Government Social Assistance Programs: Through the Maze

Susan Hauck Starred Page By Susan Hauck , 27th Apr 2015 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL http://nut.bz/3jtyt-0f/
Posted in Wikinut>News>Education

Whether you are searching endlessly for information on social assistance programs, or are simply curious about such programs, sit back, relax and let me be your guide through the government labyrinth.

History

Programs designed to help the poor, the orphaned, the elderly or disabled date back over 2000 years. Though they were not the sophisticated programs we see today in America, most societies recognized a need for helping those left to fortune's fate.

During the “Pax Romanus” (the Roman Peace) the Romans had a very basic welfare program, often referred to as “bread and circuses.” Each citizen was guaranteed enough grain for their needs, and entrance in to the theatre was free. Since it was indeed a time of peace, that is a commentary on how little it can take to make people happy. (But that is a topic for another day.)

Going back even farther, there is archaeological evidence that pre-historic peoples did not leave their injured to die; skeletons of people who were either injured or deformed at birth, reveal that they would have had extreme difficulty surviving to adulthood without the assistance of others. And the leader of great apes such as Gorillas and Chimpanzees in the wild will slow down the troop for an injured or sick member, giving them a chance to recover.

It is safe to say that there is an instinct in both apes and humans to be aware of, and take action on, behalf of, the weaker members of society. Today, the mostly government-run comprehensive social welfare system is more complex than ever before.

Myths and Facts

1. Most people receiving government-run social assistance programs are single mothers with multiple children: Myth, or alternately, Urban Legend. The picture painted of a single mom, having baby after baby in order to receive ever more government subsidies for each child is the exception, not the rule. The majority of people receiving public assistance are families, either single-parent or duel-parent. However, single parent households are more likely to fall into or below the poverty line.

2. Most people receiving social assistance programs do not work: Myth. The majority of individuals receiving assistance programs are working at least part-time. Many work full-time, but do not make enough an hour to meet their needs. For instance, those individuals whose health insurance is not provided by part-time or full-time employment, but do not earn enough to buy private health insurance, can apply for Medicaid, a sub-category of public assistance.

3. Fraud is a true concern when it comes to government subsidized programs: Fact. Fraud is a very real problem. Fraudulent claims, the investigation of them, prosecution, and eventual justice (we hope) cost taxpayers as much money—or more, depending on your state–as legitimate recipients of assistance programs. Anyone who suspects fraud can call the fraud hotline in their state. Such tips are taken seriously and investigated. You could be saving Mr/s. Taxpayer (that's you) money.

4. States that have a high employment rate and low rate of people needing social assistance programs are fairing better economically: Fact. A high employment rate and low public assistance rate is associated with a strong, healthy economy.

These are just some of the myths and facts about social assistance programs. For more information click on the link above.

Three Basic Categories of Social Assistance Programs

Understanding the numerous social safety net programs available can be positively daunting. It will help to understand that there are three basic types of services:

1. Those that can be received only if one has worked a certain number of months or years, depending on the program:

This category of assistance is comprised of Unemployment Compensation; Social Security for those age 65 or older (or 67 or older, depending on your age bracket); Social Security Disability for those of any age, but at least 18; and Worker's Compensation.
In Pennsylvania, in order to receive Unemployment Compensation, one must have worked for at least six months and the benefit amount is determined by how many quarters the individual worked and how much money was earned. The rules vary from state to state, so click here for a directory of your state's particular laws. Unemployment Compensation.

The amount paid for Social Security for those sixty-five or older is based upon these criteria: how much a person earned over his/her lifetime, and the highest quarters, or “peak” earning years. This does not vary from state to state. Click here for more information Social Security.

Workers Compensation is based upon similar criteria as the above: wages earned, number of quarters worked and the highest quarters.

The social safety net programs mentioned in this first category all have one thing in common: receiving the compensation is only possible if there is adequate, earned income.


2. This second category is comprised of benefits that can be received regardless of employment status, including and up to individuals who worked little or not at all.

The assistance programs consist of SSI (Supplemental Social Security Income); public assistance, called TANF: Temporary Assistance to Needy Families); Energy assistance; Food “stamps”, now called SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) and MA (Medical Assistance).
SSI is one of the more confusing programs. Although the Social Security Administration directs the program, SSI payments are not taken from Social Security funds. SSI is paid for by the U.S. Treasury, not the Social Security fund.
SSI is for people who have low income, few resources, and who meet basic criteria: a person must be disabled, blind or age 65 or older. Click on this link, SSI, for more information.
Cash benefits (usually delivered by electronic transfer); energy assistance; SNAP and MA, are received when someone meets the guidelines for each particular program. For TANF, there is a complex system for determining each family's eligibility, and the same can be said for the other three programs. The determinations are made by workers employed by their state, and are usually trained extensively on the state's public assistance laws.

