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Posted January 12, 2012 | comments 21 Comments

Inflamed over fuel-aid flap

Fire caused by space heater man was using because his check hadn't arrived

By Joe Beck -- jbeck@nvdaily.com

FRONT ROYAL -- The question of what happened to Michael Bennett's government-funded fuel assistance took on new urgency in the aftermath of a fire in his trailer Sunday evening.

Neighbors and visitors rescued Bennett, 92, from the trailer at 25 James St., but they and he remain upset over an absence of kerosene fuel needed to run the furnace that heats his trailer. As a result of the missing fuel, they said, Bennett was using an old space heater that caught fire but was quickly extinguished, thanks to his rescuers.
Bennett said he has been waiting since November for his fuel.

"I have a good furnace," Bennett said. "But it's like an automobile. You have to put fuel in it to make it run."

Elizabeth Reavis, Warren County's director of social services, said Wednesday that Bennett should have received a check by now to pay for his fuel. She said a social worker would be stopping by his residence to check on his well-being and try to determine what happened to the check.

The county's main role in fuel assistance is helping the state determine eligibility of those apply for the program, she said.

The remainder of the fuel assistance program is administered by the state, with the federal government providing the money.

The amount of money recipients receive varies each year and depends on factors such as what part of the state they live in, how many disabled people live in a household and whether they are elderly, she said.

Reavis said Congress failed to appropriate money for fuel assistance until late December, which may have contributed to a delay of a week or 10 days in delivering fuel assistance.

"Federal money has to be appropriated" by Congress, she said.

Nevertheless, Reavis said, checks for those who buy their fuel directly from vendors should have been mailed by the end of December.

"He should have gotten his fuel check by now," Reavis said.

Bennett said he is frustrated by the delay.

"November is history, December's history, and now January is partly gone, and it's still not here," Bennett said, referring to the fuel assistance he has been expecting.

While he's waiting, Bennett's landlord, Ricky Bennett, has decided to help out by buying him a few gallons of kerosene.

Ricky Bennett, who is unrelated to Michael, said he is also fed up with the delay.
The fire Sunday could have been deadly if he and several others who were visiting Michael Bennett had not been there, he said.

"I don't know why he hasn't gotten it," Ricky Bennett said, referring to the fuel assistance. "Last year, he got it by the 18th or 19th of December."

Ricky Bennett was one of the five rescuers in the trailer fire.

The others were Sadie Orrison, Robert Riley, Laverne Lawson and Glen Wilkes. All five are from Front Royal.

Reavis said people who haven't received fuel assistance they were expecting should call her department. They may be eligible to receive some emergency aid from the county.
Friends, neighbors and family members of those who are missing fuel assistance should also call, she said.

"If someone knows of a vulnerable adult in the community, we follow up on those calls," she said.

21 Comments | Leave a comment

    Maybe if he quit smoking, he could afford fuel, or are the Marlboro's subsidized, too?

    This may sound a bit harsh to some, but the question I ask is: If you have enough money to smoke cigarettes, then you have enough money to pay for your own heating oil....

    Maybe if he stopped smoking he could better afford the fuel costs or are the cigarettes to funded by the government.

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    Maybe less cigarettes and a little more of his own money could go into the Furnace fund...

    How much for a pack or carton of cigs these days? Compare that to a gallon of kerosene...why are taxpayers paying for this person's fuel?

    Didn't give up smoking, did he? Hard to garner sympathy when you're photographed smoking you money away. I could care less about his smoking, but then to cry you can’t afford fuel. Priorities! This is but another reason these programs get ire of the responsible public.

    At least they emptied the well used ash tray before taking the pictures. Is it me or does that ash tray look bigger than a dinner plate? Can you buy cigarettes with food stamps?
    How much for a carton of cigarettes? $25 or $30?? The choices are:
    1) sit in a warm house or
    2) smoke cigarettes?
    He made his choice and I think that pretty much settles that...... Time to stop the pity party.

    I agree with the smoking comments, but....perhaps the Northern Virginia Daily made an error in judgment in the way they chose to portray this gentleman. I wonder if it was his choice to show himself smoking or was it the camera mans.

    There are several other ways for our seniors or less priviledged to get help with heating oil or in his case kerosene. Most churches in the area will help out as well as many organizations. The thrift store as you go into Woodstock also is really big about helping out with heating expenses.

