Meet Bob. Ole stubborn Bob. No food stamps. Lots of pride.


Pholto courtesy of www.telegraph.co.uk

Photo courtesy of www.telegraph.co.uk


Bob doesn’t want any help.

Stubborn old guy.

After I wrote about him in the Aug. 14, 2009 Dave Lieber column in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, I received calls and e-mails from several dozen people who want to give him food and money.

Bob said no. Unlike everybody else who contacts The Watchdog, Bob of Fort Worth doesn’t want my help. He only wants everyone to understand the horrible state of Texas’ food stamp program.

Bob, who doesn’t want his last name used because he is afraid of getting into a fight with the government, is 78 and lives with his wife on $500 a month from Social Security.

Two years ago, they qualified for food stamps. But the credits on his state-provided electronic debit card – worth about $200 a month – ran out in May.

So what does he do?

“Potatoes are like a dollar for 5 pounds,” he said. “So we eat a lot of potatoes. If they’ve got a sale on something – for instance, if regular lettuce is a dollar and a half a head, and they have a sale for 75 cents, we’ll make salads out of lettuce. We find the bargains on something and we’ll eat that this week.”

Since May, Bob has been trying to get ahold of someone at the state Health and Human Services office on East Lancaster Avenue in Fort Worth to help him re-qualify for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – a requirement to make sure recipients still need it.

“We sent all our papers, and we kept calling, and they kept putting us off. You couldn’t get anybody down there. Nobody answers the telephone. They had about a dozen people working down there helping people, checking and rechecking them.

“And a woman says, ‘Well, we’re planning on getting a new system so it will be about a week.’ And then you don’t get anything. Then finally, a week or so later, they got a recording on their phone. I guess everybody was not getting anything. The recording said, ‘If you’re really needing help, if you’re really out of food, call 211 and they’ll get you some food.’ “

The Texas 211 help-line folks told him that he could go to a food bank, but Bob, a military veteran, doesn’t want to do that: “I have to be careful what I eat. I had colon cancer and diabetes. I’m a mess.”

Nobody knows how many Bobs there are in Texas. State officials say they believe that one-third of all food stamp applications processed in July were past the 30-day limit allowed by federal law.

That’s 45,000 families like Bob’s that waited more than a month for help, for a phone call back, for a letter, anything. Bob’s wait is three months. How many more are out there waiting?

A spokeswoman for state health services, Stephanie Goodman, says the state doesn’t really know.

The computer system used to process food stamp applications is so outdated that they aren’t counted until they are actually entered into the system.

Applications “sitting on someone’s desk that we have not gotten to” are uncounted, she says.

For sure, there are tens of thousands more.

The problem is so bad that two groups filed a federal lawsuit in Austin last week demanding that the state comply with the 30-daylimit.

The lawsuit is designed to force the state to create a quick plan, says Randall Chapman, executive director of Texas Legal Services Center, which co-filed the suit on behalf of two Irving residents tired of waiting.

“Believe it or not, the two people named in that lawsuit were approved in less than 24 hours,” Chapman said. “It was just magic. Their approval letters were hand-delivered to their homes.”

Chapman offered his organization’s help to Bob. Goodman, the state official, would have checked into Bob’s case, too, had I asked her. Bob could have been fast-tracked and had food stamps hand-delivered to his door, too. But he told me not to do that. He was adamant.

Chapman said: “Some elderly people feel intimidated, or they don’t want their neighbors knowing they need help. That’s a real shame.”

The state is trying to come up with solutions, shortcuts, hiring proposals, abbreviated training procedures, anything to get food to Texans. Next month, the state will begin hiring 656 workers to process applications.

For now, however, the bureaucrats simply cannot get it done.

“We’re processing more cases than ever,” Goodman said. “We’ve got more people on the rolls. We’re just not simply keeping up with the increase in . Our staff has been working weekends and long hours, simply keeping up with the increase in demand…. It’s still not enough. We’re not keeping up.”

In Tarrant County, 150,000 people now receive food stamps, compared with 130,000 last year. There would be more if the system worked properly.

As a test, I called the phone number of the East Lancaster Avenue office where Bob keeps striking out. When you push zero for operator, you get this message: “Hi, you’ve reached the general delivery mailbox for the East Lancaster office. However, this mailbox is not set up to have return calls. Please do not leave a message. Press zero for operator so your call will be reverted to our operator. Have a nice day.”

I hit zero, and got the same message again. Did it again and again and again.

Meanwhile, Texans are eating potatoes and lettuce and waiting for phone calls and letters that never seem to come.

