March 25th, 2010

children of dune - leto 1

psa: welfare post of the future

Quick note:

Here I talked about doing a PSA on receiving benefits such as Food Stamps, TANF, and Medicaid in Texas, what's available, what to expect, etc. If you are interested in or have relatives who may benefit from this, please check it out and if you have questions, please leave them here in this entry so I can try to get in depth. I'm going to try to do it after this testing cycle is complete, so sometime in the next two to three weeks.

Here is what I can do:

1.) explain what each program is and who it applies to (this will be more limited in nursing home and elderly care, but I'll be honest with you; that requires a trained caseworker to cover anyway. Even if I was one, I could not give much here, it's that much a mystery and a wonder of the world. I will however, give what i can and explain where to go for more.)
2.) what to expect during interviews.
3.) (Some of) your rights as an applicant.
4.) overview of the process.
5.) answer some questions on what disqualifies an applicant according to Texas interpretation of Federal policy.
6.) the right of appeal, which too many people literally do not understand because it's not exactly easy to get.

I can't:

1.) tell you if you qualify. I mean, legally, I am not allowed to do that, though I am trained as a caseworker and am still qualified to go back and do that. I wouldn't anyway, because believe it or not, I'm good at policy but there is a reason we have computer programs and a manual help us out. It's that complicated sometimes, and more than that, it's ethically sketchy and possibly illegal.
2.) tell you why you yourself were denied. I can give an idea of that, but I'd honestly have to ask you to call me at work and then transfer you to a friendly caseworker (I have many friendly caseworker friends; everyone has horror stories of shitty caseworkers and I know some. The ones I hang out with are awesome.) Or more appopriately and far more effectively, I'd give you a number and tell you what to say when you call to get the right person. That I can do legally and ethically.
3.) I cannot tell you with any kind of authority what is going on in states not Texas. I can, however, find you the handbook and explain (for most handbooks) how it's structured and where to look for information you need, because one thing they train us for is how to find things in handbooks. That's actually a lot of the training I got; not just policy, but because policy is so big, how to find in the handbook, which changes every three months, what you're looking for.

I won't:

1.) Tell you anything I can't verify or is outside my experience; I will happily say I have no idea what the hell you are talking about, but I will try to find out if I can, or at least direct you to where you need to go.

This last part is the complicated part, because a lot of times, no, you are not stupid because you can't find something; you just are stuck because the terminology is weird and I mean, it would be like me looking for something in astrophysics that I know what it does but not what it's called. This is not a failure of you; this is a failure of not knowing how to phrase what you're looking for. I'm not always successful, but I know my keywords pretty well.

Part B: Who This Applies To

You should consider this:

1.) if you are pregnant with or without health insurance.
2.) if your income has gone down and think you may be interested in help getting food or other services.
3.) if you are a single parent and the sperm donor/egg donor is not contributing toward support of the child, or the other parent is unemployed or unable to find work at this time.
4.) if you are a married/committed couple/partners with children that requires cash assistance and are unemployed.
4.) if you, someone you love, or someone you know may require nursing home assistance.
5.) if you have children below age eighteen.

Part C

If anyone else who works social services in any state would be interested in contributing, please drop me a line and I'd love to add in anything you think is relevant and cited to you or to anonymous if you'd rather be anonymous. The following would be useful in any state:

1.) Food Stamp, Medicaid, TANF, housing, power and electricity assistance, non-Medicaid assistance, nursing home assistance both SSI and non-SSI.
2.) I'd kill for a rep of SSA to give some easily-digested information on the SSA including retirement and disability, Medicaid Part D, or how to navigate for best results.
3.) CPS and child protective service and adult protective services overview.
4.) Websites where any of this can be found and easily read by the layman.

Anyone else:

Any sites/info in your experience that have helped and could help others.

This is brought to you by a post at booju_newju. It's weird how welfare wank always makes me want to balance the universe a little. You can find more posts covering some of this under the tags used on this post.

ETA: Brilliant!

And this is people being amazing.

cookie57 volunteered to discuss broad issues with CPS and CPS in Indiana.

ethelagnes works at SSA with disability appeals and will be happy to answer questions.
children of dune - leto 1

update on sugar versus hfcs

So about that post I had about sugar versus high fructose corn syrup soft drinks?

mecurtin and kickair8p both linked me to news of a Princeton study on the difference between sugar and high fructose corn syrup with some interesting conclusions.

From kickair8p - High Fructose Corn Syrup Causes Bigger Weight Gain in Rats from Slashdot.

From mecurtin - A sweet problem: Princeton researchers find that high-fructose corn syrup prompts considerably more weight gain published at News at Princeton.


(This testing cycle ends tomorrow. We have a another one right on top, but I already finished my prework. My joy is very joyful.)


From khalanasa, an alternate take on the study, HFCS Makes Rats Fat by Marion Nestle, who points out some inconsistencies in the experiment and results.
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children of dune - leto 1

attention job seekers: try some koolaid from the state

Loosely related to my post on benefit programs in Texas.

If you are in Texas and interested in pursuing a career with the Health and Human Services Commission, the umbrella organization beneath which four other agencies also rest, this is the link to the hiring center: HR Access. This works in IE only. I can get it to work in Firefox sometimes, but resign yourself to IE if you want to be sure it works correctly.

Click on the link for external applicants on the right, and you'll see drop down boxes split by state agency, category, city, location, blah blah blah.

Now, to the part I am pimping; Texas is hiring clerks at the Clerk III and above level and caseworkers at Texas Works Advisor II level for Texas Works, which handles Food Stamps (now known as SNAP, don't ask), TANF, and Medicaid for children and families, and is also hiring Medicaid Eligibility Specialists, who handle Medicaid for the elderly, the disabled, nursing homes, and etc. These jobs are under HHSC in Agency.

