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Deciding to seek disability assistance

If you are so sick that you cannot continue to work at all, or work consistently enough to meet basic financial needs, then you must use disability income and medical insurance programs. For many patients their economic survival may depend on obtaining all available assistance.

In most chronically-ill people, there is the drive to continue working, no matter how difficult and how severe the physical and mental effects. In our work-ethic society, a person's intrinsic value is often thought of in terms of his/her work. To be chronically ill or disabled often has a strong connotation of having less value as a person. Traditionally, people who are not working are sometimes considered malingerers or lazy. Society often casts a disapproving eye on those who legitimately can't work. And as we are conditioned to this point of view, many of us will feel ashamed of not being able to work—even if we are really sick and are making ourselves worse by continuing to try to work. There are, of course, financial imperatives that push us to keep working to meet our expenses, especially if we have no other means of support for ourselves or our families.

To realistically counter the work-ethic imperative, we remind people that your intrinsic worth—no matter what society says—is not based on having a job, but on being born a unique human-being. You are precious without regard to this or that job. Now it is a natural state that if you are healthy and can work, you want to contribute to society. But if you are too sick to work, that is OK. Being really ill is a simple fact without moral content. Then your job is to take care of yourself with whatever assistance family, friends, communities and our nation can make available.

All disability programs are essentially "insurance" programs. Anyone can become chronically ill, so as a society we mutually make a decision to spread the risk around. Everyone pays something into a vast pool, knowing this makes it possible to be helped when in need. So if you need to go on disability, realize that you have paid for your insurance—either directly or indirectly through premiums, work, or taxes. It is no shame to avail yourself of an insurance policy in time of need. Beyond this, a society that takes care of those truly in need is the kind of society we should all want to live in.

At some point, if you are seriously ill, one of two things often happens. Either illness leaves no choice—it is physically and mentally impossible to continue to work—or you have not yet reached the collapse point, but know that it will happen soon. So you recognize it would be better to make an intentional decision to go on disability rather than being forced to when even more damage has been done to your health.

When you reach this "balance point"—where you are eligible for a disability program or where you "could" continue working for awhile, but it is clear that such work is harmful—we suggest a taking stock of the course of the illness and considering stopping work and taking the time to put an emphasis on recuperation.