When You & Your Dirty Kids Are Just Another Number

It’s been awhile now since I stood before the judge in that cold courtroom on Wilshire. Since I heard the worlds “entirely disabled” and “incapable of any work in this economy.”

It was like a punch in the gut and a weight off my shoulders all at once. I would continue to collect my long-term disability benefits, as contracted to me by my employer…however this appeal meant the long-term disability benefit insurance company could now deduct what I would be receiving from Social Security and what my kids would be receiving, since their Mom was now entirely disabled.

It also meant I was given Medicare.

What I didn’t know, until a few weeks ago- when two large packets arrived in the mail, was that the kids were also eligible for MediCal.

Except we have private insurance for them. So I ignored the big packet and went about life.


Then, about a week or so ago, two letters came in the mail demanding I choose a MediCal plan for each child or they would choose one for me. So I did what most people would do, and I called the number on the letter to let them know “thank you, but no thank you…the kids have private insurance through their father’s work.”

Except it was’t that easy.

It also wasn’t pleasant. At all. 

After a series of “Press 1 if you are calling to ask about your child’s benefits. Press 2 if you are calling to find a provider…” and so on and so forth, I finally found a real person.

Except I needed to hold.

57:18 later someone picked up.

Yes, this is Dainelle, how may I help you?

Hi, I’m sorry to bother you but I received some paperwork for my children in the mail not too long ago…and now I’m getting letter saying they will be assigned a plan…how do I…

Ma’am what is your social security number and should you not have that number handy I can give you time to find that number. 

My social security # is 123456789

and what is your date of birth?

My date of birth is 12/10/I’mgoingtobe40OMG

And ma’am what are your children’s full names?

My children’s names are Count Waffles the Terrible* & Princess Peanut Punk as Fuck*

Ma’am what is Count Waffle’s SS# 

Oh… hang on I have his card right on my desk just give me a moment … 

Now at this point I was sitting on my bed upstairs. My desk is maybe 5-7 feet from my desk. So I quickly stood up and began to walk to my desk when I heard…

Ma’am you have 1 minute to find the information, if you can not find that information in 1 minute you will have to call back

Oh I have it it right here, my desk is right next to me, let me just grab it…

Ma’am you now have 30 seconds 

Uh… that took 30 seconds? There’s no need to be rude or rush me, it’s right here

Ma’am you now have 10…9…8…

It’s RIGHT HERE.. his ss# is 123456789

Now may I have your daughter’s ss#

Yes, here’s is right here as well, just in a different drawer 

The same rules apply ma’am you now have 40 seconds to ..

Yes, yes.. you know I was on hold for nearly an hour to talk to you all, you would think you could wait more than a minute..

Ma’am I don’t appreciate your tone and should you speak to me in a manner I find threatening i can end this call at anytime

I have the card right here 

You now have 10 seconds…9…

My daughter’s card is in my hand … do you want her #?

Give me the # or I will end this call

Her ss# is 123456789

At this point, I’m FUMING. I felt humiliated. I felt trapped. I felt like she was treating me like the scum of the earth – why? Because I’m on Social Security and my kids are required by my long-term disability insurance, as was I, to file for benefits in order to collect what came out of every single paycheck of mine.

They think we are poor. They think we are just one of those families.


Does this give those helping people in need the right to treat us like absolutely SHIT? To put us on hold for nearly an hour, and then once speaking to us to enact bizarre hold rules and threats of hanging up for anything from my “tone” to my inanbitly to open the drawer in my desk fast enough? It’s not as if I was rummaging through papers for 15 minutes, wasting everyone’s time. I KNEW they would need these things, so I put them in the top drawer and right on top of the pile. It took me all of 20 seconds to get them. Unless you speed count like Danielle.

But let’s think about this from another perspective. What if I had needed my cane that morning? It might have taken me longer to get that 6 feet to the desk. What if I needed my wheelchair? What if I left them on the downstairs counter thinking I was going to make the call from there, instead of upstairs?

Click. Sorry sweetheart. Call back and wait on hold another day. THAT is what would have happened.

Instead, politely as possible.. I gave the woman on the other end of the phone ALL of the info she asked for and in the manner in which she requested it- as politely as I could possibly muster I even offered additional information.

Then, she finally asked me, what was the nature of my call. I could hear her tone. I could tell she hated me, for presumably being poor and needing benefits for my kids. Or maybe, just maybe, she was having a bad day? I was about to find out.

Yes, I’m calling because my children are not in need of MediCal, we have private insurance…

Oh, you pay for private insurance? 

It was as if she didn’t believe me.

Yes…my husband and I …

…Oh well in that case Ma’am, Mrs. Vest, you need to call this other number. I’m so sorry but we don’t handle those in my department. Let me see if I can get you connected right away. I’m so sorry you had to wait, and I apologize for my shortness with you. It’s just that we get many calls per day with people trying to, you know, get things. 

Suddenly she was Miss Mary Sunshine. And I went from feeling humiliated to feeling complete RAGE…yet my jaw was hanging open. I was knocked entirely speechless.

All because…we pay.

We’re weren’t those people.

The people I was not 10 seconds earlier that had her COUNTING DOWN before threatening to hang up on me. That had her, like a nasty robot from Jerk-Planet, speaking with such a tone I was sweating and fumbling with paperwork and feeling about an INCH HIGH while trying to simply give her information.

This. This is how we treat those in need in America.

This is how we treat those who are the least fortunate – a mother with a disability/deadly disease and kids in need of insurance – as far as she knew- THIS is how we go about treating them.

As if they are a burden. As if they are a total waste of time. As if they are undeserving of any kindness, compassion or even simple curtsey in a phone conversation.

