Commentary - What is county government willing to do?It’s been said that the third biggest lie in our country is, “I’m from the government and I’m here to help.” How sad; yet sometimes, how true.
By Allen L. Senstad, Alexandria, MN
It’s been said that the third biggest lie in our country is, “I’m from the government and I’m here to help.” How sad; yet sometimes, how true.
My son has a disability. The laws of our state and our nation were designed to protect these individuals; to ensure that they, too, were entitled to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” One of those rights is the right to receive necessary medical care, and transportation to and from medical facilities.
I’ve been helping my son by filling out forms for medical care and reimbursement for 11 years. This past November, I filled out a reimbursement form, just as I have for many years. Since I had surgery in November, I was out of action for several weeks and assumed my family received a check. I continued to fill out reimbursement forms in January and February, and waited for over a month without getting reimbursements.
Most people with disabilities need to see specialists that work out of town. The trips can be time consuming and expensive.
When I didn’t see a check, I called our financial worker to see what was up. It turns out, Douglas County Social Services had changed their policy effective October 1, 2011. They decided they wanted to pre-approve all reimbursement requests. While that may seem reasonable, it actually increased labor costs. Before, a worker could simply review the request when submitted and approve it or deny it. Now, employees take time to review every request before it happens, and again after the written request for reimbursement is submitted. In essence, they just doubled the tax dollars we pay on paperwork.
What’s really upsetting is what they did not do. You see, they never told anyone in my family that Douglas County was denying my son his benefits because they hadn’t received prior approval. Notice of a denial was the practice before the new policy. Now, they can afford to double the time spent on paperwork, but can’t take the time to notify me as to why his claim was denied. I wonder how many other families are being denied benefits without being told.
If they have the time to double-check requests for reimbursement, they certainly should have the time to tell me if a request is denied. They certainly had the time prior to their new policy. The only reason I can determine for not notifying someone that they’ve been denied reimbursement is to try and continue to deprive them of the benefits our laws mandate. In other words, to cheat them.
They have certainly attempted to do that in Matt’s case. That case is currently working its way through the appeal process. However, the process is time-consuming and confusing. How many other families have been secretly denied benefits and couldn’t afford to challenge the county’s behavior?
To cheat anyone is reprehensible. To do it to someone with a disability is worse.
This isn’t mandated by law. This is Douglas County’s own brain child. Your county commissioner is the one who sets these policies as a member of the County Welfare Board. This raises a final question: If our county government is willing to cheat people with disabilities of their legal rights, what are they willing to do to you and me?