Thursday, March 5, 2009

The Disability Machine

My detailing of the rigors of receiving public assistance:

Applying for state/temporary disability was easy. My doctor filled out a form, I filled out a form and I started getting checks. Awesome! My boyfriend had insurance at the time, so I wasn't all that worried about MediCal. When the doctor fills out the paperwork, he puts an end date on the disability. He can extend it easily, if he's on top of his practice and doesn't forget to have his assistant fax the information. That happened once, my check was delayed, causing my rent to be delayed, causing me to never let that happen again.

A few months into being jobless, I started thinking more long term. Dr. P, who was treating me at the time, had discouraged me applying for long term disability aka Social Security aka SSI. He basically said that he didn't think I would be sick long enough to see a check.

About six months after they started, my payments stopped with no warning. My account had run out of funds. I understood that there was a limit, but I'd had a headache so I hadn't looked into it that much. Is it wrong to blame my head for everything stupid I do?

So, I called SSI and started asking questions. The lady I talked to was amazing. She really helped me sort through the procedures and forms and information I needed, which resulted in her taking my application over the phone. Unfortunately, she said, it would take about nine months for them to process my application. She told me that I should be able to get some help through the county, and to go to my local public assistance office to apply.

I did. It was a nightmare. The office I went to was crowded and bright and hot and loud and smelly. When I finally saw my worker he was dismissive, harsh, and cold. To be fair, I couldn't imagine doing his job. Seeing hundreds of people every day, some legitimately in need, but many on drugs or abusing the system. His job was to weed out the people who didn't actually need it. Unfortunately, he appeared to enjoy rejecting people. He was abrupt with me from the moment I sat in front of his desk, saying that he couldn't tell that I was disabled and that I wouldn't get any assistance more than $61 a month, if I even qualified for that. After sitting in the hellish "lobby" for hours in the wee hours of the morning for three days in a row to even be seen by a worker, I had no strength left. I let him beat me down and dismiss me. I signed whatever paper he put in front of me that affirmed he had told me to get out. I did make sure to note something in the explanations area that stated I felt his decision was wrong, but I was so sick, I have no idea what it said. I never went back.

Finally, a little over nine months after I submitted my application, I got a letter from SSI telling me that they made me appointments with a shrink and a neuro to be evaluated. I went. Two months later they started sending me checks. I was shocked. I had been warned by everyone, even my caseworkers, that everyone gets denied the first time and appealing is a normal part of the process. So, I was prepared for that. Being approved outright was awesome. Is awesome. Gives me some sort of validity.

Even better, since SSI determined me fully disabled I am due backpay of $61 per month and MediCal retroactively. So, that caseworker I had can suck it.

I'm still going through some drama, contradictions between their records and reality. But it's all being addressed and will hopefully work out. The government is based in Logic, right? Sigh.