ABOUT THE GUIDING LIGHT FOUNDATION
Originally formed in 1999 from a group of individuals who all suffered from a myriad of neck, back, joint, and systemic medical problems coupled with a distinct lack of resources, the "GLF" was conceived during a general "complaint" session in an on-line support chat group to which approximately 100 folks belonged. Not surprisingly, when I joined, I was the "youngest" amongst the group; having only recently been diagnosed with Failed Back Surgery Syndrome (FBSS).
In any event during this particular session, we were all complaining about how we had been failed by "The System", when it occurred to me that PERHAPS "The System" was not totally to blame for the complete lack of support we were all experiencing. Even though we lived in EVERY state (I, myself was in Hawaii at the time) or "province" of the U.S., with injuries caused by varied "instruments", and with "lack of support" issues ranging from unadvertised changes to company long-term disability programs, to difficulties with military/medical discharges and VA "red tape", to Social security, workers' compensation, housing, welfare, and Medicaid issues, we all had ONE thing in common: we had ALL somehow managed to fall through the cracks of the very system that is supposed to catch us.
SO began the birth of a “non-system, system” organization which would cater to “Gap Group” people; in other words, people just like us. Along with the help of some close support group friends, we began to put together “something” that would provide services that we had so desperately needed but which were not available to us, for example:
1. THE BELIEF: One falls on “hard times” and goes to the most logical place to seek help; a Social Worker. “Expecting” to hear something along the lines of, “…O.k., I know that you qualify for “these” programs. There is NO WAY that you will qualify for “this group” of programs. Now, here is another group of programs that, frankly, I am unsure about. So here’s what we do: take the information for the programs that you will qualify for and start filing your paperwork. I’ll do some more research into these programs that I’m unsure about and at our next follow-up, we will exchange progress reports.”
2. THE REALITY: One walks into a Social Worker’s office to find him/her frantically searching through a pile of folders while talking on 2 phone lines at the same time. He/she gestures with an elbow (one hand has the phone the other is “digging”) to a chair which is cluttered with even more files and mouths “just toss that stuff on the floor, I’ll be with you in a sec.” Of course, he/she has no idea that you are not supposed to handle anything heavier than a book nor that you can’t bend or twist (even though you are wearing a “TLSO” – basically, a fiberglass turtle shell with a right leg attachment to keep you from bending/twisting). In any event, you do what you must, sit down and wait. 10 minutes later the social worker introduces themselves to you and asks how they can help. You explain to them that you were just let go from your job because you were hurt ON the job and workers’ compensation is not kicking in for some reason (or you’ve been discharged from the navy 3 days after surgery, or the long-term disability policy you had been paying for for 8 years was actually discontinued 4 years prior; the company is trying to figure out how but in the interim you are not working and have no source of income. Of course, your savings are looong gone). At this point in time, the social worker reaches into a desk, flips through some files and pulls out a sheaf of papers, “here, call these places, I’ll set you up for a follow-up in 3 weeks and let me know what you’ve found out”. In complete shock, you get up and stumble from the room wondering what just happened!!!
Here is the original “premise” of GLF; some of us have had experiences not too different from the one described above. The only thing that we had going for us was a computer and internet skills. Some few of that number still even had enough “spare” brain power to actually make calls, keep notes, change the incorrect addresses and phone numbers, etc.
Our wish is to keep as many people from having to “start from scratch” as possible because we know, from experience, that it just plain sucks! Instead of concentrating on getting better physically, we are forced to expend precious energy and resources on finding ways just to keep a roof over our head and food in our mouth; forget about getting around or getting “better” L
This is how we work; if you have a problem of some sort; medical, disability, legal, military, VA, housing, etc. and you find that you are in a “gap” in the system, write to us (via e-mail or by snail mail) and explain what the problem is and where you live. We will farm that e-mail out to someone who lives in that state and has been through some of the same problems. They will package up everything that they’ve collected in order to stay alive, and forward it to you; AT NO COST. Once you’ve exhausted that resource and you still can’t seem to find assistance, feel free to contact us again and we will see just what else we might be able to do for you.
