In a few days I will be sitting in a courtroom, dealing with minions of the Fed'ral Gubmint, in a Quixotic attempt to get them to cough up benefits that I only happened to have paid for. I'm not looking forward to it at all, quite frankly, because I have a deep and abiding distrust when it comes to monolithic institutions doing the right thing.
The "Right Thing" in this case would be the Social Security Administration ponying up 19 months worth of disability payments that I'm supposed to be entitled to by virtue of the fact that I happened to have paid for them. By the way, this is a batrtle that has been waged for the better part of three years now.
How we got to this point is a study in why someone should take a sledgehammer to any institution or business that somehow manages to become too large.
Way back in September 2001, I happened to be in the flight path of a jumbo jet that ultimately struck the World Trade Center. Subsequent to that event, I found myslef covered in debris from the Twin Tower's collapse, and within a few months, began suffering from a host of mental health-related issues which forced me to stop working in the spring oif 2003. All of these issues were related to the September 2001 attacks, but I had tried very hard to fight through them before deciding that I was in need of serious treatment. In December of 2003, I attended an evaluation session at the local Social Security office in which a psychologist with access to nine months of medical records managed to speak to me for all of 20 minutes before deciding I wasn't psychotic. Whioch was good, because I never claimed to be and that wasn't my diagnosis. However, her evaluation was necessary as to whether or not I would collect benefits from the government.
So, here we are, with a psychologist who has a pile of paper from other medical professionals which stae that I suffer from PTSD, Agoraphobia, clinical depression and Anxiety disorders. She determines that I can wash myself, feed myself and otherwise have not bought an arsenal of unlicenced automatic weapons. She acknowledges the fact that I had been in therapy for nine months, taking medication to control symptoms, etc. At the end of the day, her evaluation can be summed up in one telling sentence: "the patient suffers from a very bad case of nerves", which was cause for denial of benefits.
Now, I don't know where she went to medical school, but "very bad case of nerves" doesn't sound very medical, or even clinical, to me. Anyway, I was entitled to an appeals hearing, had I wanted one, and you're damn right I did. It is now June of 2005, and I'm about to get my appeal. By my count, that's 18 months just to get an appeal.
While I've been waiting, I've been doing some research on how the Social Security Adminsitration actually handles people who file disability claims. What I have found out is enough to make you jaw drop through the floor.
Amazingly, approximately 95% of all first-time applicants for Social Security Disability benefits are routinely rejected, despite the legitimacy of their medical claims. I have heard of people with missing limbs, deadly cancers, AIDS and worse, being denied benefits for reasons that can only make sense to a bureaucrat. In the meantime, while you're waiting for your appeal, you'd do well to retain the services of a lawyer, a Social Security Disability Consultant and a Voodoo priestess, because you will be sure to require their services.
In order for the United States Government to turn over to me benefits for which I have previously paid for via taxes (for which I never got to vote for, by the way), I have to retain the ability to sue my own government and collect a team of professionals whose only function is to part the red tape by ensuring the proper forms and procedures were followed, which by law, th SSA is supposed to do anyway? Is it just me or is there something fundamentally wrong with this scenario?
So, off I go on Tuesday to sit in a courtroom with an Administrative Judge, who is going to pore over three-year old documentation for a malady I no longer suffer from and my greatest nightmare runs like this:
1. He or she is busy and just decides that the bureaucrats were right, and don't let the door hit ya in the ass on the way out.
2. He or she just doesn't have enough information to go on, would I please get that extra paperwork and schedule another hearing for fall of 2012?
3. While I might be entitled to benefits, I am not eligible for them in the full amount, and I will be sitting here waiting for a check that covers my lawyer's fees and nothing else.
4. The case is dismissed arbitrarily and summarily.
I'll let ya know what happens.