Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Improvement of Government Programs is Really Good

There are many ways we can improve government programs that help people with financial difficulties. Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act, Food Stamps, Medicaid, Medicaid, Vocational Rehabilitation and Social Security Disability Insurance provide avenues for families with financial difficulties meet their needs.

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) formerly known as the Food Stamp program is the largest nutrition assistance program. It has provided around 47 million Americans with assistance each month averaging around $133.08 per month. In the 2013 Fiscal Year SNAP cost us over 76 billion dollars. There are many families that rely on this program to keep afloat especially in the wake of the last recession.

This is seen by the drastic increase in the amount of money paid to beneficiaries which has increased from $29 billion in 2005 to $77 billion in 2013. There are many factors to blame for the increase in money spent, but is it possible that one of the reasons are regulations on who can apply for food stamps are too relaxed? Having over 47 million Americans receiving benefits makes it difficult to track each individual case efficiently. This problem only looks to get worse with the growing population. According to U.N. estimates, in 2040 it is estimated that the world’s population will be anywhere from 8 to 9.7 billion people. How will we meet the needs of so many individuals? I think one way is to figure out which individuals really need assistance and which ones don’t. Another way would be to begin controlling the population by putting limits on the amount of children a family can have-especially if they are below the poverty line. There is nothing more tragic than a family that is poverty stricken and not financially able to take care of their children to continue having children even though they have no idea how there are going to take care of them. If people can’t be responsible for themselves it shouldn’t be the government’s problem to pick up the pieces. 

I personally believe if we start making people personally responsible for themselves we will see a much more productive, able, population. Another way to make improvements to this and other government ran programs are to make drug tests mandatory. If people had to make the choice between receiving government assistance and getting high it is highly likely that survival instincts will lead these people to cease from using. Although, on the other hand if people think that they can rely on the government to take care of them, they will continue to live off of the system. This not only reinforces this negative behavior but spreads to others that see how easy it can be to live off of the system.

Of course there are plenty of Americans who need this assistance. I work with individuals with mental disabilities. These are people who would be destitute, homeless, and without any hope if it wasn’t for government assistance. Having programs that provide assistance to these people is one of the most socially important and progressive ideas our country has ever adopted. Vocational Rehabilitation is one of those benefits. It helps people with mental disabilities that want to find jobs get training or help finding jobs, or even the assistance of a job coach. Medicare and Medicaid also bring resources to these individuals. Benefits include mental health treatment, prescription medications, and a myriad of other medical services. Last but not least is Social Security Disability Insurance.

This provides individuals with psychological conditions a monthly income to help them live independently. To think that it has been less than a 100 years since our country has started to move towards eliminating segregated institutions. Along with other major advances the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act (1980) helped bring us a little close to the social equality that we are still reaching towards today. Although all of these programs have a positive effect on individuals with disabilities, it is not enough. I have seen firsthand throughout 3 years how these people live. To make improvements to this broken system I propose 3 changes. Caregivers who are in direct contact with the clients need to have regular drug screening.  A background check just isn’t enough.  Another way these programs could be improved is by having the direct caregiver (which usually isn’t the guardian) more of a say in the care of the individual. Sometimes the guardian only sees the client once every 6 months…maybe longer. How can they have all of the say in what happens to these people? A famous quote from Proverbs 11:14 says “Where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counsellers there is safety.” By having joint guardianship between the parent/guardian and the company that is providing for him/her-more specifically the caregiver it gives the client the proper attention they need and brings another safety net effectively into the equation. The more people involved in the decisions of their life, the better.

All in all I would say that our country is headed in a good direction, the Affordable Health Care Act is proof of that. It may be a while till we see the reform of SNAP and the overall treatment of the mentally disabled but I am sure we will get there one day.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

The Importance of Promissory Notes and Medicaid Planning

Tanna Ross is a 22 year-old single mother. Her two children, Orion, 3, and Richard, 5 months, are by all accounts well behaved. Everyday, Tanna drops her two boys off at an OFC (government subsidized) daycare and goes to work. Even working a total of 50 hours, from two jobs, Tanna doesn’t make enough to provide for herself and her two boys. If it weren’t for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Tanna wouldn’t be able to make ends meet.


Bonte Nkonge is a recently arrived refugee from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He brought his wife, Reine, and their 6-year-old twins, Aude and Nupita. When Bonte and his family first arrived, they spoke no English, and didn’t know anyone. Bonte didn’t have a job, and couldn’t get one due to his lacking speaking skills. Fortunately, after weeks of struggling, Bonte was able to apply for, and receive, Refugee Assistance. He is now taking English lessons, and will soon be proficient enough to get a job.



Clara Thorton is an elderly widow with many different medical issues, and is wholly dependent on Social Security and what help Medicaid provides. Ms. Clara is kind-hearted to say the least, and is generous with what she has. Unfortunately, she doesn’t have much due to her medical issues. Medicaid should cover most of her needs, but she has trouble utilizing the system sometimes.
 

These are three people, out of an estimated 149 million Americans who either receive help from the government, or live in a household where a member receives assistance. Providing help for those who are financially destitute is without a doubt one of the most important responsibilities of any government. The United States does a mediocre job of providing for its needy, but there could be a lot of improvements. If we want to enhance the effectiveness of our government’s programs, we must be rid of the institutions that prey on those who are less fortunate.


