When Non-Profits Only Care About the Money

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On Facebook I shared a post about some tax changes that are being made to churches and non-profit institutions. The debate that started, made me think about my own experience working for a non-profit organization and I wanted to share a little bit of that here. For around 6 months or so, I worked for a non-profit religious hospital system. My job was to be one of the people in the emergency department who collected patient information (especially insurance information) and processed payments.

From the beginning, it was drilled into us that it was about the money. We were hounded to make sure we collected certain percentages of money from patients while they were still there in the building, whether they could afford it or not. We were encouraged to apply pressure to them to pay at least a percentage that day, regardless of their personal circumstances. Although patients could legally ask to be billed later, we were told to NEVER tell them that, and only offer that option if they brought it up first.

We were told bluntly that the hospital had to make sure to look like they were doing enough “public outreach” to keep their non-profit tax status, so when they did run public assistance programs we were told to advertise them when talking to patients. It became clear that they didn’t necessarily do programs for the poor because they CARED about them, it was so they could continue to get the tax breaks and other non-profit advantages. I heard so much negative talk there about Medicaid patients and the poor. I was also told flat out that the company was purposefully looking into opening more locations in areas where the people were more likely to pay, and closing locations where the populations were poorer.

One huge issue I had was that even when someone was brought to the ER and died, we were pressured to try to get money from their grieving relatives. More than once, those in charge actually chose not to tell family members that their loved one had passed away until AFTER we collected insurance information and copays/deductible payments. They would send us in, and we would know the family’s loved one was gone, but we were told to lie and pretend we knew nothing. This killed me to have to do. One time a lady begged me for information on her husband who was dead, and I couldn’t tell her anything. I also struggled to go up to a mother whose child has just tried to commit suicide and ask her for money. I felt like scum.

In the end, I couldn’t keep this job due to my own health issues, but I couldn’t have kept doing it with a clear conscience either.

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Weekend Life Update: Depression, Meditation, Politics

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I am currently experiencing a real downturn mood-wise, but I’m going to try to write a life update post anyhow. I tried to write a blog post yesterday, but was simply to depressed to complete it. Today I’m just going to sum up a few things that went on this last week, so hopefully, I will get something done today.

  • This past Wednesday, my husband and I tried out a new meditation group (new to us anyhow). I haven’t meditated in months at least, and it felt good to “get back in the saddle” so to say. Even though I don’t find that meditation is all that great at relieving my anxiety and depression symptoms overall, it does at least give me some perspective and allow me to step back a bit when I am feeling my worst and realize that it will pass if I just wait it out. That awareness is definitely beneficial to keeping myself on this earth when part of me wants to check out.
  • My blog post about not being a social media doormat really became popular! I guess many others struggle with all the bullies and haters that tend to hang out on popular social media platforms. Glad to see I’m not alone in this experience.
  • Today I am taking my bike and aerobics trampoline to sell them to a used sports equipment store. I have had to face the fact that I am not physically healthy enough to use them anymore and they are just taking up space. Hopefully someone else will get some use out of them. It is a bit depressing though to just give up.
  • I am so disgusted by American politics right now. I am disgusted with Trump. I am disgusted with his blindly loyal followers. I am disgusted by those on the left that display blatant hypocrisy and pretend to be “the opposition”, but are just as sold out to big money and corporation interests. I am disgusted by all the pointless warfare my country perpetuates. I am disgusted by the news media that twists everything and often outright lies.  I am disgusted by the lack of empathy many people have towards anyone who is different from them. I am disgusted by the fearmongering and scapegoating. I am disgusted that in the richest country on earth, Flint, MI still doesn’t have clean water, and much of Puerto Rico still doesn’t have power. I am disgusted that 40 million Americans don’t have health care and that 40% of the country can’t afford basic necessities like food and shelter. I am disgusted that conditions have deteriorated to the point that suicide rates have risen 30% since 1999. I am simply disgusted and feel powerless to help.

Social Security Disability Rant

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Ok, so I had another subject planned for today’s post, but I need to rant a bit, so I’ll save that topic for later. I hope you won’t mind listening to my frustration today.

So, I’m part of a group on Facebook for people with certain mental issues, and I have noticed many of the people in the group getting social security disability solely for those mental issues, which I happen to share. I am not upset that they got disability for their problems, but I can’t help but compare it to my own situation and feel angry at how I have been treated by the system.

