Recently on our disability legal forum a user asked, “I had a child who was born 2 months premature. I am wondering whether the federal government offers any type of disability benefits for a disabled child. I know my mother received Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). I am wondering if SSDI benefits are available for my son?”
Recently on our legal forum a user asked, “I have a child who was born with a severe disability. I know that the federal government provides some type of disability benefits, but I thought you had to be working or something to qualify. Can you provide information to me about any type of benefits might child might receive? Is there an age requirement?”
Recently on our disability forum a user asked, “I have been receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI) for two years for my muscular dystrophy. I am having trouble purchasing groceries and paying my rent each month. I am wondering if the federal government has decided to increase SSI payments this year through a cost of living adjustment?”
You are disabled and unable to work. You apply for Social Security disability benefits (SSD) and are denied by the Social Security Administration because you have not worked enough to qualify for SSD benefits.
What do you do now? What other steps can you take? What other options do you have open to you?
One of your best options may be to apply for Social Security Supplemental Security Income (SSI). It is a federal income supplement program. Although the Social Security Administration manages Supplemental Security Income (SSI), the funds come from general tax revenues, not Social Security taxes.
The Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program is designed to help aged, blind and disabled people with little or no income. It provides cash to meet the basic needs of food, clothing and shelter.
While you may not have worked enough to qualify for Social Security disability benefits (SSD), you may qualify for Supplemental Security Income (SSI). With SSI there are no work requirements that you have to meet.
One of the good things about Supplemental Security Income is that the Social Security Administration does not count all of your income when it decides whether you qualify for SSI. For example, the Social Security Administration does not count:
- The first $20 a month of most income you receive;
- The first $65 a month you earn from working and half the amount over $65;
- Food stamps;
- Shelter you get from private nonprofit organizations;
- Most home energy assistance.
You may ask, “Is it worth it? What are the benefits available to me through Supplemental Security Income (SSI)?
The first benefit that you will receive if you are approved for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is your monthly cash benefit. The monthly benefit for an individual is $698. A qualifying couple receives $1,048 a month.
In addition, if you qualify for SSI, you also may be able to get help from your state or county. You will need to check with the state and county that you live in to see what other benefits are available because you qualify for Supplemental Security Income.
For example, you may be able to get Medicaid, food stamps or other social services. Your will need to call your local social services department or public welfare office for information about the services that are available to you in the community where you live.
If everyone in the home where you live signs up for SSI or gets SSI, Social Security will help you fill out the application for food stamps. If you live in a home where not everyone signs up for SSI or gets SSI, you will have to go to your local food stamp office to apply for food stamps.
Establishing a trust can greatly aid special-needs individuals
OK, everybody…one last roundup of “Things to Know.”
From a Sept. 26 piece entitled “Government Benefits for Special-Needs Individuals,” a good look benefits’ programs and a great idea for helping special-needs individuals–set up a trust for them:
Planning is paramount
[Although it is crucial] to ensure that you have adequate planning in place to preserve your child’s eligibility for government assistance, it is important for individuals to know what government benefits are available to a special-needs child and when these benefits are available. Because government programs can be confusing and . . . they change often, anyone seeking to learn more about receiving government benefits for a special-needs child should consult an attorney or review current documentation on eligibility from each individual government program.
Four programs for special-needs families: two not means-based
There are four relevant government benefit programs available to special-needs families. These are Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”), Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security Disability Insurance (“SSDI”). [Neither] SSDI [nor] Medicare are… means-based programs. In other words, there is no investigation into your finances to determine if you qualify for the program based on your income or your resources. Medicare is a form of sponsored health insurance available for the elderly and the disabled and SSDI is available to individuals and minors or special needs children of an individual who has died, retired or become disabled.A special-needs child who is under age 22 and who is not working can obtain SSDI benefits based on his or her parents’ prior earnings.
SSI, Medicaid are means-based
SSI and Medicaid are both means-based programs. Eligibility for those programs is based on financial need and strict requirements must be met prior to receiving benefits. Medicaid can provide in-home care, cost of hospitalization and nursing-home care as well as some housing benefits to recipients. A special-needs child can receive SSI, SSDI, Medicaid and Medicare all at the same time.
