Surprise! Your social security application is due NOW!

September 7, 2012

About 10 years ago I bought my first new car.  I negotiated a good price, got them to throw in extras like an extended warranty, and then moved on to the contract, where I proceeded, to the saleman’s chagrin, to read every single word.  It took a ridiculously long time, but I wanted to make sure I read it all.  I caught something important, actually, and had them change it.  I think it’s very important to read every word of these long, annoying contracts.  And I think the same is true of important applications, like for social security.

That’s why I’m certain that no mention was made of the deadline for the second part of the application when I was filling out the first part.  I would have read it.  And it would have stuck with me.  You see, the way it works is that first you fill out the main application.  Then you fill out the disability application.  Then, if you want, you fill out an application for SSI.  I read several times that my SSI application date was being set based on when I started that first application (and they only tell you that after you start!) but I saw no mention of the disability application, so I logically assumed I could just do it whenever I wanted.  Obviously I knew it had to be done somewhat soon so that they could start processing my application, but a few days here or there wouldn’t matter, right?

Obviously, I didn’t learn my lesson from the MassHealth paperwork procrastination.  I put off that first part of the social security application for a couple of weeks, but after that I did have to legitimately wait for my lawyer to get back to me with answers to my questions.  Then on Tuesday night, with a big sigh of relief, I submitted the first application online.  On Wednesday I drove over to the local social security office with my W2 and signed medical release form.  I felt good about this!  Then Thursday I was busy and today, well, I meant to work on that application.  Really, I did.  But, well, it would still be waiting for me tomorrow, right?  Or Sunday, definitely by Sunday.

Yeah, I know, I was procrastinating, but it was only a couple of days.  Then I checked my mail today and there was a letter from the Social Security Administration.  It said that I had 10 days (from the day I applied – which was already 2 days ago!) to submit a whole bunch of things, including this additional application!  I was horrified.  If they had said upfront that 10 days after the first application I’d have to have the second one in, I would have finished them both before hitting that “submit” button.  I could have prepared.  I would have done it all differently.  But of course they didn’t offer any information like that.  No, that would have been too helpful.

I read all sorts of checklists, but it wasn’t mentioned there.  I read the introductions to the forms and all sorts of boring information about the materials I’d need, but it wasn’t mentioned there either.  Now I’m really worried!  I started working on the application today, and I emailed more questions to my lawyer.  If I need to fill in certain info then I’m screwed, because it will take time to get my older medical records, and that’s time that I just don’t have.  And what’s this about wanting my short term disability pay stubs?  What pay stubs?  It was direct deposit, and really, shouldn’t the insurance company be reporting that directly to the federal government anyway?  Can’t the SSA see the IRS’ files?

Of course, I got this letter after 5pm on a Friday, so now I have to wait all weekend.  First thing Monday, though, I’ll be calling the SSA.  This time, there won’t be any procrastination.  I can’t afford to take that chance!

Please don’t ask me how I am

September 6, 2012

“How are you?”

“What’s new?”

“How’s the insurance situation?”

“What’s happening with your treatments?”

“Do they expect you to improve?”

I know these questions come from a place of love, but for heaven’s sake, STOP ASKING ME ALREADY!  The problem, of course, is that I have so many great people in my life who care.  I am grateful for that, really I am, but I wish they’d care a bit less verbally!

Every time I speak to someone who I haven’t spoken with in a while (and every time I see my grandparents, who are always anxious for news and forget that we just spoke about it 3 days ago) I get asked some version of these questions.  This can translate to no questions for several days, or having this conversation 5 times in 1 day!

One of the challenges of having crappy health is keeping a healthy perspective.  I know you know what I mean.  Since I am unable to work, I don’t have a job to distract me.  Since I am not able to go out much, I don’t have other “news” to discuss.  Since I’m not able to date, I can’t distract my friends with tales of lurid sex (but maybe I should just make some up?)  This leaves me with a lot of free time to dwell on all the shittiness in my life…. or not.  I opt for not.  I try hard to keep some balance.  I read books and blogs and other useful sources to learn as much as I can about my various health conditions and the possible treatments for them.  Then I pursue those treatments.  I read books and blogs on personal finance and on various personal development topics so that if (when?) I get better, I will have a life that I truly enjoy.  I read novels and watch tv as an escape to a fantasy world.  I spend as much time as I can with family and friends, even if some of that time can only be spent by phone or email.  I spend time thinking about my situation in terms of my various options (or lack thereof) and how I might handle each scenario.  So basically, I try to avoid woe-is-me thinking as much as I can.  Sure, I have my off days – who doesn’t?  But I try to limit them and to focus on other areas of my life.

