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Disabled or Displaced?

 
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I have known for two years now that I am pretty sick, and my Doctor has long mentioned that I need to sign up for disability. I have fought it for two years, but it has become apparent in the last few months that medical science will not help me any time soon. That realization came to me when a friend wanted me to do some work and I physically could not do it. I was drenched in sweat, exhausted to the point of passing out, and almost threw up. Literally, as much as I wanted to help him, I could just not do it.

That is hard for me because I have always been a workaholic, and if I needed something, I just needed to work harder, and get it. And it worked. Now I have no way to do that.

So, with deep despair, yesterday I went into the Career Center to see what they had for options. I do not want to take the easy way out and sign up for permanent disability, I want to contribute to society, but am unsure how. I come from an industrial career, and I just cannot do that anymore. It took me two years to finally walk in to that place admitting I needed help.

I ended up talking with three people yesterday, and found there are training programs dedicated to farmers who need to be retrained for something they call “Displaced Farmers”, basically farmers who can no longer farm due to reasons beyond their control. For me the reason has been cancer. And it seems I am not alone in this. They realize as farmers we have many skills, but do not realize other industries could use those skills.

There are various ways this works, but basically, I will do testing to see what areas I thrive at, and what new working opportunities I could have. Then they pay for materials, training and mileage and get me into a job that has high pay, and is in short supply in Maine. In Maine there are 4 pages of listed jobs that I can pick from. It would be premature to say which one, because I am not sure what best fits me. And it may be something as simple as getting on the job training with a company that is hiring, but I do not yet have the skill set for. The program would pay the employer to basically train me for the new job.

But the program is underutilized, and the administrator was asking me why, and how they could improve. I told him, farmers are ashamed, embarrassed, scared, and prideful. We have bad things happen to us all the time beyond our control, and we just hope that next month will be better. I can think of ten farmers right off the top of my head that are in the same predicament as me. But I told him the program was vital, and challenged him in an encouraging way, to seek farmers diligently for this program, and in what ways they could do that. It was a powerful conversation for both him and I for sure.
 
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I think these programs are excellent, and people need to hear from farmers. I think your experience and insight would be an excellent asset for a program like this, we have so many things to learn and farmers have a lot to teach. Like tenacity.

That said, and completely unrelated, disability is your resource that you paid into. Your sweat and salary paid that fund for you, and it is your safety net. It may be that you need it. I understand how hard it is for people who were brought up to think that those programs are for other people (that was my family when I was very small. My father was back from the army and theoretically "owed" benefits, but benefits were for other, less dignified people), but this is a benefit you funded and you deserve. Also, on disability doesn't mean completely incapable.  
 
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It sounds like that 4 page list would be a good place to start for college-age kids that don't know what they want to do.  If I had a child that age right now, I would encourage a trade school.  That is obviously different from your situation, but it sounds like a great opportunity, and one I hope you take advantage of.  Best of luck to you.
 
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Travis Johnson wrote:....I do not want to take the easy way out and sign up for permanent disability, I want to contribute to society, but am unsure how.



I can imagine this is pretty tough to endure, Travis.  What many confront due to old age, you are having to grapple with early on.  That said, I know of several relatives in the farm sector who had to bite the bullet in the same way....needed to apply for disability because of a farm accident or some other mishap took away their ability to contribute in the way they preferred.  But contribute they did continue to do, in their own way.....it's just going to be more of an informational and mentoring way.  And that you seem to have a gift for, so please try to use that gift of mentoring along with decades (and the generations behind you) of rural living knowledge.  I recall those programs locally in town made up of retired business leaders that seek to mentor new start-up businesses outline their business plans.  Perhaps this too is where some merging of 'learning a new occupation' could be cleaved to 'imparting rural living knowledge' to some sort of program where you are one of the point-people for teaching.  Not sure....just throwing this out there.  I hope there is some path that emerges that allows you to help out, Travis.....that's the main thing and one that I understand.
 
Travis Johnson
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I talked with the administrator of the program, and there is no question that I qualify. So this could be a really good opportunity for me.

I have several directions I can go with this, but I have a tumor on my brain pressing down on brain stem that affects not only energy levels, but emotion, and well being. In short: I cannot handle stress. That severely limits what I can do for a job.

He thought I would do well as a project manager just in a quick conversation regarding how I derived my farm should raise sheep. I did that by using a matrix to determine what I should raise based upon what my farm had for resources. And in doing a quick search of jobs, I saw rather surprisingly that Fedco was hiring two managers for their operations. I semi-qualify already (I was a manager for two major railroads), and they do ask for agricultural experience, and I got some of that. So the person running the program, has some valid points.

