Perched on the Precipice: Awaiting 2018

Posted by Michael Collins in Life After Paralysis on December 29, 2017 # Advocacy and Policy

The year's end is the time when many people give thanks for the good things that happened during the past 12 months and then resolve to accomplish things they hope will enrich their lives during the new year. When young, in my pre-paralysis days, my New Year's resolutions were fairly similar year after year; there were many that involved eating healthy, losing weight or earning a raise from my employers at the time. The rest of my resolutions must have been fairly inconsequential as I don't recall anything stupendous occurring after I made a resolution about it.

After my 1988 spinal cord injury, a new phase entered my world of resolutions. I was infused with so much reality during the six months that I spent in a rehab ward that I don't ever recall wishing that I would be able to walk again. Why waste time or energy on a resolution that I had been told by "knowledgeable" medical professionals did not have a chance of occurring? I now know that they were wrong, as researchers have made great strides that will undoubtedly lead to return of function, including walking, in the very near future.

As time passed in the 'wheelchair phase' of my life I focused on a few realistic resolutions as that seems to make more sense than simply casting an armful of dreams to the winds. Rather than walking, I would (and still will) settle for some increased arm strength, better use of my hands, control of my bladder and perhaps some enhanced sexuality. I am still awaiting the arrival of some of those requested resolution outcomes.

Reflecting on the high points of 2017 has not required much time or effort on my part as they were few and far between. Most involved accomplishments by family members in school, sports and the workplace. There were some special family gatherings and scattered reunions with friends and classmates who I had not seen for years. I was, and still am, able to get out of bed each day, thanks to reliable home healthcare and decent health.

None of that seems important in relation to the losses and challenges that faced the disability community this past year. We lost some great advocates and leaders, and the laws or institutions we rely upon to protect our rights have been under attack throughout the year. Too many states fail to take on Medicaid Home and Community Based Service waivers that allow people with disabilities to live in the community, and others threaten to discontinue the programs. Congressional discussions of block granting Medicaid funds would assure that even more states will opt out of this necessary program, forcing people who currently live in the community to move to institutional settings.

Efforts to dismantle the Affordable Care Act were unsuccessful in Congress, but major blows to the future of that program occurred in the recent tax cut legislation signed into law by President Trump. Among other things, I am very concerned about the increase in the standard deduction that will mean more people will no longer need to itemize deductions on their tax returns. If taxpayers don't itemize, they are unlikely to continue making as many tax deductible donations to charitable organizations, including many that we rely upon.

2017 was not a good year, in too many ways. In order to try to make 2018 a bit better, my resolutions are:

  • To encourage my friends and family members to continue supporting the nonprofits that we rely upon to fund research or protect and expand disability rights.
  • To support the Disability Integration Act (HR 2472) that reaffirms the right of individuals to live in the community setting of their choice.
  • To support those who take whatever action is needed to prevent the ADA Education and Reform Act (HR 620) from becoming law, as it would damage important rights granted by the Americans with Disabilities Act.

None of my resolutions are going to be successful without the coordination and support of family members, peers and other disability advocates throughout the country. Hopefully everyone will see fit to cooperate in that effort, as some members of Congress are already talking about seeking changes to Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security in 2018--and the new year has yet to arrive.

© 2017 Michael Collins