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 The attempts at Cross stitch did not go well, but I am not too upset by their failure. I suspected my lack of coordination might be an issue for this particular task.  It’s probably more useful right now to continue my attempts to learn additional Spanish at least. (Duolingo says that I am still at 51%.)  There’s also that project that’s been on the back burner that I should really complete. It won’t take too long if I can just bring myself to do the editing. I am, unsurprisingly, lacking the motivation for the last part.  I’ve also noticed that Udacity has added an Android development course. I may pick that up if my language studies come to a satisfactory point that lets me rest a bit.  Even though things have not improved much, I am still in a good mood.  Things are stable for now.  Now, there’s the issue of the housemate suggesting I should check into my options in Pennsylvania, but that is six months away. For now, I have time to deal with this.  It may be time to look into getting the van back on the road and taking the chance to get the Hell out of Indiana. 

I am still grateful for having had the chance to live here for three years.  I have a wonderful friend and I have met interesting people.   I’ve even settled in a bit and gotten used to the ways of the Hoosier. I will even miss establishments like Steak ‘n Shake if I should leave the Midwest behind.   However, given how much I’ve complained about how this state has treated people in my situation, I doubt I’ll miss it that much.

Nothing is certain yet, and there may even be a way out of the particular situation, although it will not be through me getting disability. I still have yet to hear back from the Indiana Vocational Rehabilitation office, and the housemate has been doing a bit more earnest job searching. I’ve even suggested she return as an adjunct professor to the Indiana Vocational Technical College, or IVY Tech. I hope this works out for her. I hope she can find the CNC job she wants as well.

I cannot prove it, but I have a bit more than a vague feeling that things are starting to get better. Now, if  there would just be some actual change in circumstances that backs up my faith.

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I still listen to Rush Limbaugh.  In the past, I faithfully listened to the entire program. Now, I turn him off when he goes on some ridiculous rant or goes on at length about some point my real-life experience has taught me he is wrong about. Lately, he's been lamenting the fact that so many Americans are not working, even though they are still able to eat. He sees this as a bad because it does not encourage people to look for work. Like many Conservative commentators, he drones on about the poor labor force participation rate. Limbaugh never says that these people are too lazy to look for jobs, although this is the unspoken assumption. The truth is far more complicated.

The decreasing unemployment numbers do have to do with the number of Americans who have given up or who are no longer on unemployment or similar programs. Someone who falls off of the unemployment rolls because they have given up longer for work does not count against the statistics. Some, perhaps, have given up because they are lazy and do not want to work. Most people simply cannot find a job. Republican legislators, including the Republican governor of Indiana, seem to think that forcing people into job search programs will increase the labor force participation rate, or that involuntary self-directed job search programs will give the people they skills they need to maintain employment.

These are popular talking points among the Republican-controlled legislature of the Hoosier State, but they ignore the reality. The talking points reinforce the stereotypes that poor people are lazy and morally deficient. Their constituency loves this message and continues to vote them into office. Meantime, the actual statistics are ignored. Indiana has 20 counties that have unusually high rates of poverty, and Vigo County has the third highest poverty rate in the state. (This is something I learned from members of the Vigo County School board.)

As even the Deseret News pointed out, if someone wants the workfare programs to be useful, they need to provide incentives to both the participants and the companies who run these programs to find people jobs. Otherwise, the only thing that will change is forcing people off of the SNAP program. If that and reinforcing the image of the state as being hard-working is the only thing that matters, then the welfare reform programs in the United States have succeeded in their goal. If their goal is to get fewer people to eat or to depend more on food pantries, Pence is succeeding in his goal.

Pence thinks the IMPACT program targets able-bodied adults without dependents. It even says it in the program description. Political paperwork, however, seldom matches reality. People with severe depression, suffering from other mental illnesses, or people using canes or crutches frequently find their way into this program. The people in the program are expected to get notes from their doctors, which they may not be able to get if they do not have health insurance.Pence wants Hoosiers to have skin in the game. Neither he nor the people who use this phrase have any idea what this phrase means. If he means having a stake in it, I already do. I paid sales taxes and Indiana state income taxes this year.

