The Monster of Red Lake Falls

Editors Note:  This is a serious issue that affects many Americans.  Nothing is being done for them.  Let’s get the word out to everyone we can.  Awareness of the issues can help bring great change. 

By Sarcasmo Jones

Tragedy strikes like lightning and eventually touches every person on earth.  A tragedy is usually an event that strikes us or our loved ones and then gives us time to mourn, heal, and rebuild.  What if a tragedy was not just an event, but a way of life?  What if the initial event provided no respite and was merely the catalyst for a permanent misery?  What if the people who are supposed to help you were actually monsters in disguise working against you?  What if this was you…

Minnesota resident Darin Syverson suffered a heart attack on New Year’s Eve, 2008.  Child support payments left Darin eligible for a modicum of medical assistance, and what money he did have saved was quickly drained to pay for life-saving open heart surgery.  Darin worked as a painting subcontractor, working for several larger firms, like Paws Inc.  As a consequence of his vocation, Syverson was exposed to toxic vapors, dry fog, and paint chemicals for over 21 years.  Darin, like many of us, lived paycheck to paycheck and could not afford medical insurance for himself.  Tragedy rarely strikes us when we are most prepared and Darin’s heart attack occurred during the remodeling of his modest trailer home, leaving him no place to stay but with a lot rental that must be paid every month whether he lives there or not.

Unable to get Federal assistance, Darin turned to Red Lake Falls Social Services for help with his growing medical needs, and to HUD for his housing problem.  Eventually, Darin was allotted a miserly $203/ month and some food stamps, and Intercounty forced Darin into an apartment, perched over a noisy bar, for $50/month until HUD could approve the repairs on his trailer home.  Add that $50 to the $80 that Darin still has to pay for his lot rental, $5 to pay a neighbor to mow his grass, and a few necessities like toilet paper and Darin doesn’t have much money at the end of the month.  HUD claims they have no funding to help Darin make his trailer livable so he is stuck paying double rent for the time being.

This fragile and meager existence was threatened when Darin received a $100 check in the mail from the sale of some of his late uncle’s mineral rights.  Red Lake County immediately took away his monthly $203.  Although they reinstated his check a short time later, they deducted the $100 from his assistance.  Syverson took this in stride.  “The way I look at it, it’s a hundred dollars that the taxpayers didn’t have to pay.”  Red Lake Falls Social Services has now disqualified Darin from the program as of August 18th, because, after a year and a half, the trailer home is suddenly an asset that could be liquidated to pay for treatment and the necessities of life.  Darin does not actually own the trailer but he does call it home.

Withholding Darin’s only source of income is the hallmark of an uncompassionate bureaucracy, but depriving a sick man of medical assistance can only be described as monstrous, perhaps evil.  Someone at Red Lake County Social Services has cancelled Darin’s doctor appointment s and his ride to the cardiologist.  “They cancelled my ride thirty minutes before I had to leave to see the heart doctor.  Her office is in Fargo, North Dakota…an hour and a half drive from here.  You can’t cancel those kinds of appointments.  It took me six months to get that appointment.  A friend was able to take me at the last minute but I had to borrow money I couldn’t pay back for gas.  This appointment was about the diagnosis of my health, my life.”  Darin’s heart attack and prolonged exposure to chemicals and vapors has damaged his lungs as well as his heart…he has a hard time even walking a short distance.  The cardiologist has to treat him like a seventy year old man, even though Darin is only forty-eight years old.

Is there a vindictive force in the Red Lake Falls Social Services who wants Syverson to continue to suffer?  Why would any county service worker cancel doctor appointments and work to keep a heart attack victim in a constant state of stress?  Darin sits in that apartment, with no money and just a few food stamps, confronting his mortality and the despair brought on by a system that would rather kill him than pay up.  “I have paid taxes that fund these programs for my entire life, and I am not kidding when I say these people are out of line” exclaims an exasperated Syverson.  “I want to let people know what to expect if they get sick in Minnesota, you are paying into a system that will fail you in the end.”

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