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Category Archives: Introduction

A Day in the Life of…

Distilled down to its barest essences, the role of the agency I’ve been describing is fulfilled primarily by its specialists.  These individuals must interview applicants, document their information, and request the necessary data to properly dispose of their cases in a timely and accurate fashion. This is far more difficult than it may seem, but is not nearly as difficult as can be interpreted.  I can offer two analyses of the two leadership groups under which I served as an employee: the first of which could do no right, and the other with the right mentality in place.

Typical Day:

The average day is simple enough, and can vary depending on your job assignment.  Ultimately, you have 8 appointments a day, convening with an applicant every 45 minutes starting at 8:15am an ending at 3:15pm (on average).  There is a certain rhythm with this job and this schedule. A comfort that is built up by the rigid structure that allows for a focused assault on your day as it were.  Because applications are due on the 30th day after the day of application (e.g: an application on 7/1 must be completed by 7/31), it is fairly obvious when you receive your work list for the day of which cases you need to ma (nage by close of business.  One cannot start before 8am and stay after 4:30pm (due to the demands of the job in large offices, it sometimes feels like the 8 hours is not enough to complete all your necessary work – this is not a possibility as some years ago, the State lost a lawsuit against workers that had been doing this).

Best practices means you get the list from your supervisor by 8:00am (they typically arrive between 7:15am-7:30am and stay until 5:30pm-6:00pm – they can do this, as management are not held to the same laws).  First thing’s first, you check your email inbox, your work mailbox, and snag your applications.  If you’re lucky, you can get the daily report on your work list back to your supervisor before your first interview and deny any applications whose applicants failed to comply with the interview process.  Policy states that the interview is a mandated part of the process. Then, you get your first applicant interview of the day screened, meaning you check all available data to which the agency has access (note: THIS DOES NOT MEAN CREDIT CHECKS; THERE ARE NO CREDIT CHECKS NEEDED).  During this screening, you should take the time to examine the previous case actions within the past year by reading the documentation from that time.  If you’re lucky (again), the interview takes approximately 20 to 30 minutes, given you 15 minutes to wrap up your notes and additional time to move on to the next application to repeat the process.  This occurs 8 times a day when interviewing.

During these downtimes, you can check to see if work due that day has had information returned by the applicant to complete their cases and make determinations timely. As bad as this sounds, at some points, you may be rooting for no shows to get cases done or to return telephone calls as you can.   By the time 3:15pm rolls around, hopefully you’re set up and ready to process anything else that must absolutely be done that day and then completing applications that are due on forward dates (this is hard to do especially for certain roles that have similar due days or if you’ve got a lot of applications due on the same day).  If you get the time and have the inclination, read policy.  Reading policy is always key to understanding your role with the agency.

Under previous leadership, I have seen this day turn into interviews until 4:15pm at 30 minute intervals (which is near impossible to do). I have seen “walk-in” reschedule days where applicant were invited to come and wait in the lobby (sheer and utter foolishness) to be seen in the order in which they arrived.  I have had to take my normal 8 appointments and then take 5 more on top of that due to poor scheduling or errors on behalf of the agency (we -have- to correct these because it is the responsibility of the agency to do things right).

Complications:

No matter how hard you work or how well you work, you will always have complications.  An applicant will be not be as forthcoming in an interview and you’ll have to work doubly hard to get the correct information, a very difficult case will present itself when you’re there, a phone call will come in and you will have to respond, &c. There are a million different ways to get sidetracked that are out of your control.  The point is to never be sidetracked by anything you can control (cell phone use, talking, &c) unless it’s absolutely necessary. This is precisely why I listened to so much music at work when I was a specialist, and then this diminished when I became a supervisor so that I could have an open door at all times.

Under previous leadership, specifically my rodeo clown of a supervisor who had never been trained on policy or worked with applicants for benefits, I was given the additional burden of completing supervisory responsibilities.  While this was difficult to complete in addition to my normal responsibilities, it did prepare me for the future.

Typical Week:

String four of these days together and include a day upon which you are given no interviews to work cases down and that is your work week as a benefit specialist.  It can be overwhelming at time as you deal with the typical ebb and flow.  To put the numbers into context, as a specialist, you will begin receiving 32 applicants a week for a total of 128 a month.  These numbers stack up quickly.

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Posted by on January 30, 2015 in Accountability, Anthropology, Introduction, Ire

 

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Holy shit… I missed all of 2014 and most of January 2015.

