Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Surprised, Shamed, Accepted

Last week I received a call from the Social Security Administration (SSA). The woman stated I was due for an annual review. Annual review seemed odd since I had not received any Supplemental Security Income since 2004, and last spoke to someone at SSA in 2005 for what I thought was an over the phone exit interview. She said the computer indicated I was due for a review because I might possibly qualify for Social Security Disability, if I wasn't working and was still disabled.

I'm not working, but I'm trying to find a job. I want to work. I got myself off SSI, Medicaid and food stamps six years ago because I wanted to be a contributing member of society. And after years of living on SSI and credit cards I can't afford to be on SSD.

I am disabled. As much as the smile on my face, and positive outgoing attitude might indicate I'm otherwise, it's not easy for me to work. The best thing for my lymphedema would be to keep my legs elevated at all times. Find me a legal job, without having to move to Nevada, where that is possible. Wearing compression garments allows me to be on my feet or sitting throughout the day, but as the day progresses and the swelling resumes, the garments pinch and start to hurt. But I know others deal with far worse than I do, and I'm lucky to have garments so I don't complain. I go about life the best I can.

So I go in for the review, I explain to the woman that I had called SSA when I got laid off and was told that if I made more than $500 a month they could not help me. In addition, I had a 401k to which I thought I would have to completely drain before I could receive any assistance. She said well it appears you now have enough work credits to get SSD whereas when you first applied in 2000 you did not and could only get SSI. Do you want to apply for SSD?

No, I don't want back on the system. I can't live off SDD for the rest of my life. But I also don't want to tell SSA "no". What if I need them in five years, will a "no review" on my record hinder my ability to receive assistance in the future? I told her I'd rather apply and be told I do not qualify than to refuse the review. Oh, but by the way, my unemployment benefits is more than $500 a month. She said that doesn't matter for SSD.

So she asked if I'm married, have kids, work, address, etc. No request for my current doctor, no request for any of the thick folder of bank statements, ultility bills, or tax documents. She did confirm my disability was morbid obesity and I quickly added "and lymphedema and lipedema". Sadly, my SSI was given to me simply because I was fat. How embarrassing, true my weight at over 500lbs prevented me from being able to work but embarrassing to have to admit. So a few more taps on the keyboard and she says, "o.k. everything is good to go, you'll get a check in 4-6 weeks".

What? That's it. I know people fight for years to get SSD and I just got coverted from SSI to SSD in all of 15 minutes.

Surprised: I couldn't believe it was that simple. Someone is watching over me, had I not been called in for a review I would have never thought I could get any type of help. I had asked and was told otherwise based on my previous status.

Shamed: While the assistance is needed and is a relief that I'll be able to live and pay my bills while looking for work, and I could possibly get Medicare (I *heart* government healthcare) in the future, I have a feeling of shame. I had worked so hard to better my overall condition through improved health and education to get OFF the system, and here I am back ON. I don't want to be like my cousin who boasted to my mom about "finally getting SSD, so he'll never have to work again". He even claimed to have "the same thing Sarah's got wrong with her legs"...the loathing I feel towards him....I started to feel towards myself for slipping back on assistance.

Accepted: I am disabled. I'm not working. The point of SSD is to provide assistance to the disabled. I paid into the system, and now it is helping me when I need it. It's not forever. When I find a job the benefits will stop, as they did before. There is no shame in needing help. I will not resign to living on the system, what I did before I can do again. Only this time it will be a bit easier, I already have my education and my health is improved since 2000.

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