Monthly Archives: March 2012

Scammed, Exploited & Bled Dry

I work with an elderly and/or disabled population. I grow more and more frustrated with our government’s tolerance of scams every day. The position that I have isn’t available to everyone. I work with 70 clients. The rural area in which I live has a large elderly population, so what about the others? Who helps them? I know what the answer SHOULD be–their family, but do we really see that anymore?

I want to share with you what I do, so you can know what things you can do for those who are elderly or are in a fragile state either mentally, physically, emotionally, etc. I also am going to list my top frustrations, so you can watch out for them for those in your life.

What do I do? I am a service coordinator.

What is a service coordinator? A service coordinator is someone who works with a specific population (generally low-income–mine are elderly and/or disabled) to assist them in gaining access to programs that may assist them in staying in their apartment for as long as they can safely do so alone or with assistance. The goal–to increase self-sufficiency and independence avoiding the need to go to a nursing facility.

Where do you find service coordinators? Well, we may be called different things in different locations, but mostly, you will find us in HUD subsidized, low-income housing apartment complexes; however, some locations have independent social workers who provide the same type of services as well–this is not typical.

Who benefits from such a program? Everyone. First of course, the client benefits from having someone who is able to assist them with identifying programs to help their very limited income to stretch, helps advocate for them if their family is not involved, and helps to fight off those who attempt to exploit them, which is a growing problem. Next, nursing facilities benefit. Nursing home facilities are beyond capacity which puts a strain not only on that system, but also on tax payers who assist in keeping many of them open. Finally, tax payers benefit from my position. In helping the resident remain self-sufficient and independent in their home, it helps to alleviate those stresses to the nursing facility, and we benefit in a reduction of tax dollars spent to house those who do not have a place to live and place pressure on hospitals and other medical providers.

Top frustrations. My top frustrations leave me asking the question, how do elderly or otherwise fragile people protect themselves from such things without immediate family assistance or someone who does the same type of work I do? I’m afraid the answer to that question is that they get exploited, abused, and scammed with government officials turning their head.

1. My all time frustration is automated phone systems that are so complicated to use that even someone with an advanced degree has to sit down and think their way through navigating the system. Now, once someone has reached a point where they don’t comprehend as quickly as they used to, using an automated phone system becomes an impossible task. I have had my clients sitting in my office with me after trying this on their own, and I call to sit laughing hysterically (in a crazy way not a funny way) at the result of our “following instructions.”

My all time favorite was the Georgia Department of Labor whose system had gone LOCO. Literally, they would respond in Spanish when I would spell an English name and choose English as our option. This is the kicker. THERE’S NO OTHER OPTION! You can’t speak to a representative, so what? You’re just not able to handle your business. This call took over an hour to make an address change or request a verification of income. To me, that is just ridiculous.

The IRS, oh you have to love them. I waited 45 minutes, no exaggeration, to speak with someone regarding a client’s account. While we were speaking, the call disconnected. I called back and had to wait ANOTHER 45 MINUTES! Once I received another operator, I asked if I could give them my phone number in the event we were disconnected again. Their answer? No, I would have to just call back. Guess what, the call was terminated AGAIN! We ended up just waiting for the IRS to send a written notice. Needless to say, I was a very angered taxpayer that day, AND my client felt their concern had not been resolved (indeed it had not been). I thought phone systems were supposed to make doing business…easier. (yeah…for who)

2. My next biggest frustration is legalese. When someone applies for a service like social security for example, why can’t they just get a letter than says, Congratulations, you got social security, or you did not get social security? Instead they get a multiple pages of legal speak. Blah, blah, blah…”I think it says you didn’t get social security, and if you want to appeal their response call this number (then see #1 of this frustration list).”

Medicaid works the same way. Lots of blah, blah, blah and the result is the client is completely confused and calls to ask their Medicaid worker what the document actually says. This is a great idea except for the fact that they seldom EVER answer their phone (except for one super great one here in my area–Buff–you know who you are). So what do they do? They can’t understand it. It’s literally like reading another language. Why can’t we tell lawyers that they need to write in plain English, and why can’t we get a “Press 1 for plain English” or “Press 2 if you’re a lawyer and prefer Klingon?” I have had clients in my office, crying, fearful they will lose their medical benefits when in reality, the document was actually good news. THAT’S JUST A SHAME! Why not hire a focus group to help you develop a plain, English form to use?! And before anyone starts writing me about people using Medicaid that shouldn’t, most of the people that I work with or am referring to with this post are people who need the assistance, AND Medicaid is a program you will be glad is around if you ever find yourself disabled.

