I was inspired to write on this topic after seeing a Facebook post by Alanya Kolberg, who specializes in investment educating. She was speaking about how there are many resources available to people based on their status such as food stamps, disability, and even the option to file bankruptcy. She mentioned there is a stigma towards anyone that utilizes those resources, and people are looked down upon for using government assistance or filing bankruptcy; meanwhile, major corporations and billionaires file bankruptcy and/or get million dollar tax breaks every day, and no one blinks an eye. No one accuses them of looking for handouts or playing the system. It’s all just business as usual.
That post made me think about how I’ve handled situations in the past, and how I’ve felt guilty about using certain resources. When I separated from active duty, I had no idea that I could collect unemployment for the first six months after separation. A few people at my duty station casually mentioned it as something I could use to keep me afloat before I started school in the fall. The military taught me never to just take anyone’s word without verification, so I did some research, and found out that it was true. During my research, I also came across discussion forums with comments from people saying that anyone who chose to separate from the service didn’t “deserve” to get unemployment, because that person volunteered to leave. Others brought up the classic argument that anyone who collects unemployment after separating from service is abusing taxpayer dollars.
I ended up collecting unemployment anyway because it was available, but I still felt a twinge of guilt that I was somehow “getting over.” It was that same hesitation of getting over that made me wait nearly a year before applying for disability compensation with the VA. It seems that we as a society spend so much time shaming those that have the audacity to use the very resources intended for them, rather than shaming the flawed, complex systems that force us to go through months and years of paperwork just to receive basic assistance.
For anyone who is like me, and feels embarrassed about getting assistance during a time of need…don’t. If there’s a resource out there that can help you, use it, because you better believe those billionaires are not feeling any guilt or shame about using what’s available to them. I would say more about the irony that many of the people shamed for using assistance are minorities and women, but that’s a post for another day. In the meantime, I’ll focus on getting more comfortable with reaping the benefits that I’ve earned, and you should too.