I was also considering being a boiler tech too though. They are in high demand, pay well, and I have a deep interest in that line of work. I would not want to be limited to just cleaning furnaces, and making a boiler go, but installation of solid fuel boilers, as well as solar and other heating applications. That has the great advantage of being a job I could do in the winter, and in the summer when demand is light, I go mow the sides of the road for all those towns that I do.

But I am open to other ideas too. I really want to keep my road mowing job open though, just because I really like doing that.
 
pollinator
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Travis Johnson wrote:But I am open to other ideas too. I really want to keep my road mowing job open though, just because I really like doing that.



At the risk of placing a bad joke at a bad place I'm still doing it.

Mowing keeps you "anchored" aye!


All the best in what you choose and I hope you still apply for disability!
 
Travis Johnson
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elle sagenev wrote:

Travis Johnson wrote:But I am open to other ideas too. I really want to keep my road mowing job open though, just because I really like doing that.



At the risk of placing a bad joke at a bad place I'm still doing it.

Mowing keeps you "anchored" aye!


All the best in what you choose and I hope you still apply for disability!




Watch it Elle; ye ole landlubber! I will make you walk the plank.

(By the way, you would not be the only pregnant pirate. I cannot remember her name, but there was a woman pirate who got pregnant, and ended up escaping from the gallows for only that reason).
 
elle sagenev
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Travis Johnson wrote:

elle sagenev wrote:

Travis Johnson wrote:But I am open to other ideas too. I really want to keep my road mowing job open though, just because I really like doing that.



At the risk of placing a bad joke at a bad place I'm still doing it.

Mowing keeps you "anchored" aye!


All the best in what you choose and I hope you still apply for disability!




Watch it Elle; ye ole landlubber! I will make you walk the plank.

(By the way, you would not be the only pregnant pirate. I cannot remember her name, but there was a woman pirate who got pregnant, and ended up escaping from the gallows for only that reason).



Well if you ever hit the boat that anchor went too I want to hear about it!
 
Travis Johnson
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Now that would be a first. Of course it would be hard to beat hitting that phone line and ripping it out of that woman's house. IF ANYONE had a reason to scream and yell at me, she certainly did. Nope...she was as nice as pie!
 
Travis Johnson
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I should have learned my lesson from my high school days, I guess. I say that because way back then (25 years ago), we were tasked to do an assessment test to see how the High Schools in Maine were doing at teaching kids, and while the test scores were not part of our grade, I had a teacher approach me. She knew I did not care much for school, so she politely asked me to do a good job on this test. I liked her, and so I actually did my best for once, instead of making smiley faces with the little dots we were supposed to fill in with a #2 pencil. Well anyway, I did really well on it.

I was asked to do the same thing on a Career Potential Test that had some 250 questions, and once again I actually tried. I also did pretty good, but therein lies the problem.  Because I excelled at 24 of the 30 areas tested, my Career Counselor does not really know what to do with me. The crux of it is thus; I am knowledgeable on a host of stuff, and not just in any one area.

Apparently, the displaced farmers program has gobs of money, but I have no interest in going to college. I do not think I am college material, and see no point in spending taxpayer monies on me, when for the first two years I am learning stuff I already know, or has no relevance to what I want to do for a career. That just does not make sense to me.

The affirmation that I am fairly intelligent is nice to know, but kind of frustrating too in that there is no clear career path for me. It is still early in the process, so maybe something will eventually spin out of this.
 
elle sagenev
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Travis Johnson wrote:I should have learned my lesson from my high school days, I guess. I say that because way back then (25 years ago), we were tasked to do an assessment test to see how the High Schools in Maine were doing at teaching kids, and while the test scores were not part of our grade, I had a teacher approach me. She knew I did not care much for school, so she politely asked me to do a good job on this test. I liked her, and so I actually did my best for once, instead of making smiley faces with the little dots we were supposed to fill in with a #2 pencil. Well anyway, I did really well on it.

I was asked to do the same thing on a Career Potential Test that had some 250 questions, and once again I actually tried. I also did pretty good, but therein lies the problem.  Because I excelled at 24 of the 30 areas tested, my Career Counselor does not really know what to do with me. The crux of it is thus; I am knowledgeable on a host of stuff, and not just in any one area.

Apparently, the displaced farmers program has gobs of money, but I have no interest in going to college. I do not think I am college material, and see no point in spending taxpayer monies on me, when for the first two years I am learning stuff I already know, or has no relevance to what I want to do for a career. That just does not make sense to me.

