Sunday, April 30, 2006

Information Phone Numbers

Here's the page on FNS site where it lists the State's Toll Free numbers for questions/concerns.......maybe clients need to stop trying to deal with TAA in regards to 31-90 day old applications that have not been resolved...maybe they need to start flooding FNS with the calls....

State Food Stamp Information/Hotline Numbers

Use the following numbers to get information on food stamp questions in the States and areas of States listed. Most are toll-free numbers.  Some of the numbers that aren't toll free will accept collect calls. * Indicates numbers are for in-State and out-of-State calls. All other 800 numbers are for in-State calls only. ** Indicates numbers accept collect calls.

State Phone Number
Alabama (334) 242-1700
Alaska (907) 465-3347
Arizona 1-800-352-8401
Arkansas 1-800-482-8988
California 877-847-FOOD (3663)
Colorado (303) 866-2536 **
Connecticut 1-800-842-1508
Delaware  1-800-372-2022 or 302-255-9500
District of Columbia (202) 724-5506 (no collect calls)
Florida 1-866 762-2237
Georgia 1-800-869-1150
outside metro area
(404) 657-9358
inside metro area
Guam (671) 735-7245
Hawaii 643-1643
Idaho 1-800-926-2588
Illinois 1-800-843-6154
TTY  800-447-6404
Indiana 1-800-622-4932 *
Iowa 1-877-937-3663
Kansas 1-888-369-4777
Kentucky 1-800-931-9112
Louisiana 225-342-2541
Maine 1-800-452-4643
Maryland 1-800-332-6347
Massachusetts 1-866-950-3663
Michigan 800-481-4989
Minnesota 1-800-657-3698 *
Mississippi 1-800-948-3050
Montana 1-800-332-2272
Nebraska 1-800-430-3244
Nevada 702-486-1646
New Hampshire 1-800-852-3345 (Ext. 4238)
New Jersey 1-800-792-9773
New Mexico 1-888-473-3676
New York (upstate) 1-800-342-3009
1-877-472-8411   NYC only
North Carolina 1-800-662-7030
North Dakota 1-800-755-2716
Ohio 1-866-244-0071 *
Oklahoma 405-521-3444
Oregon 1-800-723-3638
503-998-5888   Portland only
Pennsylvania 1-800-692-7462
Rhode Island 401-462-5300
South Carolina 1-800-768-5700
South Dakota 1-877-999-5612
Tennessee 1-800-311-4287
Texas 1-877-556-2200
Utah 1-866-526-3663
Vermont 1-800-287-0589
Virgin Islands 340-773-0990
Virginia 1-800-552-3431
Washington 1-888-4-Food-WA
West Virginia 1-800-642-8589
Wisconsin 1-800-362-3002
Wyoming 1-800-457-3659

Yahoo! Messenger with Voice. PC-to-Phone calls for ridiculously low rates.

A webpage through FNS where clients can submit questions, etc

Clients/Public (?) can go to THIS page ~~~ which is found on the FNS website- to submit an email inquiry....hmmmm.......maybe applying for benefits they'll never get over the internet isn't the only thing clients can do.........

Talk is cheap. Use Yahoo! Messenger to make PC-to-Phone calls. Great rates starting at 1¢/min.

How clients can contact FNS for information

Food Stamp Program Toll Free information Number - 1-800-221-5689

To provide good service and to help food stamp customers get informational materials, the Food Stamp Program (FSP) provides a toll free 800 number.  Customers who want easy, 24-hour a day, 7 days a week, access to information about the FSP can take advantage of this service.  It has been in operation since April 1999.
Who can call the toll free number? You can call the toll free number. Customers include potential applicants, community leaders, faith-based groups, students, teachers, other Federal agencies, Congressional staff, etc.  Anyone interested in learning more about the eligibility requirements and the nutritional benefits of the FSP is invited to contact the 800 number for informational materials.
If I call the 800 number, what can I expect? You will reach a voice mailbox and will have the option of listening to a nutritional message in English and Spanish.  Callers wishing to receive food stamp informational materials will be prompted to leave their names and mailing addresses.  These customers also have an option that enables them to hear their State's toll free number.  All customers calling the toll free number are asked how they learned about the number.
How long does it take to get the informational materials?  Customers calling the toll free number usually receive the information within 2 to 3 days.  Trained personnel mail out the informational materials from Monday through Friday, excluding Federal holidays.
Can my call be transferred to the State toll free number?  No, this service is not currently available.  We hope to make enhancements in the near future that will enable our customers to have their calls transferred to their State toll free number.

Yahoo! Messenger with Voice. PC-to-Phone calls for ridiculously low rates.

Food Stamp Applicant's Rights

Taken from the FNS Website:

Your Rights

You have the right to:
  • Receive an application when you ask for it.
  • Turn in your application the same day you receive it.
  • Receive your food stamps (or be notified that you are not eligible for the program) within 30 days after you turn in your application.
  • Receive food stamps within a few days if you are eligible and have little or no money.
  • Have a fair hearing if you disagree with any action taken on your case.
If you believe that you or any group of individuals have been discriminated against by the Food Stamp Program because of age, sex, color, race, handicap, religious creed, national origin or political beliefs, write immediately to the Secretary of Agriculture, Washington, D.C. 20250.

How low will we go? Check out Yahoo! Messenger’s low PC-to-Phone call rates.

Blog Surfing

I went fishing around for more information tonight, to see what other types of things had been written on various blogs in relation to the fiasco that is now HHSC.  I found the following......
  (This is a guy hired by Accenture and is 'proud' to be making it EASIER for Texans to apply for Services!)

New Yahoo! Messenger with Voice. Call regular phones from your PC and save big.

Lawmakers skeptical of benefits screening

My comments are in RED.
Lawmakers skeptical of benefits screening

Privatization plan for deciding eligibility has cut qualified children, not saved money

Copyright 2006 Houston Chronicle Austin Bureau

AUSTIN - Cash-strapped lawmakers had high hopes three years ago of saving hundreds of millions in tax dollars by privatizing the state's eligibility screening of social services for children, the disabled, the poor and the elderly.

Four million Texans — more than the population of Harris County — on food stamps, Medicaid, the Children's Health Insurance Program and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families could apply through an $899 million system of smarter computers connected to privately run call centers.

Modern technology, lawmakers believed, would ferret out fraud and save needy Texans the inconvenience of taking off work and showing up at government offices for face-to-face interviews.
*Nevermind that that one hour of anyone's time every 6 months for benefits is now not looking so inconvenient*

Yet the tangled reality since the state began its transition to privatized screening four months ago has left that utopian dream in doubt: Thousands of children were erroneously cut from health insurance, the state delayed the fast-tracked statewide expansion of call centers with a pilot project in disarray, the expected savings have not been seen and complaints from clients and lawmakers on both sides of the political aisle abound.

Problems include:

•State officials on Friday abandoned plans to drop 28,000 more children from the Children's Health Insurance Program, admitting they'd put in place unfair bureaucratic burdens that need revamping.

