Header for Ability Mission

Disability Grants For Cancer Survivor Veteran Richard To Build Bill Paying Business

by Richard Benak
(Schererville, Indiana, USA)

Disability Grant Seeking Cancer Surviving Veteran Richard With Wife Vicki At Wedding Reception
Disability Grant Seeking Cancer Surviving Veteran Richard With Wife Vicki At Wedding Reception
My name is Richard Benak. I'm a 69-year-old disabled veteran trying to get back on my feet again so my wife and I can enjoy life.

I started my career in high school by working in an office as a clerk draftsman to get shop credit. In my senior year, I got a second job working in a restaurant for $1 an hour.

My dad died of cancer when I was 16, so I took advantage of an exempt status for two years, to avoid being drafted. My older brother had already moved out and gotten married, so I was considered sole support of my mom, my younger brother and myself.

In 1968 I went to work for Uncle Sam. Most of my monthly pay went to my mom as a "Class Q" allotment. After Finance School, they sent me to Germany where I became a Section Chief in Mannheim.

I earned the rank of Sergeant E5 in less than 17 months.

I volunteered to transfer to Vietnam, but got denied since I was still considered sole support of my mom.

When I was eligible for an "early-out" to go back to school, I applied and got it. I received an Associate Degree in Mechanical Engineering Technology in 1971 from Purdue, and, at that time, there were lots of job openings in that field.

Both freehand drawing and mechanical drawing aspects of design fascinated me, and I embarked on my lifelong career in designing and drafting.

I went from conveyors to tank cars, to specialized automatic welding equipment and fixtures and finally back to railroad tank cars again.

Now, 52 years later, I'm still doing it. Only now, the tools are much different. Instead of pencils and erasers and a drawing board, I'm using a computer with CAD (Computer Aided Design) software programs and plotters (large document printers).

And instead of tank cars, right now, I'm designing custom home plans and actually, ideas for anything else people might come up with.

The other aspect of my career that changed is my workplace. I've always dreamed of working from home, but never had the guts to quit my job.

However, I was somewhat told to do it after having several subsequent surgeries on a hip replacement that became infected and needed to be revised and replaced three more times.

Disability Issues

I also had back surgery after falling off my roof while cleaning the gutters on our house. I ended up needing 14 surgeries on my left leg.

Although my physical therapy rehabs went well, my boss could see I was struggling physically. Even with a cane, I had a hard time walking out to the shop to implement designs and prototypes.

Eventually, my boss and my doctors advised me to go on Disability. Numerous surgeries and subsequent health issues forced me to retire on Disability in 2000. It was getting difficult for me to even walk up stairs to get to my workstation on the second floor.

My orthopedic surgeon told me not to take chances on falling, so he finally wrote a letter stating I was totally disabled and that I would likely need more surgeries on my left hip in the future.

I didn't really want to quit working. I wasn't capable of doing much physical work, but I was still able to sit in front of a computer and use my brain so it wouldn't become atrophied.

So, I've been doing freelance designing and drafting from home ever since, despite my surgeon's advice and permission to become a couch potato for the rest of my life.

The last time my hip got infected in 2007, my orthopedic surgeon told me he would probably have to amputate my left leg. Obviously, I wanted to keep my leg.

After discussing possible options and conferring with other surgeons, they came up with a plan for a major "stomach-flap" surgery to relocate a large amount of tissue from my stomach region by folding it down into my hip joint to give it a fresh blood supply. Their theory was to combat any infection that might reoccur with strong, healthy blood cells.

I decided to have the surgery. That was 11 years ago, so I guess it's working. This is the longest I've gone without having the infection return, and I still have my left leg.

There was a price to pay for me to keep my leg. One of the antibiotics they gave me, Gentamicin, caused ototoxicity in my inner ear canals because they gave me way too much. A doctor who was assigned to care for me at the nursing home I was sent to for rehab, twice increased the dose prescribed by my surgeon.

It ended up being so strong that it destroyed hair cells in my inner ear that provide balance control and also did damage to the ocular nerves in both ears. This gave me "bilateral peripheral vestibulopathy" with symptoms of constant, permanent vertigo.

I stopped drinking and smoking in 1982, so I couldn't even use that for an excuse. None of the common known remedies for dizziness provide any relief for me.

I need a walker to stand or walk. On some days, by mid-afternoon I'm completely exhausted because I need to tighten all my muscles so much just to keep my balance when I'm standing or walking.