3. My next frustration, SCAMMERS. I despise scammers. To me, you’re a pretty low, excuse for a human if you have to con someone who is elderly, fragile, or unable to defend themselves against you. Now, there are the jerks out there who pretend to be Medicare and make their documents look just like Medicare to get the client to sign up for some type of medical plan that they don’t need, could terminate their Medicare, or just charge Medicare for supplies the client doesn’t really need (this is fraudulent on the company’s behalf), but because the form appears important claiming they need to “respond by X date or you’ll lose this benefit,” the client follows the instructions for fear they will lose their medical coverage. This type of scam will impact Medicare as a whole (including future recipients because it drains the system).

Then there are the mega-jerks who are huge, companies like phone companies, cable companies, etc, who KNOW that they can sign someone up for maximum services without them saying anything about it because they think they HAVE to have it that way. Yes, those are the ones I end up on the phone with, door closed, vocal volume increased, and blood pressure elevated, saying, THIS SURE LOOKS LIKE YOU’RE TRYING TO SCAM SOMEONE TO ME! “Oh no, it’s not a scam. They said, ‘yes’ we have it recorded.” DEEP BREATH. My next question, “Are you recording THIS call for quality assurance?” “Yes, we are.” “Excellent, because if you don’t remove all of these unnecessary items from my client’s account, I will be in contact with CNN, NBC, ABC, FOX and everyone in between not to mention I will wage a personal social media campaign against you stating that you take advantage of those who are easy to exploit!” “Ma’am, we’ll be happy to take care of whatever the problem is and even roll back the charges.”

The Cold Hard Facts

Well reader, this is all well and fine, but when I hang up with this company, I have helped one person. One starfish. And yes, it made a difference to THAT ONE, but what about all of the others? What about your grandparents? Have you seen their phone bill? Are you sure they aren’t paying $60-70/mo, when they seldom EVER make a phone call? Are you sure they aren’t signed up for unlimited long distance when everyone lives on the same block or they never make a long distance call?

Are you sure they aren’t paying for internet service when they don’t even have a computer, and couldn’t turn one on if they did have one? If they do have internet and use the service, are you sure they are signed up for a level that is appropriate for them and not some super-server that needs mega download and upload speeds? What about cable? Do they watch the weather channel 24/7 and pay for full cable when they could save a lot of money signed up for only basic cable?

The Corporate Benefit

I know it doesn’t seem like much, but do you realize that over the course of a year, these types of overages can end up equaling over $1,000 or more dollars a year and that is a conservative number. For most low-income, that is more than they get in a month and in some cases, two months. Multiply that by the MILLIONS of elderly/disabled using the service. Calculating just 1 million elderly, that could add up to be over a billion dollars in overages–CONSERVATIVELY–because we know there are more than a million people who fight with this internationally.

This list can go on and on with every company they pay money to. Everyone needs someone who cares enough about them to say, “Hey, have you checked your bill lately to see if you have only the services you need? Or have you spoken with the company to see if they’ve reduced the cost of your plan–because they won’t tell you they did. You have to call them and ask for them to review it.”

Buyer Beware?

I’m all for capitalism, but I take issue with the “buyer beware” type mentality. Why can’t we be a society that says, “This is the service we provide. Let us ask you some questions to see what you need and no more.” Why do we have to be a people of leeches, sucking people dry just because they let us. To me, that is injustice. Now, I personally am able to look over my account and notice these things, but there are people who just don’t think the same way I do (and one day, my abilities may waiver). It’s not that they aren’t just as intelligent. It’s that they just don’t see things as obviously. Why should they be taken advantage of for that reason?

