Let’s Waste a Little More Money

One of my pet peeves is people who live off the government. Before you go there, no, I’m not privileged, I’m not rich, I’m not in an ivory tower. I’m a single mom who worked full time all of my life and went to school part time at night while paying babysitters so I could better my life and provide for myself and my kids. Don’t get me wrong. I’m all about helping someone in need. I’m all for providing assistance until someone can get on their feet. I’m even completely supportive of disability benefits for people who are disabled. Truly disabled. Herein lies the problem. Being in the counseling profession can very quickly jade a person.

In my experiences as a counselor, I first worked for the South Carolina Department of Mental Health. In my naivete I thought people would be coming to see me to get better. To improve their lives. Instead I found out that a large portion of my clients were only interested in being connected with mental health in order to document that they were unable to work. This was fairly easy to spot with a few well thought out questions, such as, “Who referred you here?” When the answer was “My lawyer”, bingo. My response was always that I was there to help them get back on track, not to help them get a check. Eventually the local lawyers caught on and coached their clients on what to tell us. Most people weren’t real good at following their attorney’s guidance and would eventually fess up with the truth. Another way to tell, was when the client wouldn’t come to their counseling appointments but never missed an appointment with the psychiatrist. Still some would come to their counseling appointments but had no interest in working on issues and didn’t do anything to improve their situation. Please make no mistake, I have loved ones who are disabled and I am not against disability. I am against the abuse of disability from those who can work and don’t want to.

Further in my career, I worked in a large jail. On a daily basis I assessed anywhere between 20-40 inmates. Most of them were on disability and those who weren’t, wanted to be. Most were not disabled in any way. They were almost all (no exaggeration) addicts and/or alcoholics who were perfectly capable of working. Many had the excuse that no one had ever helped them. Nobody had ever invested the time and energy in helping their poor souls get into treatment so they could be productive members of society. Bologna. I personally had referred many of them to treatment and did all but hold their hand and walk them through the front door of the treatment facilities. Then again, why does someone have do it for them? What prevented them from getting themselves into treatment? Better yet, keep drinking and drugging but don’t expect the government to pay for it. Most addicts will present as bipolar – mood swings, psychotic, easily angered, impulsive, erratic sleep patterns, etc. Bipolar and substance abuse have these characteristics in common. All it takes is a decent, not even good, assessment to figure out what’s going on. About 15 years ago when attention deficit disorder no longer warranted a free check there was a mass population of addicts, and parents with their kids in tow, rushing to the local psychiatrist’s office to get diagnosed with bipolar disorder. That’s about the same time childhood bipolar disorder became popular. In jail, once clean and sober, it didn’t seem to be a problem for most of them to make their beds, ash dishes, and fold laundry. If we drug tested those receiving disability and stopped their benefits, I’ll bet we could build a drug treatment facility on every corner.

I currently also have a private practice office. In my professional disclosure statement that I personally hand to each client on their first visit and explain to them in great detail, I clearly state “I do not assist individuals in getting approved for disability.” The client will then sign a statement confirming their understanding.  This doesn’t phase them in the least. The next thing I know, I’m receiving paperwork from the Department of Disability wanting documentation of the client’s inability to work. This is why I got a nice shredder for Christmas. One former client of mine had a grown son and daughter who were both addicts and would steal everything from her if she didn’t stay home. She wanted a disability check so she could stay home and guard her belongings, instead of kicking her kids out and changing the locks.

When you go to college to become a counselor you aren’t taught these things. There are many things that aren’t mentioned, like the fact that you will spend much more time documenting the same thing in ten different ways and in ten different places than you will spend actually talking to real people. Or that there is often an ulterior motive to an individual coming to see you. There’s a diagnosis for people who abuse the system. It’s called malingering. To pretend illness in order to avoid working.

Disability is a necessity. It’s a necessity for those who can’t work, not for those who chose not to work.  If we limited the amount of kids that families on assistance could have I’ll bet we’d stop giving food stamps to families of eight. Speaking of food stamps, another thing you don’t learn in school is that as a counselor with a masters degree, your clients on food stamps will eat much better than you will because the pay for counselors is beyond pitiful. I’ll save that topic for another day and another rant. Our country is wasting billions of dollars coddling those who are scamming the system.

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