Guilty Until Proven Innocent

UPDATE 12/2/16: My attorney dropped me with only two weeks before the deadline to file in Federal Court. We’re scrambling to find an attorney willing to take my case because of the state of limbo I am currently in. There’s a good chance I’m going to lose everything because of this. I haven’t given up, I just need to regroup and come up with a plan–quickly. Prayers are desperately needed.

UPDATE 10/28/16. Denied yet again by an ALJ. Appealed and SSA sided with the judge. Now I have to file a civil suit in Federal Court (again) to either have it remanded back to the SSA, overrule or (heaven forbid) side with the denial. The SSA still doesn’t know anything other than what they see on paper – and won’t seem to connect the difference between my past medical records and current ones – even though the symptoms have only worsened, never contradicted.

UPDATE 5/28/16: The decision for my Disability hearing came in, and I was denied again. I wasn’t surprised at all, albeit a bit let down. Of course, I appealed again.

Come back and visit to find out any future updates for my continuing fight for Disability.

2016 marks ten years since I first filed for Social Security Disability. I wish I could say that I’m the only one going through this fight that I never expected nor wanted to be in, but unfortunately I can’t. Too many people have gone broke, homeless and even died during their fight for their income… Too many others just give up the fight altogether, their lives ultimately ruined.

How incredibly insane is that? To have to fight so hard for something that you paid into your entire working life, only to be told “No”, over and over again when you need it the most!

I had my (technically) fourth hearing in front of an administrative law judgeSSDC-Denied.png a few weeks ago, and if I were a betting woman, I’d say my chances are pretty slim on being approved.

Again.

I’m hoping there’s a saving grace after that fiasco of a hearing… A last minute letter that my lawyer wrote to the judge pleading in my favor. Also, I recently went to the DMV and got a receipt that proved that I received a Permanent Disability Placard as early as August 2005 (they’d have to go to archives to get any older information). Some months before my alleged *Disability Date, and **Date Last Insured (DLI). A very nice representative there even signed and stamped it to make it as official as possible to try to help me <3.

I’m hoping that the above will help the judge realize that I was already considered disabled by my then-doctor, way before my listed Disability Date on my application.

Guilty until proven innocent. That’s what it feels like for me to fight my Social Security case. I think what offends me most is that the SSAguiltyinnocent thinks they know better about my disability (and inability to work) than my doctors and me. My last judge even observed an old manicure (that I had gotten with my daughter for her 16th birthday – my first in a couple of years), and it influenced his decision that I wasn’t depressed enough.

I can’t afford my own medical experts, because I haven’t worked since 2005 ($500+/hr is a little steep for a family with one income in California). Still, I don’t understand why I should even have to hire experts when I have letters from FIVE doctors, stating that I’m permanently disabled for one reason or another.

The most important letter in my mind though, was from an ex-doctor I had during the time in question (my Disability Date). I forced myself to call him a while back, after yet another denial from the judge. I explained to him that I finally got my diagnoses (of Multiple Sclerosis and Lupus and more) after leaving his office and the medical group. Then I mustered the nerve and asked him to write a letter to the judge on my behalf, and tell them whether or not he considered me disabled during that period. He agreed (even though the letter was pretty vague, he did tell the SSA that he considered me permanently disabled during the time in question).

Side Note: If you read about the history we had in the past, that was not an easy phone call for either of us to go through. But man, it felt so good for me to let him know that it wasn’t all in my head like he and his colleagues kept trying to push on me for so long! (To read more about that, go to Chronic Hell: My Story).

If you have never applied for Social Security (I truly hope you don’t have to until you retire), don’t get too cocky and think you’re going to win right away. I’m sorry, but it’s true. It just doesn’t happen as easily as that very often at all. Very few doctors know how to word their records for the SSA to easily determine Disability (If it did happen that way for you, congratulations! You are definitely one of the lucky few!).

Fraud-in-Dictionary.jpgI hear that the first few denials are to “weed out” the fraudulent cases. It takes months, even years to go through the appeal process after you do get denied; and then just as long to repeat it all over again. It’s a truly vicious process.

This all, of course, is also supposed to weed out those “frauds”.

I keep wondering how long you have to fight to prove that you aren’t a fraud. I’m really hoping ten (years) is my lucky number. I’m not getting any younger, and definitely not getting any healthier.

Even though I have a mountain of records that show that I had symptoms of all of my current diagnoses way before I became disabled; I had no big, “Hey, she’s a winner!” official diagnosis before my DLI that wowed the Social Security Administration enough to approve my application… Or so they try to claim (my first denial was because their examiner said I had a “social life” – I went to a few music concerts and high school football games, both seasonal at best).

Because my (ex)doctors didn’t really look too hard for what was wrong with me back then (and kept horrible records), their favorite go-to diagnosis for me was Depression. Man, that word ticked me off every time I heard one of them go back to that! Rather than actually take a test to see what was really going on with my actual symptoms, they kept referring to Depression. It’s the one big thing that I had back then that was documented enough to keep my case open though, so I have to keep hearing it.

Am I depressed?girl-1098611_960_720.jpg Of course I am (especially after dealing with so many bad apples in the medical profession, and of course, my fight with the SSA)! So many scary symptoms were happening to me that were basically ignored by my ex-doctors back then; and at home everything was getting turned upside down. No matter how many people were around me, I felt so alone; scared.

Even while I was sick with a case of Meningitis in the hospital in 2005, they still kept pushing Depression. Apparently, it didn’t help that I fired my doctor from my hospital bed. I guess you’re not allowed to make big decisions like that when you’re sick. If I was a litigious person, I would have sued them all for malpractice – Sometimes, I wish I would have.

All I ever wanted was to feel better again so I could get back to my life… I actually loved my work. I really miss running my own company, being my own boss – Something I worked really hard to become until my illness took it all away.

Most of all, I miss me.

I can only hope that this new judge can see through all the craziness in the form of my case (including the comments made to me by the last judge – I’m SO glad he retired last year!), and realize that there is so much more to this picture than there is on paper. I also hope that she’s compassionate enough to finally stop this part of my roller coaster ride.

I’ll find out the answer in about a month. Fingers crossed.


*Disability Date – The last day of actual work.
**Date Last Insured – The “date last insured” (DLI) is the last date that an individual is eligible to receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). In order to receive SSDI, an individual must pass the “recent work” test. (from Google Search)

 

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