Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Melissa Resigns


I, Melissa Peterman, release this document to the public domain.

Social Security Disability decisions are based on shaky, subjective foundations at best. In Texas, the government agency that makes these medical decisions is riddled with daily atrocities.

After eleven years of Texas Health and Human Services employment I am ecstatic to announce my resignation from the commission’s most morally bankrupt branch, DARS-DDS (Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services, Disability Determination Services.) I have 5 years of service under other HHSC agencies which had clear-cut objective rules and compassion for the applicants. DDS abuses employees and
applicants. In my time at DDS I have seen coworkers reprimanded and fired for trivialities. Employees who are ill are given no quarter of mercy. Applicants are denied with only cursory review. Some employees are permitted to be rude to the claimants.

This is a hostile work environment with routine activities which are ethically questionable.

The following events have occurred during my employment:

- Employees are "encouraged" to make suggestions to a suggestion box. Employees who wrote that they were being treated unfairly were called into the director’s office and verbally reprimanded. Later employees tried to submit suggestions anonymously but a new policy was issued that to use the suggestion box you must put your name on the suggestion; unsigned ones would be immediately discarded.

- Recently DDS "cracked down" on internet use. Many employees have been put on Administrative Levels, demoted, or fired for excessive internet use. DDS has issued incredibly vague policies about allowable internet use and continue to insist that employees can be punished for anything that may be connected to a website even if one
does not access the website and the hyperlink is simply present in an email message. For example, one employee visited a website that had a feature to allow Chat and was reprimanded for chatting despite never actually using that feature. At this point most employees are so scared of using the internet that they will not use it at all. Due to the vagueness of this policy Disability Examiners who should be encouraged to use every resource to research unfamiliar medical terminology, medications, and effects of illnesses are unable to properly assess and summarize the evidence. Instead of writing internet policies to guide Examiners in proper internet use, the policies become vaguer with each “clarification” memo and seem tailored to entrap the user.

- The facilities are in disrepair. The bathroom hardware is constantly broken and there is inadequate ventilation. The roof leaks in multiple places, employees actually set trash cans out to catch the water during rainstorms. The sink in one break room has been constantly leaking for two years now. Funds were reportedly given for building improvements in 2009 however the only evident ‘improvement’ was new furniture.

- One of our major tools is the DOT Occupational Guide; many of these job descriptions have not been updated since 1977 and the jobs no longer exist in the US yet claimants are denied based on this inaccurate information! Is there really currently a job in the US for a dowel inspector, button sorter, or silverware wrapper?!

This is a trickle-down fascist fear based institution in which the upper management intimidates the middle management who, in turn, scare their workers, who then terrorize the applicants. Although DDS is not directly torturing applicants, they are denied needed income and health treatment. The applicants cannot afford medications, medical conditions remain untreated, and they suffer and die due to the agency’s negligence.

I feel that the institution’s failings are the result of the administration’s failings. Pressure is exerted from the top down to move cases (internally called "flushing cases"). The emphasis is on politics and budgets and not on the outcome to the applicants who are
ultimately affected by these decisions. Humanity has not been a focus for Disability Determination Services.

As you have read this, my hope is that you empathize with the disability applicants and the employees. If you do not, then you are the problem. Apathy has infected DDS and is so rampant that it is overlooked.

Phillip Zimbardo's theory "The Lucifer Effect" describes exactly what is happening at DDS. Please feel free to watch the video online at this reputable educational symposium:

If you are too afraid or too lazy to stand up for basic human rights and every person's right to decent treatment, you need to reexamine your humanity.

This is my resignation letter. I will discontinue my employment effective 9-1-09.

Melissa Peterman

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