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 I have learned that there is a word for the type of program I and others have been forced into. It’s called workfare, and the idea started, as many of these terrible ideas do, in the United States. It started the idea that people on welfare are caught in a cycle of dependency caused by moral deficiency, and the only way to correct this is to enforce ethical behavior upon them. Of course, no one in the United States is all that concerned about workfare programs or their effectiveness or lack thereof, but similar programs have been tried in the United Kingdom. The most recent example resulted in the deaths of hundreds of people.  The ministry responsible for administering these programs denied it at first, but since had to admit that some of their overreaching policies had caused these deaths.

If similar statistics occurred in the United States, no one has tracked them. I do know plenty of people who are as bas or worse than I am who have been force into these programs because it’s the client’s responsibility to report the changes to the state agency that administers these programs.   They are not forced into work assessment tests, unlike what seems to be happening in Great Britain. However, I did see one article that said that these programs count success by the number of people who go off of the welfare rolls, not by how many people who actually find work through these programs.  Many of the cities that tried these programs saw an increase in homelessness. The only exception to this rule was, oddly enough, Indianapolis. Indianapolis’s program had one key difference from the IMPACT program that later replaced it, the contract the workfare agencies had with the city paid the agency based on its successes, and success was defined by placing people into a job that met certain wage requirements.  When the state replaced Indy’s program with IMPACT, the statistics became comparable to other cities of its size.

No one in the United States seems to be concerned about people with disabilities who are forced into the program.  The Puritan work ethic, which continues to damage this country in so many ways continues. If a person cannot get out of the program, most people assume that they are faking a disability.   Sometimes even if a person can get out of the program, people assume they are still faking and just looking for a way to game the system.

I once subscribed to the attitudes held above. I might still resent being forced into a workfare program, but I would acknowledge that they are trying to help me and get me to the point where I want to be. If I’m honest, I will say that I’d still like to be there. My reality, however, is different. I know what my limits are.  Almost every single entry-level job requires me to stand for long periods of time. I cannot do that right now.   I’ve even been told to lay off driving, but I cannot do that as long as I have to stay in a workfare program, look for work and go to interviews. No one seems to think that the requirements of these programs make certain illnesses or conditions worse.  Even if the people who run them do realize this, they seldom care.

At this point, I cannot help but think that Workfare programs exist to give middle class people who could finish college government jobs and to give politicians something to point to and say, “Look at how many people this program got off of welfare.” The fact that the need for food pantries has gone up, that an increased number of people are homeless, and that -- at least in Great Britain – there are documented deaths caused by these programs has not caused any politician to rethink the idea of workfare.

http://www.nytimes.com/1997/06/24/nyregion/woman-s-death-prompts-concerns-over-workfare.html

Workfare Death List UK

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 I am going through several emotions. First, I feel happy, although I'm not sure why. I’m  feeling a sense of relief know that I have a satisfactory answer about why I’ve had ankle problems since I was a child. The third bit comes from an annoyance with the job search program. Yet another part of me feels the need to ask what boundaries are in a social context so I can avoid crossing them.

As for the feeling good, I know to enjoy these moments why they last. They will be gone soon enough, especially with the start of fall only weeks away.  I’m not looking forward to it exactly, but I expect it will be slightly easier this time around.  The colder months of the year will not be pleasant, but this time I know what to expect from them. As for the obsession, I know it will pass eventually. It does make me wonder if other joints might be similarly affected, however.

Yesterday’s interview ended quickly when I said that I could not stand for an entire shift.  I expect if I’m just as honest about my health problems that today’s interview will go the same way. If I can’t get factory work because of my condition, I should not expect to get work in a restaurant, either.  Employers aren’t going to make accommodations for a new employee if they do not have to do so.

It’s going to be a long day, and I’m woefully unprepared for it.  I hope the paperwork from my doctor’s office that will exempt me from IMPACT has shown up today. I meet with the caseworker sometime after the interview for Fuddruckers. I do not know what has caused the delay, but it should have been received and processed by now.

