Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Please stop bullying me

UPDATED May 27th

My original letter dated April 20th, which has over 1,000 reads, is below this update.

Today I received a short response from the Human Services Minister, Irfan Sabir. He states that the Premier has forwarded my letter to Alberta Works, and that she has "reviewed" my concerns, and he is responding on behalf of the Government. Plus an 'apology' for the delay in the response.

The Minister "is pleased to hear that I applied for (early) CPP". He goes on to state that "Assistance from programs such as Canadian Pension Plan Disability income is considered replacement income, intended to cover basic living needs. As such, this type of income is considered non-exempt when calculating a client's monthly support benefits".

He continues on about how the (Income Support) IS program can't assist with the one tool I need to earn an income because the program doesn't allow it. "Additionally, the Government of Alberta does not grant interest free loans".

He closes off with encouraging me to "continue to work with Alberta Works, to address your concerns".

.........

First of all, Mr. Minister... I am not on CPP disability benefits. I am on regular CPP because that is what the Government ordered me to do. I am pleased that you are pleased that you can now happily steal claw back $449.95 every month from me. Your concern for assisting me in making sure that I remain in poverty is very refreshing.

Did you know that I have been fighting this theft since February of 2014? So for just over 2 years, I did NOT file for early CPP, because it was the WRONG thing to do. Do you understand that by filing for this, my CPP benefits are going to be reduced by over $2,000 per year compared to applying at age 65? Are you aware... that by "with holding" your demands for just SIX MORE MONTHS, I could use that (cough) extra 'income' to buy that one tool I need? A measly 6 months... not a lot to ask for, considering I have avoided this for the past 24 months..

I remind both you and the Premier, that she campaigned on NOT doing claw backs, because she herself said it was the wrong thing to do. So I have to ask... WHY are you doing it? Does her word mean nothing? The Government can give $10 million to pandas, and hundreds of millions of dollars to the fire victims. Yet my situation (and thousands of other like me) gets nothing more than a blind eye. I can certainly say that my situation is a lot more severe and on-going, compared to the later 2 items.

Now, you want me to continue to work with Alberta Works. You and I both know, nothing positive will come from this. Other than, of course.. the joy they will get in clawing back my CPP funds.

With all due respect, I strongly argue that your priorities are not in the right place.

I also have to ask why my MLA, Chris Nielsen, has not said one word about any of this. His job is to represent his constituents. A job he clearly has not done.

Don't get me wrong, I am happy that the IS program is there. I would be dead without it. I, like thousands of others, deserve better. It's the human thing to do. If the NDP can put support into "helping poverty" by subsidizing bus passes (which I am sure ultimately, those funds will be clawed back as well once the program starts) with the strong words of "fighting poverty".... ....

Well. You know. .. .. Just saying.

Keep your word.

Its that simple.

The question is, will you.

=============================================


April 20, 2016

Fax to Premier Notley 780-427-1349
Fax to Minister Sabir 780-643-6214
Email to MLA Marie Renaud Marie.renaud@assembly.ab.ca
Fax to MLA Chris Nielsen 780-414-1330

New correspondence added to:

Fax to Alberta Human Rights Commission 780-427-6013
Email to CBC Go Public gopublic@cbc.ca

Official Complaint

Note: This is an open letter (my address and phone number removed from the public posting)

Dear Premier

Issue 1

Please be advised that I tend to be a very private person. I have only resorted to open letters and blog posts when I have been pushed beyond my limits, and I have been extremely protective of giving out personal information. The stress of being forced into this corner has devastated me more than I could possibly explain. I am here to inform you that the staffs in the Barriers to Employment program that I am covered under are continuing to harass and bully me, and I am asking you to put a stop to it permanently. A simple directive to this department is needed, and all it needs to say is two things. First is to provide me with every assistance possible, and second is to stop the intimidation, harassment and bullying.

As you are aware, I have been writing to you for many months now, specifically April 7th 2015, November 16th 2015, February 2nd, 3rd and 5th, 2016. You have never responded.