3. The last, but not in the least category, are programs that are implemented on the local or regional level by churches or charitable groups.

These types of safety net programs do not necessarily receive government funding, although some do. Services are delivered by such entities as the Salvation Army, Red Cross, United Way, Catholic Charities and numerous other examples on the local and regional level. Such organizations play avery important role. Financial, as well as other needs, physical, emotional and spiritual are often met by local churches and charitable groups. A guide to local charities is available in most phone books.

Commentary

Social assistance programs have been available since mankind was first kicked out of the proverbial Garden of Eden.

Injuries, sickness and various disabilities awaited Adam and Eve and their progeny, according to Judeo-Christian beliefs. Societies throughout history and, according to fossil record, prehistoric societies most likely helped their weaker members, at least when conditions were favorable.

This helping behavior has been taken to an art form in the 21 century, and some might say, to the extreme. But complexity is not always a good thing. Neither is complete simplicity. The key to judicial oversight of social welfare programs is striking a balance between the two opposite poles. I believe it is time for change, but not to strip benefits from people who legitimately need them, but to crack down harder on fraud, to advertise fraud hotlines more frequently and take responsibility for ensuring that services are only awarded to those truly in need. Striking such a balance between too much help and too little should be the goal of those charged with overseeing government social assistance programs.

Tags

Disability, Social Assistance, Social Security, Unemployment, Welfare

Meet the author

author avatar Susan Hauck
I have been a freelance writer since 2008. I have a four-year degree in social welfare with expertise in that area. I also write about many different aspects of nature, pets and pet care.

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Comments

author avatar Retired
20th May 2015 (#)

Fantastic article. I learned quite a bit that I never knew about all these programs. And as a history buff I LOVE the way you brought out facts from centuries ago. A very interesting touch not many writers do! Thumbs up!!

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author avatar Susan Hauck
20th May 2015 (#)

Thanks Jessica, very happy you enjoyed it!

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author avatar CityJoe
20th May 2015 (#)

It is much less of a maze when someone does all the work for you like you did here. And congratulations getting a star on your first article. Stars seem to be a coveted thing here!

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author avatar Susan Hauck
20th May 2015 (#)

Thanks City Joe, I'm glad I could guide you through the maze!

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author avatar Catherine
20th May 2015 (#)

This blows away a lot of misconception! Nice job. No way I'd have the patience to write it but you have a background in it. That's different

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author avatar Susan Hauck
20th May 2015 (#)

Thanks, Catherine. I'm happy to blow away misconceptions!

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author avatar Nancy Czerwinski
20th May 2015 (#)

Susan, excellent and very detailed article. I simply love the fact that you have researched history and the present. It is an amazing article that I have personally learned from. Congratulations on the gold star. Blessings to you!

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author avatar Susan Hauck
20th May 2015 (#)

Thank you, Nancy! I'm so glad you liked the history-to-present research. I aim to please!

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author avatar Raz Schultz
20th May 2015 (#)

Great article, Susan! I worked in that field for many years, and I must say, you wrote a very concise, factual report on the various government and charitable programs, which will help people have a better understanding of what's available. Congratulations on your Gold Star, too!.

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author avatar Susan Hauck
21st May 2015 (#)

Thanks, Raz! I hope to help people always gain a better understanding!

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author avatar Dan
21st May 2015 (#)

Good write! Thanks for all the concise and well spoken facts! Like you said there are those who, unfortunately, play the system who refuse to work yet want a free ride, and there are those who do do all they can yet are coming up short in today's economy. It might help the situation if the people are able bodied that they should have to do some kind of work, whether community service, etc. It might start to weed out some of the abuses.

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author avatar Retired
22nd May 2015 (#)

Yeah, it is so unfair that the people, as you put it, who are doing all they can but coming up short, have to be categorized with those who just don't want to work! That's not fair. Everyone gets painted with the same stripe.

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author avatar Retired
22nd May 2015 (#)

Yeah, it is so unfair that the people, as you put it, who are doing all they can but coming up short, have to be categorized with those who just don't want to work! That's not fair. Everyone gets painted with the same stripe.