I’ve been fighting for several years to try and get disability benefits, my worst conditions that affect my ability to work are: Bipolar Depression, Asperger’s, PTSD, social anxiety disorder, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, IBS, degenerative disc disease and bulging discs, chronic bronchitis/ear infections, and severe plantar fasciitis. ALL THAT and yet I am still fighting! It pisses me off because I know people who got it much quicker for SO MUCH LESS or just ONE of my conditions. And none of these conditions are light, even the last rejection letter from social security said the conditions are indeed severe…and yet I got turned down AGAIN? I have a plethora of medical evidence and have tried to follow medical advice to the letter. What more can I do???

I DO have an attorney (my 2nd actually), and I am now waiting for a court date, the 2nd time I will have to go to a hearing for this. The last judge I got had a record for barely approving anyone, which seems unfair in itself. How can it be a fair system when some judges approve a majority of people and other judges approve hardly anyone? Were it not for my husband, I would likely be homeless by now.

To make matters worse, one person in the Facebook group insinuated that plantar fasciitis and chronic ear infections/bronchitis aren’t severe enough to affect your ability to work long term. Well, I’ve had the plantar fasciitis for 15 YEARS. I’ve seen specialists, done meds, physical therapy, long-term steroid therapy, custom orthotics, cortisone shots, nothing helped. Doesn’t seem like it will magically get better at this point. It is so severe I have a noticeable limp and have almost passed out from the pain at times when I was forced to be on my feet for long periods of time.

As for the recurring infections, I’ve had chronic ear infections and bronchitis for many years, often getting up to six within a six month period. I’m now on my 3rd course of antibiotics this year (2018) for the chronic ear infections and bronchitis. Again, I’ve seen specialists, tried a host of medications and other treatments (both medical and alternative) and nothing has worked so far. The amount of antibiotics I have had to take has led to issues with antibiotics not working as well anymore, worsening IBS symptoms, and even episodes of MRSA, C Diff, and colitis which I had to be hospitalized for. These are not minor, fleeting problems.

To make matters worse, I have TRIED to work while fighting for disability. The last job I had (working only two days a week) I was let go from for missing work too much due to medical issues, most of which I was in the hospital or ER for, so they know I wasn’t just “faking”. I also tried being a greeter at Walmart, since it is about one of the only places that actually hires really disabled people and I couldn’t even do that due to my social anxiety, depression, and other health issues. I am not even fighting for welfare here, only the benefits I worked for over the years!

Flaking Out Due to Sickness

Yesterday I was supposed to go to therapy, but I was feeling really sick and ended up calling off. Whenever I have to do that, I always end up feeling bad, like it is my fault that I have these health problems and often have to cancel appointments or activities.

Honestly, nowadays I don’t even schedule much of anything outside of medical appointments because I would rather not plan anything than have to feel like I’m letting myself or others down if I’m too sick, depressed, or anxious to go. It really isn’t a fun way to live, and it frustrates me. I often feel like I’ve almost given up on living a normal life and that saddens me.

On the plus side, I am fortunate to have a supportive husband and still have a place to live and food to eat even though I am too sick to work a regular job. I really don’t know how people like me make it without support, especially since it can often take years to get any help from disability. If I had tons of money, I would spend it helping out those who are in similar predicaments, whether they struggle with autism, mental illness, physical illness, or a combination of all of the above like me.

A Few Words About Applying for Government Disability Benefits

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(The below was written out of simple outrage from what I have seen happen to fellow human beings who are genuinely too sick and weak to work, but are expected to wait years for any help from the government programs they have paid into all their lives. I am fortunate to have other resources to survive on while unable to work, but not everyone is so lucky. Many homeless you see on the streets are actually disabled veterans and citizens who deserve so much better…)

Applying for government benefits, even those you have worked for and earned yourself, can be a ridiculously long, complicated, and humiliating process BECAUSE they design it to be so. They want to break you down, make you give up, make you give in. They expect the sickest and weakest among us to jump through hurdles on command, knowing it is almost an impossibility unless there are others propping us up.

Honestly, I think they hope that you will die on your own before they have to do a damn thing. I can picture Uncle Sam with fingers crossed, hoping you buckle under the stress and poverty, or even end up taking your own life from the hopelessness and despair of feeling useless, discounted, and vilified by a media that touts how “easy” it is to fool the system and labels those who are disabled as leeches or lazy.