•A state computer designed for one-stop shopping when checking eligibility for multiple programs is seven years in the making but remains incompatible with the private contractors' systems.
*No one with the State is going to come out and admit that TIERS has NEVER worked as intended since they implemented it.  Word was, no one was ever supposed to "bad mouth" TIERS.  No negative talk at all.  I can recall going to events where TIERS was touted as this wonderful savior for workers.  Going to make life SO MUCH EASIER.  I'll take SAVERR over TIERS anyday.  So will the clients.*

•The federal government's independent checks and the state's official records have shown high rates of abandoned calls and long hold times as the initial call center in Midland started up.

•Clients, their advocates and state lawmakers say they've documented instances of no response to applications submitted, call center operators unable to locate submitted applications, notices of missing information when the requested information was not needed and incorrect denials or delays of benefits.

•State officials acknowledge problems with staffing shortages and loss of expertise in state eligibility offices and too few and inadequately trained staff at a privately run call center.

"This process we're going through is historic. No other state has tried this," Texas Health and Human Services Commission spokeswoman Gail Randall said. "The rest of the country is looking at us. It should rise or fall on its own strength or weakness. The state could either successfully end up with a good, cutting-edge service model or it doesn't work. We're going to find out. It's a tough thing."
*It's a tough thing?  Wow.  You think families who are going without benefits think it's just a 'tough thing'.  How pompous.  Is that what all this is?  Texas does this FIRST and then those with the state can become private consultants and help other states do it?  Then Texas can proclaim itself the very best?  Please.  Texas could do that ANYWAY.  No other BIG state pulled the same QC stats that Texas did.  Texas' General Fund will miss those millions that came from the FEDS as enhanced funding because we, the state employees,  knew how to do our job.  Obviously, it was working the way we were doing it.  Now, could there have been improvements?  Sure!  To this magnitude?  No.  Arlene Wogelmouth (I don't care how her name is spelled) wrote 2292 trying to make a name for herself.  Kinda backfired, huh?*

The commission has estimated that over five years Texas could save $646 million in state and federal funds by relying more on the Internet and call centers for screening applicants for social services.

So far, because of repeated delays in rolling out the program, the plan has yet to save the state a penny.

Skeptical politicians

Problems during a pilot phase of one portion of the project have proved so daunting that Health and Human Services Commissioner Albert Hawkins announced earlier this month that an aggressive statewide rollout of the call centers to be completed by December has been put on hold until the system performs efficiently and meets contract terms.
*Yet local staff throughout the state still can't get assurances about their jobs and their areas.  They are delaying rollout- but no one is saying ANYTHING to those in the field about an estimated timeline.  Maybe so many wouldn't be jumping ship right now if they would just tell staff that their jobs will be safe for AT LEAST __ months.  But because no one knows anything- other than a 30 day still they leave*
Meanwhile, as evidence also mounts that thousands of eligible children and other Texans have either lost benefits or faced delays in getting them because of the dramatic changes, a political backlash has set in.

Liberal Democrats have long opposed the project, some of them fearing a nefarious hidden agenda to knock the poor and disabled out of social services.
*Of course it is.  What better way to FORCE people to become self sufficient than to make the process to get help so complicated and unfriendly!  I've heard SEVERAL clients say that they just will forgo the help- it's too much trouble to sit and wait on hold for several minutes- or to get a call answered quickly then get bounced to the local office, or get the call answered quickly and be given wrong information which in turn means they have to call AGAIN.....Accenture is in this to profit.  How does one profit off the poor?*

And, as tough questions in legislative hearings and letters to Hawkins make clear, conservative Republicans are growing increasingly worried and skeptical about the economic implications of the state's $899 million, five-year privatization plan as well.

"I don't think anybody, regardless of party affiliation, wants to spend money on something that doesn't work," said Mary Katherine Stout, a health policy analyst at the Texas Public Policy Foundation, which advocates for limited government.

"The important thing in all of this is how expeditiously you act to solve the problems. The problems are serious," she said.

Concern for children

So far, the commission and a call center in Midland run by Texas Access Alliance, a business consortium headed by outsourcing giant Accenture LLP, have taken a two-pronged approach.

Statewide, the call center began processing applicants for CHIP and children's Medicaid on Nov. 28. In January, it also began screening applicants for food stamps, adult Medicaid, cash welfare and long-term care in a pilot area stretching from Austin to San Marcos.

The pilot was set to expand to 17 Hill Country counties this month and to Houston by August, but that schedule has been scrapped for now.

The goal eventually is for the privately run call centers and a reduced number of state-run eligibility offices to serve all clients in the statewide programs.

Yet advocates for Texas children say sharply reduced CHIP rolls — 30,000 fewer are now enrolled since December, the first full month the call center was in operation — coincided not only with stricter state rules requiring proof of income and assets but also with documented cases in which eligible children were bumped from CHIP through no fault of their parents.

When Accenture discovered it hadn't properly informed families of the new enrollment and renewal fees, for example, the state restored CHIP coverage to 6,000 children.

Other families say the call center had no record of applications they repeatedly mailed, or failed to duly note information sent in by parents to clear up misunderstandings.
*that is an everyday complaint.*
Children's Medicaid rolls are falling precipitously as well: 79,000 fewer children were enrolled in February — the last month the agency released numbers — than in November.

Shorter rolls prompt study

Hawkins said the state has commissioned an independent study by the Institute for Child Health Policy at the University of Florida. It is surveying 1,800 families — half of them whose children are or have been enrolled in CHIP and the other half whose children are or have been enrolled in Medicaid — to find out why so many are dropping off the rolls.

The health commission also announced a $3 million outreach and education campaign to help families navigate the new rules and application forms.
*yes, an outreach program!  Let's see, who is going to process all the new applications that an outreach program produces?  Local office staff?  Wow- considering many offices are running at anywhere from 25% to 50% of staffing, those offices are having a hard enough time dealing with the regular caseload, much less MORE.  The call centers?  Are they going to do them?  Oh, then that will be easy- clients can turn in application, and it can be lost.  Or destroyed.  Then the heat can fall back on the local office.  OR, maybe TAA will get them, hold them for two months or so- and send them to the local offices for processing (like the numerous applications that TAA is in the process of sending back to local offices RIGHT NOW- many that were filed in FEBRUARY that still have had no action taken- local staff get to do them!)*

Meanwhile, a corrective action plan is under way at the call center consortium, Texas Access Alliance. It has beefed up its Midland customer service staff from 210 to 360 and started training them better, said Stephanie Goodman, of the Health and Human Services Commission. The private contractors intend to add 160 more customer service staff during May. Last week, Accenture senior executive Dave McCurley cited dramatic improvements with the call center.
*Listen, this is what people don't understand.  Food Stamp, TANF, and Medicaid policy is complicated.  Years ago, training for said policy took a total of almost 6 months- between classroom and on the job training.  They can hire 1000 call center operators and it will mean nothing if those operators don't have a clue as to what they are talking about.  And don't care.  Listen, a client can and could walk into a local office and get help.  Whether it be information, whatever.  We would have NEVER told a client "we don't know" and walked away.  Yet TAA operators do this with clients all the time- and they even DOCUMENT that on cases.  Amazing!  So, I say a big 'so what' to Accenture for hiring 160 more customer service staff.  Unless they are will mean nothing.

Fewer abandoned calls

Official performance reports to the state confirm that a nearly 72 percent rate of abandoned phone calls on March 20 had been reduced to almost 10 percent on April 24.

