TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Re: Touch Tone Grocery Shopping - Promise Never Realized?

Re: Touch Tone Grocery Shopping - Promise Never Realized?

Paul Robinson (
Sat, 09 Sep 2006 05:00:18 -0400

R. T. Wurth wrote:

> 6.) Stores were already required to put in electronic card-based
> payment systems as part of food stamp conversion from coupons to
> electronic cards, (either convert or lose all the business of food
> stamp customers) so none of the infrastructure costs are attributable
> to credit cards. (Note to non-US readers: food stamps are an
> agriculture subsidy/welfare program, whereby the poor receive
> coupons/electronic credits that can only be spent at qualified food
> merchants for the purchase of qualified foods (no liquor, candy or
> soda) processed in US factories from US agricultural products.)

About ten or twelve years ago when I was between jobs I qualified for
"food stamps" which then -- in Montgomery County, Maryland -- consists
basically of a special type of ATM card which could be used at any
grocery store or supermarket in the state. Neither the card nor the
purchasing rules prohibit you from buying candy or soda. Basically, if
you can eat it and it's not cooked, it's legal to buy it using food
stamps. The only food you can't buy is anything sold as heated for
immediate use.

This means you can buy candy, soda, cereal, milk or TV dinners. You
could not, however, purchase toothpaste or baking soda.

In fact, there was some serious anger a few years ago because some
couple in New York City was buying very expensive caviar using food
stamps and reselling it for more than the purchase price. (Why anyone
would pay more than the cash price in a store is beyond me, but that's
what the article said.) It turns out that once you purchase the food,
it's yours to do with as you please. It is a criminal offense to sell
food stamps or to sell access to one's public benefits, but it is
perfectly legal to resell food you've bought with public benefits.

In fact, because of federal law regarding purchases using federal funds,
if you buy food using a public subsidy program like food stamps, the
sale is tax exempt, same as if you were someone with Diplomatic
Immunity. So it actually gives someone on food stamps an extra 5% more
purchasing power (presuming your state's food tax is 5%).

The particular food program that *does* restrict what you can buy is
the "Women Infants and Children" or "WIC" program which has certain
restrictions, usually to certain types of baby formula and other such

Now, I only qualified for a month because once I was back working I
didn't bother to send in the paperwork to continue to get benefits.
Which was fine because all I was interested in was short term
assistance. And this was before they instituted the five-year
lifetime limit on welfare benefits for people who are not disabled.

I'd like to mention to Pat, also, that if you're receiving Social
Security Disability, if you do not have a large amount of assets, you
may also be elligible for food stamps as well; check with your county
Human Services office (or whatever is the Politically Correct word for
"Welfare Department" these days).

[TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: Thanks for thinking of me. I have tried
to get food stamps (both federal and state/county-wide). The federal
program depends on state officials detirmining your eligibility,
although if eligible, the money for same come from the feds. I am
getting Social Security Disability, but under the 'special rule' they
have for persons over 60 years of age considered 'permanently disabled'.
They pay me my full pension benefits 'as though' I was over 65. When I
in fact turn 65 in about a year or so, they will officially retire me
'on paper' as it were ... if I had been _under 60_ and disabled, they
would have paid me a lot less money for being disabled. They do not
give me very much now (about poverty level, statistically) but if I
was younger than 60 it would be even less, believe me, and
'permanently disabled' only applies for seven years, then a physician's
recertification (a doctor employed by SSD, not your own doctor!) is

Montgomery County, Kansas has the same scheme you mentioned: a plastic
card good in ATM machines or grocery stores; swipe the card, enter
your PIN, etc, and the same restrictions: cold food (candy bars, cola?)
is okay, but no 'ready to eat' food (hot microwave sandwiches from
the 7-Eleven, etc). No beer, no cigarettes, etc. However if you receive
'General Assistance' (in addition to food stamps) that extra allotment
of money goes on the same ATM card, to be cashed out as desired. On
the 'food stamp' portion of the money, no cash back of more than one
dollar, but spend the 'General Assistance' portion of the money as you
desire (cash it out, then see your local dope dealer or whatever.) I
am NOT eligible for either 'food stamps' or General Assistance, and
the office manager for the state program here in Independence waves a
red flag whenever I go around his office. I think he hates me. I will
tell you why:

When I had my aneurysm in 1999, I was in a coma for about three
months, November 26, 1999 through about the middle of January, 2000,
plus another month of 'emergency rehabilitation'. 'Emergency' in this
instance means therapy to help me recover the simplest use of my body,
eating my food, using the toilet, etc. After I got out of the coma, I
was taken across the street to the Kansas Rehabilitation Center and
stayed there for a month. Finally, in March, 2000 I got to leave.

You ever seen a hospital bill for a three month stay; the bottom line
was right around three hundred _thousand_ dollars. The hospital
(Storemont Vale Medical Center in Topeka) obviously wanted to get
paid. I suggested to them collect it from State of Kansas under the
rules for indigent patients. There is a federal law which requires
hospitals which accept federal grants (and which one doesn't?) to
agree to write off a certain amount on indigent patients with a
catastrophic situation, or collect it from state welfare funds.

Storemont Vale tried, but claimed State of Kansas refused to pay; it
went all the way up the line to an Administrative Law Judge who
ruled _in my favor_ and ordered SRS (Social and Rehabilitative Services)
for Kansas to pay it. Montgomery County SRS said 'we think this is a
real kick in our butt -- err -- budget, more than a quarter million
dollars for this old man.' Judge tells them he does not care, just
pay it, "and also pay for the ambulance which took Mr. Townson from
Fort Riley Army Base in Junction City to the nearest brain surgeon
in Topeka about 100 miles east on I-70." US Army assigned two base
Military Police officers and a nurse to take me over to Topeka in the
back of a wagon; they all wanted to get paid as well, plus the local
hospital in Junction City who made the referral to Topeka. (I was not
in the Army, but no matter, I was on the base on official business
with a commercial tenant there when the aneurysm occurred.) All of
SRS's protests did no good, they wound up paying something more than
three hundred thousand dollars, between Storemont Vale, the US Army
base at Fort Riley, the local medic in Junction City, etc.

The day I was finally released from the hospital in Topeka and came
back here to Independence, I got a letter in the mail from
Storemont-Vale which 'crossed in the mail' I guess, saying they had
made demand for payment from SRS, based on the judge's orders, etc.
I telephoned Ronnie Blaker, the local SRS manager, he agreed they
were going to obey the judge's order and pay all my bills, using what
they refer to as my 'spend down' allowance. I do not understand that
term. Ever since then, on the three or four occassions when I have
been in the Arco Building (where our SRS is located) if I happen to
see Ronnie he _always_ gives me a very evil eye. I think the case
worker here has been told 'about the guy who sued us to make us pay for
his hospital stay in Topeka.' _They_ claim (that even with my
pitiful federal allowance) I make too much money to receive food
stamps, general assistance, LIAPP (utility company allowance money)
or any other services they offer. They did agree to not take into
consideration Meals on Wheels, the Housekeeper service and that
stuff. Anytime I have applied for _anything_ from them, and quote
the amount of money paid to me through Social Security, the very
first thing they do is call SSA and get them to verify the dollar
amount, then they tell me I am making too much money. PAT]

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