Thursday, January 21, 2010

The crime of needing help

"I xxx xxxxx....!"

"I don’t understand you," the woman on the phone said.

As far as the woman was concerned, I may or may not have been a babbling idiot but was certainly speaking gibberish. As for me, I was certainly unwise and could well have been speaking gibberish.

Indeed, this wasn’t me. I was enraged - frighteningly so - feeling like a trapped animal, and I wasn’t thinking. I wasn’t myself - or at least the nice, calm, thoughtful, quakerly self that I like.

I had foolishly taken the phone from my attendant and was shouting at the woman. No, I didn’t expect her to understand me, but I wanted her to see - at least hear - that I’m for real, that I’m really disabled and in need of assistance. I wanted her to see that I wasn’t lying, that I wasn’t committing fraud.

That’s how I felt. That I was lying. That I was trying to get away with something and cheat the tax-funded system.

Last month, right in time for the holidays - ho, ho, ho! - I got my annual re-evaluation packet from the county housing authority, which administers my Section 8 rental subsidy from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development. I dutifully filled out and signed the dozen or so forms and mailed them in, along with the various documents I always send, before they were due and thought that, as usual, all was well.

Then, last week, a woman from the Housing Authority called, saying that the documents I sent - the ones I always send - were "inadequate." She mentioned needing pay stubs and other things that didn’t make sense. She also said that I had a mandatory appointment with her at 9 a.m on January 27 and that if I don’t comply, my subsidy will be terminated.

My yelling at the woman didn’t help. Two days later, I received an official letter with a list of required documents and stating the "MANDATORY appointment" and the danger of termination. It still didn’t make sense, but I was not about to go to the office, like a scofflaw, especially during the morning rush hour traffic. I was also damned if I was going to my Section 8, which I have gotten for almost 20 years after being on a waiting list for a few years, because of a few pay stubs and whatnot.

To make a story of a long, stressful, exhausting week (during which, among other things, the woman from the Housing Authority, in another phone call, scolded my attendant for not knowing my business) short, I paid $12 yesterday to fax a slew of documents - everything I could think of - to the woman. I called her this morning, knowing she wouldn’t call me, and she said everything is fine and that I don’t have to go in on Wednesday.

Relieved as I was, I was almost disappointed. I was thinking of going in on the 27th, without my attendant (but with my documents), and seeing how she fared with me and my gibberish. I know - I’m wicked!

To be fair, the woman was just doing her job, probably under the gun, no doubt because the Section 8 program is, like with In-Home Supportive Services which funds my attendants, is under the gun due to rampant fraud. (See my 11/4 post.) But this doesn’t keep me from feeling like shit, feeling like I’m accused of a crime, having to fight to defend myself.

Not helping is Tuesday’s shocking Republican victory in Massachusetts for the U.S Senate seat long held by Ted Kennedy, dimming the hope for healthcare funding reform and other life-easing measures. Once again, fear - and money - triumphs.

1 comment:

  1. I have to admit, the bazzarr has just been trumped by the outrageous! Why throw every one out of the loop when the real problem is fraud. The money stops coming as soon as the conservative agenda plays politics from the Supreme court, down to the subsidies. My complaint is enforcement of the crime, not the guilty till proven innocent scenario. Hang in there John, you are right and the uptight right is finally showing their greedy true colors, which looks outright darker than I originally thought. Being the politics of it all, we the people have to fall in line and prove disabilities, as well as focus on where our next bill will read "This is a bill,payment due.", instead of "This is not a bill, keep for your records."