So, here am I back after a near 13 month hiatus, wondering why the hell I didn’t write at all during the previous number of months.  Writing for Cultura is slow, but steady; the Lay of Seidenbard is still slowly (read: very slowly) progressing.  Further, I’m no longer a bureaucrat.  I departed from the steady progress I’d been doing for a number of reasons, all of which I hope to express and discuss further.  I also intend to write a music review a week, offer an update on Cultura/the Lay once per week.  I won’t have much more time than that as I’m moving to start a scientific job within the next week to the east coast.

Like previously, I hope to feature songs and/or a inspirational piece of art once per day (some of Paimona’s newer pieces, if possible).

The section in which I make excuses:

So… why didn’t I write for a damn year and month?  Simple: I was exhausted.  Being more prone to quiet introspection and carrying a generally introverted disposition, my position within the monolithic pyramid could either be performed coldly or spun in a more humanistic way.  Being a metal fan, I decided to rebel against the standard order of business and applied far more supportive techniques; the end result being that I was available and open to my subordinates and their clients as often as I could allow.  The structure does not like this, I noticed, but it won me high praise from my direct managers.  However, the interpersonal interaction that faced the typical day’s work left my nerves and mind to an absolute frazzle (as my very Southern forebears would say).

In the interest of full disclosure as I still maintain a level of anonymity here, my position was as a specialist and later a supervisor at a Department of Human Services (in some states, Social Services) in a small, southern flyover state.  The overall state’s population is unimportant, but suffice to say that it is a poor, historically so, state with poor access to education and a history of segregation.  This office is located in one of the larger counties in the state, exhibiting both very urban (for the state) and rural populations with a far higher degree of diversity than the flyover states are often considered as having.  In the local area, there is a major state run university, a private fundamentalist Christian university, several community colleges, and a number of vo-technical schools.  Major companies in the area are dominated by a global, multibillion US Dollar per year company and its satellite vendor companies, agribusinesses of all types, and transportation.  In other words, there are a lot of people (and goods) coming in and out of the area for a variety of reasons.

The agency itself evokes a snapshot of feudalistic grandeur both (a testament to medieval law and administration).  Many hours travel from the capital city of the flyover state, the county office sits tucked into a curious hinterland – one that is very much part of the state and the other that is very much independent of it at the same time.  This dissonance was astounding.  Previous to the October 2013 threshold (see the link for further information), the role of the specialist within the agency was to interview, document, and dispose (official term for completing) of applications for SNAP (formerly known as Food Stamps), TANF (Temporary Assistance to Needy Families – formerly welfare), and Medicaid (services ranging from children’s programs to medicare assistance).  After ACA began in October 2013 and after the policy writers and managers returned to their jobs, Medicaid became a mostly automated system with applications occurring through the Federal Healthcare Marketplace or the State Healthcare Marketplace.  Hospitals hired specialists away from the agency and governmental contractors did as well, because the positions paid better, offered better hours, and better benefits.  All these are valid reasons for leaving employment, especially after the threshold of fear ramped up due to the governmental shut down.

Returning to the new marketplaces, it became evident early that were a number of issues with the new web-based data hub driven system.  This was explained effectively by a high ranking member as “attempting to build the airplane after we’d all ready taken off.”  Due to the new income thresholds, the number of new available categories for Medicaid eligibility, and a relaxation in some policies, more people than ever were eligible for Medicaid services, ranging from full coverage (very few) to assistance in paying private premiums.  The hiccups in the system and the delay in training made serving the valid questions of these individuals difficult, time consuming, and heart wrenching for both parties involved.

Having become a supervisor a earlier in the same year this unfurled, I came to realize my role as defined by the agency was to review cases of all types for accuracy, ensure timeliness, and to maintain some semblance of order/discipline.  In actuality, the role needed to be redefined. Accountability needed to be shared to all points of the team, transparency needed to rule (where it could, obviously one need not violate the places where it was not allowed), and the staff needed a leader that was available, open, and honest.  The clients needed this more than anything, because the emphasis returned to focus on the barest fact – the currency of the agency’s work is generally the people that we serve and not the statistics that they become when their application is approved or denied.

Personally, 2014 opened with a heartbreak.  Paimona and I had discovered that we were pregnant (we’d been trying for nearly 4 years to have another child).  We miscarried to start the year and I had to center myself to her grief to help her heal from it (you never do, I don’t think… there are times when I still think on it and cry).  Fortunately, we have an awesome, wonderful, scientifically minded big kid with a great attitude, a beautiful smile, and a penchant to give the best hugs for which a dad could ever ask (her team went undefeated in softball! in the Spring)  This, though she was just as heartbroken, was the only way we were able to pull ourselves from it.  My role as a bureaucrat began taking between 45-60 hours per week, my second job began taking 10-20 hours a week, and the rest of it was devoted to family.  This is why it’s such a BIG DEAL that I got a single job, performing science for one company, earning as much as I would working both currently.

