Letter: Inspired by the Brigade

July 2, 2012

Abe Osheroff. Photo courtesy of www.abeosheroff.org.

Hello Friends Of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade!

I am honored and privileged to tell you about the fight my late wife Tina and I had with the Social Security Administration and Congress; the fight that is ongoing as I write this letter. I’ll start with a little background about myself and my late wife Tina. My name is Brian Moyer and my late wife is Tina Moyer. We were both born in Detroit in the 1950’s and we both come from working class families. My late Grandfather was a union organizer for the UAW and participated in the “Battle of Overpass” with Walter Ruether and other Ford employees for the improvement of working conditions. My late father was a US Postal employee and participated in the only national strike in history to shut down the US Postal Service. My late father in law was a Journeyman Carpenter as are all of my late wife’s brothers. I am also a Journeyman Carpenter by trade. My formative years and environment revolved around a strong work ethic and the labor movement. I grew up listening to graphic stories about strikes and working conditions in the factories. I am also a veteran and I served as a rifleman in the US Marine Corps from 1973 to 1977. I participated in the Evacuation of Vietnam in 1975. I met Tina in 1982, we married in 1983, and I must say those were the best years of our lives. Tina worked as a waitress and as a prep cook and took pride in everything she did at work and at home.

My wife and I moved to Wyoming several years ago because of the poor economic conditions in Michigan and I am currently an employee of the State of Wyoming. In October of 2011 Tina started experiencing side and back pains and on November 16th she was diagnosed with stage 4 lung and bone cancer. Two days after the diagnosis we called the Social Security Administration. After a receiving rejection letters, making numerous phone calls, and getting nowhere fast with the government, Tina was hospitalized in Casper. During her first hospitalization I visited US Senator John Barrasso’s office. I filled out a form describing my concerns and problems with the “stone walling” and lack of response from the Social Security Administration.

Several days later I received a phone call from Senator Barrasso’s office and was informed that “The good news is Tina’s claim has been approved. The bad news is Tina will have to wait five months before she will receive any payment.” I repeated this conversation to Tina as it was taking place. After I hung up Tina said, “Brian, if you and your friends can change gun laws in Michigan, you have to change this stupid rule! I don’t know if I’ll be alive in three months let alone five months!”  She continued, “What about all those other people who are walking into this same thing and being blindsided like us? Change it! It’s probably too late for us but what about those other people? This is wrong!”

While Tina was still hospitalized I went back to Senator Barrasso’s and received a copy of Social Security’s five month rule. I said to all present “This rule is morally, and ethically bankrupt and as far as I’m concerned criminal! You don’t force someone who is terminally ill to wait five months to see if they live or die so you don’t have to pay a benefit they worked for and earned!”  I also said, “This is equal to when Hurricane Katrina slammed into the Gulf Coast and destroyed all those homes that people paid their insurance premiums on and the insurance companies did not want to pay on legitimate claims.” After being told by very polite staff that those were the rules I said, “I am going to be the biggest pain in the government’s ass you have ever known. You will cringe when you hear or see my name or when I walk through that door!”  I must add that when Senator Barrasso spoke with me on the phone later, he laughed and said “We need it, don’t give up!”

During the last few weeks that Tina was alive I made contact with State Senator Mike Green of Michigan. After explaining what was going on with Social Security, Senator Green introduced and sponsored Senate Resolution SR0134 calling on Congress to change Social Security’s five month waiting rule when someone is terminally ill. I have been told the resolution has been received very well in the Michigan Legislature and is on the Michigan State Legislature website for public review.

Tina was right; she died in my arms at home less than three months after her diagnosis. It was the worst day of my life. Thank God for family and friends. I promised her that I would do everything I can as long as I am alive to fight “The Good Fight” and change this rule for the working people who become terminally ill.

Now enter The Abraham Lincoln Brigade! I have always been intrigued by the men and women of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade who fought to stop Franco, Hitler and Mussolini in Spain during the Spanish Civil War. They fought for the right reasons- stopping tyranny, and supporting a legally elected government and a fledgling democracy. After Tina died I played my DVD copy of “The Good Fight” and watched it again. From there I gathered inspiration and hope from the veterans and their fight and involvement in the fight for social change in this country. The Abe Osheroffs, Bill Baileys, Milton Wolffs and many others including my family and friends have been with me through this ordeal.

Social Security’s five month waiting rule needs to be changed for the working people in this country. Tina worked for 36 years and received nothing for her efforts. The working people and their employers, who also pay into the system, are being abused by Congress. They are being denied benefits they worked for. This is not about entitlements; it is about earned benefits  In Tina’s case, she would have received two months of benefits after 36 years of working and paying into Social Security. I doubt that paying two months of benefits to a dying woman is going to bankrupt the US Treasury!

This issue cuts across all social, economic, racial and political lines. Just as the Abraham Lincoln Brigade has stood up to right wrongs in Spain and here at home, we need to fight “The Good Fight” for the terminally ill. My cause in life is make sure there are no more people dying without the benefits that they worked for.

As I stated earlier in this letter I participated in the Evacuation of Vietnam in 1975. I learned a very important lesson in the Marine Corps- “We have an obligation to protect those who cannot or do not know how to protect themselves from harm.” This includes protecting our own citizens from government rules and regulations that are injurious to the terminally ill!

While almost all of the Veterans of The Abraham Lincoln Brigade have passed on to eternal life, we are surrounded by their dedication, courage, and commitment to the cause of social change. The Lincoln Brigade fought at Jarama, Belchite the Ebro and some paid dearly for their efforts. I ask all of you to step up and accept one more challenge to contact your State Legislators and respective members of Congress to change this rule.

If I may, I’d like to thank State Senator Mike Green from Michigan for the resolution, US Senator John Barrsso and his staff for their professionalism and for opening my eyes to a true travesty and for their willingness to help change it. I also want to thank my family, friends, and co-workers for their help and support and willingness to do what is right and The Veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade for giving me the determination and inspiration to see this fight through. But most of all the love of my life Tina, whose passion and love for life keeps me going to fight “The Good Fight”……..”No Pasaran!”

Respectfully yours,

Brian Moyer


One Response to “ Letter: Inspired by the Brigade ”

  1. Francesco Ferran on September 11, 2012 at 1:35 pm

    It is great to see that efforts of the men and women of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade still continue to inspire Americans to fight for social reform. Although Brian Moyer’s struggle is a beuracratic issue rather than an a physical fight, the coralation is very apparent. Moyer is fighting to right a serious moral injustice in our political system which no longer affects himself but continues to impact other citizens of the United States. Just as the men and women who fought against fascism and oppression in Spain, Moyer is fighting for the principles on which our nation was found rather than for his own personal gain.