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While I don’t think anyone would describe me as a feminist, I believe in the power of the individual to overcome life’s challenges and be able to control one’s path as free and independent persons. Unfortunately, the process of living “disabled” in this country, with little or no financial assistance often results in depression, feelings of loss and hopelessness.

My thinking along these lines began this past week when I spoke with a woman who received notification from Unum that her FMS claim was being denied after 24 months for mental and nervous impairment. Having placed her trust in her employer’s Plan for financial security, at 58 years old, she will be left without any source of income to pay for rent or medical care. SSDI was applied for, but no decision has yet been made.

Ms. Smith ( not her name) described herself as a victim of “not knowing” Unum was headed in the denial direction, and “what am I going to do now?” “I won’t have a place to live, or the means to support myself. I have no hope”, she told me, “what should I do?

Ms. Smith is not unlike many women I speak to who find themselves in “predicaments” that appear hopeless. Surely, the disability claims process can result in devastating situations for both men and women if reasonable expectations and product limitations are not understood from the very beginning.

Yet, this post is not about the adverse shortcomings of disability products (I’ve written too many of those already), but the importance of personal flexibility and mental willingness to change thinking perspectives from “disability” stereotypes to actions of change and betterment. Those who are disabled are not “second class citizens” but possess all of the talents and perspectives they need
to determine objectives and achieve them so that they can live the quality of life they want.

Women often tell me, including Ms. Smith, that they are “worn down, tired of wrestling with their insurance companies, and are just giving in to anything requested.” But, it’s more than that – disabled women, and I suspect men as well, often feel defeated in life, having been bounced around from doctor to doctor, and losing a comfortable financial position in life they worked so hard to achieve.

In addition, what most persons with disability claims may not realize is that THEY are their own best personal asset. And while, we can only do the best we can at any given point in time, what is going on in the world, our communities, and our country may require every person to determine, and provide for, their own paths to health and happiness without depending on any outside third party to provide it.

In reality, how we feel and react to our world is created from within ourselves and is manifested in what we call ATTITUDE. Someone told me a long time ago that people can either choose to go through life as the worst SOB there is, complaining, and whining, or as someone who accepts the good with the bad and and finds ways to adapt preparing their own way to happiness.

And, it’s true isn’t it? I’ve met several people in my life who were miserable, are miserable now, and always will be miserable. Life doesn’t need to be this way, for the disabled, or for the healthy.

Consider the higher path for a moment and think about:

  • What can I personally do today to make my life better for the future?
  • What additional information do I need to have that will help me prepare my mind and body for the achievement of maximum abilities, both physical and mental?
  • What skills and talents do I have that I can explore to produce income for self-support?
  • What community opportunities can I utilize to help me earn money?
  • What resources are available to me from Social Security that allow me to both work and receive SSDI?
  • How can my doctors help support my future objectives to improve my physical condition and stamina?
  • What ARE my physical abilities and how can I use them to support myself?
  • What members of my support group can I share my new objectives with and who can I depend on for moral support?
  • What income would I need to be financially independent from resources that currently control my quality of life, attitudes, and happiness?

Notice that all of the above involve making personal decisions to actively “do something” to improve your own lifestyle and mental health. “Empowerment” means purposeful and mindful CHANGE to positive thinking with a mental willingness and determination to leave behind ideas of “victimization” and hopelessness. Human beings are not intended to be “taken care of.”

Remember, YOU are your own best personal asset and only YOU can set your own goals and achieve them. Not Unum, nor The Hartford, nor CIGNA can achieve all of that for you. Insurance companies represent a form of CONTROL. Remember the saying, “Any entity or person who controls your money also controls you?” Empowerment is about having the freedom to decide for yourself what you will do in life, and how you want to live.

Life on disability claim does not have to be destructive, nor hopeless when insureds empower themselves with new attitudes and be willing to change lifestyles toward independent financial freedom. Think about it.


TRUE STORY – IT’S ALWAYS GOOD TO HAVE SOMETHING IN YOUR BACK POCKET!

When I was 19 years old, and living in Seoul, Korea, I was really bored. I had already graduated from high school and hadn’t a clue what to do with myself.

One day, my father came home from the Embassy and banged an old manual Underwood typewriter on my desk with a typing instruction manual. “You will always have a job if you can type”, he said pointing to the manual. “Learn to type.”

For the next month I spent many hours, “…a,a,a,…s,s,s,…d,d,d…until I became quite proficient. My father told me that I could take the Federal Civil Service test and if I could type 40 words per minute with 5 or less errors I could get a job. I took the test and eventually passed. I applied for a Civil Service job and was hired by the Commander in Chief of the Naval Pacific as his secretary.

Eighteen months later I really didn’t want to leave Seoul, but alas I returned to the states and years later found myself unemployed and living in hard times. During the next several years, I went to college but found myself still living in hard times, without a job and no money.

Finally, I tried a temporary hiring agency that gave me a typing test as a condition of employment. I typed 85 words per minute with 3 mistakes. Within a day, I had a job, and another one, and another after that. In fact, knowing how to type saved my behind on many occasions, and I could still see my dad standing by my desk with that old Underwood typewriter.

Years later when I was teaching college and making more money, I often thought about that old typewriter and how I was “saved” by having a basic skill in my back pocket.