In order to truly make all of these programs more effective, the best thing to do would be to radically improve the quality of education across the board. If people in lower-income areas were provided with access to better, or even adequate, education, the need for some of these programs would dwindle. Unfortunately, this is an extremely long and difficult task, and would take decades to implement, if it happens at all. In the mean time, we must do what we can to alleviate the hardships that millions of Americans experience everyday.


One piece of advice that is oft repeated to those in need of financial assistance is, “get a job.” What many people don’t realize is that it is almost never that easy. When you don’t have enough money for clothes appropriate for an interview, or don’t have reliable transportation, getting a job can be extremely difficult. Getting a job that pays well is nearly impossible. Even once a job is acquired, there are so many different factors that try and keep people down. Grocery stores are often stocked full of junk food. The few healthy options that they carry are outrageously overpriced. Car dealerships in lower-income areas offer in-house financing, at obscene interest rates. Payday loan lenders prey on the poor, and even traditional banking isn’t feasible for those near the poverty line. These practices of preying on the less fortunate are exactly why government assistance programs are necessary.


A great way to improve the effectiveness of the government assistance programs would be to cut away the institutions that prey on the poor. The government should offer an alternative option to people facing an inescapable mountain of debt. It should provide healthier, more affordable food, while simultaneously increase funding for food stamps and limit their usage to nutritious options. Streamlining Medicaid into a simpler, user-friendlier experience would be another possible improvement.


There are an innumerable number of things that could be done to improve the efficiency of our government benefit programs. The real difficulty lies not in coming up with ideas, but understanding which of those ideas are best suited for their cause, and where they may be best implemented.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

You Should Know What Will Medicaid Pay For?

Lunch time at school is a necessary respite from classes’ mental work. It is an opportunity for students to take in nutrients necessary for brain function and physical health, which is especially important for younger students whose bodies are still developing. Government programs such as the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) are therefore important because they help ensure that people with little means, in this case children from low income families, get these indispensable nutrients, and help encourage the health of the United States’ young population.


The importance of this program rests on the availability of safe, sanitary food for all children, even those with fewer financial opportunities. This is essential for teaching better lifestyle habits and lowering the new generation’s probability for obesity, “children who received food assistance before age five were in better health as adults” (“The Hungry Child”). This is also important because better quality foods allow the students to do better in school; better quality nutrients allow for better mental and physical function. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, provision of nutritious food is essential at school because for some children, it is their sole dependable source of sustenance. Children from low-income families need the security the education system provides them in order to have opportunities to attend higher education and earn a living in the future. School provided lunches also lessen the burden on disadvantaged families so they can use the money elsewhere, for shelter or commodities. The NSLP provides “low‐cost or free lunches to more than 31 million children each school day” (“The Hungry Child”) by providing cash subsidies to schools which apply to the program, as long as the meals meet the “meal pattern and nutrition standards based on the latest Dietary Guidelines for Americans” (“National School Lunch Program (NSLP)”).


Though these standards are updated yearly, the meal pattern now only “increases the availability of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains in the school menu” (“National School Lunch Program (NSLP)”). The deficiency with this program is that the foods served and how they are prepared cannot be regulated by the government, and therefore there is no way of guaranteeing a balanced meal. Hypothetically, a school lunch could include canned fruit cocktail, broccoli, and whole grain pizza, and would fulfill all the requirements of the NSLP, but not the dietary requirements of a growing child (the hypothetical meal contains too much processed sugar, and lacks in protein and vitamins, etc). Meals such as this, though they provide sustenance and some nutrients to a child’s brain, do not encourage healthy development or good habits for the future.


One way to improve the effectiveness of these programs is by making amendments stating that each school lunch is required to provide fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, as well as add a source of protein, or provide acceptable substitutes for those with dietary restrictions. This will not only create a balanced meal and therefore provide all the children who eat at school with the health benefits from this meal, but also ensure that those students who only get food at school do indeed get the necessary nutrition their growing bodies require to be healthy. This approach may seem costly, but is not. Prison food and school cafeteria food both cost roughly $2.60 per capita, but inmates’ diets consist of many more healthy options. If this could be implemented in the schools enrolled in the NSLP, this would provide future generations with a stronger foundation for physical growth and healthy lifestyle standards.


The National School Lunch Program, though somewhat flawed, has great potential. Because the Dietary Guidelines for Americans are updated yearly, the program also undergoes regular adjustments. Also, because the program provides money to school districts, it encourages many schools to enroll in the program and follow the recommended guidelines. This in turn helps provide a reason for disadvantaged children to stay in school, and a means for all children to have access to essential nutrition that allows them to grow. It is one of the most important investments the United States can make in its future.


Works Cited
Edelman, Marian. "The Hungry Child."The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 14 Feb. 2014. Web. 18 Mar. 2014. <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/marian-wright-edelman/the-hungry-child_b_4791364.html>.
"National School Lunch Program (NSLP)."Food and Nutrition Service. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Mar. 2014. <http://www.fns.usda.gov/nslp/national-school-lunch-program-nslp>.
"What's Healthier, Prison Food Or A School Lunch? [Infographic] - PSFK."PSFK RSS. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Mar. 2014. <http://www.psfk.com/2012/09/prison-or-school-lunch-healthier.html#!B9zar>.