Apparently discrimination laws don’t apply to the government either, since they clearly indulge in age discrimination, something every lawyer will blatantly tell you up front. Even publicly, you can find legal representatives in the field explaining why you are simply fucked if you dare get too sick before age 35, 40, or even 50. So if you are a young adult or middle aged person struggling with a chronic illness or severe pain condition, you had better tell it to get lost and come back in 10 or 20 years. Yeah, that works. After all, young people aren’t allowed to be sick or disabled.

You know, it is really funny, that many of the same people who are so public about being pro-life are also always trying to cut social safety net programs like disability or make them harder to access. If they could, I think sometimes that the government would perform adult abortions on those too weak or sick to continue to prop up their sick, twisted system. Getting rid of us all would be so much easier, wouldn’t it?

Things I Don’t Understand about Income Inequality

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I know income inequality has become a sensitive issue somewhat with people on both sides arguing for their point of view. I don’t mind people having different feelings about the issue and what can or should be done about it. However, there are a few key things I just don’t get when it comes to the subject. I have heard many arguments that make absolutely no sense to me and would like to share my thoughts on them…

1) First off, I want to go ahead and tackle the elephant in the room when it comes to gender income inequality. I WILL NEVER understand why more women aren’t outraged at the politicians who fight against women making the same amount of money for the same exact work. The arguments I have heard from politicians who voted against this issue were weak at best. I do not see how paying women the same pay for the same exact work affects women who want more flexible schedules or who want to work part-time. You know, some men want flexible schedules and work part-time too….but that still has NOTHING to do with people getting the same pay for the same work and the same level of education, which is the real issue in the first place!

2) I have heard the argument many, many times that “people who flip burgers” shouldn’t expect to make a real living doing it. First off, let me say this argument tends to make people sound like real elitist jerks. Now, don’t get me wrong, I have no problem with people making more money for harder work or work that takes more education. That is fine, within reason. However, I truly believe that ANYONE who works a full time job should at least make enough for the absolute necessities (food, clothing, housing, health care). Yeah, maybe people who work entry level jobs can’t expect a whole lot more than that, but everyone should at least be able to survive and take care of their family if they are out working a full time job. By the way, I’ve had many different jobs over the years and some of the fast food restaurants I worked at were HARDER WORK than the variety of other jobs I have held, including those that are considered more skilled.

3) Why are the people who say that the poor are that way because they choose to be and are uneducated, often the very same people who do everything in their power to refuse help to those who want to pursue education but can’t afford it? If you truly believe that education is the way out of poverty, why vote for people who constantly cut funding for education in all its many capacities? If you believe education is the way out of the income inequality issue, then fund it! Realize that those living in poverty may not have access to the same educational funds you have. Loans of any kind are hard to get (and pay back) when your family lives in poverty. Also, many people struggle with the ridiculous interest on student loans even if they do manage to graduate and find a job in their field. I know this first hand since my husband has a Master’s Degree in education, landed a good job and still struggles to pay back his student loans (and we live exceptionally simple lives, I don’t even own a cell phone!).

Revolting against the misery of poverty

"The State Lottery Office (The Poor and Money)" watercolor painting by Vincent Van Gogh.
“The State Lottery Office (The Poor and Money)” watercolor painting by Vincent Van Gogh.

On social media and in real life, I hear a lot about how the poor “take advantage” of the system and how they “waste what they have” or are “just plain lazy”. Of course, these comments always seem to come from people who are at least close to middle class and have never once gone truly hungry, been homeless or lost everything they have through some cruel twist of fate. Having grown up in a mostly one-parent family that did accept government and charity assistance on occasion (even though my mother often worked MORE than full time), I see a different perspective.

I will admit that sometimes the things that the impoverished do may indeed contribute to their own problems, but often this is through ignorance or desperation. Often they make rash decisions based on immediate needs and not long-range goals…but that is because they are worried about survival right now and fighting for survival tends to occupy all your attention. When every day of your life is spent wondering how you will eat and find or keep shelter, there is not much energy left for self-help philosophies or economical posturing. Glimmers of hope might break through here or there (a better job, higher education, etc.), but often these desires are washed aside by the necessity of making it through this month, this week or even this day.

I will admit though that on occasion the impoverished may seem to purposefully waste money. Buying a lottery ticket, cigarettes, alcohol or junk food may seem like a huge waste when someone is down to their last dollar. So why do they do it? I think it is like Vincent Van Gogh once observed, they are attempting to “revolt against the misery” of poverty. They are laughing in the face of danger and saying that this miserable world isn’t going to steal every bit of enjoyment from them. It is not really wise, but it is an emotional reaction to a life that often seems to have no hope or end.