Callers who waited more than 40 minutes on hold last month were waiting just over two minutes, the records show.
That may be, but the information that is given out is often incorrect or worse, INDIFFERENT to the client- and the client is simply referred to the local offices for assistance.  I'm saying- you can answer every call in 2 seconds- but if the information is not correct, the TAA staff is not helpful, and it causes the client to have to go without their benefits and call 211 repeatedly- then there is no time savings. 

"We are confident we will deliver value and results for the citizens of Texas," said McCurley, who also is executive director of Texas Access Alliance.
Yes, because you've done a wonderful job so far.  (smirk)

Such assurances have not proved enough to calm the nerves of a growing number of lawmakers, although they are happy the project has been slowed down.

Rep. Elliott Naishtat, D-Austin, sent a letter to every member of the House and Senate in March, warning them that if problems weren't fixed now they'd be hearing from angry constituents, including doctors and health plans, when their own districts began relying on call centers. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Steve Ogden, R-Bryan, said lawmakers should have considered transition costs before approving the privatization plan.

"There's plenty of blame to go around," he said. "My goal as chairman of finance is to make sure it's a system that an objective observer can say, 'This is a competently run system and it's fair to the people who are eligible or not eligible.' "

State Rep. Martha Wong, R-Houston, wrote to Hawkins about her concerns that some children were unfairly bumped from CHIP.

"Thousands of children have been dropped from the CHIP rolls, and I am not at all convinced that it is for a good reason," she wrote.

"Is Accenture at fault? Are they mismanaging their duties? Is HHSC failing to provide the necessary level of oversight?" she asked.

"These issues are too important to the well-being of children in Texas to be ignored or politicized."

Yahoo! Messenger with Voice. Make PC-to-Phone Calls to the US (and 30+ countries) for 2¢/min or less.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Yahoo Group Created if anyone is interested

For those of you employees reading who are interested in forming some sort of 'support group' or 'networking group'- I have set up a Yahoo Group- the name of it is:


All requests for membership WILL be approved by me. I don't want anyone in the group who is not a current or former employee going through the changes right now. You will need a Yahoo! ID to join- and it would be a good idea to email me some information prior to trying to join the group so I'll know to add you (Information could be location, tenure, whether or not you were placed in the new system, etc-put something only employees of HHSC would know). The group conversations will be private. I encourage you to create an anonymous Yahoo ID if you don't already have one. Not shared. Just a forum for us. Maybe make a few friends. Maybe network a little. Support each other through losing our jobs, or carrying on while our friends lose their jobs.....Confidentiality is a MUST. If you join the group to gather information on employees, or what is going on- only to turn around and use that information against the hardworking folks who are going through this- then don't bother.

If you have any questions regarding this, please email me.

This blog will carry on- and the Yahoo Group is only something informal where we can link up from all across the state.......To subscribe, send an email here:



The other day, I had the honor of helping a TIERS client complete the application packet that she was sent by TAA.
Has everyone seen these applications?  It's confusing, hard to read, several SEVERAL pages long (and people used to gripe about our current 1010's) I take the application from her and first I went through and highlighted the questions that applied to her in regards to Food Stamps.  She was so confused- older, couldn't see the small type very well.......we did it the best we could and sent it off to Midland.  Wonder how long it will take her to get her benefits.....
On the flip side, has anyone seen the packet of information that the client gets before an appointment?  Evidently, client applies and submits application to TAA - IF TAA can FIND the application and sets an appointment (phone interview, even if client has no phone!)- they send out a packet of information "pre-verification" if you will.  This one guys comes in- he's a no income, no expenses homeless man.  He gets a packet of every form imaginable- wanting verification of Railroad Retirement, Mineral and Oil Rights, etc.  He brought the packet into the office as he was very confused about what to do with the information- he was SCARED to turn it in blank, but none of it applied to him.  I'd say the man had approx 15 pieces of paper in his packet.  All irrelevent.  How is this useful?  How does ANYONE know what to pend for BEFORE talking to the client?  What kind of delay is it if say I interview a client who has turned in all that stuff, and yet I need more?  I, the interviewing worker, knows exactly what the client will need to complete his/her case.  I mean, come on- TAA operators are telling clients that they have 45 BUSINESS days to complete a Food Stamp case. 
Another thing that happened in another office was a client came in to request an Employment Form to get her Medicaid case completed.  She mentioned to the worker at the front that TAA told her that she had to have proof FROM HER EMPLOYER that they did NOT offer Health Insurance to her BEFORE they would certify her Medicaid case.  This is not and never has been a requirement for Medicaid.  Had we not stopped her, she'd have gone and used her gas and time to go get that unnecessary information.
Clients are also being told for a Food Stamp case that they must verify that their children live with them.  I've heard of clients pulling their kids OUT of school to take them to the local office so local office staff can view the children and verify that they were with the client.
This is client service?
I've also had a client who, after becoming thoroughly disgusted with 2-1-1, said that once her benefits expired, she was not reapplying- it was far too hard now to get help.
Is this where the savings are coming from?

New Yahoo! Messenger with Voice. Call regular phones from your PC and save big.

1000 posts!


Do You Yahoo!?
Tired of spam? Yahoo! Mail has the best spam protection around

Friday, April 28, 2006

End of Month

End of Month has historically been, for interviewing workers, the busiest day of the month.  Every Food Stamp recertification is due on the last working day of the month.  When I first became an advisor, the average cases due on the EOM hovered around 15, and most of those would be 'no shows' and those cases where the client had not returned information.  Prior to this, even though we interviewed full caseload- we had TIME to do those cases throughout the month- so that the last day of the month wasn't overwhelming.
Now?  Notsomuch.  Many advisors are SO overwhelmed with work that NONE of those cases get done until the actual due date because there just isn't time to do anything that isn't due.  Many people had between 40 and 60 cases due today.  DUE IN ONE DAY.  People unfamiliar with how a case is worked, you can't do a case in 2 minutes.  Many times, finishing a case can take anywhere from 5-10 minutes- provided the information provided is accurate and legit.  Add 20 to 30 minutes for incomplete information that requires the Advisor to call for more information, etc.  This means that ideally you can do approx 6 cases an hour. Nevermind the fact that the clients are calling you throughout the day to see if you are going to get to their case (yes, I am ma'am- if I could just get off the phone and stop answering this same question over and over)  This is doing the case with the bare minimum- no time to go back through and recheck the info, no time to repeat what's been done......even doing 6 an hour, that means if you have 60 due- either you are going to work overtime, OR you are going to do sloppy casework to just get it done.  Most of us that have worked here for any length of time don't WANT to do anything sloppy.  But as advisors, we are being put in a position of choosing to get it done timely and quickly- or get it done right.  It makes me crazy.
Morale is low.  It's been low.  The most dedicated employees- those who have always been the 'rock' in the office for everyone else are overwhelmed to the point of tears (in some cases).
The clients do not UNDERSTAND what is going on.  I'm not talking about clients in Pilot offices- I'm talking about clients who are still in SAVERR and are paying the price for the poor planning when it came to laying off most of your workforce- they don't understand why they can't get Same Day Service anymore.  They don't understand why they have to wait to get their case completed.  Old world?  Sometimes clients could turn in information one morning, and have Food Stamps the next.  Now?  No time to do that. 
Phone interviews are the culprit in many of these problems- given the fact that 99% of the time a phone interview must be pended and therefore delayed.  Before, when they all had office interviews- many clients would bring more than enough to finish the case right then, right there.  Everyone is happy- worker has it completed, client has their benefits.   Now- since we've been told to schedule EVERYONE with a phone number on their 1010 for a phone interview, there is a delay.  I guess we gotta get them ready/prepared for dealing with folks over the phone and having to wait.  It's NOT client friendly AT ALL.
No one cares, do they?

