Open Letter to Congressman Shuster

I live in Pennsylvania, having just moved here from Maryland.  I am fed up with age and unemployment discrimination.  I have been unemployed for a year on February 19, 2012.  I wrote this letter to my congressman.  If you agree with my letter, please “like” and share.

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Dear Congressman Shuster:

I moved to PA from MD two weeks ago. I am one of the many unemployed in America. I have been unemployed since Feb 19, 2011 and am barely making ends meet on the benefits I receive.

My letter to you speaks to age and unemployment discrimination being practiced by employers. While you and I know it is illegal to discriminate for such reasons, corporations are getting around that law by requiring applicants to provide their social security number BEFORE they can even begin an application. Washington County Public School system in Maryland requires it – I just electronically applied for a job there.

Apparently, The Fair Employment Opportunity Act of 2011, also referred to as HR 2501, would prevent employers from such discrimination. The bill would also apply to employment agencies, who would not be allowed to ask about the current employment status of job applicants.

This is a non-action. When an employer REQUIRES background check information PRIOR to an applicant even filling out an application, it is very easy for them to get around this legislation. It’s exceptionally easy for them to simply cull all those over a certain age and hire younger and cheaper.

I am 50 years old. I have almost 30 years of work experience and I would be an asset to many companies. I can’t even get a job gargling peanut butter on the street corner. On Friday, February 3, I was contacted by a recruiter who was very excited by my resume. It seems I was a 100% match to the requirements. On Monday I received an email stating that my application would not be considered since “the position was already filled.” So why did he contact me? This individual also had information regarding my age and unemployment status.

How are we, the long-term unemployed, supposed to find work if no one will hire us? Our government quotes an unemployment rate of approximately 8.5% nationwide. That’s a crock and anyone who can do simple math and word problems can figure it out. The formula is based upon the number of jobs created, those who are still drawing unemployment and those who have “left the work force.”

The assumption is that those who have “left the work force” have done so voluntarily. I’m here to tell you that “those who have left the work force” have done so not by choice, but simply because their benefits ran out. This does not mean they are not still looking for work. It simply means they had no more benefits, had to pack it in, move in with family or friends and become a financial burden to those people.

When is someone in our government going to wake up and see the truth? Have you or any of your colleagues ever experienced TRUE poverty? Do you think you would be able to support yourself on the benefits paid by unemployment (after of course, you’ve gone through all your savings and retirement, as well as your children’s college funds, as my brother and I have done!)?

Do you know what it means to experience starvation? Wait. That’s not a politically correct term any longer, is it? I recently read where the term “Food Insecure” is being bandied about as being much more acceptable. It’s not as ugly, is it? If it weren’t for the kindness of family and friends, I (one of your new constituents) would have STARVED long ago. I’d also be homeless.

Can you tell me why it is that I, at age 50, am unable to get a job working even at a convenience store? I’m willing to take such a job. I’m willing to work. I WANT to work. No one will hire me. I know the reason. I’m “old.” I would actually USE my health care benefits for things other than wellness checkups.

It’s a fact that healthcare in America is there solely to make a profit. Insurance companies are not there to take care of us; they are there to make a profit. I was recently turned away from a Patient First in Maryland when I had the ‘flu because I couldn’t pay. I have no health insurance. I’m diabetic and I don’t qualify for Medicaid. I “make too much money” on unemployment. I don’t qualify for food stamps. My unemployment benefit year (colloquially known as BYE – how apt) is ending on Feb 19 of this year. Will I get an extension?

I’m not sitting around on my butt doing nothing and leeching taxpayer dollars. I’m not using my unemployment money to buy drugs. Between yesterday and today, I applied for 21 jobs. I do this daily. I have done this daily since February 20, 2011.

Congressman Shuster, can you tell me how I am supposed to support myself once my benefits run out and I am no longer counted as a part of the “work force?” Am I supposed to move in with my aged and ill parents, one of whom just spent 8 weeks in hospital? Am I supposed to move into my brother’s basement and live with the crickets and mice? Or should I move into my sister’s storage closet? Perhaps I should make a straw pallet in my neighbor’s barn? I’m not being facetious. Those are my choices.

Have you ever been faced with these choices?

Why is Corporate America being allowed to cull those who are over a certain age and who are unemployed? The act I referenced above does NOTHING to restrain this activity. NOTHING.

I volunteer at a non-profit in Maryland and four months ago, one of my co-volunteers was an individual who works in a large corporate HR department. She swore she would deny this next statement with her last breath because she would be fired for making it but she said:

“The reason you are not getting hired is because you are 50 and have been unemployed too long. You know those electronic statements that you see online where you have to agree to a background check prior to submitting your application? That’s our way of culling anyone over age 40 and those who have been long-term unemployed.”

My best educated guess is that if you were to poll Corporate America you would get a deafening denial of the above statement. Of course you would. It’s illegal. Yet they ARE doing it.

What can you suggest for my situation? Seriously. Can you give me some viable, USEFUL suggestions? Suggestions that don’t include “keep up the hard work” and “it’s all a numbers game – you just have to keep applying?”

What are my options? Right now I’m attempting to keep my hopes up. I refuse to let the system crush my spirit. Even if I become homeless and “food insecure” I will still own my spirit. I will loathe my government, though. I have paid into this system for 30 years. This is what I receive in return when I am in gross need of help. “You make too much money to qualify for medicaid or food stamps.” On unemployment. Go figure.

Mr. Congressman, can you tell me what YOU will do about this? Can you tell me what bill YOU will write; what legislation YOU will push through to help those of us who have NOT “left the work force” but are invisible to the governmental unemployment bean counters?

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