I have also been writing to the previous government, Ministers and several previous MLA’s for many long years, dealing with the same types of issues. Some of this correspondence has been given to my current MLA, Chris. There is a lot more I could have given, but I was just trying to highlight the issues, rather than go into “information overload”.

The government and social services departments (including AISH) have all of the medical information on file, which documents my depression and PTSD issues. Included in that is a medical report that says that I will never work again. That specific item I have been trying to reject for years, with little success. Along the way, I heard in social media that Homeward Trust, an agency supported by the Alberta Government, was in dire need of a database specialist. I had several conversations with this agency and when it came time for interviews for the job, I was the first person they wanted to talk with. Clearly a good sign and I aced the interview. Later I learned I did not get the job, and when they were contacted to ask why, I was told that I was “not a proper age fit” with the rest of the team. Clearly discrimination and illegal, but of course nothing was done.

Anyway, the abuse has continued. I have been politely trying to deal with the issue of the clawing back of funds from the Canada Pension Plan. You yourself stood up in a crowd of supporters at the Chateau Louis and specifically stated that “this was so wrong”… with a big smile, as the crowd cheered louder than I have ever heard before during any political rally. And after months and months of trying to deal with this with your government, I have been slapped in the face and bullied into being forced to file for my CPP early. This alone will cost me a loss of around $2,000 per year in pension when I turn 65.

The Federal Government considers CPP as income, and is taxable. In reality it is income, because it is money that I have “earned” and paid into over the years, deducted from wages. Yet when it comes to people on any form of social assistance, this “income” is not considered as income and not treated the same way as normal income is. I believe the standard is that people are allowed to make $200 per month without deductions from supports. Amounts larger than that are done in a format where every $2 made above that, and then $1 would be deducted from the support payment. As an example, if someone made $500 extra, then only $150 (1/2 of the $500 - $200) would be clawed back. So since CPP is not considered as “income” by the Alberta Government, the full $500 is clawed back. And you are right, this IS SO WRONG. Yet you have done nothing about it.

It would be extremely easy to at least change the rules so that CPP is considered in the same fashion as income. I’m sure that there are thousands of people on support who would love to see this changed immediately, because at a minimum, this would be a step in the right direction. Since it seems that your government has the power to just modify the rules you folks made about the debt ceiling limits for borrowing, then you can quickly make this change as well. Heaven help any MLA from any party that would object to this. Of course, the ultimate goal would be to not force people to file for early CPP. After all… it is our future pensions that are at stake. And in my opinion, you are stealing my future away from me. I have enough problems to deal with, without having the stress of knowing I will have a lot less money to live on at age 65.

For the people who do choose to file for early CPP, then fine… do the deductions as income, just like any other income. At least that will be their choice. And with costs being what they are today, people on social assistance need every break they can get.

Anyway, as you are aware, I was forced to file for early CPP, or be cut off assistance totally. When I went in to Service Canada to put in my application as required, I felt like I was waiting in line to be executed by a firing squad. That really made my day; I’ve got to tell you that. I did exactly as directed by Carl Swanson, the area supervisor for my section. He stated they would give me documents to prove I had filed, which is all that was required for the moment. I got those documents, stamped by Service Canada, and faxed them into his department. Some social worker decided they didn’t like what I had sent in, so withheld my support payment. A lady called me and tried to intimidate me by saying that what I had sent in wasn’t proof, and that wasn’t the standard letter they normally received as proof. “Look, I sent in what was given to me by Service Canada, if there was something else you needed then I should have been told at the time by Carl… and in addition to that, the stamp from Service Canada is on the document”, and that verbal battle with the worker carried on, until finally she responded with “OK, well… I *guess I can accept that”. Gee, thanks for the added stress that I clearly needed. *sigh. The funds were eventually released, late of course.