    Also, the family and friends who sit around him could go to the local gas station and buy 5 or 10 gallons each of kerosene and put into his tank. 5 gallons will heat his trailer for a day.

    In my earlier post, I mentioned a thrift store in Shenandoah County. I do believe they only help people in Shenandoah County. I would imagine that if he or his friends contacted some of the thrift stores in Warren County they would find at least one who was willing to help him out. Also, there should be some sort of Crisis Fund through the Dept of Social Services as well.

    You may not know that nicotine is addictive. I would encourage this gentleman to quit. But I would not
    begrudge him heating oil. With all the waste in our country
    why pick on this poor soul. Let him be in peace.

      I agree that it should not really matter if a person smokes. BUT, it you are going to take my tax money to buy your fuel than you really should try to stop smoking. I am confident this is not a personal issue any of us have with this man, but americans are tired of paying for the habits and vices of everyone else. We are becoming a welfare country teaching our children that if you don't wanna work, you don't have to. We will take care of you either way.

    Give me a Break Please,
    This poor 92 yr old American should be able to enjoy as many as he can light up with out all of you crying foul!!!
    How come NON of you complained about the Artificially infladed heating oil prices we are stuck paying due to Greedy oil companies and how Corporate America is robbing us all Blind???????
    NO you have to complain about a 92 yr old who wants to spend his LAST days with a smoke and needs a little help with his heating bill.
    May non of you ever need any assistance with heating costs because by that time you might have to decide not to buy a gallon of milk in order to heat your tent.

    Please dont blame the newspaper for portraying this man and his lifestyle. Deb, you are saying if they did not show him smoking people would want to help him. If I could help someone it would be because I wanted to not because they have no bad habits. A lot of people need help. This man is 92 years old. It is safe to say smoking is not going to kill him. Everyone needs heat. Nicotine is a powerful drug, maybe he goes without food to get cigarettes. All I am saying is 1 bad habit should not condemn someone or ban them from getting help. Dont blame the newspaper for printing a story when the truth isn't always what we want to hear.

    Some of you people and your heartless commentaries...as they say, "Let him who is without sin cast the first stone!" This man is 92 years old and if he wants to smoke by gosh let him smoke without all the negative comments!! Leave your judgments to God where it belongs!

      Well said Tstar. Eg. how many casting these stones are guilty of burdening our health care system (and your and mine inflated insurance premiums) from disease/illnesses directly due to their poor health habits from improper diet and lack or no exercise? 60% are overweight in this country for starters. A major percentage of Medicare goes to treatment of such.

    Thank you Motor man, I agree with your comment as well. Noboby complains about the high cost of fuel. How about all the girls or women out here that keep having babys by different men and they keep getting the welfare checks, food stamps and housing, nobody is complaining about that, but all we can't pay for the elderlies fuel. You all want to complaine about this man smoking. He is 92 and I say if he wants to smoke then he has the right to. I bet he worked all his life and paid his taxes, bet he wasn't on welfare, he now needs some assistance and he should be able to get it. I hope the ones complaining don't need any help when they get old. Oh by the way goverment does not fund cigarettes, but they can bail out the banks, the car makers, and everybody else but you all are complaining about giving this man some assistance for his fuel just because he smokes. The last time I checked this is still a free county and if a person chooses to smoke or not then that is their business.

    I'll be back with a comment just as soon as I can build a soapbox taller than all y'alls.

    Personally, I don't care if he smokes or not. My point is that there are alternative ways to get help with heating oils and kersones while waiting for the social service heating assistance to kick in. If he has lived this long smoking, then I agree that cigarettes aren't going to kill him. I wonder if they had shown this man sitting on his couch watching tv if as many people would have commented? I think not.

    What? No one complaining about the cost of Tattoos? I see the cultural borders are firm. Cigs=NO Tatts=OK, what about Bingo Night and Fishing Licenses?

    Its not about casting stones, it is about making sacrifices if you cant pay your bills. I should not have to support anyone with my taxes unless that person cuts out ALL the luxury's in their life, cable, cell phone, smoking, etc. This gentleman has to have some sort of income, cut back on a carton of $52 ciggs and buy 5 gallons of fuel. It is just that simple! BUt folks wold rather hold out there hand for a free buck.

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    I'm not understanding this story. When this first happened the nvd reported that there was a check, something about a friend of the family having it and it was that friend who didn't purchase the oil. I'm not remembering the exact number but it would have bought 50 gallons of fuel. WHERE IS THE REST OF THE STORY?


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