The Incompetent Melissas


Correction to yesterday’s post (https://annecwoodlen.wordpress.com/2014/03/11/for-want-of-5-00/): I wrote “There is a county benefit card”; in fact, it’s a New York State benefit card.

So (continuing from yesterday) what Melissa, the Chronic Care caseworker, does is immediately deny all responsibility for the badly written letter by saying, “The letter came from Albany.” This is always the answer. These letters that us poor folk constantly receive are written by some idiot in the state government. Some idiot who can’t write. Some idiot who never runs it by an average citizen to see if it makes sense. Some idiot who is getting very, very well-paid with your money. State Civil Service salaries are higher than county salaries.

When I ask Melissa why I now have to pay a “spend-down” of $5.00 she says it is because I am “over income,” then she rapidly runs through a bunch of numbers: my gross Social Security is $938.90 a month; the Medicare withholding is $104.90, leaving me with $834 cash income. Then she says something about $809, and a “$20 disregard” and some other numbers, rattled off too quickly to write down. The government has a $20 disregard? What the heck is that? In the lives of us poor folks, we only have a $0.01 disregard. We regard everything over a penny.

So Melissa decides that she will clear my Medicaid ineligibility for one month and send me the letter again. She doesn’t. Instead she sends me a Notice of Intent to Discontinue/Change Medical Assistance. It says “Change in income as follows: 2014 Social Security COLA increase resulting in $5.00 monthly spend down. Send $5.00 monthly to: Cashier’s Office . . .”

The first problem is that what Melissa told me is not what Melissa wrote me. She said my Medicare deduction was $104.90; she wrote that it is $124.90. Oh-h-h, do you suppose that’s the $20 disregard? What—I’m supposed to disregard Medicare getting a twenty percent increase? So now she says that the balance I receive is $814 instead of $834—except that from some other source (perhaps my bank statement) it was confirmed as $834.

To the best of my recollection (all my important papers having been moved by strangers nine times last year, i.e., all documentation is lost) I was receiving $821 from Social Security. Now I’m getting $834 except Melissa says it is $814. So I’m receiving something between $814 and $834—that’s $20, so shall we disregard it?

The issue is this: county employee Melissa is incompetent. She has given me two sets of figures that are mutually inconsistent and only one of which might justify the spend-down of $5.00. A very long time ago—I’ve been on Medicaid since 1991—I also had a spend-down. It was a nightmare of impossible rules. Can you mail the cashier cash? Most poor folk don’t have checking accounts. Do you have to go down to the Cashier’s Office to pay cash?

Centro’s Call-a-Bus charges $5.00 for round-trip transportation, so what the county receives as $5.00 costs me $10.00. My recollection is that the Cashier’s Office is only open limited hours, and there was only a very narrow window of days in which to make the payment—something like you couldn’t pay it before the first of the month but had to pay it before the third of the month.

And they were always getting it screwed up and declaring you ineligible when, in fact, you’d made the payment but they hadn’t recorded it, or some damn thing. And oh, by the way, Melissa’s Notice of Intent does not say anything about how the $5.00 is to be paid—cash, check or money order—nor does it say a single word about WHEN it is to be paid. Just any old time I feel like it? No? They had cut me off by the seventh of the month, so when do I have to get the payment in?

So, to recapitulate, what us poor folk have to deal with are—
• Incomprehensible letters from the state
• Incompetent county employees
• Disrespect and the expectation of submissiveness
• Hours spent on the phone trying to straighten things out
• And all for $5.00.

I went to see a lawyer about being illegally denied Medicaid transportation. His final take on the matter was “If you can’t get Medicaid transportation, why don’t you just take a taxi?” Rich folk have absolutely no comprehension of what it means to be poor. They think you’re using Medicaid transportation just to rip off the rich people and that, actually, you have tons of money squirreled away that you just don’t want to spend.

One month I had $0.08 left before my next Social Security Disability check arrived. Please understand this, my dear readers: most of us poor folks HAVE NO MONEY IN THE LAST FOUR DAYS OF THE MONTH. None. Zero, zilch, zip. Do you understand the concept of “penniless?” No cigarettes, no coffee, no beer, no quick trips to the convenience store, no bus fare.

I am smart enough to have become a better money-manager over the years. I live in a HUD-subsidized building with 175 other people, 95% of whom are also poor and not so smart. Now do you understand why people are panhandling?

Your money is not going to help the poor people; it is going to pay the incompetent Melissas in county government.

About annecwoodlen

I am a tenth generation American, descended from a family that has been working a farm that was deeded to us by William Penn. The country has changed around us but we have held true. I stand in my grandmother’s kitchen, look down the valley to her brother’s farm and see my great-great-great-great-great-grandmother Hannah standing on the porch. She is holding the baby, surrounded by four other children, and saying goodbye to her husband and oldest son who are going off to fight in the Revolutionary War. The war is twenty miles away and her husband will die fighting. We are not the Daughters of the American Revolution; we were its mothers. My father, Milton C. Woodlen, got his doctorate from Temple University in the 1940’s when—in his words—“a doctorate still meant something.” He became an education professor at West Chester State Teachers College, where my mother, Elizabeth Hope Copeland, had graduated. My mother raised four girls and one boy, of which I am the middle child. My parents are deceased and my siblings are estranged. My fiancé, Robert H. Dobrow, was a fighter pilot in the Marine Corps. In 1974, his plane crashed, his parachute did not open, and we buried him in a cemetery on Long Island. I could say a great deal about him, or nothing; there is no middle ground. I have loved other men; Bob was my soul mate. The single greatest determinate of who I am and what my life has been is that I inherited my father’s gene for bipolar disorder, type II. Associated with all bipolar disorders is executive dysfunction, a learning disability that interferes with the ability to sort and organize. Despite an I.Q. of 139, I failed twelve subjects and got expelled from high school and prep school. I attended Syracuse University and Onondaga Community College and got an associate’s degree after twenty-five years. I am nothing if not tenacious. Gifted with intelligence, constrained by disability, and compromised by depression, my employment was limited to entry level jobs. Being female in the 1960’s meant that I did office work—billing at the university library, calling out telegrams at Western Union, and filing papers at a law firm. During one decade, I worked at about a hundred different places as a temporary secretary. I worked for hospitals, banks, manufacturers and others, including the county government. I quit the District Attorney’s Office to manage a gas station; it was more honest work. After Bob’s death, I started taking antidepressants. Following doctor’s orders, I took them every day for twenty-six years. During that time, I attempted%2
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2 Responses to The Incompetent Melissas

  1. Not an Admirer says:

    What a sad, sad life YOU make for yourself. I regard you as an ingrate of highest proportions. In older days, you would have been reduced to panhandling next to the road, depending upon the charity of others. As it is, with all your endless picky complaints, you are receiving more benefits in so many fashions, more than from any other state in the country … And all you can do is endlessly whine, whine, whine.

    Make something constructive out of what is left of your life, (Hint: your idea of Whining=Activism=something constructive is not the way to go).

    • annecwoodlen says:

      You want me to beg for charity from you. What a disgusting person you are. In fact, THE UNITED STATES CONGRESS VOTED that us poor folk should be taken care of. I ask only for what the law requires but the government does not provide. I am poor because I am sick, no other reason. I hope that someday–preferably soon–you get really sick and have to rely on kindness of strangers like yourself.

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