The affirmation that I am fairly intelligent is nice to know, but kind of frustrating too in that there is no clear career path for me. It is still early in the process, so maybe something will eventually spin out of this.



Totally go to college with me. lol I get what you're saying. The job I want once my bosses retire (or become too ill to continue as one of my bosses is quite unwell) requires a bachelors. I'd basically be doing what I do now but I only have an associates right now. So, off to college to get that piece of paper required to get the job I want. Let's be miserable together! lol
 
Travis Johnson
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I might,

I have always said I live in the Permie Capital of the World, and it is kind of true. 9 Miles from me is one of the most premier Environmental collages (Unity College) and they have quite a few Permicultural Degrees. The last I knew they are one of the top three in the country in terms of environmental studies. I went and talked with admissions today and they seemed pretty accommodating. As we talked, I thought they would be concerned about my resume and schooling way back in 1992, but I misunderstood what she was saying, she was not interested in those two things to exclude me, but rather to help give me credit for some of my experiencing in agriculture and industry.

She also said that they are not the typical college in that they do not do a lot of class room lecturing, but are very hands-on.

The Degrees I liked the most are: (but they have more like Conservation law and Forestry)

Environmental Policy, Law and Society
Environmental Writing and Media Services
Sustainable Agriculture
Sustainable Business Enterprise
Sustainable Energy Management

The two highlighted are the two I am most interested in.

With a 92% job placement after 6 months of graduation, I was encouraged, but more so because the Admissions Department knew what Permiculture was, without me having to explain it. At 9 miles away, and fully paid for, it is definitely something to consider I think.

I'll put a link incase anyone else is reading this and has interest in a degree in Permiculture.

Unity College: For Degrees in Permiculture
 
pollinator
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Travis

It sounds like you're connecting with decent opportunity. That's good to hear. More power to ye!

FWIW, here's some thoughts.

> no clear career path...

Umm..... I think that means you don't fit into any pigeon hole they can find. That's hard on computers and other programmed entities.

Something else, semi-related, that may be important to remember: "Over qualified" is often given as a reason for not hiring people. At first blush, it sounds like a politically correct way to say "move on Bub, we don't want you here". Well, it _is_ that, but it's also not just an excuse - it can be a real honest factor in a boss's decision, strange as that may seem.

The reasoning (and a good deal of experience) goes like this: A person who tries to function way below his skill level becomes unhappy, and finds other ways to get some challenges. That usually doesn't play well with the work situation, in may different ways. Taking a job involves more than just particular skills, one must "learn the ropes" in the sense of finding out who does what where in the morning, how to fit into the process, where stuff is kept, how  much independence the boss wants from his people, and just generally how things are done there. This takes time, everybody's time, and when the overqualified person quits after 2 weeks or 6 months, most of that time is just lost - it has to be done again with the next guy who, hopefully, will work out better.

As far as I can tell, "overqualified" is a really fuzzy judgement call because _any_ job can have serious challenges requiring real skill. And many jobs connect with numerous other task which a skillful person can contribute to and move on into a different position in the organization which does challenge them directly; there are real opportunities requiring lots of skill in most organizations if somebody can see them. So no cheat sheet here - it's a case by case call with no easy tells or hard info to make the decision simple. But it's a real affect that should be acknowledged and factored into ones thinking, as possible.

What I'm trying to say that may relate here: Knowing what spins their personal wheels, really, will help a person evaluate work choices a _lot_. And that's sometimes not quite as easy to figure out as it might seem. Travis relates lots of experiences involving adhoc problem solving, but not confined to a particular type of problem. Farming, lumbering, house repair, event planning, tool design and fabrication, written communication, etc. Most skills are just a manifestation of something more basic. It's the "something more basic" that's important to find a path for, not a particular skill. Then there's how one works w/in the group or team. How one accepts or even requires a certain amount of responsibility. Ok, but that's not all. What is the history of decisions about personal direction? What has held true through each choice and change when acting to decide a path? Which decisions look like the right effort, looking back now, regardless of the success of not of that particular choice. Which decisions and what directions give pride, which ones still look good, even if not available right this moment? Ideally one wants to hold true to those directions, to the underlying impetus when going forward.

Sometimes the comments of people who have seen one in action over time help here; others see things about us we don't or don't remember.

Best luck,
Rufus
 
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I used to take disability applications at the SSA office. To be approved, your condition only has to be expected to keep you from doing substantial work and be expected to last at least a year. It doesn’t have to be a permanent or total disability.

