April 23, 2001
Question from Kenosha, Wisconsin, USA:
I have diabetic retinopathy, and I have had nine laser eye surgeries over the course of the past year and a half. My vision has still deteriorated to the point that my right eye is technically useless to me, and my left eye seems to be heading in the same direction. I have been employed full-time since I was 13 years old, I am now 40 years old and need some help. As a taxpayer for almost 26 years, my husband says I should be able to ask for and receive help from the government when I need it now. I am not as confident as he is with that train of thought.
I’ve been hearing different stories from select individuals that I have talked to about my condition. One says file for SSI, but another says don’t do that because it’s based on your household income, and since my husband is working, I will get little to no assistance. Another says file for Social Security, but then another says you have to be totally blind with a white cane to qualify.
I am at a loss to say the least because I never thought I would be in this kind of situation in the first place. Can you please direct me where or to whom I can ask these questions and get current valid information?
I am sorry that you are being given information that seems unhelpful or contradictory. I am not fluent in Wisconsin laws, etc., but it seems that you have several resources open to you to best find out with you:
your local SSI office
a medical social worker.
These folks are often hospital based, but your physicians should be able to make a referral for you.
Additional comments from Betty Brackenridge, diabetes dietitian:
If you haven’t already done so, I’d suggest seeing if there is a nonprofit organization that provides rehabilitation and other services for the blind and visually impaired in your city or state. My guess is that you would find any such services in Madison.
In my experience, the social workers affiliated with such programs know very well the financial support options available to people losing their vision and the training they provide could be of additional practical help to you in making the most of your remaining vision. A quick search turned up: Wisconsin Vocational Rehabilitation Program Home Page. They have the option of sending an e-mail to the director, who would probably be a good resource regarding other such services in Wisconsin, and The Blind Readers’ Page which has a great deal of information on various types of resources, although not necessarily in your state.
[Editor’s comment: In addition to the sites mentioned, I suggest that you review Paying for diabetes expenses, Financial Help, Free Drugs and Insurance/Costs for some other answers to similar questions that might be of some assistance to you.