Friday, October 31, 2008

The Economic Dominoe Effect

Originally posted on my forum August 27, 2007. Over a year ago the writing was on the wall but even I did not foresee this level of economic hardship.

While our President continues to tout the strength of the economy, the reality down on main street is much different. My family's 13 year, successful small printing business has suddenly seen a major downward slide in it's sales over this year's business cycle to the point that it might have to close it's doors. This will have a devastating effect on both the employees and the three related families of the owners that depend on it including mine. This is another hardship that can destroy my family financially since we were already on the financial edge due to my 14 year disability caused by ALS and the severe governmental restrictions which I outlined in my previous post.

What is the cause of this downfall? The "economy of real people" which is where 95% of the American people reside, but apparently not the President or his cronies, is sprinting toward a recession. Most Americans are being squeezed by high gas prices (while gas corporations make record profits); skyrocketing health care costs; a completely devastated housing market (the largest investment for most Americans); and the final straw out of control food prices which are the result of the high gas prices and the lack of planning or vision by the government for global warming which has resulted in a knee jerk response causing food prices to go nuts. This pocketbook squeezing combined with the war weariness and it's trillion dollar cost which has hastened the collapse of our already crumbling infrastructure, it's easy to understand why consumer confidence and spending are rapidly declining.

The domino effect is becoming very clear and real to my family as we see a thriving family business disappearing before our very eyes. The three families which will be effected are staring into the abyss of despair and financial ruin which includes the possibility of not one but three family homes! I hope and pray that someone can inspire this nation and steer us back on a thoughtful, intelligent and well planned road to recovery!

You can view my original posts at

Insurance Abuse by the Insurer - A Case of Corporate GREED

Originally posted on my forum September 27, 2007 and serves as a primary reason we must move away from an insurance based healhcare system. Unfortunately my story is neither an unique or isolated incident. It is the rule not the exception.

This past Saturday my family received some devastating financial news that makes my previous post about a PALS family's financial destruction seem like I have Nostradamus like vision. This news in the form of a letter from the insurance company handling my long-term disability income which informed me that after 13 years they had miscalculated my already small $757 benefit and it really should be $239. Now, I am sure you are asking yourself while this is unfortunate for Jeff's family why this is significant and why does this totally expose the insurance industry for what it really is? It is in the reason given for the miscalculation and reduction. The reason they claim they overpaid me is that they didn't reduce my disability income when we had children and my children received their Social Security benefit under my number to help with their care. I want to restate this in clearer terms. Essentially this GREEDY insurance company is saying that if my wife and I were childless there would be no problem with my benefit but since we DARED to have children and the government decided to help disabled parents by providing a modest benefit to help with our children's care they deserve to reduce my benefit by the same amount thus making the children's benefit moot and saving the greedy insurance company money. This is counter-intuitive and against every policy our government has to try to assist families. My family's story is a prime example of what is so incredibly wrong with our insurance industry! As an extra kick in the teeth after they knocked my family down, the insurance company claims despite it being their mistake that I OWE THEM over $65,000 and further that they will withhold the severely reduced benefit until I repay them which will take nearly 30 years if I should be fortunate enough to live that long. The result of this unjust money grab by the insurance company will be that my family will lose our home which we were just able to purchase one year ago despite the financial restraints of my disability. My wife and I have prided ourselves that we have overcome every obstacle my disease has put in our path including helping other families to learn to live with ALS but the insurance company has placed an obstacle in our path to high that we can not overcome it and which threatens to destroy my family. To everyone here, my family and I respectfully ask for any advice you may have for us to overcome this obstacle and save our family home.

Postscript: In March 2008, we did lose our home because along with the theft of the insurance company, the economic meltdown had severely weakened the family's printing business so that Lisa was no longer able to work from home for it. This 50% loss in income not only forced us from our but also to completely leave the area we had lived in for fourteen years to a town two hours away.

Monday, October 27, 2008

My Dad

This was written unfortunately many years ago but I have felt the loss of my dad since his death in April 1986.

My dad was my friend
He was a coach, teacher and mentor
My dad was my supporter
He always encouraged me to do my best without pushing
My dad was my buddy
He took me hunting, fishing and played games
My dad was my ally
He always defended me against those who would hurt me
My dad was my helper
He would make sure to be there to assist me when I needed it
My dad was a family man
He dedicated himself to love and support his family
My dad was a dentist
He devoted himself to his patients needs always mindful of their pain
My dad was a philanthropist
He was a generous man who gave without recognition
My dad was my pal
I miss him and wish he were here to see the fantastic grandpa he would be
I love you Dad!!!

by Jeff Lester

Monday, October 20, 2008

Health Crisis and Financial Destruction - Original Post 8/22/2007

Health Crisis and Financial Destruction
By Jeffrey Lester - Aug 22nd, 2007 at 4:45 pm EDT