HAPPY ENDING: A week after this story appeared, I received the following e-mail from Bob:

Subject: Thank you for your help … Bob

Dear Dave,

You will be glad to know that I have worked it out to handle my immediate problems …  I want to thank you for your earnest concern for my situation  .  It made  me feel good …

I would appreciate if you could contact all the fine folks that offered their help to me …    I thank them one and all for being so  thoughtful  and offering their mitzvoth’ (act of human kindness) ..

BOB

I wrote back with more news:

Bob,

Thanks for our note. The story we worked on together touched a lot of people.

And you’ll be interested to know that a woman I know who has cancer, no food stamps and no food and no transportation is today, right now, receiving phone calls from the people that offered to help you. I alerted them about her, so they are taking all their good will and giving it to someone else who is in desperate need right now.

So inadvertently, you helped someone else, too.

Dave


Getting help


For food stamp problems, call the ombudsman’s office at the Texas Health and Human Services Commission at 877-787-8999.

Be Sociable, Share!

Comments

  1. God help us! This should not happen in this (or any other) country!

    And to think, this inept government is the very same one that is supposed to be able to run our healthcare? Again I say…may God help us!

    My prayers are with Bob, and I will be happy to send a check or hand deliver groceries to his house. Just tell me when and where.

  2. Gerry Herman says

    Yes, Dave I did see the article in the newspaper and thought what an honorable man Bob is. Perhaps he should be "appointed" to an excutive position with Health and Human Services and have the authority to "untangle" this beauracratic nightmare. The politicians posture while those who need help are simply ignored. What a shame — it's another of those things that make me hang in head in shame.

  3. Karen Howell says

    I just read your column in Friday's paper. I am not surprised at all about the ridiculous and inefficient help that goes awry for those who truly are in great need. Such a sad story, and I understand Bob's circumstances and that pride can get in the way when it really shouldn't. Many years ago when I was down and out and unable to work for a year due to back surgery, I was unable to get any help with food stamps, utilities, etc as I was required to appear in person to apply, and it was first come, first served, no appts given. I was housebound, so that meant I was out of luck. People in the great United States of America should not be lost in the paperwork and forgotten.
    I, too, would be willing to take groceries to Bob and his wife and maybe some church near them could do a Food Drive of canned meats, vegetables, juices and such for them. The church could keep Bob's personal information confidential. Is Meals On Wheels still in existance, or is it also requiring paperwork from the State?

    Dave, I just retired and was not planning on working part-time for about a year, but if you can provide me with info on where I can apply for one of those 656 positions the State may have, I would possibly consider doing so, just so the backlog of paperwork could be caught up and processed for these people in need.

  4. Arlene Jalbert says

    Dave, I can't believe I live in a country where this is allowed to happen. I would be more than happy to ask Bob what he needs to eat to keep his diabetes in check and for whatever other health problems he may have. What a terrible situation Bob is in….wish he would let us help him. I will keep him and his wife in my prayers.

  5. One problem is our bureaucracies wind up thinking of people as statistics, not real people. It takes columnists to reintroduce the bureaucrats to real people. Keep it up, Dave.

  6. Dynell Robinson says

    The story was absolutely heartbreaking….how can I help?

  7. Dynell,
    I think we need to contact our state leaders, the governor, and the legislators and ask them to get on the stick with this. The lawsuit will help, but not fast enough. If you don't know who your legislator is, go to http://www.VoteSmart.org and it will show you.

  8. Dave,
    If Bob and his wife will accept Meals-on-Wheels, let me know and I will be glad to pay for them for a couple of months…this should not happen in our country. I read the article in the Star Telegram and it uspet me then…glad you sent the e-mail because it prompted me to action. Just let me know where to send the check.

  9. Dee Snodgrass says

    Many many times I have found myself behind a customer at the grocery store who had large quantities of groceries. More often than not their orders were not looking like a frugal family struggling to feed good basic food judging from their display of items on the conveyor belt. More like "instant this instant that, ready to eat frozen meals. Well cant judge a person . I say to myself at least they are not like some (more than we will ever know) that sell their food stamps or Lone Star card for drug money or beer.

    One couple at the Krogers on Camp Bowie, left the store and the poor things had to load all those groceries by themselves into the back of their new grey BMW. I admit Ij starred at them in diisbelief. The man looked over at me and asked "What you looken at (then he paused and said to me "white bitch".

    Needless to say many people really need these services. Some , Many do not. The system does not need to add more funds, it does however need to do a much better job of proving their deserving status. The liars are the ones who are taking advantage of the system, thus hurting the truly deserving and needy people.

  10. Meals on Wheels is still working, and they do an excellent job! A social worker makes a visit to find out the person's needs, and meals are prepared to meet those specific needs. So Bob could get meals designed by a nutritionist for a diabetic and someone with colon cancer. Meals on Wheels accepts donations but does not require payment. Dave, please try to get Bob to consider doing this. I donate to cover my mom's meals, and I give more than the $5 cost of each meal. I'm sure that if others knew of this way of helping, they would donate to cover Bob's meals. I hope Bob can give up his pride and accept help.