I save my clients money all the time by reviewing their bills and making suggestions for how they can save money. The population that I am speaking of will generally be living on less than $1,000/month. A lot of them will only get $697/month. Look at your mortgage. Now look back at their monthly living amount. I’m not asking for programs here. I’m asking for our legislators to give these people a chance to actually live on what they make. Ignoring these frustrations cause people to be confused and accept more service than they actually need. They might not need nearly as many programs if leeches wouldn’t bleed them dry.

What you can do

Have a family discussion about this topic. It’s good for everyone to be reminded to review their bills. Call your grandparents or those in your family who may have problems that would limit their ability to defend themselves against such tactics. CARE FOR THEM because the companies they owe money to most likely WON’T.

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3 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Applying

You know the drill. You’ve found a posting that you feel you’re qualified for, so you apply. You spiff up your resume, write a cover letter that is specific to this job, and submit all of the required documentation (sometimes more than they need to make an initial determination–but you digress and do it anyway). Click submit. Receive an automated email saying, “Thank you for your interest in our company. We will review your submission and get in touch with you if you fit our needs.”

TICK, TOCK. TICK, TOCK. Days pass. Weeks pass. Months pass. NOTHING! Multiply that by the hundreds of applications you have filed. How frustrating is that?! I wish I had a really cut and dry answer to “Should I even bother applying?” I have an answer, but it’s just not that simple.

Let’s take a look at 3 Questions I believe you should ask yourself before deciding to invest in a company’s application process.

1. Is the job in your immediate field?
Are you doing this very thing as we speak or at least did and have been laid off or lost your job because of a business closing. If Yes, APPLY. If No, consider the work invested in applying vs. the chances of selection and determine if it’s worth the time it consumes to apply (apply this No option to all the questions here).

2. Is the job within a reasonable commuting distance?
I haven’t worked in HR directly, but it seems logical that companies would want to hire those who are closest to them. There are just fewer issues that way. No need to even discuss relocation, differences in cost of living that require more negotiation on salary than they would typically have to provide, start dates that may change due to logistics–you get the idea.If Yes to 1 + 2, then APPLY. If Yes to 1, but not 2, APPLY if the job posting encourages potential relocation candidates.

3. Do you meet ALL of the requirements?
There was a time when you could apply for jobs with only 85% of the requirements and still be considered, but unless you are a national superstar in your field, chances are your having less than 100% of the required skills will eliminate you from consideration. You have to keep in mind that the employment pool is full of people with advanced degrees and specific experience. Do you really want to spend time applying for positions that you have to convince someone you would be a good fit for when the odds are stacked against you? Stick with those that you can say yes to. If Yes to 1+2+3, absolutely apply. If No, save it for the jobs that you do meet the requirements for.

Whatever you do, don’t forget to give your resume the attention that it needs before applying. Many will lose the opportunity to be considered simply because the resume doesn’t show you are the industry ready, local, candidate with 100% of the requirements. It truly is worth your investment to hire someone to write your resume together with you. Think about it, what is $250 compared to tens (in some cases hundreds) of thousands of $$ anyway.

Don’t undersell — Get the job

Wow! Have you ever been just going through life and weeks actually pass before you realize you haven’t posted to your blog? It seems impossible. It seems like I just posted. Please forgive me. I’ve obviously been very tied up with work.

I just finished a new Executive Resume job for someone in Oregon. Employment document preparation is something that is my niche. I never really considered that I would be referred to people across the country. I think it’s probably one of those tasks that most people hate to do because it’s difficult to promote yourself. I have learned by working with others that many people undersell themselves, which could be why employers choose the competition instead.

Since I’m writing about employment documentation, I’ll share on that topic today. Don’t look at a resume as a “proof of employment.” Most of the resumes I get look like a time card with a brief description. The purpose of a resume is to convince the employer that you are the best person for the position. If you’re applying for a marketing position, why would they care that you worked for Dunkin’ Donuts? unless of course you handled something related to marketing there. I advocate the use of an employment history tableImage where you would list each place you worked, the titles worked, and the start and ending date of employment; however, outside of how customers found you to be the most helpful on your job, I would most likely not even mention a position that doesn’t include duties that would directly relate to the position you are applying for. I wouldn’t completely disregard a position that seems unrelated either. Consider the microskills necessary to do the job.