As well, there is the incident that occurred when I filed my annual report (my circumstances are such that I do not have to file the normal monthly reporting card) and I checked off the same “rent” box that I have been checking off for years. Another social worker took offense to that and decided to take matters into her own hands and called me at home saying that my rental allowance funding would be reduced to $100 per month. You can’t live anywhere for that, and I screamed bloody hell in another letter to you (cc’d to the Minister and MLA’s). And as you are aware I got a call from Carl stating “it was a mistake”. Carl also stated that the worker told me she said that they were not going to do that (in the same phone call she first made) and as I pointed out to all of you and Carl, that was an outright lie. And of course when I tried to discuss that with Carl, he refused.

Since my “status” has changed and I am now required to report the funds that I get from CPP (amount still unknown, I was told it could take up to 3 months to process my application) it seems that I now have to fill out a reporting card. This was yet another time that I was NOT told anything about this, and I discovered this by accident. This made me late in filing the reporting card and in the area where is says ‘Message to worker’ I wrote in “thanks for NOT telling me… ASSHOLES”. I was pissed, what can I say.

Needless to say, that spiked another phone call from another social worker, who once again tried to bully and intimidate me. There was nothing wrong with the details I provided in that card, yet I was hassled over it. I guess she took objection to my objection about being bullied. I know, how dare I, right? Eventually she got around to saying “so, you remember what you wrote on your reporting card, right?” …. To which I responded that I most certainly did. I simply asked her to just process the card but she insisted repeatedly “only when she was done”. After much more hassle, she finally stated “you have to fill out the card until your CPP comes in” and then hung up on me. See, you know, I already knew that, because that’s what I was complaining about on THAT reporting card. There was zero need for her to try to jab insults at me. Thanks for the added stress. Oh, yeah.. did I mention that when she processed the payment, she also (out of malice?) just casually deducted $78 from my transportation allowance. No warning, no nothing… just gone. Talk about being vindictive. They had already been raked over the coals about my rent and other things they pissed around with, but they were never warned to leave that allowance alone. Needless to say, I’d really appreciate it if that amount was restored, and the funds deducted for April are also given back.

What was funny over the AISH application and denial, was that the board felt that “I might be able to work” despite the doctors statement to the contrary. And they kind of chuckled over the “but I need to get on AISH so that I can stop the financial abuse that is constant”… I guess some people just don’t get it.

Item 2

To the Minister

With all due respect, your letters in response have been, shall I politely say, very disappointing. You tried to point out several things that I already knew. A simple call to the benefits group would have told you those items were already suggested, and had been rejected because they were impossible to achieve or obtain. Suggesting them again was an insult, and it showed that zero time was spent in actually looking at the facts of my issues. As well, things about the lies from Carl were also conveniently bypassed in your responses. My guess is that if it’s not talked about, then it didn’t really happen, right? Well, I’m sorry but it did. If you knew *anything about my issues, you would understand that most of my PTSD comes from the political abuse and avoidance caused by my exemplary employment with the Edmonton Police Service. Much time was spent with Chris covering these issues, so that he could portray them to you in a shorter form. I suspect he never said anything to you at all. If you have any interest, a very short form of this is on my blog at http://garyalberta.blogspot.ca/2010/11/doing-it-right.html

As you are aware, I’ve been proposing to the government, different suggestions that would allow me to obtain the one single piece of equipment that will enable me to actually work. And every possible excuse has been provided as to why I don’t qualify for this or that. The biggest one of these had to do with the $5,000 grant to businesses (per employee) to assist with job creation, growth and training. I am a sole proprietor, I am licensed by the government, and I do have one employee in desperate need of a tool. That of course, would be me. But since I am not a (cough) “real” business, I don’t qualify. If people like myself don’t fit into “the program”, then perhaps the program needs to be adjusted. And as I stated, I don’t even *want the full $5,000 because all I need is just one half of that. I offered an option to lend me those funds interest free, which I would pay back from my “un-clawed” CPP funds but nope, can’t do that either. Oh yeah, that’s right, all of those funds are clawed back.