The clinic that diagnosed my vestibulopathy provided me with specialized physical therapy shortly after the onset of my vertigo. They taught me several exercises, which I now do at home every day. Other than the exercises, there's nothing else they can do for me to relieve the symptoms.

During the first year or so, I fell several times because I moved too fast and lost my balance. Eventually, these falls caused other injuries to cope with.

I've hit my head so many times that I have acute stenosis in my neck. One of the times I fell and hit my head in 2010, my whole left side became paralyzed.

Then, internal bleeding indicated that I had rectal colon cancer.

After determining the cancer was malignant, doctors wanted to do surgery to remove the tumor a soon as possible. I pleaded with them to do spine surgery on me first so I could get out of bed and rehab my left side before the cancer surgery.

They agreed, and I had cervical spinal fusion to relieve pressure on the nerves that were causing me to be paralyzed. This surgery was successful in restoring mobility to my left side.

They put me in acute rehab for a week before sending me back for the cancer surgery. My surgeon said he was able to get all the cancer; however, I still needed chemotherapy and radiation treatments since the cancer had spread to my lymph nodes (Stage IV).

Thanks to good doctors and the Lord's help, I've been cancer free for over six years now.

Financial Hardship

For my wife and me, these various health problems have taken their toll on our finances and our emotional well-being.

My 401K lasted for 15 years. After our savings got used up, we had a hard time keeping up with my medical bills.

Income Efforts

I was a member of the Lions Club for several years, and a friend in the Club told me I should look into benefits for veterans.

The VA is giving me lots of benefits: prescriptions, colostomy supplies, a walker, a scooter, etc. I am also eligible for a monthly pension. It's only $31 per month, but it does help.

They told me they would provide a lift device so I could take the scooter with when we go on trips, but they haven't gotten back to me for that yet.

We've also gotten lots of help from our church and the local Civic Club, and I receive assistance from state agencies that help low income and disabled people.

I'd like to continue feeling that I'm making some kind of productive contribution to society. All that time recuperating from all those surgeries gave me time to read, study, and think about ways to make my own lemonade from the lemons life was giving me.

That's why I decided to continue to do freelance work from home, providing designing, drafting and plotting services. At first, it was to make a little extra income. Now it's for my livelihood, and to help keep my brain functioning.

I'd like to continue doing it, but my tools are getting old and I need to take more online courses to keep up with technology.

Specific Needs

I'd like my wife to have some of the things she deserves so much, like traveling and an easier lifestyle so she won't have to work so hard.

She's spent most of our married life taking care of her mother and me. She deserves to go places and do some traveling. She's experienced too much of the "worse" in the "for better or worse!"

The house we're living in is over 60 years old and needs a new furnace, new windows and other repairs.

We want to be able to sell our home and move into a town home or a condo where we won't need to spend so much time and money for maintenance.

I want to always be able to recognize my grandchildren and remember their names. To keep my brain cells from going dormant, I'd like to keep working. My doctors told me I shouldn't drive, but I can work from home.

Business Idea

The only solution I see is for me to bring in enough income to keep our heads above water until we have enough equity to sell our house and find a new place.

To continue providing my services, I need a new large document printer. My old one is falling apart, and my plots are coming out blurry. The least expensive new plotter is $699 (HP DesignJet T120 24" Color Inkjet Printer).

I also need the latest BIM software from Autodesk, which costs $2,000 a year.

There are other things that would help me out, but these two items are the most important and essential ones that I need right now.

Comments for Disability Grants For Cancer Survivor Veteran Richard To Build Bill Paying Business

Average Rating starstarstarstarstar

Click here to add your own comments

Jun 24, 2017
Thank You!
by: Richard Benak

Thank you, Don, and everyone at Ability-Mission for getting my story published! You are awesome! I'm not looking for sympathy or charity, but I'll gratefully accept help from anyone when I get it! I'm actually tired of telling people how I ended up this way, and when people ask me sometimes I don't know where to start. Now I can tell them to read about me on Ability-Mission.org!!!
Richard Benak

Jun 22, 2017
The Workbook is key
by: Don from Ability Mission

Hello Richard,

Congrats on getting your story published! In doing so, you've acquired valuable hands-on experience in responding to precise instructions, the very kind that you will encounter when applying for help of any kind.

You've now earned the right to access the Workbook, which shows you how to use your story as a springboard to getting the help you need.

Don Coggan

Click here to add your own comments

Return to US Indiana.