The struggle getting food stamps, budget cuts and DES procedural changes

Occasionally I’ve helped neighbors with disputes of medical or utility bills and applications for social security, AHCCCS and food stamps.  Today I found out that an application for food stamps was declined and I had to go into bitch mode to get the application reopened.

Everything had been going fine, we got the renewal notice and submitted the online renewal application for both AHCCCS and food stamps on 8/29/11.    As on his original application I’m listed as representative and we list our phone number for him because he doesn’t have a phone.

On 9/28/11 he gave us a letter stating that he missed his interview and he needed to contact them by 9/29/11 or his application would be declined.  I called the Department of Economic Security (DES) twice on 9/29/11 and left voice mails for Vicky and Shannon.

Nobody returned my call.

A few days ago he gave us another letter, dated 8/30/11, stating that he needed to come in for an interview or call “Mr. Blue”.   I don’t think there is a Mr. Blue, as their automated phone system uses different colors for different types of interviews.

Apparently the 8/30/11 letter had been MISDELIVERED and that’s why he received it a month later.  About half the time I pick up mail at the Meadview post office I have to bring back mail that’s not addressed to us.

So yesterday I decided to send a fax since they ignored my phone calls.  I could not locate a fax number in the 6 page letters from DES.  Eventually I got it at the DES automated phone system:

FAX:  928-753-9205

I explained in my fax that he got the 8/30/11 letter a month late, but that I had left the two voice mails on 9/29 and that nobody returned the call.

Today Kim with the DES called to let me know that his application was declined because he did not contact them.

It was like she hadn’t even read my fax, although she stated that’s why she called.  She insisted that he had to reapply.   Not only is it a lot of WORK, but he would not get the benefits for last month.

Kim advised that the DES changed its procedures last May.

  • No more SCHEDULED interviews.
  • No more automated reminder phone calls

Why on earth would they make these IDIOTIC changes?

So many people on food stamps WORK and now they may have to spend an entire day at the DES.  And it’s not like people from our area can simply leave when it’s too crowded and try again the next day.  It costs us about $40 in fuel every time we go to town.

Clearly the INTENT is to make it much more difficult to get food stamps.

As you probably know, AHCCCS has been discontinued for new members.

Speaking of AHCCCS, as I went through our neighbor’s file, I saw the paperwork regarding the HEARING that was required to get him on AHCCCS in 2009.

During his initial application they told him that he was qualified to have AHCCCS reimburse the about $100 deduction from his social security for Medicare.  But they also said the VA might pay that since he is a veteran.  In the end, the VA didn’t pay and AHCCCS also declined his application because he “did not apply.”

As usual, my phone calls to specialist Frank Gordon were ignored.

So I faxed my Request for HEARING to their Phoenix office, asking how an application that does not exist can be denied.   Not to mention that he was at the DES office to apply in person.

You can’t imagine how fast I got a call and we ended up withdrawing the Hearing Request because they APPROVED his application and sent him a check for the previous three months.

Also, AHCCCS this time approved his renewal application.

So I hope I can also get his food stamp renewal approved.  Kim had talked to a manager and was told that Tuesday’s storm wiped out their list of scheduled interviews.  I don’t know whether it’s normal for them to not return voice mails left on Thursday by the following Tuesday.

But I do know that they are definitely overworked and when I suggested to Kim that they might want to hire some of the many unemployed, she pointed out that the state is broke.

The chaos at the DES, their decision to no longer send out automated reminder calls, to not schedule appointments and to not contact me AT ALL despite being listed on the original and renewal applications prior to declining the application is simply unacceptable.

It’s bad enough to get old, but it sure sucks to be old, poor and ill.

I’m sure we have MANY residents in our community who would qualify for food stamps but don’t have the energy and capability to go through this ordeal.

I wonder how Rick Sherwood (running for Mohave county supervisor) feels about this.  He ignored my suggestions on how to fix the economy. Maybe this subject is of more interest to him.

UPDATE 12/13/11:

Rick Sherwood had NOTHING to say, so I suppose he couldn’t care less.

I had sent another fax to the DES and promptly got a call from a supervisor who quickly approved the $22/month benefit for this senior citizen.

With regards to the procedural changes, she informed me that the orders came straight from governor Jan Brewer and that other states implemented similar changes as directed by the FEDS.

Remember to save a bullet for yourself!

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