Those in Michigan who need food assistance and healthcare are increasingly facing obstacles from the State of Michigan. I am one case in point. Around 2009/2010, I applied for food stamps myself. The Department of Human Services (DHS) kept giving me the runaround requesting paperwork I had already sent them. Only after I had a letter to the editor published in the Lansing State Journal about the issue, did DHS approve my food assistance.
In December 2016, the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) asked me to fill out redetermination paperwork and to conduct a phone interview with DHHS in December 2016. The next thing I know, DHHS cut off my food stamps and Medicaid, because they said I didn’t return some paperwork. When I asked what paperwork I didn’t return, my caseworker said he needed my taxes from the previous year, which they had not asked for. I’m not psychic. If they don’t ask for something, I cannot provide it. Once he told me what was needed, I provided it and was quickly approved again for food stamps and Medicaid.
In December, DHHS informed me that starting January 2017, those on food stamps would have to do community service hours to continue to receive them. They said I must attend orientation at Michigan Works — which was not to be held until mid-January — in order to learn about it. Michigan Works stated during the presentation that since orientation was in the middle of the month, DHHS would probably accept doing half the amount of required hours for the month. He did state he didn’t know for sure. It made sense and would be the fair, logical hypothesis. I am required to do 21 hours per month. I did 11 for the second half of January 2017. DHHS did not accept my hours.
In February 2017, I did 34 community service hours, which is well over the required 21 hours. I submitted my hours to Michigan Works as required. DHHS sent me a letter stating I did not do them. When I received the letter, I immediately submitted the hours directly to my DHHS caseworker, Rishard Thomas, via fax. Still, DHHS would not accept or even acknowledge that I did the hours. No explanation was given.
There was absolutely no reason not to accept February’s community service hours.
I e-mailed the governor’s office repeatedly about DHHS not accepting my hours. The governor’s office kept ignoring me until I e-mailed Governor Synder’s chief of staff. At that point, the governor’s office sent me e-mails stating that DHHS had talked to me on the phone about my complaint, which is not true. The governor’s office stated there was nothing more they could do. They didn’t care that I had proof of my hours for February. They didn’t care if DHHS played by the rules or not. Shockingly, the governor’s office said they would not reply to any more of my e-mails.
I used to work for the Michigan House of Representatives. I worked on constituent casework on issues such as food stamps. It’s not that difficult. I can tell you the governor’s office did a very poor, unprofessional, job with my case. The governor’s office could have easily asked DHHS to review the proof of my 34 hours.
Leann Foote, the District Manager for Oakland County DHHS, sent an internal e-mail, which I obtained through a FOIA request, on March 21, 2017 to a co-worker stating, “Mr. McMullin can be a difficult customer to work with…” I’m being a “difficult customer”, because I met DHHS’ requirements, was denied and want to know why I was denied? Foote goes on to say, “Mr. McMullin has not [met] TLFA countable hours for work, community service, or MWA participation requirements.” I did 13 more hours than required, actually, for the month of February.
After I filed complaints with my state representative, state senator, governor’s office, the director of DHHS, and the USDA; DHHS finally indicated on April 6, 2017 that they accepted my community service hours for February. DHHS’ April 6th e-mail to me stated, “The hours you reported for the month of February have been recorded and it shows that you met the requirements for the month.”
It shouldn’t take all of this constant hassle for those in need to receive food assistance.
Maybe the governor’s office or DHHS should hire me. I’ve been applying for jobs with the State since I graduated with my first degree in 2004. I’m educated and a hard worker. It sounds like the State could use a competent worker in the executive branch and DHHS.
It’s time for change at DHHS.
Image of EBT card courtesy of http://www.michigan.gov/mdhhs/0,5885,7-339-71551_7034—,00.html