Get amazing travel prices for air and hotel in one click on Yahoo! FareChase

Another comment from a fellow advisor......

Another email from another overwhelmed worker..........posted with permission:
 am in a one worker office. It has been this way for at least five years. I
also help in another office 2 days a week. (they are bigger than mine).
I know I am getting alot of applications, and lead time for me is about 12
days today. I used to be able to get people in in less than 5 days. Not
anymore. I am being inundated with reviews and applications. Here I sit on
eom with almost all done, but it was because I have worked on them in
between appointments, lunch time, etc. I refuse to work OT. No part of that.
It takes me almost all of my weekend to get my brain back in order to
function in the world. Then, come sunday evening I feel better, but right
back here on Monday. NO fun. My family is really starting to feel this also.
My husband wants me to quit, but I am the insurance provider, not to mention
I need the pay.
I did receive a lay off notice and was devastated. The video conference was
a joke. It was humiliating to say the least!!.
I have been here almost 8 years. I have never felt this stressed.
Remember back during Katrina. That was worth all of the time it took to get
them certified, but not even a thank you, pat on the back, good job, nothing
from hhsc. WTF?
Sorry. I get so angry sometimes...
I am rude, never have been before. My clients always loved me. Not anymore.
I can't get their cases finished fast enough for them now. I have explained
to them, I am not here five days a week now. They think because they turned
the info in yesterday, it should be completed today.
And the phone calls we have to take because clients have mailed their
applications in for medicaid to TAA. That is a waste of my time. It would be
easier and faster for me to certify them.
I had a client come in this week that had called 211 to check the status of
her application and was told to come to the local office. When she came here
the clerk called 211 for the client with the client standing there. The 211
person asked the clerk, "Why are you having her call me, I can't help her?"
I am so confused now. It just keeps getting worse.

Love cheap thrills? Enjoy PC-to-Phone calls to 30+ countries for just 2¢/min with Yahoo! Messenger with Voice.

comments from those around the state

Got this in email (and am sharing with permission of the sender)........
 I am a former state Texas Works Advisor that’s from a TIERS Pilot Office. I was also given my pink slip by email. Then, there was a videoconference telling the “pink slipped” people to go work for Accenture or Maximus and TWC was there for questions about unemployment. I was not given my part of the enhanced funding bonus ($900.00) I helped HHSC earn because I had taken their advice and found another job, before they were able to lay me off. All this came within weeks of my office being open from 8-8, 7 days a week, for months to help with the hurricane evacuees. Did anyone get a bonus, overtime, or even a free lunch for all the blood, sweat, or tears?  Was there any encouragement or recognition from anyone above the workers? Hell no. Of all the jobs I’ve had, this one was the absolute worst. I’ve washed dogs and got more recognition. Not once, did I not have to beg for my OT pay or a vacation day that I had already accrued. The atmosphere was demeaning and almost sucked the life right out of me. You could die at your desk and no one would care. HHSC takes advantage of the kind of worker who cares about their clients and their work and then totally demoralizes them. Now, HHSC is having problems with their roll-out. Hello…TIERS never worked the entire time I used it. It should be no surprise to anyone. HHSC is just getting back some of the bad karma they started. I feel for the clients and the workers who have stayed steadfast. I feel for Texas.

Get amazing travel prices for air and hotel in one click on Yahoo! FareChase

Happy End of Month! (smirk)

Just a few notes- for those who have emailed me, thanks for those.  You have no idea, really- how much it helps to know that I'm at least supported by those in the same boat. 
There will be a contributor to the site who will post in addition to me.  If you are interested in telling YOUR story, please let me know.
Hope the weekend brings everyone a little peace.

Blab-away for as little as 1¢/min. Make PC-to-Phone Calls using Yahoo! Messenger with Voice.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Just a side-note to the original blogger

Great posts! I plan to write more in this blog in the next day or so. Just testing the waters to see if this shows up! More to come!

spin masters

You know, I've had this on my mind since Monday- but had to form the words before I posted-
Do y'all read the Q&A on Mondays?  Did y'all see that mess that the 'powers that be' thought would be beneficial to us, as a whole?
Listen, I'm losing my job.  I have more cases to finish than I have time.  I have more clients calling and no time to help them.  I'm about to have to start working weekends just to keep my head above water- and the best they can do is post a question from someone concerned about fresh fruit in the Winters Complex Cafeteria?  Say WHAT?!  Then that question about what if a coworker is on drugs or a drunk.  Hmmm.  Let's see- maybe all one would have to do is tell the supervisor?  Then if that didn't work, keep going up the chain of command. 
We are losing another worker.  That's another 10 slots per day gone.  We have another that may be getting a job on the outside- so that will be TWO gone.  Before too long, it'll be all the really tenured workers, and all the untrained temporary workers.  One extreme to the other.
Wonder how high the lead time is going to have to get, or how low the timeliness stats are going to have to be before someone does something.  Wait!  What can anyone do?  We've already lost some of the best workers the State has ever had.  Gone.  Not going to come back. 
How many clients are going to go without food for their kids before something happens?  Because let's be frank about it- that 3 month allottment all at one time because it's 3 months delinquent doesn't change or take away from the struggle that the client had those three months. 
Welcome to the blog.  Leave a comment.  Send an email.  Just don't give up yet!

How low will we go? Check out Yahoo! Messenger’s low PC-to-Phone call rates.


I wanted to address a comment made:
I agree that we can beat the privatization. We have made an impact with the legislature with postcards and phone calls. They are starting to see it "our way". I would like to inform everyone out there that we called Royce West's office and his staff said it was no use the call centers were a "done deal" (Mr. West is a Representative in Dallas)

I have been a worker with DHS for over 10 years and have never seen the situation so bad or the moral so low.

FNS seems to be catching onto the horrible mistake it made letting Perry, Craddic and Hawkins start this fiasco but, it may be too late for those of us who stuck around because we didn't want to go work for CPS. Even if they give accenture the boot there are not enough of us left to pick up the pieces.
I have also never ever seen it so bad.  I know that I also stuck around because I didn't want to go work for CPS or ME or CCAD or anywhere but HERE. 
FNS is catching on- but I wonder what will happen next.  Will they take over?  How would that look in the real world?
What did your rep mean "done deal"?  Done as in over, or done as in "nothing we can do about it".......
I know that as long as I've worked here, I've always felt like what WE did collectively was deemed unimportant by the general public.  That's why there is not 'public outcry' over all this- because by and large- this is a poor person's problem.  Can't get through to 211?  Oh well- get a job.  Can't get Medicaid for your kid?  Too bad, shouldn't have had the kid in the first place- that's how many MANY Average Joe's look at this.  I've been told by someone on the 'outside' that maybe now I'll have to find a REAL job.  Because we all know "State employees" sit around and collect fat checks and don't really do anything more than push around paper- right?
I've noticed that there have been MANY MANY more visitors today- can anyone shed some light? 
Got something to say?  Email me.  Want to guest blog and post about what's going on in YOUR area- email me.
Comment!  Let me know where you are!

