Militant Journalism

‘We achieve more together’ — The fight for disability benefits

John McDevitt (left). Credit: DeMarcus King

On Nov. 20, four disabled people who have been waiting between one to five years for their benefits, visited their Congressional representatives Cedric L. Richmond and Garret Graves in Louisiana’s 2nd and 6th districts respectively. We were there to make an official inquiry on our appeal process and to schedule appointments to meet with our representatives.

One million people in the U.S. are waiting for benefits that they paid into — that past struggles won so the government could hold in the event that we got sick. About 7,400 die each year waiting. “We get asked for help a lot all the time for SSI and other agencies,” said Darlene Fields, Deputy District Director for the 2nd District in Louisiana. We signed releases and wrote about our illnesses and personal struggles as a result of living without income.

“We can achieve more together, rather than struggle alone and that’s why we linked up,” explained Linda McKnight, one of the disabled people who is calling on others to join us to win our appeals. Four years after Hurricane Katrina, District 2, which covers both New Orleans and Baton Rouge, placed dead last — yes, dead last — out of 435 Congressional districts for Obama’s stimulus package.

In 2017, Congressman Richmond said he “may just have to kick somebody’s ass” when reactionary leaders tried to have a painting removed in the Capitol of cops apprehending people with the cops depicted as pigs in the painting.

It’s a week after Calvin Toney was murdered in Brookstown by racist cops — a part of town devastated by the Baton Rouge flood without any recovery services. We were hoping the Congressman would want to “kick more ass” about police violence and “kick some ass” for disabled people wallowing in appeals processes.

“I’ve worked all my life in domesticated jobs, cooked, hanging uniforms in a plant, packing crawfish in a plant, nursing homes as a CNA, standing on my feet up to 12, 14 hours a day on cement. My doctor told me that my knee looked as if I played for the New Orleans Saints,” said Linda who has been waiting for over two years for her disability check.

“The lady I spoke to in Garrett Graves’ office was surprised that it has taken so long to get a hearing. Honestly, I’m just used to dealing with this time frame. They do not get in a hurry,” said Joey Campbell who has HSP (Hereditary Spastic Paraparesis), along with his two siblings. He has been been waiting five years.

“Five years cancer free, but I still have to live the rest of my life with a trachea and other special needs as a result of throat cancer,” said Kevin Jones. “My benefits ceased over a year ago in which I had to appeal and as of this date I haven’t heard anything. My case is in ‘backlog’ according to my caseworker.”

In the 1930s, communists and socialists organized huge actions to demand social services for the people in the Deep South. We hope our small action today will renew efforts to finish the job they started for us. Join us to get the money that is rightfully ours, won from past struggles of our class.

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