Thursday, September 15, 2005

How One New Jersey Power Company Supports Disabled Vets

What I am about to tell you is true. I am not going to mention any real names, but the gist of the tale is a factual one and I think it reflects exactly what is wrong in a nation where people plaster their damn cars with yellow ribbons and wave their flags and proclaim all kinds of patriotic brouhaha – but when push comes to shove; it’s all about the dollar.

I recently was contacted by a parent of a special needs child on my caseload. Said parent is a disabled Iraqi war vet and due to a SNAFU in a computer system somewhere in Washington DC, his monthly pension checks were reduced by almost 60%. Said parent contacted the Powers That Be and they apologized for the error and told him that the problem would be rectified in 30 to 90 days and he would also be reimbursed the back money he’s due.

Said parent calls his creditors and, for the most part, they are sympathetic and agree to defer his payments for several months until his situation is cleared up.

Well, that is, all creditors with the exception of Big Ass Power and Light, who, for some reason, will not work with this disabled vet (a disabled vet with a special-needs child and a seriously ill spouse). No, the behemoth power company is demanding full payment of his last two bills or they will cut his supply this week!

Said parent offers to pay part of the bill, but is told that he must pay the bill in full.

He contacts several social service and charity agencies, but, times being what they are, no one can really get him the funding he needs.

He ends up contacting our office as his child is under services with our agency. As it turns out, his son is one of my many cases, so I end up fielding his call. After he tells me his heartbreaking tale (and believe me, It was a dozy) I decided to see if I could give him a hand, though I understand that my job is to merely supply needed resources for the disabled child, not cover bills for the families of the clients – but screw it, let them call me a bleeding heart once again- sometimes, somebody has to at least try and help!

Long story short, I managed to talk the administrator of such benefits into covering the bill for this family.

I call Said Parent and tell him that we have him covered and then tell him to call Big Ass Power and Light and let them know that the money will be coming there way shortly.

About an hour later, Said Parent calls me back and says that power company will not take his word and they want to speak with me. He says that when he gave them my name and number he was told that they would not make the call, no, they wanted to hear from me directly.

So I called BAPAL and after punching a bunch of numbers got one of the most arrogant customer representatives on the phone. I gave him all of the needed information and made sure that the account would not be suspended and he assured me that it would not. Then I asked his name, “Joe”, the rep said.

“Do you have a last name, Joe?” I asked.

“We do not give out last names,” the rep replied.

“Fine,” I continued feeling my blood pressure rise, “Joe you do realize that your company was about to leave a disabled Iraqi vet with an ill wife and special needs child with out power. You realize that, don’t you, Joe?”

“Sir, I just work in collections…”

“Right”, I interrupted; “Just following orders, like a good solider” I said sarcastically ending the call.

Frankly I found this entire episode ironic, especially when one considers the real reason we are involved in Iraq (cough-cough-oil–cough-cough) . But more than that, it just burns my ass that this guy was good enough to risk life and limb for his country’s dubious reasons, but when he needed some help, he got a cold smack in the face from his home state’s chief utility provider --- there ought to be a law…

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