If you’ve ever filed an insurance claim, applied for unemployment, or helped your family secure medicare and medicaid benefits, then you probably already empathize with the pain and frustration many Americans experience trying to apply for or take advantage of the very benefits meant to help them through difficult times.
Securing government resources or benefits often requires extensive documentation, rife with complicated forms, legal jargon, and murky guidelines and qualifications. Some lawyers dedicate their entire careers to litigating these types of processes — and they go to school an average of seven to eight years to fully understand the related laws and documentation. How, then, is the average American expected to participate in this system without some form of assistance?
In July 2010, President Obama signed the Plain Writing Act, which mandated that all “federal agencies use clear government communication that the public can understand and use.” However, in the 2016 Annual Social Security and Disability Report, nearly one million of the 2.5 million applicants seeking government support were rejected due to “technical denials” — or clerical and application errors. That’s a staggering 40 percent … and that average statistic has not changed much since 1999, despite the Plain Writing Act.
WHO SUFFERS MOST FROM THIS SYSTEM:
Unfortunately, the individuals who need benefits most are often least equipped to overcome these bureaucratic hurdles. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics the average unemployment rate for Americans with a high school diploma or less are 4.6% and 6.5% respectively (compared to 1.5% of individuals who have doctoral or professional degrees). The nation’s least educated demographic also has the lowest median earnings, receiving a paltry $520 – $712 per week, making them the most likely to apply for low-income housing, food benefits, unemployment, medicare, and medicaid. Yet the members of these communities who need lifted up are also more likely to be confused by complicated verbiage or have difficulty accessing and completing the many documents required to receive aid due to their education gaps.
WHAT WE CAN DO TO BREAK THE CYCLE:
Lobbyists will continue to drive the simplification of government forms. Educators will continue to close knowledge gaps in our future leaders. But what can the average person do to help our communities, so they can eventually help themselves, thereby helping us all? Go online.
No, seriously …
The internet is making the world smaller, allowing individuals to share their experience and provide peer advice via online forums that might help others through these types of experiences. It also gives companies like our OnPoint Guides the opportunity to create useful content that will serve the communities we work, live, and play in. We work tirelessly to translate government processes into simple, step-by-step guides that anyone can easily follow for our own site. The easier an application process seems and the clearer the instructions are, the more likely it is that applicants will complete the process. Even better: the more likely it is that their application will be completed correctly the first time around and result in receiving support. Because application errors are one of the biggest reasons benefits applications are rejected, these simple tools can have a powerful impact.
We take pride in this service to the community and would love to learn more about how you pitch in, what processes or systems you’d like us to help simplify, or what your experiences have been securing government resources and benefits so we can serve better, so drop us an email or comment on our site and join the conversation.