For those who say the government makes it easy for poor people to get and stay on government benefits, I say “Pshaw!”. Actually, I don’t say what I’m thinking because that would be inappropriate.
Here’s the scenario outlining time and energy spent just getting the food stamps card (a small section of this is repetitive from another post):
I went to the DHS office, completed the paperwork, and turned it in. I was told that I would receive a letter in the mail telling me when my interview would be scheduled.
I received the letter a couple of days later. It stated that I would have an interview a week later. It also stated (not part of the form, but actually typed in) that I needed to be sure and bring the required documents that were marked on the back of the page to the interview or my request would be denied. None of the documents on the back of the page were marked.
So. . . I called the phone number that was shown. It rang and rang and rang. No one ever answered, and it never went to a voicemail.
So. . . I waited a few hours and called the number again. This time, someone answered, and I explained my dilemma. She said that the typed statement is a standard statement they type in their form. If no documents were marked, then I did not need to bring anything.
So. . . I went to the interview a week later. I had to wait a while because, as it turns out, the worker I was supposed to see was out sick. The worker I did see was very nice and apologized for the delay. She said that I needed to watch a little interactive video first. I would be asked some questions, and I needed to click on the correct answer. One question required me to state how many days I would have to let DHS know if my situation had changed. My OCD kicked in. “What? I haven’t been given any information. How am I supposed to know that? What if I give the wrong answer?” The DHS worker assured me that a wrong answer would not cause my request to be denied. (Yeah – right!)
At first, she said that I receive too much unemployment to get food stamps. Then she changed that after she realized I am over 60. I’m not sure what being over 60 has to do with it, but I’ll take any positive I can get at this point.
She then said that I would have to come back and watch another video and pick up my food stamps card. This was Friday, so I couldn’t do that until the next week.
So. . . The next week, I went to the DHS office to watch the required video and pick up my food stamps card. The video was informative – except for some missing information.
The guy in the video said several times that we need to make sure we figure our food purchases carefully. However, he never said how to figure the purchases. In Oklahoma, sales tax is charged on food. Am I supposed to include the sales tax when figuring the total amount of my food purchase? This issue was never addressed in the video – nothing – nada!
So. . . I asked the DHS worker who issued my card after the video. “Am I supposed to include the sales tax when figuring the total amount of my food purchase?” Her answer – “I don’t really know. I think that you don’t include the tax, but don’t quote me. You will need to read the booklet that’s online or call the phone number on the back of the card.”
So. . . I found the booklet online and read it. Nothing about whether to include the sales tax amount.
So. . . I called the phone number on the back of the card. At first the person on the other end of the line didn’t even address my question. He just started telling me what things I could and could not buy using the food stamp card. When I finally got him to actually listen to my question, he said, “I don’t know. Did you look at the booklet online?” After I told him that I had looked at the booklet, he said, “I think you probably include the sales tax. You’ll just have to use the card and see if the total includes the sales tax. ” I asked if he could tell me which stores accept the card. He could not.
So. . . I called the local DHS office again to see if they could tell me which stores would accept the food stamp card (since they had not given me a list when I picked up the card, and there was no list online). I explained my dilemma to the woman on the other end of the phone. This woman told me that I should not count the sales tax when figuring my total food purchase. And she told me that they don’t have a list of stores. I would just have to go to a store and look to see if they had a decal at the front door of the store.
Okay. . . I spent about two weeks, three trips to the DHS office, and phone calls just getting the food stamps card. Then I spent several hours searching online and making phone calls to try to find out how to use the card properly – and I received three different answers. Then I had to drive to stores to look at the front door and see if they accept the card. “Why didn’t you just call stores and ask them?” you might ask.
Here’s the thing. . . By the time I finally could use the card, I was so frustrated and depressed that I could not stomach hearing another person on the phone telling me, “I don’t know.”
I have a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree. I have been a teacher for many years. I am a reasonably knowledgeable person. I have dealt with many complicated issues in my life. I did not choose for my company to down-size. Dealing with the government paperwork and bureaucracy to get a food stamps card was enough to beat me down to a puddle of nothingness. Sigh. . .
Time to rise up out of the puddle and get going again.