Microskills

This may or may not be a “technical” term. It’s the way that I describe the things you are capable of doing that aren’t necessarily on a job description and aren’t obvious to those around you. It’s those things that you make look really easy. For example, you may be a killer organizer and your ability to organize (even in your mind) makes you the go-to person to get certain things done. No one really understands why they come to you for the work. They just know that you’re the one that is able to get it accomplished. That is a VERY important skill. Be sure to brag about it on  your resume. This is the area that most people undersell. Sometimes, it takes someone like me to pull this type of information out of you. If that is the case, then don’t hesitate to hire someone to write you a winning resume.

I’ll be happy to answer your questions about employment document preparation. What issues do you generally have when working on your resume?

A Nerd’s Celebration

ImageThere is only one thing a nerd loves better than learning–learning for FREE. As an absolute, total nerd myself, I can tell you that learning about this website totally got me excited!!

“A free world-class education for anyone anywhere. The Khan Academy is an organization on a mission. We’re a not-for-profit with the goal of changing education for the better by providing a free world-class education to anyone anywhere.

All of the site’s resources are available to anyone. It doesn’t matter if you are a student, teacher, home-schooler, principal, adult returning to the classroom after 20 years, or a friendly alien just trying to get a leg up in earthly biology. The Khan Academy’s materials and resources are available to you completely free of charge.” – from Khan Academy website>About Us

Wow, you should see all of the topics they have to choose from. I now know what I can do with any “extra” time that I have. haha, extra time….funny.

 

Wives Tales: Part 2 The Verdict

21 Weeks Gestation

In a previous post, I shared with you that friends of mine performed a “wives tale” gender test on me. This is the test that includes a needle on a string, and if the needle moves in a circle, it’s a girl. If the needle moves back and forth, it’s a boy. Their test predicted I was having a girl, while a former Army Ranger instinctively predicted a boy (and had not been wrong in at least 6 years).

Well, I went this past Friday for what is call the “Anatomy Sonogram.” This is when the ultrasound tech will identify all the body parts and check blood flow, count fingers and toes, etc. Our child wasn’t being shy at all apparently because as soon as she received the first image, she shared that we were having a boy. I was glad there was no hiding or guessing. It was obvious and clear according to her trained eye (as mine had NO idea what she was looking at without the little arrow. Hopefully, he’ll outgrow the need for that  arrow.)

21 Weeks Gestation

 

Also, as a follow up to the Googling post about Hertz (more specifically Carl Hertz), I thought I would update the sonogram photos to show the progression in growth since the last photo which was at 13 weeks gestation. The top left photo shows the profile of our son. It’s clear to see the eyes, nose and mouth. I am so proud! 🙂

Next to the right, we have a 3D image of our child with his right hand up by his face, his legs are pulled up in front of him and his left hand on the far side. In one version of this photo, it appears he may have been sucking his thumb, while this photo doesn’t show that as clearly. This is more than a mother merely showing excitement about an expectant child. The excitement that I feel is also about the advancement of science and technology that permits us to even see these images. How wonderful is that?! As a country, we do need to continue to focus on the areas of math, science and technology. Who knows what future images could produce.

Ultrasound conducted at Women’s Health Group of Brunswick, GA.

Growing things with brown thumbs

I have NEVER been able to grow anything in the past. I have tried. I even killed a cactus. Over watering, under watering or just totally forgetting the plant was there would lead to its demise. The joke around my house is that I could kill an artificial plant; however, since I have been expecting my first child, my attention has been focused a lot on growing things. I have been successful so far in growing a very active young man in my tummy, so I am going to turn my attention also to a small garden project this spring as I wait on the arrival of our much anticipated addition.

ImageI am going to start really small. I am going to do what is called “sowing seeds” in make shift greenhouses made of milk jugs. This gives the plant an opportunity to grow in colder temperatures (protecting them as we experience cold snaps approaching spring), and then I will transplant them into a small garden spot. I really enjoyed the post that I found on this project and wanted to share it with you. Perhaps you can try starting your own garden as well.

You can find the step-by-step instructions on making your own make shift greenhouses at A Garden for the House, from Kevin Lee Jacobs.

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