Denied

I got my decision back on my disability claim and I was denied. I don’t know why yet because I haven’t gotten the letter; I just found the info on the social security website.

On the one hand, I’ve been prepared all along for a long fight, since that’s the result in the vast majority of cases. On the other hand, I thought that the findings of the doctor they sent me to would carry a lot of weight, since she felt I was a clear-cut candidate for disability and it was her job to weed out the fakers.

I’m sure that once again, my previous doctors failed to submit my results. For one thing, they did that last time I applied a couple years ago (an application I cancelled because back then I still really thought I could work.) And this time, I requested a copy of my records for myself from the same neurologist and never got them, so I doubt they sent them to social security either.

I also requested to have my records from my doctor in Michigan sent to my current primary doctor, and my Michigan doctor did not respond to the faxed request. I doubt they would have sent them to social security either. I don’t know why I have so much trouble getting copies of my own medical records, but it’s really troubling to me.

I looked up some stuff online after finding out about the denial. One advocacy group that represents people pursuing disability had a questionnaire asking questions about my particular case, and based on the results, it said they wouldn’t represent me.

Their reasoning was because I had not seen enough specialists recently enough. Since depression is one of the things I claimed, I also should have been seeing psychiatrists and therapists on a regular basis. But how do you do that when your insurance is terrible and you don’t have a couple hundred extra dollars every month to spend on seeing doctors?

There’s also the fact that I don’t see what good it will do to see more doctors if the ones I do see won’t even release my records. I have definitive advanced MS, confirmed by both multiple MRIs and a spinal tap. I’m obviously not making it up. Every neurologist I’ve ever seen has said that based on my MRI, they don’t know how I’m still walking. But I guess if they never send those records to social security, it doesn’t matter if I have proof or not.

It really feels like I’m completely screwed either way. I can’t get medical care without better insurance and more income. But I can’t get better insurance and more income unless I first get the medical care. It’s like a circle. Maybe if I could afford a couple years of good therapy, I might be able to overcome the depression (since it doesn’t respond well to medications.) But as usual, I’m limited at the starting gate by lack of money and access to good medical care.

I used another attorney finder specific to disabilities and entered the details of my case and that also said they didn’t have any attorneys who would work with me.

I did find another disability attorney separately, so I guess I’ll contact them and see what happens. But what if they also say they won’t represent me?

I have to admit that all of this is sending me back into denial again. We need income, period. We have a significant shortfall on just my husband’s income alone. Yet I can’t do the freelance work I used to. I try and my mind just won’t focus. I can’t put words together in the order that I used to. In truth, even the amount of freelance work I have is still significantly less than what I’d get from disability, and I can’t even do that.

I feel like such a loser. The doctor social security sent me to said that my depression and cognitive issues would clearly make me unable to work. But nobody else agrees. And I can’t figure out why working full-time took such a toll on my health that I’m still not recovered from it. Am I making it up just so I can say I can’t work?

Then I start asking myself if I’m really that sick anyway. Maybe if I had some other full-time job that wasn’t like the one I had earlier this summer, it wouldn’t affect my health so much. Maybe I could do customer service work at home instead.

I start to wonder: am I really sick or am I just depressed? And if it’s just depression, why can’t I kick my own ass hard enough to do what needs to be done? If my husband died and I was without his income, would I still have the luxury of not working?

After all, isn’t it a privilege not to work? I want to be working and I feel completely useless because I’m not. I have deeply internalized views of people like my sister, who say that many people on disability are just scamming the system. When I saw her last month, she asked if I really needed disability, since I had almost always worked at home anyway and that was easier. Maybe she’s right.

Actually, what I really want is to go back to grad school. Become a full-time librarian or counselor or even a hospital social worker. I don’t want to work at home anymore; I want to have some place to go. I’m quite depressed about the fact that I don’t, but my desire to regularly leave the house isn’t enough to overcome my depression, either. I feel like I’m circling the drain, like it’s just going to get worse from here, whether I get disability or not. And I don’t know if my brain health is such that I could go back to school or have a full-time job.

When you look back through my earnings history over my working career, I’ve rarely earned much. Certainly not the amount of money you would expect from someone with a bachelors degree. And is that because I’ve had really severe depression since childhood? Or is it just because I’m lazy and on some level don’t want to work?

If I could just motivate myself more, maybe I could work full-time. Plenty of people with MS and depression still work because they don’t have the option not to. I am giving myself the out. Maybe my work ethic just sucks.

In truth, I can do fine with part-time work where I don’t have to be on my feet and can get bathroom breaks whenever I need them. But for the next couple years, I have to be available to drive the kids from school, so most part-time schedules are out until then anyway. And part-time work won’t provide the income we need.

And in the meantime, social security thinks I can work full-time. Maybe I actually can. It’s not a clear enough case for them to give me the benefits. So that is pushing me back really hard into the denial camp. My illness isn’t affecting me that much compared to people in wheelchairs. I don’t have to catheterize myself like many MS patients do.

If I took the only disease-modifying drug the neurologists think might work for me, maybe I could work full-time. Of course, I’d have to be able to afford multiple specialist visits and multiple MRIs each year, which I currently cannot. But maybe the meds would improve my condition so much that I could earn much better money than I ever have and cost wouldn’t be an issue. That’s not how the drugs say they work, but I can’t honestly say I’ve tried everything yet. Maybe disability is giving up too soon.

Maybe I only feel sick because I don’t exercise enough. Maybe both my MS and depression symptoms would be completely manageable if I followed some nutrition and exercise program. The fact that I find both difficult to stick to is just because I don’t have enough willpower, which should be something I can overcome.

I feel like I just need to try harder to pull myself up by my bootstraps, dammit. Then everything would be okay. But I feel like I’ve been pulling myself up by my bootstraps my whole life and those bootstraps are getting weak. I’m just so tired of fighting.

2 Comments

  1. I’m sorry that this is taking such a long time to figure out. Every client I’ve known who is on disability got denied the first time; it’s just what they do. It’s bullshit but it’s just what they do. I recently took a training on doing assessments for asylum seekers and one of the things the trainer said is that if a client is diagnosed with PTSD from trauma experienced in their home country, the judge reviewing the case will expect that client to be in counseling to prove it isn’t malingering. Again, this is such bullshit because there are a zillion reasons why an asylum seeker wouldn’t be in counseling (most importantly ACCESS) but I wonder if it’s the same for disability claims when there is a mental health component involved. I’ve filled out forms for clients seeking disability explaining why their symptoms are severe enough that work isn’t an option for them and I’m able to get into some detail because our relationship means we’ve been digging into that. Also when I was at the community mental health agency, we had access to caseworkers who helped people navigate the system (finding a lawyer, for example). They’re called CPST workers (community psychiatric support and treatment). I dug around to see what’s available but I’m not sure what county you’re in. I did find this: https://www.dallascounty.org/department/da/media/MentalHealth_CommunityResourceGuide.pdf
    Our agency had grants from the state so that counseling was on a deep sliding scale for uninsured or underinsured people (none of my clients paid a thing). I have no idea how it is in Texas. You shouldn’t have to navigate this alone; it’s a difficult and discouraging process.

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    1. Thanks for letting me know that, Dawn. Yes, it is all bullshit, but I can understand why they need more documentation from more professionals. I found out for certain that at least two of the doctors I have seen didn’t send my records, so I’m sure that didn’t help either.
      I’m going to look into community mental health resources; we are in Tarrant County. I don’t know what we’d qualify for because we’re not extremely low-income (just in that working-class zone) and I don’t know if you have to be. But I’ll see what options I have. Thanks for the comment and the input!

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