The Institutional Gaslighting Has To Stop

It’s Week 46 of my writer’s group. Today, I’m supposed to be writing about my DREAM day… but I can’t, because I’m too upset by reality.

To catch anyone up who isn’t aware of our situation: Adam has been unemployed, caring for me and the kids since the week Gabrielle was born in April 2020. When he let HR know that I was being induced, within 24 hours, they fired him rather than giving him the paid paternity leave he had earned. Adam started collecting unemployment, which had a federal pandemic bump that kept us afloat. All unemployment benefits ended at the beginning of September. We are currently living off of our savings, WIC benefits, and less than $800/mo from SSDI.

So, October 26, we received letters from IDHS telling us that our kids were being moved to the Medicaid insurance plan that doesn’t actually pay for anything and that Adam has a spenddown of $150K before he gets any medical benefits. Of course, we’re also denied for SNAP. I’m denied Medicaid at all.  The notice of decision was dated August 8!  So, we received the notice after all possibility for appeal had passed.

Adam called and spoke with a manager who said that we told them that we have $150K in stocks (We don’t!), and that we missed the window for appeal.  Essentially, what happened was that someone on their side of things COMPLETELY FABRICATED A FORTUNE for us and used the fake fortune to deny us our social safety net — and then sent us the notice of denial at a time that was too late to take action against.

Like, the levels of abuse there are manifold: 

  1. Saying we said something we didn’t say in a document that has perjury standards in court.
  2. Denying us food and medical aid based on that fabrication,
  3. Letting us know we were denied a full month after it’s too late to address the problem.
  4. Admitting on the phone that someone must have made a typo, but there’s nothing that can be done.
  5. Telling us the best way to fix things is to apply again, as though someone’s not going to go right behind us and fabricate stuff later.

I want to say this loudly, so that everyone can hear my frustration: WE ARE BEING DENIED FOOD AND MEDICAL CARE BECAUSE SOMEONE MADE A TYPO — AND WERE TOLD THERE IS NOTHING WE CAN DO ABOUT IT OTHER THAN APPLY AGAIN.

THAT IS NOT OKAY.

If it were the first time that I was dealing with IDHS gaslighting in this specific way, I would just apply again and say, “Well, accidents happen!” But this sort of thing has happened more than once. I do not believe that it is an accident, and I wonder why no one has alerted the press. I wonder if I need to be that person.

In earlier years, I have helped my in-laws apply for assistance. Despite meticulous calculations, sending all documentation in hard copy, certified, with return receipt — we saw the same sort of shenanigans with them.  IDHS denied them medical help and SNAP while my father-in-law was dealing with lung cancer because they decided that, even though my in-laws reported over $1000 a month in medical expenses (Remember: Medicare can’t negotiate drug prices!), they had $0 in medical expenses. (Fabrication!) And, just like with us, the notices were not delivered by USPS in a timely manner and had NO TIME STAMP on the envelope on delivery day.

I have gotten to this point, as a person with a law degree who is suffering from chronic illness and poverty, where I wonder if there is any point even asking for help… Advocating for myself and others has become almost impossible because I don’t know how the people who are supposed to help are actually going to fuck us — I just know that they are.

I mean, my baby is on WIC (which gives us a small amount of food for her), and it just cost us more than $300 out of pocket to get her 18 month shots — shots that must happen for her to receive those WIC benefits or attend public school. (Someone make that make sense to me! If a shot is required for something that the public has mandated as necessary, like school, why on earth are we paying out of pocket for it?)

Anyway, my point in writing this isn’t to ask anybody to help us out or just to vent. We are doing well enough in this moment. We have our house. We own our car outright. We have food. We have a plan of attack for increasing future income. My point — my whole reason for writing this — is that healthy people believe that our social safety net both exists and is functioning properly. It is not.

I do not have a solution. I will apply for government help again and hope that this time, we are not victims of a corrupted system. Adam will continue to apply for work, as he has this whole time, and I will continue to do what I can online to involve us in Mutual Aid. We, as a family, will continue to do what we need to do to survive. It’s the only option. I just can’t do it quietly.

I suppose my dream day is one when we can trust our institutions to function as they were intended, for the betterment of us all.

2 thoughts on “The Institutional Gaslighting Has To Stop

  1. I just read this column right before bed. I am so upset and angry. Words cannot convey how upset I am for you and your family. I think you should get a lawyer. Daddy and I are here for you, Rae. Let’s talk tomorrow. We love you all!

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