Perhaps it is for the same reason that so many employees (even those in low paying management positions) steal from the big, impersonal corporations they serve, even if all they take home is a box of ball point pens or a few rolls of toilet paper. I’m not saying stealing is right, but in the human mind, there is always the desire for the underdog to score a triumph (even a tiny one) over who they see as the big bully on the block. All of these seemingly poor decisions are really just a way for those who feel ignored and despised to give this unfair, greedy world the middle finger. A way to quietly rebel, even if no one notices.

I want to save the world…but I can’t. Not alone.

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I think I have a savior complex. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not delusional. I don’t think I’m Jesus Christ or anything like that (the whole being crucified thing honestly kind of freaks me out). However, in my mind I have this ridiculous idea that I have to save the world. Sometimes I think it is because I am overly sensitive (a bittersweet gift from my Asperger’s Syndrome). It could also be because I grew up in a generation where we were constantly told “you can change the world!” Or maybe it is the fault of a stranger who came up to me at a truck stop when I was around 12. The guy walked right up to me, handed me a $20 bill and told me “God has a very important plan for you. Make sure you fulfill it.” Weird encounters like that leave a mark.

Regardless of the reason behind it, I can’t just look away when I see children starving, animals abused, the earth destroyed or people being cruel to one another…regardless of where it takes place in the world. There is this driving voice in my head that continually tells me that things have to change and that I need to be actively working on changing them. I feel a sense of urgency, like more is at stake than I even realize. Sometimes this drives me crazy. I feel like I should always be doing more. I should be feeding the poor. I should be saving the animals. I should be fighting against the mere appearance of injustice and prejudice. It is almost like a compulsion, with the voice in my head always shouting, “Do more! Do more! Do more!”

Sometimes I wonder if other people feel this. I like to think they do, but when I look around I don’t see that. Instead, it seems like most people are caught up in their daily lives and in being entertained or distracted from reality. Maybe that is why I feel so heavily that I need to do more all the time, that it all “depends on me”. Because many others just don’t seem to care. Perhaps I feel like I have to do enough for me and all of them too in order to really make this world better.

However, I know that I can’t do it all. I am just one person in a sea of humanity. I have few material or physical assets. I have health problems that limit what I can do. I can’t drive more than about 20 minutes away from home without getting lost. I am a woman, and as such, often seen as some kind of “inferior” being. Doesn’t seem like I have much of a chance of saving the world, huh? However, I keep doing what little I can do. Speaking out about things that matter to me. Looking for little opportunities to lend a hand or show kindness. Drawing attention to things that many people would rather not see. Trying to shine my little bit of light on this often dark world. Hoping that others will join me and shine their light as well. Alone, I am little more than a spark, but together, we could brighten the world tremendously.

Picking on the poor in the name of Christ

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Over the years I have heard some of my fellow Christians say truly awful things about the poor, the disabled and the needy. In one conversation a fellow Christian declared that the poor “deserve to be poor” and almost always cause their own problems. I have heard similar sentiments from other Christians that almost always make me want to wince in discomfort.

I have also heard fellow Christians (and Fox News) say repeatedly that most people on disability are able to work and are just lazy people who want to rely on the government. I’m sure if they knew firsthand how hard it is to get disability, how long it takes and how worthless and depressed many disabled people feel when unable to work, they might change their minds. If they went through it themselves or someone else in their immediate family needed those services, you can almost guarantee their opinion might change. I would say the same for other services for the poor, such as food stamps and Medicaid.

When I hear negative comments about the poor and disabled from anyone in the Christian community, I can’t help but think of these verses:

“He who oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God.” Proverbs 14:31.

“If a man shuts his ears to the cry of the poor, he too will cry out and not be answered.” Proverbs 21:13

“Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed. Rescue the weak and needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.” Psalm 82:3-4

“Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the alien or the poor. In your hearts do not think evil of each other.” Zechariah 7:10 (The word “alien” in this also makes me think about our treatment of immigrants – legal or otherwise).

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’ Matthew 25:37-40

“Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” Mark 10:21 (Jesus commanded this kind of extreme sacrifice and yet we balk at helping the poor in even small ways?)

“Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys.” Luke 12:33 (I’m sensing that Jesus really wasn’t a materialistic guy and didn’t want his followers to be either. Could be wrong there, but I definitely get that feeling.)