Saturday, August 29, 2009


Blog Search regarding Thomas Suehs HERE
News Search regarding Thomas Suehs HERE

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Gov. Perry Names Suehs Executive Commissioner of Health and Human Services

AUSTIN – Gov. Rick Perry has named Thomas Suehs of Austin executive commissioner of Health and Human Services effective Sept. 1, 2009, for a term to expire Feb. 1, 2011.
The Health and Human Services Commission provides leadership and strategic direction to the health and human services system in Texas, and the executive commissioner oversees the operations of the five health and human services agencies, including more than 50,000 employees and combined annual budgets of $30 billion.
"Whether managing the monumental reorganization of Texas' health and human services system beginning in 2003, or helping to coordinate the sheltering of special needs evacuees from hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Ike, Texas has successfully taken on these enormous challenges thanks to the outstanding leadership of Albert Hawkins as commissioner of Health and Human Services, and I thank him for his years of service to the state," Gov. Perry said. "As we move forward, I am confident that Tom will continue the trend of outstanding health and human services vision and expertise, and I am proud to welcome him to his new role as commissioner."
Suehs has served as deputy executive commissioner for financial services at the Health and Human Services Commission since 2003. His responsibilities include providing administrative leadership, oversight and direction for the financial management of all five Health and Human Services agencies. He is past executive director of the Texas Health Care Association, past deputy commissioner of the Texas Department of Mental Health and Mental Retardation, past president of the American Society of State Health Care Executives, and former special advisor to the Texas Indigent Health Care Task Force. He is also a past member of the Texas Society of Association Executives and American College of Health Care Administrators. Suehs received a bachelor's degree from Texas State University and Master of Business Administration from the University of Texas.

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Sunday, August 16, 2009

To feed hungry Texans-Houston Chronicle

When it comes to federal programs, food stamps come close to being a freebie. Simply by providing half the costs of administering eligibility requirements, Texas and other states guarantee their low-income folks — primarily children and the elderly — crucial access to basic nutrition.

What the federal government asks in return is that states process 95 percent of food-stamp applications within 30 days. After all, hunger cannot be put on hold while bureaucrats dither.

Texas, which has had difficulty meeting that requirement for years, is getting worse. With the recession prompting rising requests for food assistance, the Lone Star rate of noncompliance rose from 19.2 percent in January to 37.2 percent last month. That failure has prompted a federal class action lawsuit by two citizen advocacy groups to force the Texas Health and Human Services Commission to put the eligibility process on the mandated federal schedule.

In recent years the commission has pushed through ill-considered privatization schemes that resulted in increased delays to processing applications for the Children's Health Insurance Program and other state-supervised federal programs. It has failed to hire an adequate number of workers to handle the growing food-stamp applicant backlog, even though the Legislature approved funding for an additional 656 positions. An HHS spokeswoman said approval for the hires has not been cleared with state leaders.

Harris County is at the center of the crisis, with more than 364,000 residents receiving food
stamps. The average family gets $324 in monthly food assistance.

Houston state Rep. Garnet Coleman, a Democrat, says top Texas leaders have shown a callous disregard for the needs of poor constituents.

“When the people in charge don't like the government to provide services, whether it be health care or food, they just do a very poor job of providing the service,” says Coleman.

Texas must do better in processing food assistance to its neediest in a timely manner. It shouldn't take a federal judge to remind state officials of their responsibilities.

Watchdog: As Texas bureaucracy flounders over food stamp applications, a couple settles for potatoes

Watchdog: As Texas bureaucracy flounders over food stamp applications, a couple settles for potatoes


Unlike everybody else who contacts The Watchdog, Bob of Fort Worth doesn’t want my help. He only wants everyone to understand the horrible state of Texas’ food stamp program.

Bob, who doesn’t want his last name used because he is afraid of getting into a fight with the government, is 78 and lives with his wife on $500 a month from Social Security.

Two years ago, they qualified for food stamps. But the credits on his state-provided electronic debit card — worth about $200 a month — ran out in May.

So what does he do?