Oh, direct link: we're hiring caseworkers! And some other stuff, as you can see. Start value is $2200 per month, you'll do three months accumulated training, though they switch around whether you do all three months at once or over the course of a year or two--it's very strange and based on weird educational theories (again, don't ask) and office need.

The start value for a clerk is $1881 per month. I think there is a clerical test you have to do. Let us say, if you can read this, that means you can type, and we're done here.

The state provides insurance, retirement, access to 401(k) and 457, you accumulate one day of sick leave and one day of annual leave monthly and that amount increases the longer you are with the state (we call it tenure), overtime is not a problem and some cities, though not all, have a paid overtime option instead of just overtime that means you get literal leave, which is useful if you like taking two week vacations. There are holidays! Promotion is not difficult if you are at least mediocre or fake it extremely well and there is access to educational leave. And promotions can be fairly fast. I speak as someone who jumped a lot of paygrades in less than five years very fast, especially if you live in or are close to a major city.

Having a degree is not a requirement. Work experience is good. Clerical experience or work in any social service public, private, volunteer is golden, but again, not a requirement. For Clerk III, I think you just need to be breathing, to be honest.

Job Requirements

If you apply for a clerical position, pretty much anything goes. You might work front desk (see my LJ, April 2003 to February 2004 for details under the tag work), you might work file room, you might do pretty much anything. It is freakishly busy, your day will go very, very fast, and if you have an anal bone in your body, you will fall in love with the file room and organizing cases. If you don't know basic Spanish, you will learn. It just happens.

If you apply for a caseworker position, you will determine eligibility for SNAP (that's food stamps, btw), TANF (Temporary Aid for Needy Families), and Medicaid for families, for children, and for pregnant women. You will learn basic timeliness and policy, but more importantly, you will learn how to locate things in the handbook, both a paper version you will learn to adore highlighting and an online version that you can search with google. You will learn to determine eligibility on paper with a pencil (I still can) as well as on a computer. You will interview the entire range of humanity. Your caseload when you've been working six months will be between eight and sixteen cases a day, sometimes more depending on office, some of which will take ten minutes, some will take the full hour. You will learn to interview people, access data on a variety of interfaces, and stare at small children running in your office (have a couple of coloring books ready). You will do overtime. You will do a lot overtime. There is already a system of organization in place passed down from the first caseworkers back in the days we did things on stone tablets. Trust me when I say, you will love it. Also, you will probably get an office to decorate!

Both these jobs, you will have coworkers who will be your comrades in the trenches of welfare policy, dress code shenanigans, and Christmas Cookie exchanges (email me how to do that; it's fun!).

What You Should Know:

1.) It isn't easy. It's not hard either. It's confusing ocassionally, weird a lot, sometimes you will wonder what crack the legislature is smoking (cheap shit, apparently), and it's deeply hilarious. It looks terrifying and too much for one person to learn. It's really not.

2.) Interviewing only sounds stressful; I was scared to death of that part. That became one of my favorite parts.

3.) You will meet crazy people. They won't always be your coworkers, but usually, they will be.

4.) We like keeping people and hopefully hiring their offspring and their offspring's offspring (three generations working at HHSC is surprisingly common). HHSC is very much family friendly. Your mentor and your coworkers really want you to succeed, because if you leave they take your caseload and that sucks. Trust me when I say, there are few jobs where everyone really wants to keep you around for as long as humanly possible. They may offer snacks.

5.) We like promoting from within the agency. With caseworker experience, you can do pretty much anything, because most of the positions either require you to have casework experience or really prefer it a lot. A degree is not required for most jobs, but there's educational leave! Go get one if you have time.

6.) It's stressful, exhausting, miserable, and occasionally, you will want to say die in a fire without meme or irony. It's also amazing, fun, and interesting. You will not get bored, and I say this as someone who has the attention span of a gnat. Your day will pass like you would not believe. You will interview fascinating people, work with crazy people (and sometimes reverse those), and if you don't know how to be painfully sarcastic in ways that will fly over people's heads all the time, you will learn really fast.

7.) You will have a lot of data for stupid internet arguments on welfare.

8.) It's one of the few jobs where you will change someone's life every day. Pretty good stats, I think.

The application is available online and I'm pretty sure you can submit it online unless HRAccess went down again. Create an account at the link, then you may start your journey. And if you aren't interested in casework, there are a lot of possibilities in all the agencies you can check out.

Anyone who decides to apply--good luck!
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children of dune - leto 1

meta link: A lesson in good vs. bad irony thanks to Amanda Palmer by sparkymonster

From sparkymonster: A lesson in good vs. bad irony thanks to Amanda Palmer.

Amanda Palmer of the "Dresden Dolls" and "Evelyn/Evelyn" fame decided to talk about her dislike of Lady Gaga last night on twitter. Among other things, Gaga is a sell out, is just like Justin Bieber, and Palmer really dislikes the product placement in "Telephone".

Then Amanda Palmer shared this:
ironic product placement is only ok if you take no money & beyond that give all the income to something ironic. like the Klan.

Let me just repeat. Something ironic. like the Klan.

*****This might be potentially triggering for violence, as sparkymonster illustrates her point with pictures of actual lynchings of African Americans in the US.*****

Amanda Parmer's bizarre feats of self-promotion have been questionable at best and plain offensive at worst before now, but this is--I keep erasing what I was going to say here. I don't know what to say that encompasses how revolting this is, how lightly she takes a horrific and destructive part of both our past and our present, the systematic murder of African Americans because they demanded equality, the deliberate attempt to use murder as both a method of silencing and a warning.

Okay, just--what the fuck was that? I can't even tell how the hell that train of thought starts.

Go read sparkymonster for more information, links, and commentary.