Friday, May 5, 2017

My Kid's Disabled, I Can't Vote Red Anymore

I have always believed that one's political views are the result of a compilation of his or her experiences.  I consider myself an independent because I simply can't get on board with all of the main pillars of either major party's platform.  Although I have leaned Republican in past elections (on foreign policy, military budget, states' rights, and fiscal conservatism), I have realized over the past couple of years that I can no longer vote for the majority of Republicans.  

Why not?  It's simple.  I have a disabled child.  And Republicans are doing everything in their power to make his life harder.  Before being immersed in the special needs world, I didn't know what I didn't know.  I didn't know how much families with disabled children are affected by legislative decisions and how life altering it can be when services are taken away.  Many of the state early intervention programs that got my autistic child to where he is today are now in jeopardy because Republican lawmakers cannot see the value in giving disabled infants and toddlers therapy now allowing them to reach a higher potential in the future.  The outpatient therapy that has helped him so much is consistently harder for families to access.  With the repeal of the ACA many families will lose their only chance at accessing life changing therapy for their autistic children.

The proposed cuts to Medicaid not only affect families who are in a specific income bracket; they affect future disability benefits that our children will need as they age out of the education system.  These cuts also impact families who have other insurance but use Medicaid to fill gaps in coverage for their disabled and chronically ill children.  How can these lawmakers look their constituents in the eyes when they are knowingly pulling the rug out from under their families?  And many Republicans are fighting against my son's quality of life so openly and so blatantly that I can only conclude they simply do not care.

As much as I understand the argument for states' rights, after living in states that could care less about educating or providing services for their disabled populations, I can't argue that federal oversight, protections and enforcement of those protections are absolutely necessary.  When you have entire states that care more about their high school football program than staffing their special education classrooms, one can't gloss over the disparity in special education from one state to the next.  Having lived in multiple states and having dealt with multiple educations systems, I can tell you that any time we are heading to a red state I cringe and I worry about what will be available and if my son will have access to a free and appropriate education.  

The new administration is touting school voucher programs as if they will be helpful to those in the disability community, but we have seen the results in states with robust voucher programs in use and they aren't good.  Charter schools are performing just as bad as public schools throughout Michigan and now public schools are even more underfunded than before.  Not to mention that a number of charter schools will not accept disabled children.  And most voucher systems for disabled children require parents to sign away their education rights and have no input on their kids' education.  What a joke.  As a country we have worked for years towards more inclusion of our disabled students and now our Department of Education wants to send all of the disabled kids to special schools rather than supporting them in an environment with their typical peers.  We are going backwards.

As a military spouse, I do not only worry about my disabled child's current access to education I worry about services after he ages out.  We have to decide where to retire at some point and as much as I love the people and atmosphere of many of the states in which we have lived,  I can't bring myself to commit to settling down somewhere that will offer him absolutely no support when we are gone.  Some of the states we love the most have done away with all of their mental health support and some specifically have said their residency programs will no longer accept autistic individuals.  I can't really wrap my brain around how archaic some states are when it comes to their disabled and mentally ill populations.  But the one consistent thing I see over and over again with lack of services, lack of appropriate education and lack of healthcare is RED.  Red state legislators are perpetually failing their constituents in these areas and they don't seem to care. 

Yesterday, the House passed the AHCA, a bill that would allow states to opt out of any mandated coverage for those with pre-existing conditions (pre-existing conditions that include everything from autism to pregnancy).  The bill also would greatly impact Medicaid funding for disabled individuals.  Every medical, disability and autism organization has expressed opposition to the AHCA and what it would mean for our most vulnerable populations.  And yet enough Republicans are okay with that that it passed the House and in doing so they made it perfectly clear to me that I can no longer vote Red in good conscience.  And for those Republicans who voted against this heinous bill, good for you, but your party is still disappointing so many of us.  

I have found that a number of friends in the disability community feel the same way.  Regardless of where we stand on other issues, we can't get past the Republican party's attack on Medicaid and education.  The AHCA now goes to the Senate and I hope against hope that I am pleasantly surprised and enough Republican Senators will stand up for my kid and vote NO.  But, sadly, I have lost hope that the Right cares about my kid at all.

*****Added Edit*******

I shut down comments on this post for a bit because I don't have time to respond to every angry liberal in the world, but I would really much rather have a discussion. I have voted for Republicans, I have more often voted for Democrat or Independent candidates (even before having a disabled child).  Over the last few years the GOP's attack on the disability community has felt very personal and solidified my choice not to vote for them at any level, regardless of my stances on issues other than healthcare and education.  Perhaps, rather than jumping all over this post the left could see it as an opportunity to bring the insane number of people in the disability community still voting red into the fold?  I am very socially liberal and very empathetic. But there are a number of people who may not be and they need to see that their vote does affect THEM even if they are only concerned with their own family's situation. There are also a number of people who would never know the ins and outs of Medicaid funding and health insurance nightmares unless they are impacted.  Then there's a lightbulb, not just for their own family, but they realize many families are impacted by Medicaid cuts and an ACA repeal.  People are not going to agree with every part of every party's platform, but there are a huge amount of voters in the the disability community that are still voting red and this post is written to identify with them.  Perhaps from the title everyone is assuming I woke up one day with a disabled child and a sudden change of heart.  Not the case for me,  but with a different title and a different tone, it wouldn't have gotten the attention it needs.  And I hope others in the disability community will realize that voting red is voting against their kid and/or against themselves.  Even with the many many angry comments (that really aren't fazing me because most of them I didn't read and for the ones here on the blog they are based on a lot of incorrect assumptions) this post is still accomplishing everything I wanted it to accomplish as a number of people much more conservative than myself are messaging me "Wow, the GOP really doesn't support my kid's best interest so even if I am _____ (fill in the blank: Christian, Pro-life, Military), I can't vote red."   So, you're welcome.

I want to tell you a story...

I want to tell you all a story. It’s about a mom who had two babies 12 months apart. And the second baby was different. He was sad or mad...