Wednesday, September 27, 2006

In Security

I had this post all planned out in my head last night. I was going to write it up during the day, but then I thought it might be tricky accomplishing that with a preschooler hanging off my elbow or stepping on my shoulders. So I put it off. Naturally, by tonight, I am brain dead and glassy-eyed and can only vaguely remember the topic, which was The Response from the Social Security People to my Disability Application.

When The Man (TM) handed me the envelope and said, "Social Security sends their love," I had the sinking feeling that they had rejected my claim. I didn't want to open it. But I didn't want anyone else to open it, either. So I waited until after dinner (like my appetite wasn't already ruined), popped it open, and scanned down through the bureaucratese to the good stuff. Yep, they rejected me, all right.

Now, I wasn't really surprised and I wasn't really being negative about the situation. TM had thought I was, but then he talked to a bunch of people at school and around town about it, and they all agreed that everyone gets rejected the first time; some even said it takes an average of three tries before you get accepted-- unless you hire a lawyer for your appeal. Then it's almost automatic.

I think it's important to note that in general my esteem for various government agencies is a lot higher on average than most people's simply because I've worked for and with them. (This will come up again later.) But boy, my respect for the SS people just sank.

I remember part of my rant (and believe me, it was going to be a rant-- and probably still is) involved my first reaction to their pronouncement-- specifically, the words "Are you stupid, or just evil?"

Well, my first reaction, after I stopped laughing enough to breathe. Because although they did accept my statement that I can no longer do the job I worked at most recently (i.e., magazine editor), I should easily be able to return to my previous career as an intelligence analyst! Oh, of course! Without the ability to sit or stand very long and with my mind constantly clouded by the pain medicine... sure, involve me in our country's security, have me writing reports that our president will use to determine whether to choose peace or war... sure.

OK, some of you out there are cynically nodding to yourselves and going, yeah, I always knew that was what went on there... except it doesn't. If I even applied to get my old job back, even provided that I had a chance of moving back to the suburban D.C. area, they'd take one look at my test scores and laugh me out of town. Seriously. I'm still laughing, and it's not even funny. (But that link is. Click it and weep.)

OK, so here's the deal. They tell me I have 60 days from receipt of this letter (and they know when I got it, of course) to ask in writing for a hearing in court. Then I have to sign form xyz-590/3 etcetera, etcetera. Then I have to complete an appeal form telling more about my medical condition since I filed my claim. THEN, a judge will inform me (by the ever-trusty US Postal Service) when my appeal hearing will be. It is bound to be impossible to make. They feel the need to tell me, however, in BIG BOLD PRINT that it is important to go to the hearing. 'Cause I'm stupid or something.

Only, apparently, I'm not. This was their reasoning behind denying my claim. And I quote:
"Although these conditions may cause you concern, a recent exam showed that you are able to think, reason, communicate, remember and follow instructions, and act in your own best interest."
Because any condition short of Terri Schiavo's is not the same as, or anywhere near as bad as, being disabled. I begin to sense a plan here. A plan to save Social Security. The means are simple: Never pay out any claims again! Mwahahahahaha!

No, seriously. I'm starting to get the feeling that the answer to my earlier question is the second option. But then TM picks up the letter from where I've dropped it in my gales and convulsions of laughter. He starts reading about the hearing stuff. "You have the right to an attorney... if you cannot afford an attorney... groups who can help... Wait. If you hire an attorney, we will withhold 25 percent of your benefits." Uh huh. And this is because what? Oh yes, because if you hire a lawyer, you're almost certain to win the appeal, and therefore....

I think we have our answer to the earlier question: evil.


Dorothy said...

They withhold 25% to pay the attorney's fees. Most attorneys take these cases on contingency. You won't pay a dime until you get the settlement. And they pay the attorney.
You will be counted disabled as of the date of your last job and receive all of those back monies. It takes up to a year to receive the appeal hearing though, so your in for a bumpy ride. But it will end most definitely in your favor.

And yes, they do deny everyone right away. And yes, you will win on appeal. Make an appointment today.

His Worship said...

Speaking as an attorney licensed to practice in 4% of the United States, I can state unequivocally that unless you are already in Terri Schiavo's condition, you will be denied on your initial application. Absolutely appeal, because here's the rub...when you win on appeal, they award you back payments to the date of your "disability determination date". So if you walk away now and reapply in two or three years, you'll only get back pay to the date of THAT applcation and determination. They won't go back to the current date. Also, from the time you appeal, you probably won't have a hearing for at least 15 to 18 months. That's because the system is jammed with people. I don't know if they're all disabled or not...but they all get their hearing and an opportunity to present their evidence. Most of the people who are approved on their initial application are children with devastating birth defects. Our eleven year old nephew receives disability because he's autistic. Our nine year old nephew, his younger brother, has major behavioral difficulties, has been denied and his mom didn't know to appeal it. Guess which boy takes more meds? Right...the nine year old. He takes 6 pills before bed each night. Brilliant system, huh?

Scone said...

Thanks, you guys. I appreciate your insight. Dorothy, I really wish they'd come right out and say that's what they're doing. It might make people feel better about them to know if they need representation because of this stupid system, at least they won't have to pay for it. I'll definitely appeal. And I still think they're a bunch of punks.