Responses for Kat:

Hi Kat,
My name is Jacki and I'm 49 and been in need of the system for a long time now. What the other people wrote you (below) is the best advice in the world. Know your rights. Those of us with any mental illness have always had to fight our way through it. In this you are not alone. If a case worker, whether DSS or HUD, doesn't make you feel good then you have every right in the world ask for another and/or talk to her supervisor. The key words are "I don't like the way I'm feeling about how my case is being handled" and "What can I do to get help for myself?"

And the biggest thing you need to do is to be constantly on them. I used to get so angry and couldn't even get past the phone call. But if you show up on their door step enough asking for help, someone will get you the help you deserve. Sometimes that's not the help we want at the time. Every thing is done " by the book."

I know for myself that I would be overwhelmed by their job, too. You are right. Most of them start to burn out after a few years in service; you can tell by the pictures some of them now have to wear with their name on it. They sure looked better and had smiles on their faces when they started, with very little resemblance to the person who is sitting in front of you at the moment. And that's only if you live in a place where you sit to talk. When I lived in the Binghamton, NY area you had to stand at a window and talk to the case worker behind a piece of glasses with a hole cut out, for passing paper work. There where perhaps 10 of these in a row going at once.

If you have young children it seems to be easier; after that the government somehow thinks you're cured and it gets much harder to get the help you need. The best thing I did for myself was move to an area of the country that's a lot less overwhelmed. You've got to keep asking questions and asking until you get your answer in black and white. If you don't have a doctor supporting you on your issues, get another doctor who will. Just remember that if you have no income the state has to help you with your medical bills. If you have no food there are programs in every state to help you. And if you qualify for HUD, they have rules to follow also but like with any of them, if you do your part they can do theirs.

Try not to be angry with them. It's only their job. They don't live with what we do and we can't expect them to understand. Yes, they have pain, anger, frustration, and depression just like us. They just happen to be able to make money at the same time. That's the difference between them and us. That's also the reason that we have a Disability Act in this country for us. Learn more and it'll go a long way to help you feel better. You take care. Keep in touch with the people here who can share with you what it's been like and how we got through. The best to you, Jacki


I am also a survivor, not just of SRA but also social services and my local housing authority!!! I know the attitude of some of the social service workers can be difficult. I don't know if they're burned out or what, but I know it can really hurt and be discouraging, especially when you are dealing with so much already. What I would do is as follows:

1. Get a doctor's and/or therapists note explaining your disability, & your current functioning level. Under the American with Disabilities Act, they must accomodate your needs (for example dogs aren't normally allowed at my complex but because my doctor wrote that it would help my depression I was able to get one.) A letter also helps to educate them, and says that you mean business about what your rights are. I found that I wasn't picked on as much when social service and the housing authority saw that I had an advocate.

2. As far as getting cut off suddenly from assistance, in the past I had to raise h*ll. That meant I called my caseworker, informing her that if the matter wasn't resolved, I would call her supervisor. Again, here's where your rights come into play.. They have to give a couple notices before cutting you off, so that you have time to complete the required paperwork. Even in the worst case scenario, the back of the cut off notice has a section where you can inform them that you are appealing their action. They can't legally stop your benefits until the appeal is resolved. Usually, they will work with you at this point, because they don't want to go to the trouble of an appeal, and it doesn't make them look too good should the government do an audit.

Good luck - you have my deepest sympathy, I understand only too well. :) ellen