Saturday, January 24, 2015

Walker phasing out Welfare, FoodShare, Medicaid and Unemployment with bogus screening Questionnaire.

Republicans have found a way to make us lose every one of our safety nets. And what will happen to the people and families who need public assistance. It's anybody’s guess. 

Scott Walker is now requiring a drug test for all public assistance programs, against federal law, and offered this Orwellian explanation:
Walker: "We're not making it harder to get government assistance, we making it easier to get a job."
Two completely different goals. Walker inadvertently acknowledges that it will make getting government assistance harder by arguing that it doesn't. From WKOW's Greg Neumann:


The Wretched Democratic Response? You'll want to put your fist through the monitor with their comeback:
Rep. Peter Barca: "We look forward to the debate, I trust the process will be fair (giggle). I'm not so sure we'll agree to the outcome." 
It turns my stomach.

A similar Montana bill making the rounds nationally and now in Wisconsin, looks like this:
The bill would require anyone who applies for government assistance under the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program to go through a drug screening. TANF provides temporary financial assistance for pregnant women and families with one or more dependent children. The program offers financial assistance to help pay for food, shelter, utilities, and expenses other than medical.
Yes, even pregnant women will be tested. I doubt you can get any lower than this.

Surprise, according to your Questionnaire, there's a "Reasonable Likelihood" you're Taking Drugs: In the GOP's Montana bill, applicants must willingly give up personal information to the government or risk “raising suspicions” about possible drug use. Sound coercive and an easy way to suspect anyone? Not to the rightwing authoritarian Republican Reich:
Applicants must answer a questionnaire called the Substance Abuse Subtle Screening Inventory (SASSI) to determine the "likelihood of having a substance abuse disorder." If results indicate a "reasonable likelihood" of drug abuse, the applicant would be required to undergo a lab test with the state.
And what if you fight back against having your privacy invaded by big government…
Failure to complete the questionnaire and/or drug test would result in the applicant being denied benefits.
Which is the intended result, and a pretty tricky way to defeat opponents. Big government Republicans will also dump taxpayer money into a new privatized bureaucratic hoop:
In cases where a person is deemed ineligible for assistance, a third party would be authorized to accept payments for children whose parents are ineligible for benefits.
The right wings avowed enemy, the ACLU, made this persuasive argument:
The American Civil Liberties Union of Montana argued that because the people who receive government assistance are by definition low-income earners, this bill treats them like criminals before they even apply for financial assistance. In December 2014, the 11th Circuit US Court of Appeals ruled that Florida's enacted version of this bill was unconstitutional and "suspicionless drug tests violates the Constitution's protection against unreasonable government searches."
Isn't it about time freedom loving Republicans challenge another constitutional protection? And because many readers don't get to see the comment section, here's one I thought was to important to not include:
lufthase: The Substance Abuse Subtle Screening Inventory mentioned above is a specific proprietary screening tool created and owned by the SASSI Institute. Because they're actual health practitioners and not RW ideologues, they have this to say about using their screening test like this:
"To use the SASSI to discriminate against individuals, such as disqualifying job applicants or to deny public assistance, violates the purpose of the SASSI and is a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act."

and…
"…when public assistance is made contingent on participation in the assessment and treatment process, it increases the risk for violations of ethical principles and applicants’ rights."
The folks who wrote the damn screening test (and stand to profit from its use) say this is not a legitimate use of their test. Shout it from the mountaintops!

2 comments:

lufthase said...

The Substance Abuse Subtle Screening Inventory mentioned above is a specific proprietary screening tool created and owned by the SASSI Institute. Because they're actual health practitioners and not RW ideologues, they have this to say about using their screening test like this:
https://www.sassi.com/customer-support/clinical-support/screening-issues/

"To use the SASSI to discriminate against individuals, such as disqualifying job applicants or to deny public assistance, violates the purpose of the SASSI and is a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act."

and…

"…when public assistance is made contingent on participation in the assessment and treatment process, it increases the risk for violations of ethical principles and applicants’ rights."

The folks who wrote the damn screening test (and stand to profit from its use) say this is not a legitimate use of their test. Shout it from the mountaintops!

lufthase said...

Again from their website, the SASSI screening questionnaire is designed to "identify high or low probability of substance use disorders."

They make no claims about "suspicion/probability of using illegal drugs."

Consider these scenarios…
1) An alcoholic would score "high probability," but presumably would still be eligible for benefits because they won't be testing for alcohol (and alcohol leaves one's system very quickly anyway)
2) Someone abusing prescription drugs would score "high probability," but their substance of choice might not be tested for.
3) Someone who at one time had a substance abuse problem but has been clean for years would still score "high probability."
4) Someone with a family history and genetic predisposition to substance abuse/addiction would likely test "high probability" regardless of whether they'd ever used or not.
5) On the other side, someone who uses illegal drugs recreationally but not pathologically would score "low probability."

Since there's no straight line from the results of this screening test to "suspicion of using illegal drugs," I question how the state could go ahead and make this link.

Depending on how exactly it's set up in WI, I think either the legislators drafting this or the bureaucrats charged with interpreting the screening results and making decisions on benefit eligibility might be treading dangerously close to practicing medicine (and/or psychology) without a license. Might be worth filing a complaint if it comes to this.