Thursday, November 5, 2009


My sister is 72 years old. A very young-looking and acting 72, but never the less, that is her age. She is also being treated for Stage One breast cancer, having survived a mastectomy, and chemo. She is now on five years of medication to deal with this disease, and to, hopefully, arrest it.

She was still working until September of this year. 8 years beyond retirement age. Not because she was so adored being an administrative assistant, but because she felt she had no choice, given economic circumstances. In other words, a 72-year old woman could not retire because she couldn’t afford to do so.

This May, due to the cancer and subsequent surgeries and treatments, she was on a leave of absence from her job. An unpaid leave of absence. This, along with the unpaid family leave, makes no sense to me. Nor should it to anyone who uses their brain. When a person is facing a debilitating illness, either their own or a family member’s, that is the very time that they need the income. What use is a leave of absence in the face of illness that costs thousands to deal with, if there is no money coming in? The stress from that idiocy is enough by itself to kill a person.
Yet, there she was – on an unpaid leave and dealing with surgery, chemo, baldness, nausea, fatigue, fear and depression. And now anxiety from a lack of a paycheck.

After the leave had been “exhausted”, her employer informed her that they “had to let her go”. I have always been amused by this phrase. The bastards make it sound like a good thing, as though they had treated a wounded bird, nursed it to health, and were now releasing it to its ultimate good, its natural habitat. Now it is flying free. “Letting you go”. How kind. How generous.
In other words, these sons of bitches just fired a cancer patient, leaving her with no financial resources to deal with her very brave battle against this hideous disease. Imagine how that feels. Imagine how you would feel if it were you. Or if it were your sister, aunt, mother, or grandmother.

She was informed that she was “entitled” to apply for unemployment. I drove her to the Department of Labor where she filled out form after endless form after waiting in line for over one hour. She was then told that she needed to register at the Department of Vocational Rehabilitation, where she needed to file a resume online in order to conduct a job search. This is a requirement.

Jesus Christ, people. This is a 72 year old cancer patient we are talking about. What job is she supposed to look for? Who is going to hire her?

It’s enough of an insult to require her to look for a job, but to add insult to injury, if she doesn’t fulfill this requirement, she will lose her unemployment rights. They will cut her off, financially.
And yes, if you were guessing the Department of Labor doesn’t care what job you take, as long as you simply take one, you are right. They see nothing wrong with an administrative assistant working at a fast-food or retail job. Never mind that these jobs do not pay enough to support anyone, let alone cover their medical or dental challenges or needs. Never mind that Medicaid, should they make more than $903.00 per month, will not take care of them. These are the rules, and you play by those rules, no matter how ridiculous they seem, or you lose your benefits.

Am I the only one outraged by this?

Why aren’t there some allowances made for this type of situation? Why aren’t their allowances made for the sick, the people past retirement age? Why this “one size fits all” method of dealing with the unemployed?
I don’t know how to get this laws changed, these rules changed. All I can do is write about it and hope that enough people as incensed as I am by this Governmental stupidity (Yes, I realize that’s redundant) start making their voices heard.
What have we got to lose?

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