"Potatoes are like a dollar for 5 pounds," he said. "So we eat a lot of potatoes. If they’ve got a sale on something — for instance, if regular lettuce is a dollar and a half a head, and they have a sale for 75 cents, we’ll make salads out of lettuce. We find the bargains on something and we’ll eat that this week."

Since May, Bob has been trying to get ahold of someone at the state Health and Human Services office on East Lancaster Avenue in Fort Worth to help him re-qualify for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — a requirement to make sure recipients still need it.

"We sent all our papers, and we kept calling, and they kept putting us off. You couldn’t get anybody down there. Nobody answers the telephone. They had about a dozen people working down there helping people, checking and rechecking them.

"And a woman says, 'Well, we’re planning on getting a new system so it will be about a week.’ And then you don’t get anything. Then finally, a week or so later, they got a recording on their phone. I guess everybody was not getting anything. The recording said, 'If you’re really needing help, if you’re really out of food, call 211 and they’ll get you some food.’ "

The Texas 211 help-line folks told him that he could go to a food bank, but Bob, a military veteran, doesn’t want to do that: "I have to be careful what I eat. I had colon cancer and diabetes. I’m a mess."

Nobody knows how many Bobs there are in Texas. State officials say they believe that one-third of all food stamp applications processed in July were past the 30-day limit allowed by federal law.

That’s 45,000 families like Bob’s that waited more than a month for help, for a phone call back, for a letter, anything. Bob’s wait is three months. How many more are out there waiting?
A spokeswoman for state health services, Stephanie Goodman, says the state doesn’t really know.

The computer system used to process food stamp applications is so outdated that they aren’t counted until they are actually entered into the system.

(Stephanie, really? "so outdated"? More spin from Austin to build TIERS up? Can you imagine if the Dallas area was IN TIERS? Can you? Because even YOU can't deny that a worker can work FAR MORE CASES in SAVERR, in a day, than in TIERS. And, we have no idea? What, the supervisors in Region 3 don't have to submit a lead time report? They have "no idea" how many apps there were waiting to be seen? Surely you jest.)

Applications "sitting on someone’s desk that we have not gotten to" are uncounted, she says.
For sure, there are tens of thousands more.

The problem is so bad that two groups filed a federal lawsuit in Austin last week demanding that the state comply with the 30-daylimit.

The lawsuit is designed to force the state to create a quick plan, says Randall Chapman, executive director of Texas Legal Services Center, which co-filed the suit on behalf of two Irving residents tired of waiting.

"Believe it or not, the two people named in that lawsuit were approved in less than 24 hours," Chapman said. "It was just magic. Their approval letters were hand-delivered to their homes."
Chapman offered his organization’s help to Bob. Goodman, the state official, would have checked into Bob’s case, too, had I asked her. Bob could have been fast-tracked and had food stamps hand-delivered to his door, too. But he told me not to do that. He was adamant.

Chapman said: "Some elderly people feel intimidated, or they don’t want their neighbors knowing they need help. That’s a real shame."

The state is trying to come up with solutions, shortcuts, hiring proposals, abbreviated training procedures, anything to get food to Texans. Next month, the state will begin hiring 656 workers to process applications.

For now, however, the bureaucrats simply cannot get it done.

"We’re processing more cases than ever," Goodman said. "We’ve got more people on the rolls. We’re just not simply keeping up with the increase in demand.  . . . Our staff has been working weekends and long hours, but it’s still not enough. We’re not keeping up."

In Tarrant County, 150,000 people now receive food stamps, compared with 130,000 last year. There would be more if the system worked properly.

As a test, I called the phone number of the East Lancaster Avenue office where Bob keeps striking out. When you push zero for operator, you get this message: "Hi, you’ve reached the general delivery mailbox for the East Lancaster office. However, this mailbox is not set up to have return calls. Please do not leave a message. Press zero for operator so your call will be reverted to our operator. Have a nice day."

I hit zero, and got the same message again. Did it again and again and again.

Meanwhile, Texans are eating potatoes and lettuce and waiting for phone calls and letters that never seem to come.

Getting help

For food stamp problems, call the ombudsman’s office at the Texas Health and Human Services Commission at 877-787-8999.