Talk is cheap. Use Yahoo! Messenger to make PC-to-Phone calls. Great rates starting at 1¢/min.

Accenture Blames it's Problems on Parents

Letter to the Editor: Accenture Blames Its Problems on Parents

San Angelo Standard-Times
After reading your paper online, I had to respond concerning the (April 11) letter by James McAvoy, ''Accenture proud of work on CHIP.'' He basically has blamed the parents of thousands of uninsured children for the inefficient performance of Accenture and seems proud of it.
With the millions of dollars Texas has given them for providing a service that qualified state employees were doing, wouldn't you think taxpayers should get their money's worth?
Surf the Internet. There are many articles from all over the country with McAvoy using his spin to defend Accenture.
McAvoy states, ''We have processes in place to deal with eligibility disputes.'' I guess being put on hold for long periods of time on the telephone is the best way to resolve this issue.
In 2003, Gov. Rick Perry felt balancing the budget on the backs of the most vulnerable was the solution to a deficit brought on by the Republican ''leadership.''
Awarding a contract of almost $900 million to Accenture over five years for eligibility services, claiming it will save Texas $644 million over 5 years, has created a system that makes it more difficult for people to apply and get needed social services. It almost is set up to discourage people to apply and to eventually get people off the rolls. Accenture should be proud of that.
Thousands of hardworking, qualified state employees are slated to lose their jobs while Accenture continues its so-called expertise here in Texas.
Even the Texas Health and Human Services Commission is praising the work of the privateers, and even blaming the glitches, delays and other problems on the state employees. Don't you love the loyalty this agency has for its employees?
Perry has decided that corporate welfare is the way Texas should be doing business, no matter how bad the work reputation of the corporation is.
It is time for all to call their legislators and the governor and get them to put an end to this mess. It is time the Legislature addresses this mess in January. No matter what political party they belong to, legislators know this is just bad business for Texas.
In the meantime, the poor, the uninsured, seniors, children, the mentally ill and laid off state employees will continue to see how the conservative leadership cares about its citizens. Please vote in November.
Arthur Valdez
San Antonio

Blab-away for as little as 1¢/min. Make PC-to-Phone Calls using Yahoo! Messenger with Voice.

State won't do CHIP Inquiry

State won't do CHIP inquiry
Brandi Grissom / Austin Bureau
El Paso Times
AUSTIN -- The state auditor rejected an appeal last week from state Sen. Eliot Shapleigh, D-El Paso, to investigate why thousands of Texas children are dropping from a state health insurance program.
Shapleigh sent a letter to State Auditor John Keel requesting an investigation into how the Texas Health and Human Services Commission and Texas Access Alliance are operating the Children's Health Insurance Program.
Since November, more than 2,000 El Paso children have fallen from CHIP, a health-care program for families with incomes too high for Medicaid and too low to afford private insurance. State wide, almost 30,000 children have dropped out of the program.
"In El Paso, which is the most uninsured large city in the nation, this is especially intolerable," Shapleigh said in the letter.
In a response sent Friday to Shapleigh, Keel said the investigation was not part of his agen cy's 2006 audit plan and he did not have the resources to initiate a review. He said the program would be considered for possible investigation next year.
Some legislators and CHIP advocates have linked falling enrollment to a company the state hired to process program applications. As part of an $899 million state contract with Bermuda-based outsourcing giant Accenture, their subsidiary Texas Access Alliance took over the processing job late last year.
Shapleigh said the state auditor is best positioned to examine possible flaws in the contract and that he would ask other legislators to join his call for an investigation.
"I am very disappointed that state government is not willing to investigate the rank incompetence of the contractor," Shapleigh said.
Health commission officials have defended Texas Access Alliance's CHIP work and said the declining enrollment is more likely due to changes in eligibility requirements, including increased income documentation.
The commission is conducting a survey of about 1,800 families whose children dropped from the program recently.
Early survey results released by the commission last week indicate that while about 90 percent of 280 families found re-enrollment materials easy to understand, about 60 percent were told after submitting their application that more materials were needed.
Results from the full survey are expected next month.
"This snapshot tells us that while families know they need to renew their coverage, we can do a better job of helping them understand exactly what documentation is needed," Health and Human Services Executive Commissioner Albert Hawkins said in a written statement.

Yahoo! Messenger with Voice. PC-to-Phone calls for ridiculously low rates.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

and the beat goes on

I have some articles I'm going to post in a bit- but first I wanted to talk about the continuing problems with TAA and our clients.
Time and time again we have clients being bounced from 211 to the local office and back to 211 again.  The bad part about the local offices are the fact that with the staff decreasing at a rapid pace- there aren't enough people there to devote an hour to an hour and a half to help the client.  Even when we have the time, there is still never an issue that gets resolved.
Today, we had a client who turned in an application for food stamps 3 weeks ago.  He is in the TIERS program, and his application was sent to TAA for processing.  He called 211 today to check the status of his application- and to let them know his situation has changed - and they advised him to come into the local office, do another application and have us fax it to the expedited fax line.  We did that.  But I wonder if he'll get those benefits from the original file date.  Never mind, I already know he won't.
I find it amazing at how much the morale has sunk in just the last month among those of us who are still around, yet have no permanent job.  Everyone perked up a little when we got the email that proclaimed retention bonuses were being looked at.  However, wouldn't it have been better to have that decision made BEFORE you tell staff about it?  It hasn't stopped anyone from jumping ship so far.  And who can blame anyone for leaving?  You can only do so much.
Clients are definitely paying the price for this- and not just those who much deal with TAA.  Local clients- those who are not in TIERS are also paying the price.  Workers are now completely overwhelmed with cases, and clients aren't getting benefits as quickly as they once did- there is simply not enough time.  I know in areas that many workers have 50+ cases that are all due Friday- the end of the month.  While those are being done, people who are NOT due will have to wait until the next workday comes- whenever that might be.
Client complaints are increasing, yet what to do?  Make a worker who has 14-15 appointments for that day stop an interview to complete a case?  Make a worker who has too many cases stay late?  Lest we forget that we, as employees, also have a life outside of HHSC.  Who in the hell in their right mind is going to give the State of Texas more than 40 hours per week willingly when the State takes no pride in what those employees do?  It might be different if we got paid overtime like other employers- you work over, you get paid.  Us?  No.  Now, I've heard many workers say that if they thought that working 8-16 hours on a weekend EVERY weekend would earn them overtime on their next check- they'd do it.  At least there would be a tangible benefit.  But getting time and half of LEAVE?  For what?  When can you ever take off?  Only to come back and be further behind!
I wonder what it's going to take to get some help.

Yahoo! Messenger with Voice. PC-to-Phone calls for ridiculously low rates.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Thursday, April 20, 2006

One other thing

For those reading who are in offices out there going through this and want to give your input about what is going on- I'll blog about it for you.
If you want to email me at and tell me your story, I'll share it under the umbrella of anonymous writing ....
Don't worry- I'm not trying to out anyone- I just know that my story is not the only one out there- some places aren't as bad, and others are WORSE.
I think that the more we can talk about it- the more we can show it's not just because we are disgruntled or angry about losing our jobs, or whatever- the better.  Because for me, it's not about that at all.
Or, if you want to be a guest blogger here- we can discuss that as well (it can be done).......