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author avatar Susan Hauck
22nd May 2015 (#)

You're welcome Dan! I totally agree that able bodied people should do whatever work they can, community service is a great way to start. Yes, that would weed out the abusers and users from the truly needy. Maybe you should do my next commentary!

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author avatar Retired
22nd May 2015 (#)

Oh dear. It went on there twice.

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author avatar Susan Hauck
22nd May 2015 (#)

That's ok, Jessica--we all hit the enter button more than once at times! I agree, everyone DOES get painted w/the same stripe. Unfortunately, those who take advantage of the system make the truly disabled, not to mention taxpayers, pay for their misdeeds. Mixed up world, isn't it?

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author avatar Kingwell
24th May 2015 (#)

Excellent article. I don't live in the U.S. but it's always good to learn such things. Looking forward to more posts. Blessings.

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author avatar Susan Hauck
24th May 2015 (#)

Thanks Kingwell. Even though you don't live in the U.S., your attitude is great about learning new things! Blessings to you as well.

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author avatar Retired
3rd Jul 2015 (#)

Interesting and informative article, Susan.

Better than more cracking down on fraud would be first to simplify. Complex operations, qualifications, and requirements are entry points for fraud. Second, better to qualify the disabled, needy, or problem-riddled people for jobs they are able to do, with training. That way, they get TO EARN what they get, making them more independent people instead of the gimme gimme grabbers of free goods and services that results in dependence. What do you think?

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author avatar Susan Hauck
4th Jul 2015 (#)

I think that's an excellent point of view, LeRain! Everyone should work as much as they can. It's good for the economy. It's good for the country. And it's good for the individual; personal pride as opposed to simply accepting a handout is always better. Programs to help the disabled or temporarily needy to train for different jobs should be one focus, and definitely catching the fraudulent claims as soon as possible should be our goal. For the truly needy and misfortunate individuals, the safety net programs should be available and used without shame. If fraud is tackled, the stigma of disabled/needy individuals would not be as bad, for the public would soon realize that no one gets help unless they legitimately need it!

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author avatar Mark
14th Jul 2015 (#)

Great article. Well researched and written. Keep up the good work. I am looking for your next article. What will ths subject matter be this time?

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author avatar Susan Hauck
17th Jul 2015 (#)

Thanks Mark. I have several ideas for new articles, coming soon! So I'm glad you'll be checking out the site.

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author avatar Sivaramakrishnan A
3rd Aug 2015 (#)

Now social assistance in different forms are in place even in poorer countries. It was the norm for women not to work, at least full time, so they had no earning or saving. Now they are in a much better position in terms of having jobs rather than remaining at home looking after family.

For an inclusive society, those who are better off due to various reasons have to chip in and there are many organizations to see that children have education and the elderly looked after.

Good to know the history and systems in place in America. Thanks Susan for the share - siva

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author avatar Susan Hauck
3rd Aug 2015 (#)

Thanks, Siva. Always enjoy hearing people's thoughts on my article, and I'm glad my it was of interest!

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author avatar Fern Mc Costigan
2nd Oct 2015 (#)

Susan this post is awesome and well written. Well deserved star!

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author avatar Susan Hauck
2nd Oct 2015 (#)

Thanks, Fern, for the kudos! I appreciate it very much to hear that my article was well written!

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author avatar Carol Roach
6th Nov 2015 (#)

very good article, however, you should mention that myths and facts are particular to the States, it does not apply here in Canada for example.

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author avatar Susan Hauck
6th Nov 2015 (#)

Thanks for the tip, Carol! Yes, the myths and facts are particular to the States. I'll remember if I do another article such as this!

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author avatar brendamarie
7th Nov 2015 (#)

Very interesting and informative article.

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author avatar Susan Hauck
7th Nov 2015 (#)

Thanks, Brendamarie, I'm glad you found it so!

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author avatar SaigonDeManila
9th Dec 2015 (#)

Two thumbs up and what an epic first post Star badge earner!!

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author avatar Susan Hauck
9th Dec 2015 (#)

Thanks, Saigon! This is an older article I wrote and it was awesome to see your compliment!

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author avatar Bodylevive
9th Feb 2016 (#)

#3 caught my eye. Fraud in taxes is real. You never know someone has your child's information until you file and it comes back rejected by the IRS.

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author avatar Susan Hauck
10th Feb 2016 (#)

You're so right Bodylevive! I've known this to happen, which is why immediate reporting of fraud is so necessary by all law-abiding citizens!

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