Forgive the rant, but I have to get it out of my system.
I wonder how many people earned how much money from the state and federal governments today in trying to explain, interpret, and determine eligibility for public service programs for families that don’t know how to navigate the competing and complex systems?
One application to apply for Food, Medical, and Cash Assistance benefits. That seems like a step in the right direction. However the systems under the DHS (Department of Human Services) are multi-faceted and funded differently.
The average American hears words that identify “benefits” like housing, unemployment, welfare, food stamps, and medicare/medicaid and it sounds like there is (or should be) one agency or department for each benefit because it all falls under the heading Department of Human Services. Yeah, not as simple as it sounds.
Each program actually consists of several different programs that have different “buckets” of money they get to use from various sources: federal and state tax revenue and program allotments, etc. I suspect the flow chart that depicts how money gets allocated and how applicants get identified and placed into each group is a convoluted nightmare and wound up being a significant administrative cost. Each funding stream or source has different “to do’s” and eligibility requirements attached to it.
I suspect that if an independent organization were to do an analysis of how much the administrative costs are to have applicants and employees alike navigate the virtual and paper maze in order to receive “benefits” and come up with a plan to streamline and create efficiencies, there would be more money available to actually provide services including child and medical care which are two of the biggest reasons why people are unable to sustain living-wage employment.
When I was working to serve, advocate, and help educate teen parents there was a big push toward making programs strengths based and if a family was connected to multiple organizations with overlapping and/or conflicting requirements and services to hold a Family Unity Meeting that would have the different point persons from the different agencies to meet with each other and the families to create a cohesive plan for coordinating and helping the family to navigate through the processes in order to progress toward identified goals in an achievable and supported manner.
The assessment looks at a family’s current circumstances and determines the baseline of where the needs, gaps, assets, and strengths are in the present. An evaluation of what happened to create the situation(s) requiring the services. A plan to identify what the goals and steps are for the family to transition from dependence on the “system” into self-sufficiency.
A huge breakdown in this process would often come from the agencies and organizations and the amount and kind of requirements for eligibility of services. Instead of being able to have the authority and autonomy to help a family fill a need gap in a coordinated effort with other agencies, there would be proprietary and territorial mandates and the family would often wind up losing some services because they were jumping through the hoops of another agency’s requirements and with the loss of that resource would lose the ability to meet the requirements of another program.
Local, private non-profit service agencies providing different services to the same population have to compete for the same streams of money and if they obtain the grant or contract there is seldom the flexibility to work cooperatively within the guidelines and requirements of other service providers.
This frustrates the workers and creates a disservice to the potential clients.
All the while the slanted, mud-slinging, politicians, lobbyists, PACs, and money-mongers use the internet and various media outlets to use stereotypes, generalizations, assumptions, prejudices, and flawed beliefs to penalize people for needing assistance and whip up an “us” against “them” mentality that results in new layers of oversight legislation and funding reductions and the vilification of those receiving services. Until those in the taxpayer “us” category wind up unemployed and losing their home having to apply to become “them.”
There is a false concept of “deserving poor” and an ever increasing belief that someone else is responsible for handling “this” or “that” issue. “I’m sorry, I can’t help you with that, I have to follow my rules and guideline or I lose my job too.” “There are programs, people, and agencies to deal with that, why haven’t you tried to access those services?”
I applied for medical assistance when we applied for cash assistance, and food benefit assistance. I answered the question that yes I had a physical or mental disability that prevents me from working because the untreated depression symptoms and the untreated fibromyalgia symptoms had combined to the point where I was barely functioning at my last job before I left it at the beginning of June to prepare for not having affordable child-care available next year due to no longer being eligible for enrolling her into the Head Start program next year.
I got a letter stating I wasn’t eligible for that medical program and I would need to go through the local DHS: Seniors and People with Disabilities office. I called that office, but because I’m under 65 years old and am not pursuing a Social Security Disability claim, I’m not eligible for their services.
In order to pursue a Social Security Disability claim, I need proliferate amounts of medical documentation and doctor’s statements as to my disabilities. Depression and Fibromyalgia are real to pharmaceutical companies and to the people experiencing them. However, to much of the rest of the world, these aren’t “real” disorders/disabilities and we should just exercise more, eat right, change our negative thoughts to positive, and just get over it. So, in order to get the government that provides FDA approval for medication to treat these “real” conditions to agree that I have a disability I also need to hire a lawyer to help navigate and argue my Social Security Disability application over the next 3 – 10 years of denials and appeals before the possibility of an acceptance.
One of the few times that I can say I heard directly from God was back in 2001 when I was struggling through a similar time and had many well intentioned advisors telling me to go on Social Security, the message was, “I have given you what you need to get through this day. You can use it to take care of yourself and your family or you can use it to try and convince others how sick you really are.”
This is as true today as it was then and I have to trust that God has this situation covered and know that despite the neurological and biochemical things happening to spin my mind and feelings around in fear, confusion, and despair, that those things are false and I’m ok and will be ok.