With last week's news out of Kansas City, where an apparently somewhat wealthy husband felt compelled to throw his disabled and dying wife off of their 4th story balcony because of the financial devastation caused by his wife's increasingly debilitating condition. While this was an extreme response and obviously an excuse for a much deeper underlying problem, it highlights a larger issue for families coping with many different debilitating conditions such as the many muscular dystrophies like ALS which I have, Multiple Sclerosis, quadriplegia and Alzheimer's. This is a horrific side effect that most families who have a debilitating condition enter their lives. The system is setup in such a way where families either have to choose between their financial destruction or the destruction of their family unit. This occurs regardless of proper planning (i.e. health insurance and having an effective savings plan) since unless the sick family member has their own private health insurance (a rare occurrence) the family will be forced into the public system where unless you are already poor the system will start sucking your family finances dry. For families facing extended disease processes of six months or more especially for diseases or accidents that lead to a severe disability, our families quickly start seeing all savings and even our homes lost to care for the increasingly disabled family member with the very governmental systems set up to protect us being the most complicit in our financial destruction (the thriftier someone is just means they have more to lose). When faced with this extra and extremely unfair side effect of having an ill family member, they are faced with one of three choices: destroy our family unit and institutionalize the disabled family member; stand by the disabled family member and watch helplessly as our family finances are stolen from us legally; and finally, the ultimate sacrifice by the disabled family member, choosing death over living because of the mounting stress, guilt and even desire we overtly or subtlety feel from other family members over the destruction of the family's financial security. This is a travesty in the most stark terms since at a time when a family needs every bit of strength they can muster to take on this unfortunate situation, they're instead torn apart by this evil financial destruction. In this great of a country, this is not only an unacceptable reality but it is pox on the very soul of this country when billion dollar corporations are given nearly every break they desire yet the families dealing with a devastating condition in our midst are pushed into our society's shadows and financially punished as a horrible bonus instead of being lifted up and supported by a country which purports to be a compassionate nation.

What can we do? Well I am glad you asked and even if you didn't those of us battling these issues will no longer stay in the shadows and start demanding that things change!!! First, this nation has to stand up and recognize not only the great sacrifice of those who lovingly take on the job of caring for those of us who are not capable to care for ourselves thus keeping us out of institutions but also that the caregiver's selfless act saves our country billions each year that would otherwise go to those same institutions. There are two tangible things to recognize the caregiver's incredible sacrifice: pay them the equivalent to what just one nurse's salary would be if those of us who are disabled were institutionalized, the government will still see a more than substantial savings over the alternative and might entice more people to choose to care for their loved ones at home; defer and even forgive caregiver student loans based on time spent doing this unappreciated service which is no different than the current practice of forgiving the student loans of those 100% disabled. Second, stop the most unscrupulous practice of forcing people into governmental programs and then proceed to demand our financial destruction in order for us to receive the basic medical intervention and assistance we so desperately need. This can be easily achieved by exempting income up to certain limits, exempting home values to certain limits and exempting all retirement accounts to protect those families dealing with severely disabling conditions so we can receive the needed assistance without the destruction of their family financially. Finally, show that this country is truly compassionate by coming up with innovative and revolutionary programs to help our families on a more than a basic level but rather to lift us up to live as normal as possible like: true caregiver respite or assistance programs; reform the vocational rehabilitation system which seems to value a disabled person's possible contribution on the most minimal level but instead have them develop the disabled person's skills to tap this fantastic untapped resource; and finally, reform the archaic rules that require an assistance device be "medically necessary" for them to be purchased but instead utilize a "normalization of life" standard because there are many devices that just sustain life on a medical level but there are other devices which are not currently covered which allow us to truly live.

In a society as advanced, wealthy and claims to be compassionate as ours, overcoming these issues should be no problem and further it should be a measuring stick of our society. Even our founders recognized this by including the phrase in the Declaration of Independence, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." All the families of those of us, who are disabled either by disease or accident, ask is that we have the same chance to pursue the unalienable rights that our founders recognized and our fellow citizens have!!!!!

Your friend in the fight,

Jeff Lester (ragingbear); 40, married w/ 3 daughters (all born AFTER diagnosis)

Dx'd 10/93 and on vent since 12/97

You too can have a fulfilling life by learning to LIVE with ALS!!!

Friday, October 17, 2008

My Prison

This is a poem I originally wrote about 10 years ago.


My body has become a prison

Unable to move and unable to help myself

My body has abandoned me

Unable to hug my little girls

My body has let me down

I am young and full of life

My body has given up

But my spirit is never giving up

My body has weakened

But my mind has strengthened

My body has crumbled

Life has become more than physical

My body has become soft and weak

I used to play football, hike and speak

My body has become a scrap heap

I have learned that life is more than my body

My body has become a prison

But the important things are not in this prison

Love, family, friends and especially my wife and children

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