Creating a supplemental-needs trust
The distinction between means- and nonmeans-based programs is important to understand. [Because] these benefits add greatly to a disabled person’s ability to receive care, and given the expensive cost of long-term medical and nursing care, anyone seeking to give a special-needs child assets may disqualify him or her from receiving means-based program benefits. However, setting up a supplemental-needs trust for your special-needs individual can help provide for their care without disqualifying him or her from SSI or Medicaid benefits.
Medicaid, SSI linked
Although the requirements should be reviewed periodically for changes, currently, to qualify for SSI benefits, a disabled adult cannot own more than $2,000 of assets. There is a link between eligibility for Medicaid and eligibility for SSI. Eligibility for SSI makes a disabled person eligible for food stamps and Medicaid, which pays medical expenses, nursing home care and mental health services. Given the very low poverty threshold, setting up a supplemental-needs trust can help provide for extra care over and above that which the government may provide.
All in all, a thoughtful piece and well worth reading the entire article. Even though slanted toward New Jersey residents, the info is relevant to all special-needs families in the U.S.
The following is slanted toward Texas residents, but, again, good information for those in states with similar systems. From a Sept. 29 press release at Digital Journal:
DDS plays pivotal role in SSI/SSDI claims
Whether a Texan wants to make a claim for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI), the application process begins and ends with the Social Security Administration (SSA). However, after a Texan applies for benefits, their claim is forwarded to an intermediate governmental body.
The Division for Disability Determination Services (DDS), part of the Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services (DARS), makes disability determinations for all SSDI or SSI applicants in Texas. SSDI and SSI Benefits When Texans have physical or mental disabilities severe enough to hinder regular work activities, they can apply for federal SSA benefits to help restore a portion of lost income. The SSDI program covers disabled workers, and sometimes their family members, who have earned benefits by paying Social Security taxes during their employment.
DDS acts as SSA’s agent
The SSI program considers an applicant’s means and resources when determining coverage. Lower income adults and children typically qualify, but some people may be eligible for both programs. Application Process The application process, and how a person is determined as disabled, is the same in all U.S. states. Applicants fill out forms, either in person at a local Social Security office or online, providing information about their medical conditions, treatment and why working is difficult. They must also explain their work duties before the injury or disability and agree to release their medical records to the SSA and DDS. Once the Texas DDS receives the completed application, it can act as the SSA’s agent to determine whether the applicant is disabled.
Again, lots of good info here, and well worth the time to study it and make notes so you can ask good questions when consulting with your disability attorney.
Numbers of reported afflicted great cause for concern
A disturbing trend
A June 23 review of recent books at The New York Review of Books begins with this startling observation:
It seems that Americans are in the midst of a raging epidemic of mental illness, at least as judged by the increase in the numbers treated for it. The tally of those who are so disabled by mental disorders that they qualify for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) increased nearly two and a half times between 1987 and 2007—from one in 184 Americans to one in seventy-six. For children, the rise is even more startling—a thirty-five-fold increase in the same two decades. Mental illness is now the leading cause of disability in children, well ahead of physical disabilities like cerebral palsy or Down syndrome, for which the federal programs were created.
The review, entitled “The Epidemic of Mental Illness: Why?,” addresses three new works:
- The Emperor’s New Drugs: Exploding the Antidepressant Myth
- Anatomy of an Epidemic: Magic Bullets, Psychiatric Drugs, and the Astonishing Rise of Mental Illness in America
- Unhinged: The Trouble with Psychiatry — A Doctor’s Revelations about a Profession in Crisis
‘Astonishing 46 %’ meet criteria
You’ll have to read the whole thing to decide whether these books might be useful to you or someone you’d like to help, but we’ll leave you with one more passage from the review, before more commentary on the same:
A large survey of randomly selected adults, sponsored by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) and conducted between 2001 and 2003, found that an astonishing 46 percent met criteria established by the American Psychiatric Association (APA) for having had at least one mental illness within four broad categories at some time in their lives. The categories were “anxiety disorders,” including, among other subcategories, phobias and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD); “mood disorders,” including major depression and bipolar disorders; “impulse-control disorders,” including various behavioral problems and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD); and “substance use disorders,” including alcohol and drug abuse. Most met criteria for more than one diagnosis. Of a subgroup affected within the previous year, a third were under treatment—up from a fifth in a similar survey ten years earlier.