These facts combined resulted in the loss of my “ear” as it were for music.  I was too tired, emotionally and mentally, to fully devote my time and energy to that when I had so many other projects going.  Therefore, I had to abandon this dream here, which is something I appreciate when it works well to keep my nose to the grindstone and continue writing.  It makes me think of creativity and the process of it all.

The plan:

Given that this period has now ended, I intend to return to writing a review per week and featuring some of the new promos and other information that I still get as result of my previous writing.  I’m not going to catch up what I missed in 2014, I can’t, but I can continue from where I left.  To heal from my job with DHS, I will be writing a section regarding a particular facet of what the position entailed either each day or three times a week, depending on how much time allows.

Ultimately, I’m left with the question: “Is it such a crime to go apart and be alone?”

 

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Opinion: “The Animated Life of A.R.Wallace” – NY Times

From the New York Times:

“Although Alfred Russel Wallace made one of the most important scientific discoveries in history, he’s been all but forgotten. A contemporary of Charles Darwin, Wallace was the other guy to discover natural selection – the evolutionary process whereby better adapted organisms are more likely to survive and pass on their traits than less adapted ones. Although two people discovered this theory, evolution by natural selection is virtually synonymous with Darwin. This is partly due to the lasting fame of Darwin’s opus, “On the Origin of Species,” but some argue it is also due to Wallace’s extraordinary modesty – he lauded Darwin’s work and humbly downplayed his own contributions. In 1889 he even wrote a book in support of evolution titled ‘Darwinism.'”

Go watch the video and read the article.

 
 

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Rumination: A Return to the Normal

My vacation, now over, has been a respite from the daily routine of continuous work.  In my line, there is no true sense of completion.  It’s akin to playing Tetris constantly; that written, it is equal parts rewarding and invigorating when things go right.  I used the time to refresh my mind.  I’ve caught up on writing for Cultura, but not for the Lay (which is fine because the system is more important than my own creative writing).

In all accounts, we are back to normal here, I think.  It’s something we’ll find ourselves focusing on for a while is to finish out this year strong, writing and finalizing thoughts.  Coming through the end of the year, I’ll not be writing the week of American Thanksgiving or Christmas.  Just as a head’s up, mostly, but ultimately, I’ll be planning on releasing the best album lists the last week of the year.  I try to review albums of the current year (Jan 1 through Dec 25).  I’ll compile a list of my favorite albums of the year, my favorite songs, albums I didn’t review but should have, albums I didn’t review because I didn’t enjoy the music, and my favorite new band (to me) of the year.  I look forward to 2014, where I’ll begin working on the actual play testing of this monster I’ve created and hopefully to having a completed manuscript for the Lay.

Look forward to new comics as well.  Anyway, cheers on the upcoming week.

 
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Posted by on November 4, 2013 in Accountability, Geek, Idle Words., Introduction

 

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Image

Lay of Seidenbard Comic, Part I, Page IV

Moly page five final

 
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Posted by on September 30, 2013 in Art, Characters, Cultura, Game, Geek, Gjale, Inspiration, Introduction

 

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In which we return, bearing gifts of apology.

So, in general, I didn’t write at all last week.  Sure, I got a few words on a page here and there.  There were a number of reasons for this: 1.) kiddo’s learning Magic which is awesome; 2.) helping with kiddo’s homework and spending time with family; 3.) short weeks make for long work in bureaucracy as you truly pay for your day off in a management capacity; 4.) Paimona and I decided to try our hands at something new.

So, with 100% less excuses, here’s without further adieu our initial attempt at bringing the Lay of Seidenbard (you’ve seen it here in a few scenes) into comic form:

Moly page one final

 

We’re going to try to bring out a page a week (well, she is since I’m only a talker and writer rather than anything else).

 

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Recognizing the difference

For some reason, this has been bothering me again.  But at where I currently work, people have been tossing pentagram around where they should be using pentacle.  They have very opposite semiotic qualities.Inverted_pentacle

The above image is a pentacle and a pentagram.  In occult sorcery this is traditionally linked with evil; it’s linked with Satanism, and negative emotions.

Heptameron_Pentacle

 

This is a form of pentacle (more similar to the Star of David and Israel), but it stated to be a a positive image, encouraging positive energy.  In traditional European societies, it has been linked to feminine fertility imagery and ritual.

Both images are from wikipedia and are used here under CreativeCommons.

 

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