Readers Write - October 2012

State services aren’t helping

Within the last three years I became legally blind, lost my job, have filed bankruptcy and lost my home to foreclosure, among other losses. After I had become blind and before all of this happened, I had searched for and found the State Services for the Blind (SSB). I was told they assisted the blind in all aspects of their lives.

At first, I resisted the idea of accepting assistance, but after meeting with one of the rehabilitation counselors from SSB, I was approved to be assisted. I was placed for assessment with a technology consultant and was told what equipment I would likely be able to acquire though SSB to help me find a job. At that point, I had also met with their placement division about finding employment. In short I was told that I would have to be “up and running better than a sighted person” to secure employment.

SSB sent a letter saying that my counselor would be transferred to a new position and a new person would be appointed. However, I could not read the letter, so I did not know this and was treated rudely when I called to see why things were not moving forward.

Several months had passed now since my initial assessment. Much of that time was spent waiting for my calls to be returned. When someone finally called me back, I was told I did not qualify to receive service at this time and was not told why or what had changed since my assessment.

After making many calls (none of them returned by the SSB), and speaking with multiple people I learned that their funds and resources were relegated only to students and employed people trying to retain their positions.

After four months of waiting, my newly appointed counselor, her boss and an assistant once again interviewed me, asked again to see my pertinent documentation from eye doctors, college degrees, etc.

The counselor said that I would have to go through “Adjustment to Blindness Training.” After hearing more about it, I informed her I did not have time for that because I needed to find work as soon as possible to try to keep my house, and wanted to receive computer equipment, software, any applicable training on the software and placement services to return to work. I had also had some past training. About two years had passed by now since my initial assessment and the bills were piling up.

During this period, I spoke with my eye doctor and retina specialist, and they offered to call the SSB on my behalf. Though most of their calls were not returned, I was told I would have to jump through their “hoops.”

I met with the Executive Director. He listened to my concerns and said he would look into it. He also referred me to an organization called Client Assistance Project (CAP).

CAP agreed to go the next meeting and just sit and listen to what was said. At the next meeting, the CAP representative was there along with my counselor and her new boss and an assistant. They didn’t want to hear my experience, but again repeated their recommendation that I participate in their training and offered to send in my documentation so it “could be included” in their accounting of the experience. So again, I considered the training and asked if I would be guaranteed the technology I needed after completing the program. They told me they could not guarantee anything.

In conclusion, I did not get any services, equipment or software to help me in my blindness. After two years of dealing with SSB, I “closed my account” with nothing more than extreme frustration, wasted time, loss of my home, bankruptcy, and a severe loss of empowerment, self-esteem, independence and quality of life. I was going to “let it go” but I feel that is what most people do, and I wanted to put voice to my concerns and the treatment of the blind and visually impaired community.

As an aside, other blind or visually impaired to whom I’ve spoken and organizations associated with SSB knows that this is the way they work, have worked and will continue to work unless the state intervenes.

The state needs to do more to get necessary equipment, funding and resources to the community to allow them to become successful, empowered, active, and supportive members of society. The SSB needs to become more of a help than a hindrance. Furthermore, I have not found anyone else to help me in securing equipment, software or services to acquire active employment.

Dr. Jeffery A. Jones, Maple Grove

Editor’s note: Here is the response Access Press received to this letter when a response was sought:

As noted in our recent conversation, all information on persons applying for or served by Minnesota State Services for the Blind (SSB) is rehabilitation data. Rehabilitation data is classified under Minnesota law as private data. Per Minnesota Rules covering our program, any person may make a written request for review and mediation to the director of SSB if dissatisfied with any determination by SSB that affects the provision of rehabilitation services.

Richard Strong, Director, Department of Employment and Economic Development,
Minnesota State Services for the Blind

 


Competitive bidding causing problems

As a home medical equipment (HME) provider, I am concerned with the significant flaws within the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ (CMS) current method for buying medical supplies and equipment, which is known as the competitive bidding program.

The competitive bidding program was implemented in nine metropolitan areas across the country last year and is expected to expand to 91 areas in 2013. The program is a type of auction designed to improve the efficiency of Medicare’s system, which has potential to save hundreds of millions of dollars. However, many experts have pointed out fundamental flaws in the program’s design.

With that said, I would like to bring to your attention a recent study by Caltech researchers. The Caltech study is based on a series of experiments testing the auction structure, and states that this method for buying medical supplies and equipment is “doomed to face severe difficulties.”

You can read the full article here: www.pasadenanow.com/main/caltech-research-shows-medicare-auction-will-face-severe-difficulties  Another article recently published in McKnight’s Long Term Care News also shows support of the Caltech study mentioned above. You can read the full article here:www.mcknights.com/competitive-bidding-program-is-doomed-researchersassert/article/248970/

I also wanted to bring you to the attention of an additional article that was found in the Waterloo Courier. In it, VGM chief financial officer Mike Mallaro discusses the affects of the DMEPOS competitive bidding program to providers across the country and the patients they serve. The full article can be read at: www.wcfcourier.com/business/local/article_ea53fdf7-49e7-5e47-9a22-8ed79ef3556d.html   

Hundreds of patients and providers are already experiencing access problems in Round One areas. Since the program’s implementation on January 1, 2011, patients and providers are reporting problems and complaints in regards to getting physician-prescribed home medical equipment and services. Unless stopped, this program will affect more patients and providers across the country as it expands virtually nationwide. But CMS and our legislators are not listening to the warnings and concerns from top economists.

This is an issue that will impact our local community, and something of which we should all be aware.

Jeff Anderson, RRT-NPS, Buffalo
(Editor’s note: Reliable Medical Supply is Anderson’s employer.)

 

Team offers its thanks

The Minnesota Fighting Lions Blind Baseball Team have just ended their ninth season, and we wish to thank the following: Cretin-Derham Hall High School for letting us use their fields all spring and summer; Cub Foods at 1440 University Ave. for supplying us with a box lunch for our picnic on Sept. 15th; and finally to Scott Ja Mama’s Barbecue for assistance at Sept. 15th event. The team has been supported for many years by the St. Paul Midway Lions. The sport is called Beep Ball because the ball beeps and the bases buzz.

The game gives hope, fun and fitness to the sight impaired in St. Paul, Minneapolis and suburbs. For more information on next season, please contact Dennis Stern at dennisstern@hotmail.com  or see our website at www.beepball.webs.com

Dennis Stern, Mendota Heights