Your SSA taxes have been insurance premiums.  SSA is not welfare or needs based.
 
Ken W Wilson
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I should have mentioned that the vocational program sounds good. I just meant that you good do that and file for disability as long as you aren’t working too much.
 
Travis Johnson
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My concern with college is that, while they will pay for it fully, pay for my travel costs back and forth, and pay for reliable transportation, they will not pay me to go to college itself. That is understandable, but that leaves me struggling for the next few years financially. It would be pretty hard to go to college full time, then work when I could, be a father and husband...and lets just face it...there is no way I could do anything on my farm while doing all the other stuff. It would be worth it if it allows me a better paying job in four years, but lately the college jobs rather suck in terms of pay, whereas the blue collar jobs are the ones that are really paying well.

In some ways this program is plowing a field Katie and I already sod-busted. We have thought for two years of what I could do, and we always come back to farming as being the best choice for me. It cannot be sheep farming because it is too physical, but I can raise other crops.

The kicker is, right now three companies have advertisements in Maine for Tower Climber's which is something I always wanted to do. I love heights, so changing lightbulbs and installing 5G service 1200 feet up sounds like an ideal job, but I am not sure I have the physical stamina for that anymore.

The other thing I thought of was custom harvesting. I have traveled extensively for the railroad in the past, so I know what that life is like, and could do it again. It would be hard on Katie and the girls though.

 
Travis Johnson
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I checked out the custom harvesting side of things, and do not believe it is anything I could ever do. They require a person to travel February through December. I traveled for the railroad but it was only for 6-12 weeks on duty, then we got two weeks off. The only way I would see my wife and kids would be if they went out to see me, and there is not enough money to be made working o pay for that.

Katie and I talked about it again last night, and we are at a complete loss on what I should do. This really sucks because when I meet with this guy, I like to be prepared and have homework for him to do for me so to speak, so we are always moving forward, but that just does not seem to happen because none of us know where to go with me.

I did check out some more local colleges, and I found a program that I am interested in; basically a 2 year program where I would be a HVAC person (they are in short supply in Maine), but that was the only program where I would get a solid fuel license, so I could legally install wood, coal, wood pellet, or even rocket mass heaters legally. The shorter programs only gave you a license for oil and gas fired boilers and furnaces. I want to get into solid fuel appliances because when my father hooked up his pellet boiler, a licensed person would have charged $7000 just to put their stamp of approval on it, since there was only two in the area that could do it.

Another options would be truck driving. I can already drive truck because I am a farmer, but I have never got my license to do it legally. That gives you a lot of options too because I could be a bus driver, drive dump truck, etc. My friend does the transportation for the school and said he has (5) drivers now that are nearing 80 years old and has no idea who will replace them. And last year due to a lack of bus drivers, they had to cancel school a few days, so they actually get a decent wage and health insurance considering it is a part time job.

Another option is being a lineman. That requires a year of schooling, and getting your truck driving license, but lineman have the highest pay in Maine. I am not sure that I can do the physical aspects of the job though.
 
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Travis wrote:Apparently, the displaced farmers program has gobs of money, but I have no interest in going to college. I do not think I am college material, and see no point in spending taxpayer monies on me, when for the first two years I am learning stuff I already know, or has no relevance to what I want to do for a career. That just does not make sense to me.  



If college is still an option for you, have you considered testing out of classes? Here is a site that explains how that works. I know a kid that blew threw a years' worth of credits straight out of homeschool in 3 months. So maybe a degree would not take you 4 years.
 
Rufus Laggren
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> truck driving

I have read several places that long haul truck driving is one of the occupations that most damage the long term health of workers (in the US). Primarily, I believe, this is because of sitting still for long periods of time while maintaining strict attention and often bearing up under stress of hazardous driving conditions, both "over the road" and urban. Also, w/out careful management, hours tend to strrrrrrrretch. Ditto food  - needs thought, planning and discipline to maintain a decent diet. Also for long haulers, the diurnal cycle can be messed about at the mercy of the schedule.

Nothing killing by itself, but the environment looks less than healthy over long periods of time.

FWIW.
Rufus
 
Travis Johnson
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Rufus Laggren wrote:> truck driving

I have read several places that long haul truck driving is one of the occupations that most damage the long term health of workers (in the US). Primarily, I believe, this is because of sitting still for long periods of time while maintaining strict attention and often bearing up under stress of hazardous driving conditions, both "over the road" and urban. Also, w/out careful management, hours tend to strrrrrrrretch. Ditto food  - needs thought, planning and discipline to maintain a decent diet. Also for long haulers, the diurnal cycle can be messed about at the mercy of the schedule.