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AS THE GUIDING LIGHT FOUNDATION GROWS (OUR VISION)
We are in the process of filing for 501(c)3 (Non-Profit) status. We are also finishing up our Trademark application. Currently, all of “our” funding is coming from my pocket (SSDI/VA benefits); however, once we are “formally recognized” as a non-profit, we have already identified foundations and other fiscal sources that will enable us to grow. As we grow, we HOPE to be able to provide the following additional services:
1. “Bridge Loans”: For those of you who have been through SS, Welfare, VA, long-term disability, workers’ compensation, etc., you know that getting approved for a source of funding doesn’t actually mean that that funding is “immediately” available to you. In the case of SSD, there is a mandatory 5 month waiting period (from the date that SSA determines your “permanent” disability began) – a period for which you will NOT be paid. In the case of VA benefits, it can take as long as a YEAR for the VA to evaluate one’s service and medical records before they assign one a disability rating (if you were unlucky enough to somehow get discharged WITH documented, unfitting disabilities but received no disability from the discharging service). Long-term disability has its own rules based on the policy that the company has, how long you’ve been there, etc. Workers’ Compensation is simply a “morass” of timing, examinations, re-examinations, hearings, and re-hearings that I STILL, personally, haven’t really been able to figure out.
a. The idea behind these “bridge loans” is that GLF would be in a position to either underwrite (or issue) loans to one who has an approval letter in hand, but has a waiting period of up to a year. As we all know, no bank will loan money if one doesn’t have a job (or other resources) to pay it back. The idea is that as the underwriter, we basically co-sign the loan for you. You go to the bank with paperwork that you would fill out with us (to include financial counseling worksheets) and they cut you a check up to $10,000. Ideally, there would be NO interest during the period which you are not receiving money. Once your income source kicks in (or you find a job), then you would start paying off the loan plus whatever negotiated interest rate the GLF can get. As part of the process initiated when you first come to us to get “approval”, you would also sign a document that would allow the lending institute to automatically debit your income source check (that is really to protect you and GLF that way the loan gets paid and you really don’t have to do anything).
2. “In House Loans”: Same concept as the “Bridge Loan”, except GLF would provide the funding using OUR own lending criteria, which, of course, can be less stringent than a bank.
3. “Employment Structure”: As of now, our “state/information representatives” are all volunteers. Ideally, we would like to not only pay those who have been helping so far, but be able to HIRE others. The tentative structure and baseline “requirements” are as follows:
a. Disability/Gap Information Technician: Would be able to work from home with a computer and separate phone. This position would be the initial intake person and would have general knowledge of disability laws, resources, and typical gapped groups. Training would be provided via the internet.
b. Disability/Gap Information Specialist: MIGHT be able to work from home but may need an office. This position would get reports from technicians in their area/city (depending on size/population) and would have more, specialized knowledge of disability law as well as some case law research training. In addition, they would have in-depth knowledge of the resources available in their particular areas. This training would also be available via the internet.
c. Disability/Gap Information Manager: Would be responsible for specialist and technicians within his/her are of responsibility. Again, that area would depend on population/city/state size. This position would require some travel depending again on the size of the territory, but would also be the office “manager” for the area. Key ability areas would be in-depth knowledge of all disability laws including knowledge of the key parties responsible for making changes to laws that are no longer valid or out-of-date. Extensive experience or knowledge with (of) legal research practices as well as local, regional, state, AND national resources available to clients in their area of responsibility. The training for this position would be at a local or remote site and might take as long as 1 year to complete (dependent on prior experience level).
d. Disability/Gap Information Coordinator: Would be responsible for “several” managers, again, depending on location. Knowledge parameters would be the same with the inclusion of the need for extensive management experience in the fields of law, social work, health care, fiscal, and or non-profit. Training for this position would be at a local or remote site and might take as long as 18 months to complete (depending on prior experience level).
e. I am currently working with “specialists” from the education, social work, health care, and legal fields to establish curriculum for these positions in the hope that a system can be in place as soon as funding is available.
4. “Physical Infrastructure”: During my earliest days “in the gap” while filing my 5 (or 6th – I lose count now L lol) Congressional Inquiry, it was brought to my attention that under the DEFENSE BASE CLOSURE AND REALIGNMENT ACT OF 1990 (Public Law 101-510) and the Stewart B. McKinney Homeless Assistance Act (42 U.S.C. §11301), portions of closed or realigned bases could be used for the homeless, as well as for “other entities”. It is our hope and desire that in the future (distant as that may be), that we are actually able to provide physical structures on the west coast, middle America, and east coast for use as temporary housing, training, jobs, etc.
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