It has been 4 1/2 months since William L. (Larry) Gossom was struck by a car as he walked after dark along Rte. 50 in Arlington, but he's still grappling with the impact on his life.
Gossom, a 36-year-old mechanic from Manassas Park, has slowly recuperated from the two broken legs, broken arm and fractured wrist suffered in the May 20 accident. But he's had less luck patching up his finances, crippled because he is unable to work.
Covered temporarily by state financial aid, Gossom will lose that assistance Nov. 1 now that social security officials have ruled on his eligibility for longer-term help. He was rejected.
"I'd just been at my job for two weeks when the accident happened, so I wasn't covered by health insurance," said Gossom, who has more than $7,000 in unpaid medical bills.
"I wasn't injured on the job so I can't get workman' compensation. I applied to the Veterans Administration but they said I'm not eligible for benefits because I'm not permanently disabled."
"If you're hurt off the job you don't have anything," said Gossom, who said he is bitter and bewildered by his plight. "I 20 years of working I've never used social security. Where's all that money I'm paying in going?"
Local and federal social services officials are sympathetic but said they are bound by the strict regulations under which they operate.
"It's a well known fact that people fall through the cracks," said Manassas Park eligibility worker Barbara Blake.
Gossom's troubles started about 9 p.m. on May 20 when he ran out of gas on Rte. 50 near Fort Myer. He was hitchhiking to a gas station when a car struck him. Gassom was flung across a grassy median strip onto an access road where another car narrowly missed hitting him again.
There followed a 20-day stretch in Arlington Hospital, four of them in intensive care, while Gossom mended and fought off a massive infection.
Since then Gossom, who still wears special orthopedic leg casts and uses crutches, has received food stamps and $240 in state general relief payments administered by Manassas Park. His application for social security assistance was denied because he is not expected to be disabled for a full year.
In Manassas Park, general relief payments expire once a social security determination has been made, unless there is an appeal.
"I certainly agree that the whole policy needs to be looked at," said Manassas Park social services director Osborne. "There are a lot of unforunate policies. We have several cases of catastrophic illness that our programs . . . just cannot cover. Sometimes local and federal coordination is not the best."
"I don't want to seem cold and callous, but there's nothing we can do," said Ray Meisels, the social security examiner in charge of Gossom's case. "I would advise him to appeal the decision."
Meisels said the appeal would probably take at least four months, during which time Gossom would continue to receive general relief. If the appeal is denied, which Meisels said often happens, the Gossoms would have to repay that money.
"I don't have any skills," said Donna Gossom, 20, "so it doesn't make any sense for me to leave Larry alone in the house and bring home $70 a week." Donna Gossom said she had recently enrolled in a business math course at Northern Virginia Community College but had to drop out to care for her husband.
"My parents made our last five house payments (of $268 a month) but they can't affort it anymore," she said. She said she and her used up their savings to buy the $26,000 wood-shingled house and owe Montgomery Ward $700 for funiture they bought to furnish it. Gossom said he earned $18,000 last year as a mechanic and tow-truck operator.
The Gossoms said they have applied for a food stamp renewal and Medicaid and that they plan to appeal the social security decision.
Gossom said his doctors have told him they may remove one cast this month. He said he has been told the other cast probably will stay on for several more months.