Friday, October 11, 2013
Far From Easy.
I was infuriated by this recent piece on 60 Minutes, detailed here in the LA Times this week. It has set off quite a firestorm of comments on social media-- as it should!
I thought it was time to post about my years-long struggle to obtain social security benefits. (Shout out to my friend Sheri for being willing to actually sit in countless waiting rooms with me...She rules.) I have never fought harder for anything in my life, so I found it very insensitive that Senator Tom Coburn said it was “too easy”. That was not my experience at all.
I first tried to see about getting disability benefits after I tore my quad teaching in 2004. I was really taken aback with how rude the reps were. I was literally mocked for not understanding my own eligibility. I was told that I should have been receiving benefits from birth, and that now that I was 21, it was too late and I should not bother applying. Essentially, my parents dropped the ball, and I was paying for that mistake as an adult. We paid out of pocket ($1750) for a Functional Capacity Assessment when I was 26, and without this step I doubt I would have ever gotten benefits.
I am technically able to work-- I’ve held a variety of office jobs over the past ten years, some more active than others. My body pays a price, though. Disability benefits make a difference for us financially (and having Medicare is big, too, because of all the care I need) but the biggest difference that it makes in our month to month life is that my body no longer has to pay the price it does when I work. When I am commuting, my back pain is worse, my feet break far too easily from overuse, and my fatigue level is astronomical.
I adore being able to be present for life activities other than my job- like cooking, exercising and concert going.
I’m convinced that the Social Security Administration works as hard as possible to deter applicants by making the process dehumanizing, invasive, complicated, and confusing. Once I finally got disability benefits, I received SSI and not SSDI. That was the wrong kind. this was further example of how complex and difficult it was not to just get it, but also to understand the system. Until we had our local Congressman's office on our side, we were helpless and clueless. In summary, I’m grateful every time my check arrives and every time I present my Medicare card to someone, because I know the battle to obtain benefits is over.