After many other individuals attempted to help an Arizona veteran in dire need of assistance, Adult Protective Services (APS) investigator, Brandy Graham, was also ready to take action. When she got involved, she learned that the situation had become complicated and remained unresolved.
A member of the community, who had initially tried to help, posted about the man's situation on social media. The man was in poor health, and did not have any food, nor a working air conditioner due to an unpaid electric bill. Others had already tried calling his power company to make payments, but were unsuccessful. Meanwhile, a home health agency was attempting to deliver food boxes. Another individual who saw the social media post called Adult Protective Services, and Brandy was able to step into action. The community was trying to help him, but based upon her background and experience, Brandy knew he needed a more cohesive, long-term, and stable solution.
When he was reluctant to sign up for benefits, Brandy understood that she needed to change the conversation. "We had a conversation about him being a veteran. I told him, 'Because you're a veteran, you get certain benefits through the VA [Veterans Administration]. You served the country. You deserve these benefits. You don't have to suffer in silence.'"
Brandy said she felt like the conversation had to change from him feeling 'needy' to a realization by him that he was entitled to benefits as a veteran. She said she felt that was what convinced him to be receptive to assistance.
Brandy started by contacting his local Area Agency on Aging, which replaced his AC unit. She was also able to help him apply for the DES Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) for assistance with his utility bill, for which he was approved. However, after the LIHEAP team sent an email confirming they'd made payment to his utility provider, the electricity still hadn't been turned on, so she worked to clear things up with his electric company. They told her that it was going to take two days for the power to come back on because there was a $200 deposit due, but she was able to convince them to waive it considering the circumstances.
There were also other communications and logistical hurdles to overcome, like the lack of a cell phone, for example. The man lost his phone, so the service providers were calling Brandy in an effort to reach him. She drove to his house every time she needed to talk to him. In an effort to continue to provide wrap-around services to the man, Brandy made him aware of a program for low-income individuals in need of a cell phone. But because he had no transportation and no way to contact the program from home, it was difficult for him to sign up for service, so Brandy managed to convince a provider to drive to his house. When they discovered he didn't have the paperwork he needed to prove income eligibility, she contacted someone at DES to obtain his Nutrition Assistance approval letter to verify eligibility.
"Right now, he's situated, for the most part," said Brandy. "There are just some loose ends to tie up. The number one thing for him is that he had been without air conditioning for so long. He was super excited to at least have some AC running in his home. Now he has the services in place to help with taking care of his needs."
Brandy's passion for helping those in need stems from a long history of social work employment. Her previous experience includes conducting home studies through a contracted agency for the Department of Child Safety (DCS) and providing customer service by phone. She also worked for Maricopa County in multiple roles, including as a Public Fiduciary, in the Workforce Development area, as a Community Coordinator for the Maricopa County Superior Court, and as a counselor for Correctional Health Services.
Her most recent plan had been to finish boot camp to be a parole officer, but an injury changed her career path, and she joined DES instead.
Brandy's significant employment experience in social services has allowed her to change the focus of conversations away from "need" to "stability."
"I think we get into these [cases] as investigators where people don't want to need help… if we can talk them through it, that's the beauty of it, because a lot of them are repeat cases. Once they get the help they need, we don't get a lot of repeat cases."
With his air conditioning back on, power paid for, and other services being coordinated, this veteran is on a better path to becoming more settled. Brandy's plan for his future also includes creating a list of all his necessary phone numbers, including his service providers, his VA case manager, his doctor at the VA, and his utility companies.
With assistance from Brandy, who went above and beyond, a member of the community was able to get the benefits he deserved. From poor health and inadequate shelter to a paid electric bill and connections to providers who would continue to provide care, Brandy worked hard to help provide a better situation for a deserving member of the community who had served his country.