If any of this is close to the target, these are trends we can not ignore. The stats on children have to be particularly disturbing, even for the most hard-hearted among us.
Skepticism: ‘Researchers come up empty-handed’
However, what may be most disheartening for those whose loved ones suffer from these ailments is that all the modern hoo-haw about science and pharmacology might be just that: hoo-haw. Writing about the same three books, and the review itself, Jacob Sullum writes June 13 at Reason.com:
As those questions suggest, Angell seems to share the skepticism of the authors whose books she reviews: University of Hull psychologist Irving Kirsch, who in The Emperor’s New Drugs shows that antidepressants are only slightly more effective than placebos, so slightly that the difference may be attributable to stronger expectations of improvement primed by the drugs’ side effects; the journalist Robert Whitaker, who in Anatomy of an Epidemic argues that the “astonishing rise of mental illness in America” can be understood largely as an outgrowth of the desire to sell psychiatric drugs; and Daniel Carlat, a Boston psychiatrist who confesses his profession’s shortcomings in Unhinged: The Trouble With Psychiatry. Angell notes that “none of the three authors subscribes to the popular theory that mental illness is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain.” She adds that “the main problem with the theory is that after decades of trying to prove it, researchers have still come up empty-handed.”
None of this can be comforting to anyone connected to a friend or loved one affected by mental illness. Imagine being stuck “in the system” trying to get SSI or SSDI benefits for someone so afflicted.
Delays in system back in the news
The system in general is infamous for its delays and backlog, although some announced efforts we’ve covered here have been targeted at reducing the wait times, which can linger from many months to years. Sadly, recent reports indicate those efforts are losing headway. According to a June 22 report in Baltimore City Paper:
The Social Security Administration (SSA) may be losing its battle against the backlog of disability cases, according to an analysis of its data by a New York-based nonprofit.
“In particular, the data show that while progress had initially been made, the hoped for reduction in backlogged matters ground to a halt in the last 12 months,” a report by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) says. “Since then the number of pending cases grew by 5 percent. More success has been achieved in reducing average wait times.”
We can help find an attorney
That’s good news about reducing wait times, but the backlogged cases is definitely not improvement. If you’re feeling “stuck in the system” after having trying to make a go of it by yourself, we understand. And we can help. Perhaps it’s time you reach out to a trained, experienced attorney who can guide you through the maze of federal bureaucracy. If so, please scroll down and, under the heading “Need Help With Your Disability Case?” please complete the online form to get a personal response to your case.
The Social Security Administration reports in a Webinar filmed in October 2010 that “Last year SSA received almost half a million more disability applications than [in] the previous year. 70 % of those applications were filed online.”
Watch ‘Webinar’ for basics of online application
Click here to watch the Webinar; it’s about 40 minutes long, covering these topics:
- Advantages of doing business with Social Security online;
- Who can file online;
- Getting started;
- Applying for benefits;
- Recent enhancements to online applications, and
- What happens after you submit.
The SSA encourages those with the following qualifications to apply:
- Individuals applying for Social Security benefits who are 18 or older;
- Those with a mental or physical condition that
- has prevented work for at least 12 months, or
- is expected to prevent work for at least 12 months, or
- is expected to end in death
- Residents of the U.S. or its territories/commonwealth.
Why apply online?
The SSA describes the ease of submitting an online application:
Applying online for disability benefits offers several advantages:
- You can start your disability claim immediately. There is no need to wait for an appointment
- You can apply from the convenience of your home, or on any computer; and
- You can avoid trips to a Social Security office, saving you time and money.
What’s needed to do the application?
