STD and SSDI: Who designs these things?

I visited a friend yesterday who was recovering from surgery.  He had built up a lot of sick time at work over the years, since he is generally healthy, so he will use sick days to cover his month out of work.  He has an understanding boss, who knows that he may need to take off extra time.  His health insurance covered the majority of the costs of the surgery.

He asked me how I’m doing, and how I’m managing to be out of work.  He meant financially.  My friend is smart and well-educated, but he got a new kind of education from me yesterday.

First, we discussed how my short term disability (STD) works.  I’m lucky to have an especially good plan.  We talked about how poorly my boss handled my exit, which makes me wonder if my reentry will be difficult.  We talked about how I want to return to work part time because I’m worried that returning full time will lead to a quick relapse.  Unfortunately, it is up to my boss whether or not I can return part time.  If she allows it, then I will return to work a few days a week, and STD will cover part of my salary for the days I don’t work.  Of course, at some point STD will run out, at which point I’ll just earn a whole lot less.  I should be able to cover all of my bills, but I won’t be able to put any money into savings.  Of course, I need to put money into savings more than ever, as I’ve realized that my body will force “retirement” on me much earlier than I’ll be able to afford.

Then we talked about social security (SSDI.)  We discussed how I may not even be eligible for it.  If I am eligible, then the application process is long and arduous.  Most people are denied and then need to appeal.  If I were to get approved, it could take two years.  For those two years I wouldn’t be working, so I’d be draining my savings account.  The amount I would get would be just a bit less than what my rent is now.  It wouldn’t be enough for electricity, gas, or groceries.

Now, let’s say I did get SSDI.  I have a fluctuating illness.  I have weeks and months and years where I feel better, then I feel worse.  When I feel better I could work.  But I’d lose SSDI and if I needed it again, I’d have to start applying all over again.  That’s why many people are on SSDI even though they are well enough to work.  They know that getting off SSDI now would be devastating if they ever needed it again.  So they stay on it even though they are well enough to work.

My friend just shook his head in sadness, thinking of the many, many people caught up in this horrible system.  And I’m one of the lucky ones: I have STD, I have family to fall back on, I have good health insurance, and I have a little money in my savings account.  I could be so much worse off.  But I am wondering how to pay for the acupuncture treatments that I just started today.  My health insurance doesn’t cover those.

When when I consider all of this, the insurances and the government “help” and all the rest, I just have one question:

WHO ACTUALLY THINKS THIS IS A GOOD SYSTEM?

I don’t know who it is, but I’d be willing to bet that they don’t need to use the system themselves.  If they did, they’d be working to change it.

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