  11. Suzette, I've talked to Bob about Angel Food Ministries and also about Meals on Wheels, one of my favorites. He was, happily, interested in both.

  12. ROBERT JANOUSEK says

    DEAR DAVE LIEBER,

    I JUST READ THIS ABOUT BOB ON YOUR EMAIL TO ME, I JUST CAN NOT BELIEVE THAT THIS COUNTRY IS UP TO IT GOVERNMENT PAPER WORK, IN HELPING US IN THIS COUNTRY. I THOUGHT WE ARE THE COUNTRY OF OPPORTUNITIES. I WAS RAISED UP TO HELP OUT WHO NEEDED HELP IT DOES NOT MATTER WHO YOU ARE. I TO DAVE AM GOING THROUGH THE SAME ISSUES HERE IN MINNESOTA, AS WELL I AM LIVING OUT OF A CAR ON THE STREETS OF ALEXANDRIA, I AM RETIRED OUT OF THE MINNESOTA ARMY NATIONAL GUARDS, TAKE CARE OF MY ILL MOTHER, HAVE WENT TO DOUGLASS COUNTY GOVERNMENT OFFICES FOR HELP FOR ME AND MY MOTHER, THEY SAY WE DO NOT QUALIFY FOR ASSISTANCES, EVEN I HAVE GONE TO LOOK INTO HOUSING FOR MYSELF THEY SAY I DO NOT QUALIFY FOR THIS AT ALL, I DO HAVE A FULL TIME THIRD SHIFT JOB AT WAL-MART. THOUGH ALL MY WAGES GO TO PAY LATE OUTSTANDING DEBT THAT I HAVE PILED UP OVER THE PAST YEARS. I HAVE GIVEN EVERYTHING TO HELP MY MOTHER LIVE A GOOD LIFE, SHE TOOK CARE OF ME NOW I NEED TO TAKE CARE OF HER. THOUGH IT IS HARD FOR ME NOW, LIVING OUT OF A CAR. I HAVE GONE TO FRIENDS THAT ARE WEALTH, CHURCHES, OTHER FRIENDS, MOST OF ALL HAVE TURNED THERE BACK ON ME. THERE HAS BEEN CLOSE FRIEND OF MINE THAT HAS HELP ME WITH MEALS, PILLOW AND BLANKET. THOUGH I CAN NOT BELIEVE THAT THE SYSTEM HAS SO MANY GUIDE LINES THAT YOU HAVE TO FILL OUT A PILE OF PAPER WORK, THEN INTERVIEW, THEN THEY NEED TO THINK ABOUT IT THEN THEY WILL GET BACK TO YOU IN TWO OR THREE WEEKS. WHAT DO YOU SUPPOSE TO DO IN THE MEAN TIME. I HAVE TALK WITH SO MANY PEOPLE THEY SAY THAT WILL HELP THOUGH WITH THE ECONOMY THAT THEY ARE HAVING A TUFF TIME MAKING IT THEM SELVES THOUGH YOU SEE THEM EATTING OUT IN EXPENSIVE CAFES, OR DRIVE EXPENSIVE CARS, THEN WHEN THEY INTRODUCE YOU TO THERE FRIENDS THEY SAY THIS IS SO AND SO HE LIVES ON THE STREET OUT OF A CAR AND THEY LAUGH AT YOU. CALL YOU DIRT OR SCUM. I AM HURT BY THE GOVERNMENT SYSTEM, FRIENDS, AND FAMILY THAT HAVE TURNED THERE BACKS ON ALL OF US THAT ARE GOING OUT OF OUR HOMES TO THE STREET. DAVE I JUST DO NOT KNOW WHAT JUST HAPPEN THOUGH I JUST HAD TO FINALLY TELL SOME ONE AFTER I READ BOB STORY FROM TEXAS. MY NAME IS ROBERT JANOUSEK, I AM 49, I LIVE IN THE COMMUNITY OF ALEXANDRIA, MN, 56308. THIS IS MY MOTHERS ADDRESS WHERE MY MAIL GOES TO 310 4TH AVE E #8, ALEXANDRIA, MN 56308. MY MOTHER JUST LIVES ON HER SS. THAT IS NOT TO MUCH FOR A MONTH THAT IS WHY I HELP HERE OUT WITH MY WAGE. THIS IS MY CELL # 320-815-9810. SENSES I HAVE BEEN LIVING OUT OF MY MOTHER CAR. I SOLD EVERYTHING, PLUS LOST INVESTMENTS TO FRAUD FROM 2007. NOW I AM OVER DEBT LOAD OF $250.000 THAT I OWE IRS, STATE OF MINNESOTA, CREDIT CARD COMPANIES, PEOPLE I HAVE BORROWED TO HELP MY MOM LIVE A COMFORTABLE LIFE. MY MOTHER ONLY KNOWS ME PART OF THE TIME, I CAN NOT EVEN GET HER IN TO ASSIST LIVE RIGHT NOW, SHE IS ON A WAITING LIST. I AM DIABETIC, I HAVE TAKEN CARE OF MY MOTHER BEFORE I HAVE TAKEN CARE OF MY HEALTH AS WELL, NOW I HAVE SUFFERED SO MUCH MY SELF HEALTH WISE I NEED TO START