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I don't know if IMPACT considers this, but if these appointments are necessary to get me back to a point where I can accept a job, if such a thing is possible, I think they should count. I'll have two doctor's appointments, a therapist appointment, and an appointment with a a physical therapist this week, which will probably take up about 5 hours total if you include travel times, which in Terre Haute almost always include getting stuck behind a train once in a while.  This twenty hours a week thing is forcing me to spend spoons that could be better spent elsewhere.
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 I am in a good mood today. It’s strange to be in a good mood because the severity of a bad situation is lessening. (Yes, I know others have it worse, but this is my blog.  They can contact me if they wish to post about their situation here, but this blog has a small readership.)  Why are things getting slightly better?   First, it looks like I’ll be able to get out of Indiana’s Manpower and Comprehensive Training Program.  At the moment, all I have to say is good riddance.  My HIP Plus plan premium was lowered to one dollar, because I got reclassified as medically frail in June. (I’m not sure how this happened, nor am I too happy about it.  It's just a minor thing.)  Plus, today is also International Left-hander’s Day.

Now if only the disability claim would move faster than it seems to be.

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 I have not wanted to complain about how unfair life is since High School, if I recall correctly.  This past year, however, has made me want to cry out to the heavens accusing some higher power of picking on me. Being forced out of my job for a condition over which I had no control, and later being forced into a work program because the state didn’t know about the condition has soured my mood general. Few things have gone well this year, but as I write this, I have to wonder how many other people have been forced into the same situation.

A number of conservative friends and relatives post about the moochers or about how people who have not earned their benefits should just get a job. One person even suggested cutting the meager benefits such people get in order to pay for Veteran’s benefits.  No one wants to cut Veteran’s benefits, but she assumes that people getting benefits either haven’t earned them or would not love to be off of them. Most people receiving food stamps – who are generally working – would love to not need them to get by. They work and their tax dollars help support the SNAP program. 

The people who are targeted the most by the programs designed to get the people described as  moochers off of these programs generally target a category of people known as able-bodied adults without dependents.  Indiana’s most recent change to its SNAP program forces people they have identified into a work program. The program only offers gas cards or job passes and job leads. It can also place someone into a Community Work Experience Program, which is unpaid. Somehow forcing someone to do free labor for a private firm or organization counts as helping people find a full-time job.

Perhaps I would be less annoyed if I were not forced into such a program myself. A few years ago, I would have applauded these programs for getting people off of welfare, but these programs are based on the idea that people who get benefits too long are lazy. Indiana assumes that its economy is booming, and the Republican-controlled legislature is rolling back expansions of some of the safety net programs. Many Red States are enacting similar regressive reforms. Perhaps I resent this program even more because I lost my job through no fault of my own.

The letter telling me I would be inducted into the job search program, called IMPACT, was followed up with a letter informing me of the orientation session.  When I went to the orientation session, I got the immediate sense that someone made a huge mistake, and it might have been me. I couldn’t help but feel sorry for the people who just got out of prison and were forced into the same program. However, when they tried to come up with a plan for me, the person who tried to come up with my plan informed me that I could apply for jobs and it would not be held against me if I couldn’t do them. Rather than telling me how to get around this particular issue, she probably should have told me more about how to get out of this program.

(Note to self: Get doctor's note to get out of this program.)


Editing notes:
 Moochers probably should be changed.
 

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 I woke up this morning and went through my usual morning routine. As I stepped out of the shower, I remembered I intended to look for work today.  I got the best looking clothes I still have, got dressed, applied deodorant, brushed my teeth, removed the rat’s nests from my curly hair, and then looked at the tube of foundation on the counter. As I looked at it, I thought, “Why don’t employment programs that help people look for work by providing clothing also help with cosmetics?”

Now, I might not have thought this at all if it weren’t for the zero dollars per week I can pull in reliably right now. I might also have thought how much I resent being forced to look for work because the People’s Republic of Hoosierdom has decided I qualify as an able-bodied adult without dependents. These are separate issues.  Wearing makeup is part of looking professional for women.  Poor women may have just as many problems purchasing cosmetics as they do purchasing suitable clothing.  Yet the system assumes that women only need what men need when they apply for a job or go to an interview.

Professional expectations are inherently sexist, but it seems that the programs designed to help people get employment would take this difference between genders into account. Those programs with which I am familiar do not provide such assistance.

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I got the mail when I came back from a minor grocery shopping trip today. As I went through the mail box, I found a letter from the Indiana Department of Workforce Development and a letter from the Family and Social Services Administration. I did not know why the latter agency contacted me, but I did not expect the former one to have good news for me. I opened the letter without optimism after I put away the groceries.

It was not good news. It said that I could not get unemployment because I was not able and available. It included a penalty date, but it did not say when the penalty period would end. I assume this means it is an indefinite period, which means I am now stuck in the limbo of the disability system.