Nothing killing by itself, but the environment looks less than healthy over long periods of time.

FWIW.
Rufus



That is true, but I would never Long Haul Truck. If I was going to get back into transportation, I would just go back to working for the railroad again.

The problem is, a lot of other occupations require that the person has a truck driving license like farming, logging, earthwork, lineman, snowplowing, school bus driver, etc. In order to get those jobs a person must have truck drivers license. I have always got along without a CDL, but those days are over now.
 
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There is something else to keep in mind (and I'm sure you are considering this): the possible progression of your disease.  If you are stable and don't expect your health to deteriorate much more for a few years, you can look at anything that you are presently capable of doing.  But if your health is likely to continue to deteriorate, you need to try to figure out something that you will continue to be able to do, even if it's less than what you are currently able to manage.  

It's good, though, that you aren't just laying down and giving up, but continuing to fight!  
 
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I have been in such programs for those on disability. It never worked for me. The first one my social worker left town and never returned. The next 2 I got fired from. I started a number of businesses, but they all failed too. I got fired from those last two because of my symptoms. One was so stressful I had a psychotic episode at training and next thing I know I'm in a different side of town and I don't know where or how I got there. It probably does work for most people, and I really hope it works for you. You're such a good guy, I can't imagine you having to suffer. IF it doesn't work out I think you can at least say you gave it a shot and there'd be no shame in getting disability.
 
Travis Johnson
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I have not really updated this because there have been so many ups and downs.

Things have been going okay for the most part. I still see my career advisor weekly, and it has been good, he kind of gets what I need for a career, but in bringing in a social worker yesterday, it was clear she was a no-nonsense, take this job or that, and get me off her to do list.

I was told in Mid-October I had to come up with $8200 by the end of the month by my banker, and was pretty pleased with myself that I was able to come up with $9900 in three weeks. Now I am on a short rope because the bank reviewed my account and saw how many acres I have, that I only owe $144,000 in totality, and as the banker told me, "we would make a lot of money off you if we foreclose on your property." So I got to make my remaining mortgage payments on time. Talk about a "Predator Loan"...try to be as debt-free as possible, and now I have to look over my shoulder all the time...

I applied to an Organic Farm Supply that is located here, but it has been a week and they do not seem interested in me, so that was kind of a bummer not getting that.

Another bummer was seeing a job a month ago, realizing I did not have what they wanted, and so never applied. I should have. Come to find out my career advisor's Brother is the CEO of that company. I finally told him about it, so we jumped on it, but come to find out they never got any qualified people, so they hired a guy and are training him. What they really need is two people, but they cannot afford the time to train (2) people at once, so they are holding off on hiring the next guy until the first of the year. But when my career advisor told his brother that the Disadvantaged Farmer Program would pay them, to train me, so now that company is was really interested. It is also good because when my Career Advisor said the woman's name who does the hiring, I shocked him because I said I went to church with her. So today I stopped at her office and we chatted, and she said she would "do all she could for me". I am confident in that is so understated, as it was hard to talk about business with her because she was more concerned with my family, and how church was going! That is a good sign in, "you do not have to convince me you would be a good fit for the job."

That is a pretty good job too, because where I live, it is very rural, and this job is only 8 miles away and pays REALLY well. In fact being a Lineman/Tower Climber is Maine's highest paying blue collar job. But it is NOT because of the pay that it is my dream job, but because it is just the constant learning I would be doing, being outside a lot, and all the climbing that has to be done. Granted some of it is underground, and some of it is pole height, but even as a kid I loved to climb, and even though cell phone towers are not that high, the job has some tower climbing to it.

But not all is good. The state found out about my health and so notified me that they are going to suspend my license indefinitely. That was nonsense because I am in good enough health, have a perfectly clean driving record, and have not even been in an accident in the 30 years I have been driving. So I was pretty miffed about that, and ready to go all Tanya Harding on someone, but I talked to my Endocrine Dr today, and she said she runs into that nonsense all the time and is going to take care of it.

Katie goes for her license next week, so assuming there are no hiccups because of the holidays, she should be getting her first check by December 1st or so. That will ease up on how much wood I need to cut every week, and so I can keep getting by until I start working as a Lineman/Tower Climber. I hope...
 
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I couldn't find the emoticons anywhere, which would imply none are available.

Hoping this copy/paste works.

❤️

The point being shorthand for I feel for you, the ups and the downs.
 
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