Love cheap thrills? Enjoy PC-to-Phone calls to 30+ countries for just 2¢/min with Yahoo! Messenger with Voice.

Just another day in hell.

Thanks for the comments anonymous!  I feel your pain.  I do.  Slowly but surely our office is dwindling and the work isn't stopping and it's becoming more and more overwhelming daily.
On the thing about referring clients to the legislators- we've been told to keep issues 'in house'.  BUT, at some point these clients are going to have to educate themselves on how to speak up for themselves.....and they will learn that the route to go is not only to contact their legislators, but also FNS. 
We have, on the 'sly'- been telling clients when they are talking about all the issues they are having that it is NOT "our" doing.  Their legislators voted for HB 2292 and in effect started this ball know, like a hint, hint kinda thing. 
Many are getting it.  Many are calling their local legislators- and so far, the issues aren't with US- but with TAA and therefore THEY get to deal with that. 
What is most frustrating for me is the fact that TAA has, in effect, been conditioned to push every issue off on the local offices.  EVERY-SINGLE-TIME.  It is NEVER their fault.  NEVER.  It is always because "we" didn't send the Medicaid app (we log what we send), or "we" didn't fax the FS app rather than sending it via overnight mail.  It's because WE aren't faxing their 1010's rather than mailing them. 
How many times, in all the years I've worked in the office can I count one single time a local worker has been able to push off a problem and say "I don't know what to do, call *******"?  Never.  How many times have I been able to say "there is no 'complaint department'" and in effect refuse to let a client talk to someone else?  Never.  But TAA does it ALL the time. 
And yet, we- on the inside- aren't supposed to talk bad about TAA to the client.  We aren't supposed to talk negatively about the call centers.
If all this was working smoothly and effectively and clients were able to get their services in a timely more efficient manner than with the 'old way'- then fine.  I'd put down those guards and eat crow.  But anyone who's been with the agency for ANY length of time KNEW this was going to tank.  Not just from a fraud angle, not just from a customer service angle- just overall.  Our client population is not that of highly educated people- our clients often can't speak English, write, read, have a 7th or 8th grade education.  Many don't have phones.  Many have never seen or heard of the 'internet'.    Then ones who are able to navigate the phone systems are realizing that even THAT is more inconvenient than having to devote an hour of their time (at the most) every six months to sit down with a real life caseworker to get their business taken care of.  If their case gets done wrong- they have a tangible source to complain about or talk to.  If something is askew, they could call the worker and get an explanation. 
Now?  That doesn't happen.  And it's sad.
This, coming from an employee- with a pink slip- thereby making me a future client in this mess.  Luckily (at least) I know how to navigate the policy and the way it SHOULD work.  I know how to make my voice heard. 

How low will we go? Check out Yahoo! Messenger’s low PC-to-Phone call rates.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Just some random stuff

First off, for those of you visiting- thanks for coming by.  Please, if you will- leave a comment- anonymous is fine- just tell me if you are a worker/former worker and whether you are in a rollout area- I know there are a lot of state employees reading.
Second, we are losing two more workers.  *sigh*.  Before too long the only people left will be those who received permanent placements and temporary workers who aren't trained to really put a dent in what is going on.
It's frustrating to be doing this work- and trying to maintain quality and timeliness in the midst of all this.  I realize that there are some who do not care about any of that and never have- but that's a small percentage of our very able and educated workforce.  Unfortunately, working for the 'welfare office' hasn't always been something you brag about- because anytime someone from the 'outside' learned this, you had to hear all about how 'easy' state employees had it and all the controversy surrounding welfare itself.
What people do not realize is that when clients are unable to obtain the services they are eligible for, then they flood local food banks, and emergency rooms.  Counties and cities across the state are having to pick up the tab for kids who STILL have not been certified for Medicaid even though they applied in January or February (I guess because it's not going to be finished for another 45 to 90 business days- which is what clients are currently being told)......Food Banks are having to supplement families because the Food Stamp case isn't being worked (not for 30 business days!)......What does this mean?  That the average Joe will pay the price- in higher costs at the Dr and Emergency Room and if he falls on hard times, the Food Banks will be bare and he'll be out of luck.
Is it going to take a child going without necessary meds dying or becoming deathly ill before anyone wakes up? 

Yahoo! Messenger with Voice. PC-to-Phone calls for ridiculously low rates.

Colorado News/Mess

Colorado State Agency Seeks to Salvage Work Left Behind in Computer Project
Mark P. Couch
Denver Post
Colorado labor department officials have asked state lawmakers for $2.3 million to salvage some of the work left behind as part of a $35 million computer project that was dumped last year.
Lawmakers on the Joint Budget Committee tentatively approved giving the money on Monday, but only after extracting a promise from department officials to provide regular updates on the work.
Still, lawmakers were skeptical.
"My gut feeling is that you're going to throw a lot of good money after bad," said Sen. Ron Teck, R-Grand Junction. "My gut feeling is to cut your losses."
Rick Grice, executive director of the state Department of Labor and Employment, said that Accenture, the contractor, left behind about 1 million lines of computer code and state officials don't know whether it works.
The $2.3 million would provide funding for the state to hire nine extra workers and to cover the expenses of evaluating the code.
Grice said tossing away the code would waste money the state has already spent on the "Genesis" project, which was designed to track unemployment taxes and jobless benefits.
Last December, Accenture agreed to refund $8.2 million and to waive another $7 million of the $35 million that the state had been charged for the system.
Three pieces of the five-part system worked, but the two largest and most critical components - taxes and benefits - did not.
After the settlement, the state was stuck with a million lines of computer code related to those components and no documentation to figure out how that code was supposed to work.
"We played hardball with the contractor and we walked away in as good a shape as could have been expected," Grice said.
Lawmakers challenged whether spending more money on a system that doesn't work is the best way to proceed.
"You need to convince me that it is better to do this than to start anew," said Rep. Bernie Buescher, D-Grand Junction. "How have you decided there is enough value there to spend $2.3 million on this?"
Sen. Dave Owen, R-Greeley, suggested that the Genesis project should be renamed "Phoenix" because this was an attempt to rise from the ashes.
Labor department officials said the state had spent about $12 million for the computer code, but got $8.2 million refunded so its investment is worth about $4 million.
With the $2.3 million, the department aims to hire the nine extra workers who would complete their evaluation of the code by November.
If lawmakers denied the $2.3 million, Grice said, they would be hurting state officials who fought Accenture to get so much money returned.
"It kind of feels like we're being penalized for driving a hard bargain for settling up with the contractor," Grice said.
To start again would cost the state much more than $2.3 million, Grice said, noting that the state of New Jersey recently hired Accenture to do similar computer work for a cost of $40 million.
Grice assured the committee that it would provide timely reports that would allow the state to stop spending money if the code could not be saved.
"If it becomes evident that this is unworkable," Grice said, "we'd turn it back and we would not spend all of the money."

Blab-away for as little as 1¢/min. Make PC-to-Phone Calls using Yahoo! Messenger with Voice.

