To Comfort The Afflicted
And Afflict The Comfortable

To Comfort The Afflicted And Afflict The Comfortable

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

#GivingTuesday                               Observercast

The Real Grinch Who Stole Christmas From Low-Income, Working Class Seniors

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BY FANNIE BATES

I think the Trump Administration is going all out to squeeze money out of the poor to pay for his tax cuts. As always, he shows no compunction about gouging the most poor and vulnerable [nor the most admirable] in our society.

The Social Security Administration sent out notices dated Nov. 6 that the state of Texas was not paying our Medicare Part B for low-income senior citizens after the month of September 2018. This is a bit confusing, since the checks for September went out in October.

Keep in mind that the checks for the previous month go out on the first and the third day of each month, so the checks for October had already been issued on Nov. 1 and 3, before those form letters went out. Those November checks included the payments from the state of Texas for our Medicare Part B.

It was up to the Social Security Administration and the state of Texas to coordinate their activities so that the notices went out in advance of any actions that were to be taken. This was 100% their responsibility. We, the low-income, senior citizen, retired workers who are the victims of this debacle, were not participants in this scenario in any way.

At any rate, thesState of Texas has every right to pay our Medicare Part B if it wants to, and I aver that neither the Social Security Administration nor the state of Texas has the right to pay these fees for us, then take the money back.

We did not ask for this money. The state of Texas offered it to us as a gift.

The payment [which I assume] Texas made for us in November was for our Medicare Part B in October 2018. This makes sense, since we had not been notified that Texas was no longer going to pay our Medicare Part B for us [and I question whether Texas had been notified of the timeline set out by the Social Security Administration, or whether the timeline set our by the Social Security Administration was consistent with all state and federal laws.]

So in December, the Social Security Administration collected the money that they had paid for us in November without ever properly notifying us of an “overpayment” or giving us a right to appeal. We had not made any mistake and we were not given any realistic opportunity to appeal this decision prior to having this money arbitrarily taken from our checks [since nobody actually explained to us with any clarity what was happening].

Two months of Medicare Part B was an arbitrary amount to take out of every low-income person’s Social Security check without making any determination about whether this was an onerous and unconscionable burden on the individual.

We, the working-class, low-income, senior citizens of Texas, were the only ones punished by this action. The Texas senior citizens who receive “Supplemental Security Income” [welfare] still received their full checks [which they did not work to get]. In tens of thousands of cases, they received more than we did for December, the first month of winter 2018.

None of us were ever told exactly how much was being taken out or for what time period. The notice we received was inadequate. It was difficult to appeal because we did not understand what we were appealing.

We were not told whether any additional fees were being charged.

If we have an overpayment to pay back, we are supposed to have appeal rights. The exact amount for the overpayment and the exact cause of the overpayment are supposed to be spelled out in clear terms. In this case, we had not been overpaid. The Social Security government took money from us on Dec. 3 that we did not owe, placing tens of thousands of us in dire need.

If this money is being taken out to help pay for tax cuts that don’t start until January, why are we being expected to give up our benefits in October for September? Does Texas state law say we have to do this, or was this an arbitrary mandate established by Trump’s Social Security Administration?

Keep in mind: This is not some benefit that we went down to some agency and applied for. The state of Texas decided to give this benefit to us because we were workers who had earned our living at low-wage jobs and we are now low-income senior-citizens retirees living on very low, fixed incomes. We did not fill out applications for this benefit. We simply received notices in the mail that the state of Texas wanted to do this for us. This was a policy decision on their part.

It is very likely that the Legislature saw that there were many people who had never worked who were getting more money from the state than many of us [like me] who had worked all of their lives at low-paying jobs. They had wanted to reward people who chose to work all of their lives rather than to sit at home and draw benefits, so they had designed this benefit especially for us.

I am not convinced that Trump’s Administration understands how our government works. When people [like me] are falling through the cracks, there is supposed to be a safety net to catch us, and there is a safety net to catch us. There are government agencies that are going to come forward and help us get through the month of December.

Some of us will probably die because of this. The ones who will die will be the ones who are extremely vulnerable. The ones who have cancer, like me. The ones with diabetes who need to eat properly every day to keep their disease under control. However, most of our huge group will survive because of the safety net that has been put into place over the years. And Trump’s Administration will not save one dime by stripping hundreds of thousands of low-income, proud, Americans of the one thing we had that said, “We did our part.”

I was found to be disabled at the age of 17, but I didn’t let that stop me from working. Every time I lost a job, I got my clothes ready to go job hunting, and the next morning, I hit the pavement, even if I had to walk, and I didn’t stop until I found a job.

When I worked at Chaves County Home Health, I walked three miles to work every day for $5 an hour. I practiced smiling as I walked because I did not want people to think I was distressed in any way. I was glad to have a job. I was thankful to be able to do my part in providing loving, competent care for people who needed it.

I want to thank the Texas Legislature for giving us this special benefit. I was so thrilled when I moved to Texas and learned that Texas was paying for our Medicare Part B for us. It was good while it lasted.

President Trump will soon learn that there are hundreds of wonderful agencies, most of which receive funding from the federal government, from which we are all eligible for emergency assistance. So the federal government is still going to do a great deal to try to help all of us survive this long December. If we make it through December, we’ll be fine.

All of us cancer patients who are in this group are at extreme risk. Elderly cancer patients have lowered resistance to disease. We need a warm, peaceful, predictable environment. We need a shower seat in a warm bathroom where we can take a bath. We need safety bars so we won’t fall down. We need a safe way to get to chemo, radiation, physical therapy, five different doctors, the lab and the pharmacy. What we need to survive costs more than $563 per month.

If I die because of this, deliver my casket to the entrance to the White House. Let Trump figure out what to do with me.

Before it was called America, my ancestors called this humongous land Turtle Island. It was a vast land where people were judged, not by where they came from or the color of their eyes, but by character alone. It was a matriarchal society before it became a patriarchal society.

This is not Trump’s America. This is our America. This is our Turtle Island. We are fighting our way through this oligarchal period perhaps back to the matriarchal democracies from whence we came.

The mistake made by our “forefathers” was starting over. They should have incorporated the matriarchal democracies of the indigenous tribes into their governmental design. We are the builders, the plumbers, the cooks, the teachers, the painters, the horse trainers, of Turtle Island. We were set back by their lack of vision. Still, our honor and our determination trump Trump’s showmanship every time.

I am reminded of the song by Merle Haggard, If We Make It Through December:

If we make it through December
Everythings gonna be all right I know
It’s the coldest time of winter
And I shiver when I see the fallin’ snow

I know I don’t have to ask y’all to help us, because it is in your blood.

We don’t just have a governmental safety net. We also have a human safety net. Texans and Okies may be fierce rivals on the field, but when winter comes and there are people in need, we are bound together by our common creed. We are all willing and ready to share anything and everything that is needed. The problem is that a lot of the people who will be suffering this winter are too proud to admit it. That is why I had to write this letter.

Oklahoma native Fannie Bates, 69, now lives in Fort Worth where she is a full-time volunteer teaching Afghan students