I’m beginning to see more and more comments on social networking sites and elsewhere about people who are receiving Medicaid, Food stamps, or other assistance. There are many people out there who have major issues with people getting help from government programs. In many cases, I can see their point. There are those who abuse the system, but for every person out there abusing the system, there is someone who is truly in need. The comments have been bothering me to the point of irritation. With that in mind, I’ve decided to play devil’s advocate and tell you what life is like on the other side.
What People Are Saying
What I hear most frequently is something along the lines of ” He/she had on name brand clothes, and was driving a brand new car, yet she’s on (insert assistance program here).” Really? Should they have maybe rummaged around in the dump for some clothes more fitting to their situation? Rolled around in the dirt? Ratted up their hair? How “poor” does someone need to look before they get that so called “handout”?
Come on people! Anyone living in this day and age should know that financial circumstances can change in minutes- people lose their jobs due to layoffs, there are unforeseen illnesses and hospitalizations, insurance coverage is lost, spouses die… the list goes on and on. Is it not possible that some of these people had those “name brand clothes” BEFORE their circumstances changed? They may also buy those clothes second hand at garage sales or thrift stores, or someone could have given them to them.
Now let’s get to the “brand new car”. This is one I’ve been guilty of thinking myself. In truth, the car is probably borrowed, or more likely, they had the car before their current situation. Chances are that brand new car is financed and the owner is the bank. That person is probably doing everything they can to keep the car from getting repossessed so that their credit isn’t ruined and they can keep or get a job. If they don’t have a car, many times, they can’t get to work, especially in rural areas.
Another thing I hear is that “these people are just lazy good-for-nothings living on the taxpayer’s dime”. I’m sure some people are, but it’s not a charity. Do you think you are the only taxpayer? A lot of these people have had jobs and worked for years and paid taxes just like the rest everyone else. Should they not be able to seek the very help that their money has paid for? These people have pride, and many of them waited until they HAD to apply for help or face starving their children and themselves. What do you think they feel when they turn in that application, knowing what’s said about them? Knowing what they’ve said themselves?
Kids Are No Exception
I have also heard “Well they should make sacrifices, they shouldn’t be spending money for their kids to do that”. As if their children don’t already have enough to overcome, they should lose even more confidence by dropping out of sports? Their kids don’t deserve to go see a movie once in awhile? These kids constantly have to hear “No, we can’t afford it”. They sit and watch while their friends go fly off to vacation to Hawaii, meanwhile, they can’t even make the two hour trip by car to see Grandma because the gas to get there is too expensive.
Sell Your House
“They own a house, they should sell it if they need help that bad.” I think this one might just make me madder than any of the rest of it. My grandmother worked hard all of her life, put herself through night school while raising four children by herself, and became an accountant at Texas Instruments. She remarried after all of her children were grown and out of the house, and retired from Texas Instruments when they started laying people off many years ago. She owned a home, and a Lake Lot with a small trailer on it. She and her husband decided to sell the house and move into the trailer. Low and behold, a few years later, she found out her husband had spent ALL of HER retirement savings. He left her and they divorced when my grandmother was nearly 70 years old. She was able to get a job to supplement her social security check, and had Medicare. She was getting by. Then she was diagnosed with Lung cancer.
She got treatment and went into remission. However, her health was never the same. After a bad fall and a broken wrist, her health deteriorated to the point she needed long term care. Medicare would not cover it all, and my mother and aunts had considered selling the trailer and lot to help pay the expenses. Turned out, the profit would have paid for about two or three months worth of care in a nursing home. She applied for Medicaid, and found out she would not have qualified for Medicaid for five years if she had sold the trailer. That trailer and lot were the only thing she had left to show for over thirty years of hard work, and the only thing she had to leave her girls when she died. After she was able to get Medicaid? She found out that if she died, the state could take the trailer and lot and sell them to recoup their expenses. She worried about it constantly, because she wanted her girls to have something from her. Grandma did die a few months later- the state decided the trailer’s value wasn’t worth their time.
Not As Easy As You Think
It’s not as easy as it seems to get government assistance. You deal with long lines, hours spent waiting just for an interview; overworked and sometimes indifferent, inept, and rude government workers; and hours spent digging through and copying your personal records for copies of bills, titles, insurance policies, bank and income statements, often to find out two months later that you make $2.00 too much to qualify for help.
Speaking from personal experience, I can say it is a tedious, stressful, and frustrating process when you really need help. You spend A LOT of time waiting. I have had to apply for assistance for our family when unforeseen circumstances arose. I did not apply for help until I HAD to, after trying unsuccessfully to sell some of our more valuable possessions, job hunting for weeks, and not hearing back from anyone. I was in tears when I turned that application in. I felt like an absolute failure.
When I applied for TANF (welfare), I was informed that the $700 a month in income we had coming in made us ineligible for that form of assistance. The maximum income a family of 5 can have and still qualify for TANF is $368. Who can survive on that and still have a home and electricity, much less food? I then applied for emergency SNAP (formerly food stamps)- I was informed that our income was too much to be eligible. The reason? Our income exceeded our monthly utility bills by $3.00. The social worker told me not to worry, we probably qualified for regular SNAP benefits, they would let me know by mail. After waiting a month, I did find out we qualified. We consider ourselves fortunate to have been able to get help.
Sometimes The Cover Is A Facade
When you are an honest person applying for assistance, your life becomes an open book. You have to provide information on every aspect of your finances- every bill you have, everything of value you own. It was a very humbling experience for someone as prideful I was.
I know that not everyone who gets assistance from the government is honest- I know that. I just want people to stop and think before they lump the good in with the bad. It is easy to sit there in smug superiority and say “that won’t ever be me”, but it can be you. It can happen in the blink of an eye.
If you’ve never been there, you can’t possibly understand how humiliating it can be to ask for help- for me it was admitting defeat, admitting that I failed. I learned first hand that you can not judge a book by it’s cover. Sometimes the cover is a facade that masks a life that’s been turned upside down.