More Spin from Accenture

Letter to the Editor: System Is Careful With Data

(My comments are in */* throughout the article)
San Antonio Express-News
Carlos Guerra's April 9 column, "Privatizing social services assistance hasn't been a smooth process," contained several inaccuracies about Accenture and our role in implementing the state's new eligibility system.
Neither the U.S. Marine Corps nor the Canadian province of Ontario "fired" Accenture. And a statement about our call center locations fails to mention an important fact that may be significant to San Antonio residents: The largest center will actually be in San Antonio. Between 500 and 600 residents will eventually be employed at the center, which currently has more than 400 employees.
Finally, the allegation that Accenture has "lost" information has no basis in fact. *I beg to differ, being that each and EVERY problem the local office has had has involved clients who have submitted not just one- but many applications to TAA only to be told that there is NO record of an app being received, and the clients then being referred BACK to the local office to do ANOTHER application- effectively causing the applicant to LOSE benefits because the file date changes...not to mention the fact that when and if TAA DOES find the application, the clients are often told that the app is TOO OLD and that they need to reapply* Accenture has a proven process for capturing all inbound correspondence that includes imaging everything, including the front and back of the envelope the correspondence came in, to ensure we have all the information provided by the family. *Then why is TAA denying that they have received applications when they are sent overnight to them?  Then why are TAA employees telling clients that the reason their app is NOT there is because WE need to be faxing them rather than mailing them, which in turn makes the clients mad at US as though it is OUR fault their information is nowhere to be found....*
Every document we receive is processed and entered into our tracking system on the same day we receive it to avoid the possibility of losing any client documentation.
We are proud of the work that we are doing, and we are committed to giving Texans more choices and flexibility in applying for benefits.
James McAvoy
Accenture spokesman

Celebrate Earth Day everyday! Discover 10 things you can do to help slow climate change. Yahoo! Earth Day

Article in the Houston Chronicle

Budget Writers Say Call Centers Denying Access to Eligible Texans
Polly Ross Hughes
Houston Chronicle
AUSTIN - Angry House budget writers demanded Monday to know if the state will consider firing a new private contractor - or barring it from other state jobs - if its staffers continue bumping eligible Texans from health and welfare services.
The contract with Texas Access Alliance, headed by outsourcing giant Accenture LLP, is part of a major overhaul of eligibility screening of social services for children, the elderly, disabled and poor.
While lawmakers once were told the project would save the state $646 million over five years, that's now in doubt. The state recently decided to slow the project, beef up training and fix an array of technical and operational problems.
"I think each and every one of us are pretty disappointed with how this has turned out," Rep. Dan Gattis, R-Georgetown, said at the meeting of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services.
"We're watching," Gattis told Texas Health and Human Services Commissioner Albert Hawkins, who signed the contract with Accenture. "I'm going to tell you, we as a body are going to hold accountable companies that are taking taxpayer dollars to do things for our state."
Dave McCurley, senior executive of Texas Access Alliance, issued a statement noting that the agency reports clients want to use the screening call centers and that call center performance improved dramatically in April.
"In fact, last week nearly 19,000 calls were received with callers waiting on average only 45 seconds before they were connected to a customer service representative," he said. **What difference does that make?  You can answer in 1 second if you like, but if the information given by TAA staff is incorrect and causes the client to have to call again and again- then what time was saved in that?**
The Midland call center currently is screening eligibility of children in the state's poorest families for Medicaid health insurance. It is also screening other low-income applicants for the Children's Health Insurance Program.
But as of last week, 30,000 children had been dropped from CHIP since the contractor began running the call center in December, and the state issued stricter income and asset rules for applicants.
Rep. Sylvester Turner, D-Houston, said he finds the plunging CHIP rolls alarming, noting the number of children served has fallen from 500,000 in 2003 to fewer than 300,000 now.
"It is tanking. Whether we want to deal with it or not, I think we have reached a crisis state with the CHIP program, and I am not a big fan of the contractors we are using," Turner said. "I speak for me, but if I hired them, I would fire them."
The call center also began screening adult clients Jan. 20 in Travis and Hays counties for Medicaid, food stamps, long-term care and cash welfare under Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. **yeah, and they were telling clients that they could get 'Emergency TANF' and be certified in 24 hours- they also quoted to clients the criteria for such 'Emergency TANF' was the same as being eligible for 'Expedited Food Stamps'**
Rep. Dawnna Dukes, D-Austin, said her staff is spending all its time trying to remedy application problems within the pilot area, including 90 minutes on hold with the call center Friday. "That's a call from a legislative office - truly unacceptable," Dukes said.
*I would say so!*
Anne Heiligenstein, HHSC's deputy executive commissioner for social services, told Dukes she agrees but added the agency is monitoring call center operations to see if corrective actions are working.
The pilot was scheduled to expand to 17 counties in the Texas Hill Country later this month and to the Houston area by August, but Hawkins has delayed further rollout until problems are resolved.
Dukes warned that lawmakers in the rest of the state will not be "happy campers" when it comes time to appropriate money next biennium if their offices go through the turmoil hers has in helping constituents.
She complained that one constituent sent four applications, two by certified mail, but the call center said they were not received.
She asked Hawkins to provide her with a timeline of how long the state is willing to work with the Accenture team if the call center problems persist.

Yahoo! Messenger with Voice. PC-to-Phone calls for ridiculously low rates.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Privatizing social services assistance hasn't been smooth process

Privatizing social services assistance hasn't been smooth process
Carlos GuerraSan Antonio Express-News4/9/2006

In 2003, Texas lawmakers overhauled the state's social services, shuffling programs into newly created agencies and forming a new Health and Human Services Commission to oversee it all. Now we are seeing the impact as more kids land in emergency rooms and more people show up to neighborhood food pantries.

Driven by the mantra that "the private sector can do it better and cheaper," House Bill 2292 also reduced benefits provided by federal-state programs that assist the elderly, young, poor and disabled. It eliminated many benefits entirely and restricted eligibility for assistance while reducing the time one could receive help before having to reapply.

For example, residents of nursing homes, where depression and diabetes are rampant, had psychiatric and podiatric care cut, and annual insurance coverage was trimmed to six months — with a 90-day period of non-coverage to penalize those who miss the deadline.

But the big cost-saver, we were told, would come from privatizing functions performed by state workers. A private contractor might realize great savings for Texas if it was determined — scientifically — that a contractor at a price determined by competitive bidding could handle these functions more efficiently.

But quickly, it became apparent that outsourcing wouldn't be determined scientifically and bidding wouldn't be that competitive. The HHSC rushed out a very questionable study that anticipated almost $700 million in savings by privatizing eligibility functions and just as quickly awarded a contract to Bermuda-based Accenture for four call centers, the largest of which — coincidentally — is in House Speaker Tom Craddick's Midland district.

And soon after Accenture started replacing the 2,900 professional state workers with $7-an-hour call center operators, it became apparent that taking orders for a home shopping cable network isn't the same as navigating the minutia of federal regulations.

Test operations in the Austin-area counties, where there aren't that many benefits recipients, resulted in thousands of CHIP, Food Stamp and Medicaid enrollees vanishing from the rolls as complaints of unmailed and missing applications — and entire files that disappeared — were registered in the thousands.

As the call centers' rollout extended into nearby counties in accordance with a plan that will make their reach statewide by year's end, it became apparent that the new multimillion-dollar computer system on which call centers rely doesn't work and the call center operators are very poorly trained.

