Updated: Oct 16
In 2020, my son Chris Robertson (55 years old) was laid off from work because he was
deemed physically unfit to have a job. Chris worked at a tire and brake company since he graduated highschool when he was 18 years old. Over the course of his 30 year career, Chris worked hard. He was never late and hardly ever took time off. If he ever missed work, it was only for 2-3 days at a time. He was a very hard worker.
Chris started having health problems in 2020. He experienced trembling and other
ailments. His employer did not think he was able to work anymore and gave him an ultimatum: go to the doctor or be laid off. So, Chris went to a neuro specialist where he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. He was deemed no longer capable of working. His employer let him go. Chris was laid off from his job during the early part of 2020.
Chris currently has no income. He has received no money and no income since the last
stimulus check. He doesn’t own his home that he was renting. He has no vehicle as his car broke down after 20 years of use. He had no phone up until recently. He has no savings account and no spare money at all for emergencies.
A few years ago, Chris applied for food stamps and got on the SNAP program. His
mental state began to decline and he started experiencing hallucinations. He got letters from the Social Security disability office requesting more information. Due to his disease and his challenges keeping information straight, he did not realize that he ran out of food stamps. The doctor gave him medication for his hallucinations.
At this point, I called and wrote a letter to the Social Security office. They retroacted his
case because they ruled that Chris was not responsible for his decisions in his impaired mental state. I got power of attorney (POA) at this time so I could take care of him. On Chris’ behalf, I filled out an application for TennCare which was denied. TennCare explained that Chris did not qualify for TennCare because he made too much money and he does not fit into a category. I appealed this decision and was denied again. My sister, who lives in Franklin, TN, works for an insurance company so she helped me fax the appeal.
I began making calls. I contacted TennCare Connect, Tennessee Justice Center, the
Davidson County Chancery court, and others. I was told that Chris does not qualify for any kind of insurance. I called the Area Agency on Aging and Disability to ask if Chris would be eligible for CHOICES 3. However, Chris does not meet the medical requirements for CHOICES. At this point in time, he can still bathe, feed himself, and walk without assistance. In the meantime, we are in the same place we were months ago; Chris has now been trying for Social Security disability for over 3 years, and he is not eligible for any form of health insurance in the meantime.
While we are in a state of limbo, Chris is racking up medical bills. He sees a specialist for
his Parkinson’s. He has no money to buy his medications. The doctor went through a charity organization so that Chris could get his medicine. Chris’ medical bills continue to pile up, and the doctors continue to ask when Chris will get health insurance. However, I have been told over and over that Chris is not eligible for any form of health insurance. To me, it is so wrong to deny someone insurance if someone is fired from their job based on a disability.
Chris couldn’t pay his rent any longer so he moved in with his stepfather and me. He
was able to get his food stamps back. He got a free phone. These small successes have made life a little easier for Chris. He has been living with his stepfather and myself for the past few months. Chris Robertson paid his taxes and worked all of his life. Now, at the moment we need it most, Chris does not qualify for any assistance from the government (regarding health coverage). Chris can’t work. He was denied work due to his health conditions. To me, this is wrong because this is someone who needs help and can't get it. This process has left me frustrated and aggravated at the rules which leave no options for someone like Chris. It has put stress and strain on our family. My family has even contacted our state representatives including Scott DesJarlais.
One alarming thing is, I don’t know what Chris would do without parents. Some people in Chris’s situation don’t have parents who are in good shape to offer up spaces in their homes. If your doctor diagnoses you with a disability and says you are unable to work, it seems obvious to me that this person should be able to get some kind of assistance. Chris is on the list to get housing. Without family, the harsh reality is that Chris would end up being homeless on the street.
I am tired of getting the runaround. It seems we’ve gone to the end of the road and
there’s no other place to turn. It is my hope that something be done about this issue, and that there are advocates for this category of people (single, disabled adults). It is unacceptable to deny someone health coverage who is unable to work due to a disability and has paid taxes their entire life. It is my view that someone like Chris who goes to the doctor and is diagnosed with a disability ought to be able to get insurance in a timely manner. For now, our family remains in limbo with no coverage options.
Cherry Amacher's story about her son, Chris Robertson