TO TAKE CARE OF MYSELF NOW, I AM LOSING WEIGHT, MY EYE SITE IS GOING, DO TO THE COST OF MY MEDICATION I AM ON, I JUST GOT BACK ON THIS NOW AGAIN, MY EYE SITE STARTING TO COME BACK SLOWLY. THOUGH AGAIN TRYING TO GET HELP LOCAL, COUNTY, OR STATE. THEY SAY THERE ARE PROGRAMS OUT THERE THOUGH THERE IS A WAITING LIST FOR YOU TO WAIT FOR SO IN THE MEAN TIME WHAT DO WE SUPPOSE TO DO DAVE LIEBER. I JUST TOLD YOU WHAT I AM GOING THROUGH RIGHT NOW AS WELL DAVE. THIS WAS ABOUT BOBS STORY FOR GIVE ME. I JUST FELT THAT YOU NEEDED TO KNOW WHERE I AM DAVE AND THE REST OF THE COUNTRY IN THIS FREE COUNTRY WE LIVE IN SOMETIMES IT SEEMS YOU DO NOT HAVE FREEDOM HERE. WHERE HAS THE PASSION OF HELPING OTHERS OUT WE ARE ALL GODS FAMILY. FIRST AND FOREMOST. I HAVE WONDER AT TIMES THAT I HAVE FRIENDS THAT ARE WEALTH AND TURNED THERE BACKS ON ME WHY? I DO NOT UNDERSTAND DAVE, I THOUGHT SENSES I HAVE HELP THEM WHEN THEY WERE DOWN AND OUT THAT THEY WOULD HELP ME OUT WHEN I WAS THOUGH I FOUND OUT THAT YOU DO NOT KNOW YOUR FRIENDS IN TILL YOU ASKED FOR HELP FROM THEM. WELL DAVE I JUST TOLD YOU MY FEELINGS AS WELL ABOUT BOB. MYSELF AS WELL. I NEED TO NOW CHECK ON MOM NOW. I DO HAVE SOME CO-WORKERS THAT HAVE OPENED THERE HOME SO I CAN SHOWER, AND HAVE ONE MEAL WITH THEM EVERYDAY. THAT JUST STARTED LASTED WEEK. DAVE MY CELL PHONE IS ON THE CHARGER NOW SO IF SOMEONE TRIES TO CALL ME I AM AWAY FROM THIS FOR A TIME. DAVE THANK YOU FOR EVERYTHING YOU ARE DOING FOR US OUT THERE IN THE USA. THANK YOU AGAIN DAVE LIEBER. I HOPE I CAN MEET YOU SOMEDAY. I REALLY WOULD LIKE TO DAVE LIEBER. AMEN.

    LOVE IN CHRIST AMEN.

    ROBERT JANOUSEK

  13. Dave, thank God for watchdogs like you to bring attention to this terrible plight. Bob's stubbornness only highlights the suffering of this huge demographic in need. For every squeaky wheel who is lucky enough to get fast tracked attention, there are thousands like Bob who get only recordings and empty promises while they live on lettuce. Shame on the government. This is the sole reason for the existence of their division. But as is typical, they are built for size, not for speed.

  14. Sue Hageman says

    Dave: I would like to help Bob in any way. Please let me know if there is a way to contribute food or money for him and his wife. What an eye opening story.

  15. This is shame, I am currently helping a elderly man who is to proud to ask for help, I basically force myself, he now appreciates all i do for him, but for some to accept help is out of the question, sometimes you have to just push your self through the front door. I have been helping this one man for 10 years. Some times you just have to get to know someone in need before you can actually do any service for them. Another place to learn about elderly people in need is the Senior Centers and the VA Clinics and Hospitals. My goal has been to create 52 acts of kindness a year, I think I did that much the first 3 months, I still get out to help and make a difference. SO I urge everyone to get up, get out and go meet someone in need, make a difference in someones life.

  16. Food Stamps are great and i wish that there were more of them.-:"