And it works.  It works really well.  Until a friend asks what my current health status is, and if I think I’ll improve, and what the doctor says, and what I’ll do without health insurance (as of this weekend!!!) and where my LTD appeal stands and and and and and…..  It drags me back into the mess that is my life, and it makes me dwell on the lousy parts and re-realize how uncertain the possible improvements really are.

So I’m done.  That’s it.  No more.  From now on, I will not answer these questions (with exceptions made for my parents and grandparents, who are all awesome and supportive and wouldn’t put up with this ban even if I tried!)  I am going to write up answers to the standard questions, make a personal FAQ, and simply email everyone who wants to know.  And if they don’t like it?  Too bad.  If they really care, they’ll understand that this is what’s best for my sanity, that their questions force me to dwell on the negative when I am trying so hard not to do that.  I will try to explain, and then I won’t answer their questions.  That’s it.  Fini.  End.

Health insurance “options”

September 4, 2012

My hopefully-realistic ideal

September 2, 2012

Like I said the other day, I have reason now to hope for improvement for the first time, but it worries me.  Still, I can’t help but think about the future.  So instead of thinking of it as “hope” I’ve decided to create “goals.”  The difference is that hoping for something better is a bit vague.  Goals are more specific.  And I know that the goals may not happen, but I can still hope to reach them.  Well, let me demonstrate:

I often wonder if I’ll be able to return to work some day.  When I left my last job, my health was pretty rotten.  I was working full time and not doing much else.  I wasn’t exercising, socializing, or growing as a person (except for my stomach.)  If I go back to work, I need to be in a better place, one where I can work and also do other things.  Crazy, right?  But what if….?

So that begs the question, what other things do I want to do besides work?  And here’s what I’ve come up with that I think is realistic:

  1. I want to be able to wake up an hour early every day and exercise.  I have never been a morning person, but in recent years I just couldn’t have managed it even with the best of intentions.  I want to be able to wake up and get out of bed within a few minutes, instead of spending an hour gathering the energy to get up.  I want to be able to do light exercise without first loosening up my muscles and joints for several hours.  I want to do physical therapy or take a walk to start my day.
  2. After exercising, I want to get ready for work, then go to work for a full day.  I don’t know yet what kind of work it will be, but my goal will be to avoid desk jobs.  This should be interesting, since I’ve always had desk jobs, but I want something more interesting, and I want the energy to do it, whatever it is.
  3. After work, I want to do something other than watch tv due to a lack of energy to do anything else.  In fact, I want to not own a tv.  Instead, I want to spend 1 or 2 weeknights each week meeting up with friends or going out on dates.  The other evenings I want to read books, work on hobbies, and learn new skills.  I have a few ideas for new skills, such as learning to sing, learning a new language, and learning web design, but I might end up doing something else.  I definitely want to do some form of self improvement, though.  I will also use weeknights to cook, do laundry, and take care of other chores.
  4. I want to walk more and drive less.  I’d really like to ride a bike, but I think that’s not so realistic for me, so I’ll stick to walking and public transportation as much as possible.
  5. On weekends I want to go out each day if I so choose.  A day at home should be because I want a day for myself, not because I am too tired to leave the house.  Weekends should be for the same things as weeknights, but more so.  I want to spend time with family and friends, work on hobbies, and learn new skills.
  6. Each night I want go to bed at a reasonable hour, then wake up 8-9 hours later and get right out of bed in order to exercise.  I want to get tired at night before I go to sleep, but at no point will I be fatigued.

I have been thinking about this for a very long time.  When I started writing this, I was worried that it wouldn’t be so realistic after all but now, seeing it all laid out at once, I’m realizing that this is the very least that someone should aim for.  Maybe my goals should be higher, maybe not.  I do believe that these goals are realistically achievable if my health improves, and I know that I will not go back to work unless I can achieve them, so for me this feels about right.  And I’m pretty sure of one other thing: if I do manage to achieve these goals, I will be happy and content.  I will continue to aim higher after I reach them, of course, but I will not be upset if this is as high as I can get.  To me, this looks like a pretty fantastic life.

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