Seems like no matter what I try to do to get back into being a productive member of society, the government prefers to take the approach that I must live the rest of my life in poverty. Yes, this is indeed something that I have been really keen on doing. I could literally care less that because of EPS and all of the other agencies and departments involved with that depressing, illegal and unjust termination, that I am out well over $800,000 in wages, and I’m guessing possibly close to another $100,000 in pension monies. Yeah, I went on assistance so I could avoid all that income. I hope you understand that was said with “tongue firmly implanted in cheek” stuff.

Let me make it perfectly clear. I never wanted a life like this. I did *nothing to deserve a life like this. And I can say with all certainty that trying to fight “the system” full of bad people that hold all of the cards”, is pretty much next to impossible. Unless of course you have deep pockets to pay for the legal fees. Something I don’t have, that is for sure.

I have never been that bad guy. I am not a druggie or boozer type of person. My 3 years with EPS was the best thing that ever happened, until I was screwed over. Huge kudos are in my file showing my outstand work, from each and every section that I did work for. And there were many. Chris saw those too. I was instrumental in assisting Crime Analysis with solving the Punky murder. I am SO proud of that. Lets also not forget the 5 years of exemplary dedication I gave free of charge, working as a volunteer probation officer dealing with young offenders. Something I am also very proud of because I was able to set a court precedent that the government had been trying for years to figure out how to do. Only took me one night, and the safety of a baby was the ultimate outcome from this.

The bottom line is, I have put in my time. I am caught between a rock and a hard place, and it seems like this government just does not care. Conform! Comply! Do things within the rules, no matter how screwed up the rules are, we just don’t care.

Item 3

For Chris, my MLA. I have been beyond patient and generally polite when I have been supporting you and dealing with you. In May of 2015 we had good conversations in private in twitter. And when you won your seat, I was quick to confirm that we needed to talk. “Office isn’t set up yet, staff are not hired yet” was the response. So while many of my friends had made contact with *their MLA’s, including meetings, you told me I had to wait. Fine…  I waited until June 10th to try again, only to be told once again that you were not ready. And of course, I was polite again, and you replied that a good politician with “Thanks so much for your patience, I really appreciate it!”.

On July 3rd I contacted you again, apologizing for sounding rude, but I was tired of waiting for this meeting to happen. You asked me to check my gmail, and I don’t use gmail. “Sorry, thought you were someone else this entire time. My CA started today, call the office Monday at book a meeting.” So I did that.

Eventually we had our meeting, and it was a long one. You insisted that both of your office staff be present and I though ok, fine. They need to be broken in on training so why not. I gave you a ton of documents, with the express intent that you would become more familiar with my issues and the informed expectations that you would summarize that and speak directly to the Minister. After all, my chances of getting a meeting with him are next to none.

And as you can recall, there were several instances after that in which I needed to contact you, and despite my need for YOU to deal with this, you seemed to just pass it all along to your assistant Denis. In letters sent later on, I even mentioned a few times that I was not aware of anything that YOU had done, because I never once received a reply from you. This was your perfect opportunity to respond saying “oh, I had meetings with the Minister, this is what was discussed, etc.” I got nothing from you. I did this at least twice, in writing.

Further complaints were made about my treatment from social services, complete with zero responses from you. After more complaints in private, on September 1st you responded with “Not saying the system is right, this is just the way we have to use it right now. The future is always what we make it.” Followed by “I've done what I can do on this question and will continue if you have more.”

And just exactly *what did you do? Nothing that I can see.

I contacted you several times after that, with the last messages send on February 16th. And I got NO answer from you at all. However on March 3rd, I got a cheeky email from Denis, basically saying that you don’t like being contacted in twitter over issues, and that I should direct all correspondence to him at your constituency office.

He went on to describe my loss of rental funding as “over a small error”. SMALL ERROR? Seriously? This was done by someone who I believe was just out to be vindictive and on a power trip. The SAME issues that I have been having with workers for years.

You know what, Chris? When I approached my PC MLA, she knew the problems were not fair and not justified. She actually took the TIME to represent ME and my issues. SHE DID HER JOB. And she succeeded in many ways, because she literally read the riot act to social services and had many issues fixed. To the point where the office actually tried in an attempt to fix things and gain funding for that one piece of equipment that I needed.