Yes, I learned a lot in the hour-plus as I waded through SSDi, MediCal for my kids this week and I was left feeling sick.

We have to do better. WE MUST do better.

Those who are most in need are the ones also most in need of your smiles, your warmth, your COMPASSION.

Even if it’s a simple phone call attempting to iron out eligibility.

I feel sick to my stomach as I am typing out this story to you, because this woman made me feel not like a mother or woman while on the phone with her, but like trash. Like whatever situation I was in, requiring my children eligible for MediCal, it was most certainly my fault. I most certainly could do something to make it better, and she looked down on me worse than any of those snotty Moms at the Grosse Pointe pool when my Mom would take me along with her to meet up with friends she had who lived in that city.

As I continue to get healthy I am determined to change so much of what I have seen to get to where I am. And when I AM healthy enough to take on some of these challenges, Lord help people like Danielle…because there will be training and re-training and if you can’t get it, eventually job loss. Because you WILL treat everyone you encounter with respect, no matter their reasons for being in the situation the are in.

Our country as a WHOLE needs to learn this lesson, but…baby steps.

Those of us who are in current need have paid into the system and have every right to take it out, but we also have the right to DIGNITY while doing so.

To those of you currently in the system and doing what you have to in order to feed your family, provide them with health care, whatever it is you are doing…know that I believe you are amazing, hard-working, and I am so sorry this is the sort of treatment you encounter.

I promise you we’re going to make this better…make them SEE what it’s like to be us, to walk a mile in our shoes.

They’ll never count down, threatening to hang up on us, again. Ever.


  1. When she was counting down as you looked for the paperwork, all I could think of was blowing things up. You are right that no one should be treated like that for any reason, and especially not after letting you sit on hold for a ridiculous amount of time. But here is the other side, perfectly demonstrate on the news tonight: we as a society believe that most people are out to milk the system.

    On the 11 o’clock news tonight they aired a story from San Diego because it was they felt that important to get the word out. The story was about a pregnant woman who was holding a sign asking for money. She was standing in a parking lot with her very young son. Another woman saw her and felt for her and her situation. She even gave her money. But at some point she saw the woman get into a Mercedes and drive off with a man.

    Now, this wouldn’t be much of a story except that as the fates were bored that day the woman later found herself behind that same Mercedes. And so, she followed her. And yes, it got worse.

    The pregnant woman set up shop at another parking lot. The other woman watched and also took photos. She even got photos of the car and license plate. But at some point the pregnant woman realized what was going on and picked up a large rock over her head and threatened the woman who had taken the photos.

    The woman called 911 but by the time the police responded the pregnant woman ( who the other woman now questioned after seeing her lift the rock) was gone. The news reporter traced the vehicle to an address but the woman who responded was not the woman they were looking for.

    Meanwhile there are people who do not understand that you can work and be homeless. Thanks to Shondra Rimes for putting a homeless veteran with a job as a character on Grey’s Anatomy this week.

    But more people will remember the story of the maybe pregnant woman asking for money while driving around San Diego in her Mercedes laughing all the way to the bank. This is certainly the person Danielle has been trained to deal with and keep from abusing the system.

  2. Eeeesh. :/
    We must do better.

  3. All of those people “asking for things” want one thing: health care. If Danielle sees people wanting health care for themselves and their children as a problem, she needs to be fired.

    I learned recently that in Georgia, over 70 counties don’t have a OB-GYN who will accept Medicaid. Over 60 don’t have a pediatrician who will. So even if you DO get benefits, your troubles aren’t over.

  4. What sucks about that pregnant woman story? What if she was trafficked? What if her ‘job’ was to be employed by the jerk in the nice car and he dropped her off in the bad part of town while taking her $$ like a pimp? Maybe she owed him as a coyote …. did anyone think of that?

  5. I am so sorry, Erin. I don’t understand what has happened to us that we draw such unforgiving lines between decent people and unworthy people, the definitions of both being utterly subjective bull shit.

    Judgement of the poor seems to be the favored blood sport in our society, within that the lines between white and black, man and women, gay or straight, deepening the chasm.

    I have been guilty of judging people in the emergency clinic on Sundays, bothered by the way smoke clings to their clothes. I have to constantly reset and I feel like an asshole. But I try, every day I try to be compassionate, but more than that, vocal. Because it isn’t enough to quietly work on my own ruts, I have to speak up.

    Thank you for sharing this experience.

  6. That is outrageous and unconscionable.

  7. Eustice The Sheep says:

    When you’re ready, take me with you. This is exactly what I’ve wanted to do for years.

  8. I agree that the story was poor reporting at its finest. No one from the media ever spoke with the pregnant woman or the man in the car. Everything was from the photos the other woman took and what she shared with the reporters and police.

    The reporter got an address from the DMV, and went there and left her card. But the woman who returned her call said she had recently moved in and the previous tenant had left unexpectedly. It was a rather nice looking apartment building, so perhaps she was moved off a wait list much sooner than she had expected?

    But yes, there are many reasons this woman (who I guess I should mention is white) could have been asking for money in a parking lot and being picked up by a man driving a Mercedes. But my point is more that most people will draw the conclusion that she is up to no good and abusing the system rather than someone down on her luck trying to survive. I mean, does anyone know how hard it is to get a job when you are visibly pregnant? Yes, employers cannot discriminate, but that does not mean they will not.

    Here is a link to the story: abc7.la/1wjnPjd

  9. Erin,
    Thank you for sharing your story and experience. I am so sorry this happened to you. We are sharing your article with the Magical Bridge Playground community – as inspiration to treat everyone with compassion, kindness and dignity.


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