Social Security Disability: a system that makes no sense

I’ve really missed writing! Unfortunately, I was busy dealing with a system that just makes no sense at all. That’s right folks, it’s the U.S. Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) system!

I had my social security hearing since I last wrote to you. For those not familiar with the process, it works like this: you apply for social security and almost definitely get denied. You appeal, and likely get denied again. You appeal again, and are assigned a hearing before a judge. This process takes more than a year. If the judge rules for you, you get your payments (in my case, not even enough to cover my rent, never mind food, gas, electricity, or medical expenses) and eligibility for Medicare, which isn’t the greatest health insurance, but it’s better than nothing (which is what you might have otherwise, depending on your situation.) If the judge rules against you, you don’t get payments, you don’t get Medicare, and your only options are to either walk away or start the whole thing over again. Ridiculous, right?

Oh, and I forgot to mention: if you don’t show up for any but the most exceptional reasons, the judge automatically rules against you. So if you get hit by a car and end up in the hospital, they’ll let you reschedule (with proof that you were in the hospital.) If you’re just in too much pain to show up, too bad, you lose. I get that they don’t want a bunch of no-shows, but when you’re dealing with ill people, reliability can be a problem. If it weren’t some of us might be, you know, working at jobs. Sure, you can schedule a hearing by phone instead, but that has to be done in advance, and my lawyer and others say it’s better to show up if possible. So if you don’t schedule a phone hearing months in advance, you better show up in person at the right time on the right day. They just give you a time and day, you don’t get to choose it, of course.

Mornings are tough for me. I never schedule anything that involves leaving the house before 11am when I can help it. It’s just too hard to get there on time, and I often feel lousy later on, too. So of course I had to leave at 8:30. Figures. And don’t forget that “not showing up” includes “not showing up on time.” So if you show up late, the judge automatically rules against you. But hey, no pressure.

So for a week I was nervous. I washed my hands more than usual. I tried to avoid being near anyone who seemed the least bit sick. What if I got sick? It’s been a year and a half since I first applied, so starting the application process over again isn’t a good option. Plus, if I didn’t show up for the hearing, my long term disability company (which requires me to apply for SSDI) could cancel my coverage. Yup, missing this hearing would make me screwed!

That wasn’t an option, so on top of the concern about the hearing itself, I had the added stress of worrying that something could happen to make me miss the hearing. And of course the hearing itself would be about me trying to “prove” that I’m really as sick as my doctors and I say I am. It was a shitty week.

But here I am, on the other side of it. I won’t know for a month or two what the judge’s ruling will be, but at least I made it through the hearing. I was nauseated beforehand, I was in extra pain that morning, and I don’t feel great about how it went, but at least it’s over. And now I wait….

5 Responses to Social Security Disability: a system that makes no sense

  1. Good luck! Glad you got through it! Did you use a lawyer? Don’t laugh, but I used Binder and Binder, the ones that advertise on TV. Actually, they weren’t bad. They give you questionnaires for your doctors to fill out, and you end up with a lot of helpful documentation. I got it on the second try because of them. They take a percentage, but they got me retroactive pay dating back to the first appeal that was denied, so it worked out.

    • chronicrants says:

      Hey Miss D, yeah, I used a lawyer. She gave me the forms for the doctor, too. I think that’s standard. By federal law, lawyers can only charge for SSDI representation on a contingency basis – they only get paid if you get paid. Then they get a third of your payment, and the back pay is always retroactive. It means the costs are the same no matter who you use, which I think is really good. That’s the one part of the process that I actually like!

  2. Thanks…I didn’t know that about the back pay. The part about the lawyer not getting paid unless you win is the only part I like also. I’m glad you have a lawyer. I only know one person who got it without a lawyer. One thing I find crazy about the system is that it’s much easier to get SSDI for psychological problems than physical ones. (I don’t know if this is still the case–I got mine in 2011.) I remember needing massive amounts of documentation–I had a neurologist, a rheumatologist, an occupational medicine doctor, and an internist write for me, plus I had my therapist at the time throw in a letter for good measure. Meanwhile, the guy I know who did not use a lawyer had NO physical issues but got it on the first try for OCD. I agree, the whole system is distasteful–just the idea of having to prove you are too sick to work so you can then be stigmatized by society for not working … I could definitely rant about that.
    You probably already know this, but SSDI has a system where you can work and make up to a certain amount and keep your benefits.
    I expected Medicare to be worse than it was. It is actually better than some types of private insurance.

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