Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Administrative challenges/discoveries

I think things were better today. They were certainly more ... interesting.

I didn't find myself fleeing to the bed like I did only a few days ago. Didn't really sleep through the night last night, but at least didn't sleep through the day. I was able to actually be active out of the house and—who'd have thunk it?—actually accomplish things.

I started the day by returning some equipment that a local computer shop had loaned me, and while I was there, I picked up my beloved very-tall monitor, which had been sent to the manufacturer for repairs. Dunno if I'll have the strength to make much use of it any time soon (hope springs eternal), but at least it's home. Who knows, maybe tonight or tomorrow morning I'll be able to extract it from the truck and bring it inside. Dunno about "install" it, but get it inside—at least that's a first step.

And what an ... interesting/amusing-I-guess interaction I had with a state agency today. I'm working on the "disability insurance" road, right now, and that road seems to be rife with potholes and speed-bumps.

A few days ago, I called the number that my taking-care-of-such-things contact at my former employer recommended. Turns out, that was an office in something like Oakland.

I asked my question about how things are screwed up and whether the "screwage" was being removed; they said "Oh no, you don't belong to us, you belong to Pasadena. Go to that office, in person, and talk to them about [the problems] and take [this suggested route] to find resolution."

Fine. Somehow managed to make it down there and into the office; freeway close, actually, and conveniently located right behind the computer shop, so that was a one-stop-shopping trip today. People at that office were very nice. (That was certainly a plus.) Alas, they said "Oh no, this office doesn't do disability, we do employment." I told them the story about how one of their colleagues in Oakland told me specifically to go to that very office... so, now what do I do?

Well, apparently nobody in the office knew anything about such matters, or about disability insurance in general. At all. But they did connect me to someone on the phone who was in some other office (I think in Van Nuys, also vaguely-freeway-close to Pasadena), and even provided an empty cubicle for me to make this call.

Person on the phone explained that the problem I was hoping to solve was, basically, "They never got X form." (To make a long story shorter, the form they 'never got' was the very form that my employer had sent them a month and a half ago. But we continue with the saga...) I explained that the person at my former employer who takes care of such things is famous for taking care of these things promptly in a no-fail manner, and if she says she sent it, she sent it; but that doesn't matter right now, what do I do now to get them the form that's needed? They gave me two fax numbers, both going to the same office, but if you use both (they said), you'll be sure to get it through, apparently sometimes one of the machines goes offline for whatever reason. And call this voice number immediately afterwards to make sure it went through. I leave a phone message with the person at my former employer who takes care of such things, leaving her the directions and telephone numbers.

So I get a call from my ex-employer's facilitator-of-such-things just a few hours later. She said "Oh look, you mean this form that I submitted on June 25 and have a copy proving that I did so? Yeah," she continued, "I just faxed it to the numbers they gave you." Then she called them to confirm receipt... and then...

And then they said "Oh no, you didn't want to sent it to those fax numbers, that'll take more than a week to get seen to. What you really want to do is to send it to this fax number, which is the 'Problem Resolution' line, where it'll get seen to in 24 to 48 hours."

And where, you may ask, is the "Problem Resolution" fax machine?

Wait for it...

Wait for it...

Oakland. Or, at least, somewhere in Northern California... Pretty much where this whole @$#@$ing story started.

Yes indeedy-doo, the people I called first could have told me about the "Problem Resolution" number, and it could have gotten handled in a day or two. But no, it took me more than a week to find my way to the people that everyone else though I needed to send it to, but was not and never was the right place to send it to.

So, a circuitous route to ... success, maybe? We'll see whether it turns out to be real "success" or not. Or whether they're going to want me to go before an arbitrator with hard copies of the form sent two months ago, and proof that a second (unrelated) thing they were complaining about having been long since not just resolved but never a real problem in the first place... another "The form was filled out in a way whoever read it wasn't smart enough to understand, so they tagged it as 'bad' which delayed everything another two weeks."

So, my fellow M.S.ers, besides laughing with me at the humorous pathway this has taken (let's call it humorous; it will be eventually... after all, tragedy+time=comedy), what do I have to share with you that you can take home with you as a souvenir of this adventure?

  1. Keep copies of everything you send The State or The Feds. You'll probably need it, I'm sorry to say.
  2. Be sure that the message-sending process generates some sort of proof of their receipt of whatever you sent them. "Why yes, your office did in fact receive it on this date, I have this signature and date on the delivery form (if you used confirmation-of-delivery services, which I definitely recommend) or a 'transmission succeeded' from such-and-such a fax number." This may not answer many questions about what/where things went wrong, but if someone says "We never received it," at least you can say "Actually, you did." 
  3. The only question you need to ask is, basically, "How can I help solve this problem? Would you like me to send you another copy of xyz?" If the office is local, tell them, "I can bring it in and deliver it in person to you, would that make things easier?" Lord knows they've gotten more than their share (well, probably exactly the share that they deserved) of "YOU PEOPLE SCREWED THIS UP!!!!" invective, but as Tony Robbins said of anger, "Will making this person 'wrong' make them want to help me?"
  4. Tell people in the office that they've helped you. If it's at all true, tell them that they gave you precisely the help that you needed. And thank them for it. From the expressions on people's faces when I said that at the Pasadena office, nobody says that to them. Ever

And really... the people you talk to are probably not the ones who did whatever stupid thing that's karking out whatever you're hoping to get from this organization. You'll probably never talk to the people who actually screwed things up.

And more importantly: As M.S.ers, we know all about the difference between "inconvenient" and truly bad... I can't play the organ any more; I had started playing that instrument professionally when I was 13 years old. I no longer can work at a place where amazing as it sounds, fourteen-year-olds were the best things that happened to me all day. All sorts of biological machinery below my waist is failing. I can barely walk. I can't (at least right now) sit up at a computer to write music. All sorts of things that I was hoping to do, to give manifestation to creativity and music and changing of lives, all those things, at least right now... I. Just. Can't. There are many times when I find all those things, quite soul-crushingly, truly bad.

But the best part of it is... I don't have enough energy to get bent out of shape at bureaucratic functionaries. But I do have enough energy to smile at them. And, even, to laugh.

A gift that keeps on giving. I never expected that M.S. would make it so easy to share kindness, to laugh, and to smile. And to brighten someone's day; a day that, it would seem, nobody ever brightens.

A very, very, interesting gift.

1 comment:

Muffie said...

I do hope that humor will be the end result of your insurance fiasco. You are blessed with patience for being able to endure such a run-around.
As for your caveats: I DO keep copies of everything, because I DO know how screwed up 'stuff' can get.
Good luck.