To the question, “What information should I gather before I get started?” the SSA says:
For the Disability Benefit Application, you should have:
- Your Social Security number;
- Direct deposit numbers (from a check, or ask your financial institution for the numbers) to have your monthly benefits deposited automatically;
- Your W-2 Form from last year or, if you were self-employed, your federal income tax return (IRS 1040 and Schedules C and SE);
- An original or certified copy of your birth certificate and, if you were born in another country, we also need proof of U.S. citizenship or legal residency;
- Information about any workers’ compensation claim you have filed, including date of injury, claim number, and proof of any payments made to you; and
- If you were in the military service, the original or certified copy of your military discharge papers (Form DD 214) for all periods of active duty.
For the Adult Disability Report, you should have:
- The name, address, and phone number of someone who knows about your condition and can help with your claim;
- Information about your illnesses, injuries, and conditions, including dates of treatment, and patient ID numbers; and the names, addresses, and phone numbers of the medical providers who treated you;
- Names of medicines you are taking and who prescribed them;
- Names and dates of medical tests you have had and who requested the tests;
- Medical records that you already have; and
- Types of jobs and dates you worked for your last five jobs.
Other frequently asked questions
Here’s some other common questions and the answers from the SSA:
Do I have to finish all the questions in one session?
No. If you need more time, you can save the information you entered and then stop. We will give you separate numbers for the Disability Benefit Application and the Adult Disability Report that you can enter when you want to return to answer the rest of the questions.
What if I can’t answer everything?
Even if you are unable to answer all the questions on the Adult Disability Report, you may still submit it to us. We will help you get the missing information.
However, make sure you complete the Disability Benefit Application and select the “Sign Now” button to submit it.
What happens next?
We will ask you to print and sign a medical release form that allows us to get information from your doctors. If you do not have a printer, we will send a medical release for you to sign.
You also will print a cover sheet that you can use to send us the signed medical release and any medical records you already have in your possession.
We will contact you if we need more information about your claim.
Once we have all the information we need to make a decision about your disability claim, we will send you a letter.
The online forms are available to you seven days a week during the following hours (Eastern time):
Monday-Friday: 5 a.m. until 1 a.m.
Saturday: 5 a.m. until 11 p.m.
Sunday: 8 a.m. until 10 p.m.
Holidays: 5 a.m. until 11 p.m.
How to get started
Follow these 4 easy steps to apply online
Step 1. Review the Adult Disability Checklist for details about what you will need before starting the online process.
Step 2. Fill out the online Disability Benefit Application to provide us with information regarding eligibility for payment.
Step 3. Fill out the online Adult Disability Report to provide us with medical and work history.
Step 4. Fill out, sign and mail or take the Authorization to Disclose Information to the Social Security Administration to your local Social Security Office.
By Mike Hinshaw
Howard Long is a testament to the possibilities of the SOAR program, so named because it’s an acronym for SSI/SSDI Outreach, Access and Recovery, a program administered with states and various agencies by the Social Security Administration to help reduce homelessness and provide SSI and SSDI benefits for qualified applicants. The homeless community is particularly difficult to enroll, assess and reliably contact, hence the outreach.
According to a Feb. 22 story at StarNewsOnline, “One year ago Howard Long, 50, was homeless, had no income, and was living outdoors. He had been to the emergency room at least twice and had been arrested for sleeping in public.
“Today Long rents an apartment, pays for groceries and utilities and has health insurance from Medicare.
“What changed Long’s life is an innovative program called SOAR, which last year helped get 31 chronically homeless people in New Hanover County into housing.”
The story says it’s all part of a 10-year effort mounted in concert with United Way to reduce “chronic homelessness” in the Cape Fear region of North Carolina.
According to the local program director, Dan Ferrell, the benefits accrue way beyond the individuals who get help:
” ‘Communities like those in the Cape Fear region have become increasingly aware of the high costs of homelessness in terms of law enforcement, emergency room care and social services,’ Ferrell said. ‘SOAR is one of our major initiatives to reduce the costs of homelessness.’
“SOAR-acquired benefits bring taxes back to state and local communities.”
