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After Surgery, Union Plus had His Back


November 21, 2014

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San Antonio Local 60 member Leon Smith received a $2,700 Union Plus disability grant when he was sidelined by back surgery.

For 45 years, there was never any quit in Leon Smith. First as a mechanic, then a nonunion electrician and for the last 20 years as a member of San Antonio Local 60, Smith has worked hard doing hard work. But after almost a half century of the lifting, pulling, bending and cranking of a construction electrician’s life, Smith’s back stopped working.

“For the last two years or so, I was working on a big project with a lot of heavy lifting,” Smith says. “That was the worst time. It got to the point that I couldn’t take it anymore.”

Smith had a herniated disk, a slip in the rubbery padding between two vertebrae. Every day bone wore on bone and nerves in his back were compressed by the inflammation and every day the pain was a little worse except when it was much, much worse. His doctors told him he had no choice but to have back surgery, and with it a long, difficult recovery.

Smith was on the operating table for hours while doctors fused the injured vertebrae and inserted titanium rods into his spine. It was successful, but as expected, recovery took months of physical therapy and rest.

It was a grim choice. Belonging to the IBEW made it possible to get the surgery and the disability payments would keep his family afloat, but months without full pay still created a financial pain every bit as real as the physical pain.

 “The bills keep coming even when you can’t work,” Smith says. “I’ve been getting some weekly help from the IBEW but it’s less than a good day’s pay. Eventually, we used up all our savings just getting our bills paid up.”

Fortunately, Smith had another advantage only available to union members: a Union Plus Credit Card. Union Plus provides a range of assistance programs for eligible cardholders who miss work due to medical disability. Grants of $1600 to $2700 are available to Union Plus Credit Card holders who have had the card for three months or more and who meet the eligibility requirements.

Smith said his wife was looking through the bills one day and saw a mailing from Union Plus about Disability Grants. After submitting the required documentation, Smith received a $2,700 Union Plus Disability Grant that he says is going to be a big help until he can start working again.

Union Plus card holders are also eligible for assistance due to job loss and hospitalizations. There is also a program to help disabled or unemployed IBEW members keep their houses. The Union Plus Mortgage Assistance Program can provide grants and interest-free loans and grants.

Union Plus offers many other programs that are open to all card holders including legal services, credit counseling and health savings programs. Program details can be found at IBEWcard.com.

“They really came through for me,” Smith said.



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