Here's my only issue with all of this (aside from the comments that people leave on these types of articles- see the link if you want to read them) is that Region 3 (Metroplex) and Region 6 (Houston area) have had issues with timeliness forEVER. It took a LAWSUIT for anyone to take notice? This is NOTHING NEW. It's a SHAME is what it is.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

More from the Texas Bloggers

Off the Kuff has an article HERE which references OLDER articles- in other words, this lawsuit and the issues surrounding timeliness has been a LONG TIME COMING.

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Tuesday, August 04, 2009

All about the lawsuit

Many articles- some the same (AP)- I know that I was emailed the one I posted yesterday- and have just now had a chance to sift through the "news" to see what else is out there:

Hard To Believe, But Texas Is Fouling Up The Process Of Distributing Food-Stamp Relief

Texas Health and Human Services Commission Sued for Failure to Meet Federal Food Stamp Timeliness Guidelines

Lawsuit alleges Texas broke food-stamp processing laws

Google Search (just click this sentence) for the Lawsuit news

And here begins the beating down of the local office worker, I'm afraid.  You know, we - meaning us in the local offices- we, who used to do a FANTASTIC job in that we allowed for the State of Texas to receive enhanced funding several years in a row- money which, btw, went straight into the general fund, we knew that attempting to "outsource" and do "call centers" and take away the relationships that offices had with their clients- we KNEW this would lead up to THIS.  A lawsuit on timeliness. 

I guess it boils down to what I've been saying on this blog from day one- the workers in the field, the clerks, the local office supervisors- are doing ALL THEY CAN.  Are there cracks?  Of course!  But if you have more clients/applications coming in than you have workers with the abilities to see many in a day, and do them CORRECTLY- then it snowballs.  Into THIS- a lawsuit.  I'm torn about how "I" personally feel about the lawsuit, given that I think it's time that Perry and Co. are going to have to be accountable to some extent- and for the USDA to see what's going on (although they know).....but at the same time, I know that whatever this lawsuit brings- will hurt the local office.   

I know that "Joe Blow" doesn't care what we do- as I've said before.  But Joe Blow also doesn't realize that we, as employees, have families and lives too.  Most of us (MOST) care about what we do, and will work late, work weekends, etc- at the EXPENSE of OUR families- so that other families can eat.  And have Medical care for their children.  There's just so much one person can do.  After the "fake layoffs" and after the offices sunk- THEN and only THEN did the state realize they had to hire more people- by then, the damage was done.  You bring in new people and throw them to the wolves, so to speak, and they figure this was too much and they leave, and the process starts all over again.

Tenured staff that didn't "Jump Ship" (as it were) were depended on to do the jobs of 2 or 3.  Yes, staff were paid overtime (I mean, think about it- if you are working 10-11 hours per day, and on weekends- without PAY, you aren't so apt to work those crazy hours- and furthermore-earning the overtime as leave is a joke when you can never take it off to regroup) and that made it easier to bear- but it just gets to be too much. 

I forsee staff now (due to the lawsuit) having to work mandatory overtime and have to work cases for those areas that are so behind (Irving, for example, as these are where the clients are from from whom the lawsuit originated)...which will put those offices that are BARELY making it behind themselves....then the snowball starts back down the hill.

We had a system in place that worked.  BEFORE tiers.  BEFORE Accenture/Maximus.  It WORKED.  We proved it worked.  And now?  I just don't know how you fix something like this.


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Monday, August 03, 2009

I'm shocked this hasn't happened before now.

Texas Health and Human Services sued over food-stamp response times

Two advocacy groups are suing the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, accusing the agency of not processing food stamp applications within the time required by law.
The Texas Legal Services Center and the National Center for Law and Economic Justice filed the class action lawsuit Friday in federal court in Austin.
Federal law requires the state to decide on food stamp applications within 30 days, seven days for emergency food stamp applications for families without money for food or rent.
The lawsuit alleges Texas has failed to meet the time constraints for more than three years. It says that last month, Texas processed more than a third of all food-stamp applications late.
The Texas Health and Human Services Commission hasn't commented on the lawsuit and its allegations.

I'm just shocked it took this long.

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