Local authorities say benefits outweigh the costs
The story says the 31 recipients will split nearly $270,000 this year and indirectly quotes Ferrell as indicating the benefits back to the community will “significantly exceed” the costs.
A specific benefit cited is that the beneficiaries’ lives improve enough to get out of the emergency-room cycle of using hospitals for health care. The thrust of the story is that addressing the essential cause of homelessness pays off better than the fragmented approach of an endless repetition of street sweeps, lockups, and a life of bouncing between temporary shelters and blowing in the wind.
Applying for benefits ‘very complicated, difficult and somewhat adversarial’
But without a concerted effort involving inter-agency cooperation–from federal to local communities–local authorities have few choices besides traditional responses. “Applying for the benefits is ‘very complicated, difficult and somewhat adversarial,’ [Michael] Hosick said. ‘Homeless people in particular can quickly get frustrated and give up.’ ”
Hosick is the local executive director for Triangle/Coastal Disability Advocates.
The case that Jack built–over 30 years
More insight–and another success story–comes from a program in Florida, the Bridgeway Center: “SOAR (SSI/SSDI Outreach, Access and Recovery) is a highly effective process that works within the system to assist disabled individuals in obtaining Social Security benefits. SOAR has proven to be a successful addition to the array of strategies in the prevention and alleviation of homelessness.”
The example case that Bridgeway has on its site concerns the story of Jack, “who had exhibited emotional and behavioral problems since childhood; anger, mood swings, inability to hold a job, and difficulties completing tasks of daily living. Growing up, his mother would get so frustrated with him she threw him out of the home many times.”
The cycle would be repeated many times, for decades.
On one of these occasions he was introduced to alcohol and realized that it made the voices in his head go away. Jack did not like being on the street so he would beg his mother to let him come back home. When Jack was found wandering the streets extremely drunk at age 16 he was taken to a hospital and admitted under a Baker Act. Jack stayed in the hospital until he was 18, then he was released to his mother, stabilized on medication.
This living arrangement lasted for around 6 months before again he was on the streets. This pattern continued for six years, in and out of hospital, staying with his mother, becoming homeless and back to hospital, until his mother passed away. Then Jack had no place to go; he truly was homeless. He stopped taking his medication and began to use street drugs. At 25 he was arrested for possession of drugs, and then hospitalized again.
When he was released and admitted to a group home, his Bridgeway Center Case Manager, Donna Morgan took him to apply for Social Security Insurance. He was denied. Ms. Morgan attempted to assist him in the appeal process but by that time Jack had left the group home. Ms. Morgan then had difficulty maintaining contact with Jack to complete the process. The Social Security Office would not provide her with information on Jack’s appointments schedule, doctor’s visits or paperwork requirements since she was not Jack’s representative. Jack was denied Social Security benefits three times in one year, without proper documentation, and with no one to stand up for him they would not consider his application.
For Jack? SOAR came through
Finally, Jack crossed paths with the system again, when Morgan ran across him, according to the Web site–and by that time, he was 30. However, this time “This time she used the SOAR strategies. Ms. Morgan became Jacks representative, completed the narrative and obtained reports from the many doctors Jack had seen over the years. After compiling all of the evidence as directed in the SOAR training, she submitted the documentation to the Social Security Office. Jack received full benefits within 3 months following application including benefits retroactive for the previous one and a half years.”
It takes a village, they say. In this case, the “village” is federal-state-city-local agency co-operation.
Homeless people may have benefits they are not aware of–do you or your loved ones qualify for Social Security benefits? If so, here’s some important information.
By Mike Hinshaw
Despite increased awareness and efforts of many organizations, including the federal government, the number of homeless people in the U.S. is increasing. Some are returning military, some are newly jobless. Others have lost homes through foreclosure.
To be sure, some homeless folk tell social workers and other interviewers that they prefer their “unencumbered” lifestyle and are resistant to efforts to change their minds. How true that is, and how heavily influenced by extenuating circumstances such as substance abuse or mental health issues, we may never know. Regardless, it’s safe to say that most people want a safe, clean place to live–with access to decent food and medical care.