I would have been understandably upset at this letter, even though I expected this outcome. The other letter, however, added further insult. It was letting me know an IMPACT (Indiana Manpower and Comprehensive Training) session had been scheduled for me. I really want to cancel this because it’s a mistake, but I can’t afford to lose food stamp benefits right now.

I really wish life would just let up on me right now, rather than throwing one thing after another. It’d be nice if something happened that would make the current situation easier. And I seem to be losing appetite, another sign of depression. (Of course, one of my ways of dealing with depression is overeating, which isn’t good.)


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 The state of Indiana continues to be helpful with my current situation. I set out this morning to apply for the Lifeline program, to go to the Work One office to see if I could figure out what was going on, and I had to stop at the Division of Family Resources building to clear up something with my SNAP claim. I did not intend to do the last item, but I found out they had canceled my food stamp claim on the phone earlier this morning.

 The SNAP issue was resolved quickly.  The workers figured it was some sort of common SNAFU with the main office in Marion County, who probably didn’t bother to read the official separation e-mail I sent them. It’s one less worry at least.

 Next, I went to the Catholic Charities building, which usually has a sign outside advertising the SafeLink program. No one put the sign out today, so I will have to wait for another time to use that method. This was a minor setback, and I can apply for the program online.

 With that out of the way, I set out for the Workforce building to see if there was anything that could be done with my unemployment claim.  I found out that it was still waiting available because I quit for medical reasons. I was told the process could take up to ten weeks, and there was no guarantee I would be approved. The worker still said I had to keep filing until the decision is made. (This does not make sense to me, but it just seems to be one of the hoops I have to jump through.)

 I wish I knew more about how to navigate this state’s systems, but it seems there are frustrations at every turn. Now it’s time rest and to recover the energy spent this morning.  Then, I can go on to doing dishes and baking bread.

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The State of Indiana realizes that anyone may develop a chronic illness that affects an individual's ability to work. If this happens to you, the  Family and Social Services Administration is ready to provide the tools such individuals need. The state legislature developed the following safety net programs for people who do not qualify for unemployment, TANF, or other safety nets . The following document provides the resources that Hoosiers disabled by chronic illness need to continue living.   Indiana residents can choose from one of three options: mooching off of friends or relatives, living on the streets and begging, or becoming a meth dealer.
 
Mooching Off  of Friends or Relatives
 
If you have friends or relatives willing to take you in, the Family and Social Services Administration recommends this option. Mooching off of friends or relatives places no additional burden on the taxpayers, does not increase the rate of homelessness in the state’s urban areas,  and does not violate Indiana code.   We recommend that you have rich relatives or a large family to support you for an indeterminate amount of time. Having a large family increases the chances that you will survive until social security disability payments start.  After alienating a relative or friend, you can move on to the next one.
 
Living On the Streets and Begging
 
This may seem like a drastic option, but it provides benefits that mooching off of friends or relatives does not. Many faith-based programs are available to help homeless adults who are not Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual or Transgender.  Churches and soup kitchens provide meals to people without permanent residences, and clothing drives help keep people warm during the colder months. Occasionally, local police officers will help homeless individuals with a place to stay that provides free meals and medical care. Many local ordinances prohibit panhandling, but individuals who can make legible signs can support themselves if they do well. Shelters exist to take in non-LGBT homeless adults during the harsh Midwestern winter nights.
LGBT Adults should consider changing their sinful life-style if they wish to be worthy of receiving these benefits.
 
Becoming a Meth Dealer
 
Technically, this violates federal and state laws. The Indiana Family and Social Services Administration recommends not getting caught. Getting caught dealing drugs results in  a lengthy prison sentence,  but being sent to prison can be beneficial for unemployed individuals.  While in prison, you do not need to worry about food, housing, or medical care in many circumstances. (Some people might fall through the cracks if the guards believe you are too disabled, a member of a minority, severely mentally ill, or simply faking an illness.)  You will meet meet interesting people during your prison sentence.  If you manage not to get caught, you have a career that can provide you with a great deal of wealth while helping to reduce the surplus population. You are also contributing to one of the state's largest industries.
 
The State of Indiana wants to make sure all Hoosiers succeed, and it has provided this pamphlet to you free of charge. Good luck in your future endeavors.
 

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