Regular readers will be happy to hear that my disability is improving. When we were in the process of buying a new car recently, the salesman told us that we could save an ungodly amount ($15,000 or so) in import tariffs and other taxes if I had a government issued card certifying that I was disabled. It's called the CONADIS card and it establishes my "disability bona fides", if you will. (I obviously look, talk, and move like anyone else and therefore certification is crucial. Just kidding, Ecuador). So, the very next day we went to a neurologist to start the process of getting that card.
He told me I had an 80% disability. I laughed because I had always thought of myself as being disabled. Period. 100%. Therefore, since it's now officially only 80%, I'm getting better. I'll be speaking clearly, using my hands, and walking in no time! I asked if 100% would mean that I were bedridden. The neurologist said, "No, it would mean that you had physical AND mental disabilities and, obviously, you don't have mental disabilities." Well, at least that's cleared up.
The card probably won't help with this car purchase (though a friend claims the law says I can get a refund), but it will help with the next car purchase, assuming there is a next car purchase in Ecuador. Meanwhile, I get a myriad of other perks, including refund of all the value added tax we pay instead of the upper-bounded amount of refunds we receive each month because we're over 65. I could also get discounts on most things from movie tickets, to Ecuadorean airlines, to a new car every five years.
Before going to the neurologist, we went to the Ministry of Public Health to find out what the process was. What the lady explained was pretty simple and straightforward. What we've encountered so for has been a mass of government red tape. Why did we think it would be as simple as the process the health worker described? Why? I guess we're just too optimistic.
Let me line out for you what has occurred so far. It can boggle the mind if you haven't had the pleasure of dealing with a thoroughly bureaucratic system before.
1. We went to the Ministry of Public Health in Ibarra to find out what to do. The woman we talked with said that, since IESS (Ecuador's Social Security) didn't have a neurologist in Imbabura, I could go to a neurologist in a private clinic and he could certify my disability. Then I could turn that certificate in to a certain doctor at the public hospital in Otavalo to get the process started. Sounds simple, but this is Ecuador.
2. On Feb. 6th, I got the certificate from a neurologist in Clinica Ibarra.
3. I can only apply to the correct doctor at Otavalo's public hospital on Fridays. So we got to the hospital at 8:00 am on Feb. 19th and waited.
4. First, Marilyn had to run out and make a copy of my cedula (which we really should have anticipated because, well this is Ecuador, where they need to use reams and reams of paper! A cedula is a national ID card.)
5. Only after Marilyn gets back with the copies do the doctor and assistant tell us (suurr-prise!) the government changed its procedures. He hands us a three-page form to take back to the neurologist to fill out, sign (not stamp - no, no, no), and also have signed by the director of the clinica. The doctor tells us plainly that the neurologist can either fill out the form he gave us (which was printed so lightly it looked like it was mimeographed) or find the form online and fill it out.
6. The neurologist lives and works in Quito and only works in Ibarra on Saturdays. So Isabel gets an another appointment for us the next day, Feb. 20th.
7. Isabel has to go Quito on Saturday, but we're competent enough to go to the neurologist by ourselves, especially since we were in his office two weeks earlier.
8. We explain the situation, and the neurologist resignedly shakes his head before muttering something about the government. When I see that, I know we'll become fast friends. He half-heartedly looks on the internet before deciding to fill out the form we brought. (We also have another copy with us, trying to anticipate problems, like the neurologist making a mistake while filling it out).
9. It's Saturday afternoon, so naturally the director of Clinica Ibarra isn't there to sign his John Hancock.
10. We go back Monday the 22nd to get the director's signature (or is it Tuesday?) Things are starting to run together at this point. Marilyn comes back to the car after about an hour, frustrated. She's got the signature, but the director doesn't know the RUC (tax ID) of the clinic. I say, "Well, why didn't he just call down to the business office and ask?" She decides to go to the business office herself and they politely stamp the RUC on the form.
11. We're back at the hospital at 8:15am on Friday, Feb. 27, with our filled out and double signed form. When we're finally called it's just the assistant, not the doctor also. I think this is his Power Trip Day, because I swear I can hear glee in his voice when he says, "¡Incompleto!" Besides that, he says the process has changed again just this past week. The forms now have to be filled out online! But, and get this, he also tells Isabel it will be okay if we can transfer the information we have to computer (basically recreate the form) and print it on Clinica Ibarra stationery! Huh? Which is the correct process? Online, or the paper form we have been working with?
12. Marilyn and I recreate the form and information and put it on a flash drive so the neurologist can print it on clinic stationery and sign it. I also research and write down the pertinent websites in case the neurologist wants to look at them.
13. We get another appointment with the neurologist on Saturday, Feb. 27th. Third Saturday this month. I ask him if he's getting tired of seeing us. He smiles and says, "No." I think he's being very polite. We also have to get the director's signature again. Today we're in luck because we're there on a Saturday morning instead of afternoon and he's working. All we have to do is wait about an hour until he finishes his rounds.
Ten to one says that our papers won't be accepted at our next (now weekly) Friday morning pilgrimage to the hospital. Will you take that bet? How much ya gonna put in my pocket? Come on now. Don't be stingy. I got tolls to pay 'tween here and Ibarra!
One disturbing thing is, after all of the efforts described above, my application hasn't even made it into the system. Who knows what awaits if that miraculously happens?
I was feeling pretty depressed about this when I started writing this post. The opportunity to find the humor (albeit ludicrous humor) as I was writing brought me out of that depression. Writing can be so therapeutic.
All the setbacks have also given me time for reflecting on the morality or propriety of taking advantage of the CONADIS card. Yes, Ecuadorean law says I'm entitled to all these discounts because I'm disabled, even though I'm a resident instead of an Ecuadorean citizen. And, yes, a savings of $15,000 on a car would be yuuuge (according to a yuuugely popular demogogue). But I can't stop thinking about two things. 1) The money I save is a direct cost to an economically struggling government and how much it can help it's people. 2) Fortunately, I can afford to buy a new car every four or five years without that discount.
This situation is an example where I think entitlements can have adverse or unintended effects, and the reason I'm cautious whenever I hear that term bandied about. It would help if the government had a means to test in this case, though I can't begin to imagine what a nightmare ball of red tape that would be.
It would also help my dilemma if I thought the government was really corrupt, but I think it's run pretty responsibly. For sure, I don't agree with a lot of what the Ecuadorean government does, but neither do I agree with everything the U.S. government does.
So, if I decided to drop my quest for a card establishing my "disability bona fides," would I be leaving money on the table? It depends on my point of view, my priorities, and my moral values. I'm leaning towards continuing the process simply because a bunch of people have put so much effort into it but, at the moment, I honestly don't know what I'll end up doing.
I almost laughed out loud. Apparently Governmental "red tape" is world-wide. I'm sorry to find out you are disabled physically as you certainly are NOT mentally disabled--Ha!! Good thoughts to both of you. Enjoy your writings so much!!!
Paperwork delays are not just in Equador, but it is here in the Philippines also. In fact, thinking about it, the U.S. is bad in that area too. Even if you don't need to save the money, save it and use it in your mission which does go directly to the people that need it.
I know, but it's so much fun to bitch. Glad to hear from you, Greg, and know that you're doing okay in Indonesia.
We take the refund of VAT taxes we pay because we're over 65. We split it between FEDICE and Isabel, though the government hasn't paid in four months due to low oil prices. One of the options I had thought about was doing the same with refunds on new cars. Everyone involved would really get a boost!