No home? No problem–Social Security benefits still obtain
What many people don’t realize is that being homeless does not preclude anyone from receiving any Social Security benefits for which they are otherwise eligible. However, a homeless person could inadvertently screw up and accept certain forms of aid that would hurt them when applying for benefits. Read closely.
The best news is that the Social Security Administration (SSA) has a program to help the homeless; following are their two main Web pages:
- Social Security Online: Service to the Homeless
- Social Security Online/Supplemental Security Income: SSI Spotlight on Homelessness.
One of the first things to know is that no one is required to have a dwelling place in order to receive correspondence or benefit checks from the SSA.
From the #2 Web page:
If you are homeless, some of the ways you can receive your SSI benefits. You may:
have your benefits deposited directly into your personal bank account;
have your benefits mailed to a third party; or
have a relative or other third party be assigned as your representative payee;
have your benefits directed to a Direct Express debit bank card.
However, some aid can deny SSA benefits
The next important thing–and this is crucial–is that living in some forms of public housing can lower the amount of benefits one may receive, or even disqualify one from receiving any benefits.
Again, from the same Web page:
Living in a shelter, medical treatment facility, or a correctional facility may affect your SSI benefits. Living in a public institution may make you ineligible for benefits.
However, some safe haven facilities provide very low cost supportive housing to homeless persons who are unwilling or unable to participate in mental health treatment programs or to receive other supportive services. A person living in a safe haven will not have his or her SSI payments reduced for the support and maintenance provided by the safe haven. Also, some publicly operated community residences are not considered public institutions for SSI purposes.
Dig deep, for help
Notice the wording: terms such as shelter, medical treatment facility and correctional facility mean something different from safe haven. Accordingly, the SSA recommends using resources they have on their Web pages as a starting place to help determine which types of shelters can be utilized without affecting one’s benefits.
Furthermore, the SSA “is an active participant in the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH). The mission of the USICH is to ‘coordinate the Federal response to homelessness and to create a national partnership at every level of government and with the private sector to reduce and end homelessness in the nation while maximizing the effectiveness of the Federal Government in contributing to the end of homelessness.’ ” The USICH site has a link to what it labels (or shouts out, as it were) the “FIRST-EVER COMPREHENSIVE FEDERAL STRATEGIC PLAN TO PREVENT AND END HOMELESSNESS,” a pdf. of a report entitled “Opening Doors: Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness.”
If you, or a person you are trying to help, is not familiar with a qualified local agency to answer questions, another place to start is the nearest HUD office. Through its Community Planning and Development division, HUD has several programs that can help, including preventive programs.
Another way to go may be contacting the appropriate state agency or nonprofit organization. For example, in addition to the HUD presence in Texas, there’s also the Texas Homeless Network. Try a Google search on “state name” + “homeless help” or “homeless resources.” A news search might turn up something useful, too.
For example, here’s a good, recent story (Jan. 15) about a helpful center in California. Some places tend to specialize: this Jan. 17 piece in Huffington Post is about a center in Denver called The Gathering Place, which is geared toward women and children and provides crucially necessary daytime services–one particularly touching story involves a woman whose big break was a seemingly small accomplishment that led to greater things. By being able to get a nice haircut, she changed her self image, which led to a job, which led to her getting a home she regards as permanent.
Although the main thrust here is to help inform about Social Security benefits that may be available, we also recognize that some readers may need to find survival help right now, either for themselves, a friend or a loved one. Toward that end, here’s some links for possible shelters right now, today, tonight:
- Main link for this list, a .pdf file (which is not the only link at that site);
- Homeless Shelters by State from DoSomething.org;
- This list from a sorta’ goofy looking site that apparently means well, all about shelters and soup kitchens, apparently compiled by a guy who has lived the life and is trying to pay it forward. More power…
If I were homeless? I’d have a dog
Now, to show the diversity of available programs–and the lashback that can occur–I’ll close with this after-Christmas story, about a homeless guy who benefits from a program that helps tide him over when he needs help feeding…not himself…but his dog.
