far beyond what is affordable on public benefits or low-paying jobs.
Then, there are the buses. If you live in Contra Costa County, you could be waiting for a bus for up to an hour in the hot sun or in the pouring rain. Then, when you get to the transfer point, you may have to wait just as long for the connecting bus.

"Forgotten Man," abandoned and ignored by an indifferent society. Painting by the great 20th century American artist Maynard Dixon
“Forgotten Man,” abandoned and ignored by an indifferent society. Painting by the great 20th century American artist Maynard Dixon.

Thus, getting from Concord to Martinez could take as long as three hours, could involve a fair amount of walking, and could require not having a medical condition that precludes being in the outdoors for an extended time. And frequently, the buses aren’t there when the schedule says. The bus could have been a few minutes early, in which case you must wait an extra hour, or it could just not show up.
Government-sponsored dental benefits provide another example of how the safety net is unraveling. It is a good thing that dental benefits have been restored under Medi-Cal. However, this was executed badly. The Medi-Cal rules are written in such a way that it isn’t reasonably possible for a conscientious dentist to do an adequate job and get compensated for it.
I went on the website for 1-800 Dentist and put in my information. I needed X-rays and cleaning. The website found no matches. Presumably, they do not make referrals to horrible dentists. (FYI, any dentist who operates under a fictitious business name — for example, Western Dental — is likely to be horrible.)
Hate towards those who are economically less fortunate has risen. Classism and also hatred toward persons with psychiatric disabilities have become the new racism, even though racism hasn’t gone away. When people want to sling their best insult at someone, “bipolar” is a good derogatory.
The prevalent belief is that if you are disabled, you should just pick yourself up and get a full-time job — you ought to be able to shrug off your disability. If you cannot earn a good living or if you are not independently wealthy, this is equated with turpitude, and the existence of a genuine impairment is not believed.
The “I did it, why can’t you?” attitude, or perhaps the “I’ve got mine and I’m not sharing any” attitude, are hostile ways for the affluent to evade any innate responsibility for their fellow beings. Large numbers of people in our society don’t want to be inconvenienced by someone who is suffering or is impoverished.
As a disabled person living on public benefits, it feels as if I have been penciled out of existence by some grand authority, one which expects me to disappear into nothingness, or who believes I ought to be jailed, homeless or just dead.