Sadly, right at that point in time the election was called, and all constituent work stopped. And then you got elected, and nothing more was done. If I had my choice right at this moment to fire you, and bring back my PC MLA that actually represented me and my issues, I would do that in a heart beat. Because as I see it right now, you have done nothing at all, other than to pass everything on to your staff to work on. Which I am sad to say, to me, all I see is a prissy politician that is afraid to stand up for the right thing. Also sad to say, that would appear to make you rather useless. Sorry to say that but, it’s what I see. You have given me no other indications. And if I am wrong, then you should say something. Hell, you should have said something to me a long time ago.

Item 4

To Marie. As I said from the start, I am deeply sorry for dragging you into all of this. We had been having many conversations in twitter long before you ran for office. And when you did decide to run, as you know I went out of my way to support you. I stated that the reason why I had included you in this matter was because you have had the experience in dealing with the people that are in similar situations to what I am in. I was just hoping that you could step up and shine some light onto this with the people in charge.

Sadly, you too never responded to anything in the letters that I am aware of. You responded to a private message on September 2nd with “Great. I hope I can help”. I also informed you I was doing the letter that included you, and you said that you were looking forward to reading it, followed by a “don’t give up” message. The stress of doing that letter took a huge toll on my health stuff, and I didn’t get around to sending it until November 16th.  You also responded with “I'm sorry, I have not had time to follow up. Really long hours. Let me look into this a bit more and see what I can find out. I'm sorry you are not doing well. Give me a little time. Take care.” I stated that I was getting ready to blow up (paraphrased) and you said “Don't lose it, hang on. Let me look into this and see what we can find. “

On December 12th, I inquired about the progress and you responded with “Sadly, I have to wait long periods of time for appointments and answers too. Don't lose heart, we are trying to find you the resources you need. I will not give up, so you don't either. Deal?” I loved you for that. I contacted you again in private on January 11th, and heard nothing. Again on February 16th. You responded back that you were in Grande Prairie and would send me a message when you got back home.

To this day, I’ve heard nothing more. Since you never answered my question about whom you may have talked to and what was discussed, I can only presume that you spoke to no one. Hey, I get it, you aren’t my MLA. Why should you get involved? And if that was indeed the case, then a simple response back telling me that you could do nothing and to deal with Chris, would have been ideal. Just saying.

So with that, I’m afraid to say that I have lost confidence in you. And I’m thinking that I should get my $20 back. Please and thank you.


Item 5

As for the Human Rights Commission and CBC Go Public, well, I have no clue if sending this to you will do any good, or if there is anything you can help with. All I know is I am at my wits end, and I am tired of the abuses. No one deserves to live through this hell. I will happily supply any documentation  that you desire.

Item 6

Just some “ps” type comments, if you will. Thousands of dollars for a week’s worth of consultant pay, but nothing for a person in need. I think someone has their priorities screwed up.

Huge dollars in this carbon tax thing. A big mistake in my opinion, and I doubt this will do anything to make anything rosier for the general poor folks.

Someone seriously needs to make some heavy duty modifications to the Community Revitalization Levy, otherwise known as the CRL. Huge dollars are being taken from the education side of things, and this simply should NEVER be allowed. Any existing agreements must be modified so that the Education Tax component is NOT included in any deal. Nothing like robbing kids of their futures, and creating an additional burden on taxpayers to make up the differences. With those differences basically going directly into the pocket of a rich billionaire.

Finally, there is the issue of Pet Deposits. The current laws are such that this is a license for landlords to print money, since none of these funds are given back to tenants. Pet deposits need to be refundable. For people with pets, its like paying an extra fee because you have children. I did a blog post on this back in 2010, and you can read it here http://garyalberta.blogspot.ca/2010/10/pet-deposits.html.

Again, with all due respect to folks. I know I have come across as a bit nasty but I’ve had enough. I am the dog that is biting the hand that feeds it, because the people that feed me keep on kicking me when I am down.  This needs to stop, and it needs to stop NOW.

Thanks kindly for taking the time to deal with this.