On April 3, an internal memo from HHSC officials to the remaining state workers noted that "due to processing issues, certification periods are being extended for some TIERS Food Stamp (recipients whose) current certification period is ending on March 31, 2006."
Translation: To avoid news of another embarrassingly large reduction of Food Stamp enrollees, just extend recipients wholesale, whether they deserve it or not, until we can get this damned thing to work.

Two days later, another e-mail said "technical and operational improvements need to be made before we roll out the new system in other areas," so the call centers will be put on hold for at least 30 days.

Isn't it time for Texas to join at least four states, the province of Ontario and the Marine Corps and just fire Accenture?

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Spin Spin Spin

Opinion: Accenture Proud of Work on CHIP
San Angelo Standard Times4/11/2006

Your March 31 editorial, ''Management problems hampering vital CHIP,'' inaccurately places the blame on Accenture for families impacted by the CHIP eligibility and enrollment processes. Your readers should know that in the majority of cases, clients were dropped off of CHIP rolls as a result of not returning required verification information or not returning the renewal application at all.

As part of the enrollment process, Accenture contacts applicants directly with phone calls and direct mail as a courtesy reminder of information needed before the enrollment deadline. Established State policies govern the rules surrounding eligibility and enrollment in the CHIP program. We are just responsible for their implementation.

Your broad allegations that ''thousands'' of Texans have gone months without coverage are entirely unfounded. In the instance that you cite, where letters were not sent to families advising them of the required fee in their case, we worked with the Health and Human Services Commission to extend the benefits to those families while we worked through the clerical issues.
Your allegation that Accenture has simply ''lost'' information is equally ridiculous and has no basis in fact.

We have a proven process for capturing all inbound correspondence that includes imaging everything, including the front and back of the envelope the correspondence came in to ensure we have all the information provided by the family. Every document we receive is processed and entered into our tracking system on the same day we receive it. The 45,000 dental cards you mention were sent by an entirely different vendor under a separate contract with HHSC. Even in that case, no benefits were lost.

We are proud of the work that we are doing in support of the CHIP program, and we are committed to its mission of providing affordable health care to Texas children who might otherwise not have access to it. In fact, March saw the highest single-month CHIP enrollment since the program's inception; more than 301,000 children are now enrolled in the program. We are working with families on a case-by-case basis to investigate issues brought to our attention. We are taking the necessary actions to enroll qualified Texans if they are entitled and eligible to participate in the program.

We have processes in place to deal with eligibility disputes. We encourage anyone who is experiencing problems or has knowledge of individuals who are experiencing problems with CHIP eligibility and enrollment to use this process so we can work to quickly solve the problems. The sooner we know of issues, the sooner we can resolve them and recommend changes to improve the overall system.

James McAvoy, Accenture

Tuesday, April 11, 2006


Sorry for delaying in has been, well- busy.

To say the least.

Tonight I'll write about the effects in the areas that have not yet rolled out into the new system, but the effect of the October 'pink emails' have taken an adverse toll on those of us who are still there.

80% of the office I work in got a layoff notice. These aren't newbies either, these are people who have anywhere from 5-15 years of tenure with the State.

So far, we've lost 32% of our workforce. Of those, we've lost 13 workers. We've lost 6 clerks.

In this job, interview applicants for benefits- we've always prided ourselves on maintaining quality. Not just for the evaluations that we get each year (that meant nothing at all when it came to who gets laid off)- but for the clients we serve. However, in the midst of people leaving every week/month the work is still there, but with FAR fewer people to do it. And yet we are told that one way or the other, we must get it done.

Previously, before everyone started leaving, we were seeing 8 appointments 2 days a week, and 10 appts the other 2 days. That left one day per week for 'worktime' which allowed us to complete cases that had to be pended for information.


Some of us see 14-15 appointments 2 days per week, and 10 appointments the other two days. We are now also going to start seeing 1 appointment on our 'worktime' days.

So in essence, at best- we'll have 49 cases per WEEK that are added to the long list of cases that need to be completed.

We are sinking, and fast. Let's mention the number of clients that are coming into the office daily to turn in information for their worker, get information about programs, and clients who are bounced back and forth between TAA and the local offices.

Medicaid applications must be completed in 45 days. Technically, 43 days, because a client must have 'notice of eligibility or denial' in hand by the 45th day. Historically, we were trained to complete these cases in 30 days. Clients are turning in applications that are sent to TAA for processing Children's Medicaid that aren't getting done for 50-90 days. Clients are being told by TAA staff that they have 45 BUSINESS days- up to 90 days to complete their cases. This is completely against State Regulations in regards to Medicaid applications.....we have clients who call TAA to inquire about their status and are told that because they are NOT in Travis or Hayes county- they must go to the local office (which is incorrect, many clients across the state were converted into the new TIERS system last year). They come to local office- some in desperate situations- only to be told to call TAA.

In the beginning, clients coming to the office could talk to a local office supervisor who could then call TAA to inquire on their behalf- sometimes sitting on hold for up to 45 minutes. Then the supervisor would have to relay the story to a TAA employee- and although a local supervisor would ask to speak to a TAA supervisor, they wouldn't be transferred (which would have NEVER happened in the 'old world'- matter of fact, if "I" had ever refused to transfer an unhappy client to my supervisor, I'd have been written up), a local Supervisor calls and unless the client is in the office - TAA will not release any information and the local Supv would be advised to have the client contact TAA themselves.

It's beyond insane.

In the midst of all this- the employees in the office are overwhelmed to the point of even more talking of quitting and clients services are suffering.

This is only the tip of the iceberg.

I will say that word around the offices is that the proposed "Retention Bonuses" that have been mentioned JUST NOW are too little, too late. Unless the State is willing to really put their money where their mouth is- no one is going to stay.

Friday, April 07, 2006

First Post

This blog was created as an outlet for someone (me) who works (temporarily) for the Health and Human Services Commission in Texas.

In case you haven't heard, we (collectively) are in the process of being privatized. Our job functions, by and large, are being handed over to low paid call center employees who know nothing about the job that we do.

Basically, it is going from a client walking into a local HHSC office, filing an application for Food Stamps, TANF, and/or Medicaid- getting an appointment, seeing a caseworker, being certified and being done to a client getting an application from a local HHSC office, said office faxing that application to the call center, the client waiting until the call center sets up an appointment, having a phone interview with a worker in a town far away, being pended for information that may or may not be relevant to their case, ANOTHER call center employee completing the case.

And this is easier?

The offices are slowly becoming overwhelmed with work- since the 2,900 some-odd employees across Texas who are being laid off were given pink slips in October are leaving already. My current office went from having a full staff to losing 19 people since October. Never in my almost 15 years of working there have I ever seen anything like this.

Who suffers? The clients do.

This blog is not to debate the merits of whether or not people should be entitled to welfare. It's not about that. It's about the fact that the way the laws are written if someone is eligible, they should be confident that they will be seen and certified in a timely manner. This is not happening in the call center environment.

Here are a couple of other blogs that have been talking about it: Here and Here.

It's time for those in the State of Texas to know what is really going on. Millions are being spent on a computer system to handle this- losing the human element- and the system is not sufficient. It's a sham is what it is- politics. I suppose the cost savings will come in the form of clients not receiving the services they are entitled to.