The system runs over people

Miguel Angel Castaneda reports on Occupy San Diego activist Raul Carranza's personal struggle to stop cuts in funding for the disabled.

Raul Carranza (left) speaks to an Occupy San Diego rallyRaul Carranza (left) speaks to an Occupy San Diego rally

DEMOCRATIC GOV. Jerry Brown is proposing further cuts to social services. For the disabled and the elderly, this means slashing $678 million from Medi-Cal, $168 million from In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) and $1 billion from CalWORKs.

This is in addition to $15 billion in cuts that Medi-Cal and IHSS has already endured since 2008. Brown claims he has to make these cuts to the programs workers and the poor depend on in order to reduce the deficit, but corporations remain untaxed and the rich get away with the slightest tax increase.

The priorities of the 1 percent and their political puppets in Sacramento are clearly exposed--profit comes before people.

For Raul Carranza, a disabled person and member of Occupy San Diego, these cuts translate into rising medical bills and a constant state of economic uncertainty. Raul was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy at the age of 2. His condition limits his movement and worsens as he ages. Today, at the age of 21, he is only able to move his right thumb. Thus, he requires nursing attention around the clock.

Raul's benefits were recently reduced. Under the program he's in, minors get more money than adults. There are three levels of care--AB, sub-acute and acute. When he was under 21, sub-acute was enough money, but not when he turned 21. "We went to the court to see if I could qualify for acute care," Raul explained. "We argued it and the judge agreed with it. The judge had to send his ruling for review, and the director of Medi-Cal overturned it."

What you can do

Stay informed about Raul Carranza's case by visiting his website. Raul also has an online petition demanding that Medi-CAL's overturn the decision to cut Raul's funding.

Raul then had to get private insurance, which cost about $500 a month. The insurance had an annual cap of $75,000, which Raul says he went through in about three months. "The nursing company that I'm with didn't get paid for the month of December, so we now owe the nursing company $8,000," he said. "We were put on a monthly payment plan, and were going to pay $1,000 a month."

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HIS MOBILITY is limited, but this hasn't stopped Carranza from striving to have an independent life. Raul was a student at the University of California-Los Angeles until he was forced to drop out because of the pressure the budget cuts were having on Raul and his family.

"My plan was to stay at UCLA, but I saw how stressed out my mom was," Raul said. "My brother was also very sick at that time...my mother was falling apart. I dropped out of UCLA and re-enrolled in Southwestern College. I was in class up until this semester when I had to drop all my classes so I could focus of fighting the case full time. So they made me choose between fighting for my life or going to school."

Raul threw himself into Occupy San Diego:

If it wasn't for Occupy. I wouldn't be where I am now. I'm going to do everything I can to make sure everyone gets the benefits that they need because I'm not the only one that this happened to. There are a lot of people that aren't as lucky as I am, they don't have the family support.

People don't have this support and can't fight for themselves, so the system just runs them over. I want to be able to help them as well.

After being raided multiple times and moving into a post-encampment phase, Occupy San Diego has mostly been active through its committees, including the Occupy San Diego Labor Solidarity Committee. The committee brings together various rank-and-file workers and trade union activists to work with the Occupy movement. It has also taken up Raul's case, and brought it to the forefront.

Raul released a video on YouTube about his situation and why he supports the Occupy movement. Since then, Occupy has organized two rallies and marches with him, each drawing about 100 people. The first protest was held on December 10 as part of a bigger day of action for workers' rights held at the Social Security office. There, Raul addressed the crowd about his condition, and then lead the march to Liberty Plaza.

The second protest, on January 27, drew more than the first march, and this time not only Raul but at least four other people with disabilities addressed the crowd and lead the march.

Raul remains committed to continue putting pressure on legislator to stop the budget cuts, and the Labor Solidarity Committee will continue to organize these events. With Raul's help, Occupy San Diego is trying to bring the battle for disability rights to the front of the struggle. This battle is crucial, because if it isn't won, Brown's austerity measures could mean death sentences for Raul Carranza, and thousands like him.