This strikes me right upside the head because last fall I was one eviction notice from joining the ranks of the homeless. Thank, God–the Justice of the Peace who heard the case knew the law well enough to deny the claim from my lender, who was pretending to be my “landlord.” That being said, let me tell you–as I was contemplating my possible future without a home, one thing I seized upon was this: IF I have to be homeless, I can guarantee you I shall have at least one dog with me. At all times…
So, no, I don’t think it’s “irresponsible” for the guy in that story to keep a dog. I think it’s a matter of survival. And it’s time more folks realize how many other good folks are trying merely to survive.
by Mike Hinshaw
Today we start a two-part look at a smorgasbord of topics, from serious but surprising to surprisingly serious.
According to an October blog in Denver’s alt-paper/online site, medical marijuana has become a sore spot between state officials and indigent patients, including those with AIDS. Some patients receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits; some receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI); and some receive neither.
MMJ = medical marijuana: Indigents’ costs hotly contested
In Colorado, part of the medicinal pot eligibility process involves getting the original prescription–about which, more later–and another part is paying an annual $90 registry license fee in order to make purchases. The Cannabis Institute maintains the license fee is too high for all patients–not to mention the poor–and sent a letter to the state Board of Health demanding a reduction from $90 to $10 on the license-fee for all patients who have received proper prescriptions.
At this point, let’s back up for a second to explain that according to various reports, Colorado’s med-pot system has already brought in significant revenue for the state.
Governor wanted ‘to steal’ from registry fund to cover General Fund
Significant enough that the governor proposed transferring a significant portion of licensee-fee revenues to cover shortfalls in other areas of the state budget, even though a state amendment seems to make that illegal. Here’s how it was written at another DenverWestword blog: “In August, Colorado Governor Bill Ritter expressed his intention to steal $9 million out of the patient registry fund and transfer it to the state’s General Fund to help alleviate budget shortfalls in other areas of government.” (For attribution’s sake, the blog cites this link to an Aug. 24 post by CTI: Governor Wants to Steal Patient Registry Fees to Balance Budget: Has Ritter Become Addicted to Cannabis Revenues? )
Widespread examples of revenue increases
This is, perhaps, not yet background enough on the money involved. Besides the patient registry, various Colorado communities have seen revenue boosts not only from dispensary and grower fees but also from sales taxes, warehouse rental/lease space and associated construction (including permits, inspections and often specific, custom build-out requirements). Even newspaper advertising has benefited.
OK, so here’s the lede from that Oct. 21 blog in Westword: “Yesterday, the board of health considered lowering medical marijuana license fees for indigent patients — and wound up eliminating them for those who qualify.
“Problem is, the criteria used to determine indigency leaves out many people in need — including AIDS-patient Damien LaGoy, who says he can’t afford to renew his license, which expires in two days. ‘This may be my last interview,’ he says.”
AIDS patient reportedly mispeaks
LaGoy waited to testify while the committee discussed procedures for ongoing rulings of conditions that qualify for medical marijuana licenses, ultimately deciding to shelve that discussion until January. By mid-afternoon when he got his turn, the weary AIDS patient says he was worn out, “out of breath” and “couldn’t talk very long.” Confused and trying to speak quickly, he “told the board he collects $917 each month — $14 more than the amount that would have qualified him as indigent by an estimate he shared with the Denver Post. He subsequently realized that he’d transposed the numbers and actually gets $719 a month. But he still doesn’t qualify, he says, due to the way the board decided to determine indigency.”
As explained in both the blog and in that Denver Post article, the crucial factors that emerged made distinctions among SSDI, food stamps and SSI program recipients. And it wasn’t only the advocates who were upset–even some board members were chagrined. From the Post: ” . . . the standard the board approved for determining who is poor enough to qualify for the program upset medical-marijuana advocates, who said some indigent patients will still be stuck with a bill. And even some board members expressed frustration that the health department — which has received millions of dollars in application fees since the medical-marijuana program began — couldn’t put together a program that includes more patients.