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Eligible for Government Assistance? Please Take it.

If you’re eligible for government assistance of any kind, you need to use it. I understand that some are embarrassed about needing the help. In reality, not taking the help you need puts you in a position where you’ll need even more help in the future. Allow me to explain.

Say you’re eligible for Medicaid but you would prefer not to sign up. You feel fine and have no obvious medical problems so you’d prefer not to fill out all of the paperwork and wait in the lines required to prove you’re eligible for medical assistance. Sounds logical, but the longer this goes on the more likely you are to have a health problem which goes undetected because you haven’t gone to the doctor. By the time you find out you need to watch your sugar you’ve gone past being pre-diabetic and you now need insulin to control your blood sugars. If you had known you were pre-diabetic years before you could have put off having full-blown diabetes for years.

Another example, you’re eligible for food stamps but don’t want anyone to know just how much you’re struggling. Instead of signing up and eating healthier food you scrape by on free food from work and cups of ramen. You gain weight and have little to no energy. When you go to see a doctor because the fatigue is unbearable you find you have anemia and high blood pressure, both of which could have been wholly prevented by a lower salt intake and eating some fruit and vegetables now and again.

One more example. Say you’re in chronic pain which makes it unbearable to work because of your back. You decide to “tough it out” and work anyway because you don’t want to fight through the disability process even though your doctor has recommended you apply. Being in pain all of the time makes you extremely difficult to work with and the only jobs you can find are ones which require you to do things you shouldn’t be doing due to your back. By the time you admit you need help, you’re barely able to cook or do even light duty cleaning around the house. If you had taken your doctor’s recommendation you would have preserved your ability to take care of yourself significantly longer and had a much better quality of life overall.

Government programs like those mentioned above are not a handout or charity. They’re a safety net designed to catch you before you hit rock bottom. Ideally, you’ll crawl back out of the net and start contributing back to the program. Even if you don’t, taking the assistance when you need it prevents you from needing more assistance in the future. It prevents unnecessary emergency room visits, makes sure you can get adequate nutrition, and keeps a roof over your head when you can’t provide those things for yourself.

If you feel bad for taking it, pay it forward. Go back to school, start an apprenticeship, or go back to work if you can find a job which won’t make your health issues worse. The taxes you pay will then go toward helping others the same way they helped you; helping them when they need it most.

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