New Rules . . .

I got a letter in the mail from the Social Security Administration today.  In it, they informed me that they have changed the rules for how they consider appeals to pending claims.

As of the date of the letter (last week), I have to be able to show that any new evidence I might submit to substantiate my claim IS DIRECTLY TIED TO THE TIME PERIOD in question for my claim.  Keeping a log of my migraines is now rendered irrelevant, unless I can document that the entire medical profession was aware that the medicines I was told to take to manage my hip/leg pain in 1980 (after the bone tumor surgery) were known to potentially cause the migraines I’m getting now.

Does anyone have access to a 1980 copy of the Physician’s Desk Reference?  I need a copy – the whole book, so they can’t claim that it came out of a different (later) copy.

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Comedy of errors?

The last time I wrote about my struggle with Social Security over whether or not I qualify for disability, they had to reschedule a hearing because the doctor who was supposed to give expert testimony after a review of my records had not received the disc the records would be on.

Well, we finally had the replacement hearing on Tuesday morning.  Normally, I would have posted about it by Wednesday, but the whole “May the 4th be with you” thing caused me to delay writing the post.  Intuitively, I knew I needed to wait.

Thursday afternoon my lawyer called us.  Since my wife is taking vacation time, she was the one who answered the phone.

First, let me share some of my initial observations about the hearing on Tuesday.  The court clerk/typist who usually works in the office I sit in was visible on the video feed sitting in the office with the judge.  She had been replaced locally with a woman who had a less-than-professional bearing.  For one thing, knowing how to touch-type myself, I observed that she (the replacement) was going to have trouble accurately typing anything with finger nails that extended 2″ beyond the end of her fingers.

Anyhow, we had the hearing, and the judge seemed pleased with how smoothly and quickly it went.  My lawyer was nearly ecstatic over how easily she got me to give the specific answer that she needed when she asked me certain questions about my history.

So, when she called me on Thursday afternoon, I was almost thinking that she’d been told we finally won.  Still, intuition said the party was premature.  It was right.

My lawyer had just spoken with the judge, who could not apologize profusely enough for what he had to tell her.  In nearly 20 years of work as a lawyer, she’s never experienced anything like this before.  There exists no record of the hearing Tuesday.  We had a video conference call with the Judge in his court room, but not one minute of it was recorded.  The typed transcript was not “suitable”.

For some reason, when my lawyer told me all of this my memory flashed to the judge stating before we officially started the hearing that they had 6 cases back-to-back.  Thus, my first question to her was, “Did this affect all of the cases they had on Tuesday?”

Yes, it did.  They are scrambling to reschedule ALL of them for as soon as possible – probably at least 3 months, could be as long as 6.

Stay tuned, we’ll be back after this commercial break.

(sorry, I just had to throw in that old television announcer line)

Another Social Security hearing . . .

Yesterday afternoon, I had another hearing with the Social Security people about the status of my claim for disability benefits.  Some good things resulted – my lawyer reviewed my records again (several times, actually) and has realized that one of the potential weaknesses of my case can be completely explained BY SOMETHING IN THE RECORDS in a way that negates the weakness entirely.

I suppose that is rather vague, and it doesn’t need to be, so I’ll elaborate.  I’ve made no secret on here of the fact that I used to be a staff member of a Church of Scientology – I was an ordained minister and conducted Sunday Services for several years.  Yes, I’ve left the church – but because I had problems with the church, not the collective “scriptures.”  I still have my entire collection of materials that I built up while I was on staff.  I believe that the tech works well, when it is used correctly, and I believe that the church has been deliberately misusing it for years.

My VA medical records reflect that I had my religious preference listed as Scientology, and that is where things start getting interesting for the Social Security case.

One potential weakness to my claim has been that the judge reviewing my medical records has been seeing notes in those records that I’ve been “non cooperative” with medical professionals when they tried to give me certain drugs to treat my migraine headaches.  If the doctor tells me he wants me to try something (let’s say, for example, PROZAC) that I know is usually prescribed for psychiatric cases or has potential hallucinogenic effects, I’ll tell the doctor straight up that I won’t take it.  That is documented in my medical records.

The reason WHY I won’t take it is because I still believe in the Scientology principles, even if I don’t support the church.  Remember a few years ago when Brooke Shields went public with taking psych drugs to treat postpartum depression?  Tom Cruise made a big splash in the media for attacking her over the admission.  I agree with Tom that taking the drugs is a mistake; I disagree with placing public judgement on another for the choices they make regarding them, especially when they don’t share my beliefs.

Anyway, my lawyer feels that whether or not I succeed in my claim for disability looks like it’s coming down to that one issue – the non-compliance with medical advice.  She’s going to raise the issue of religious belief at the next hearing if the questioning goes that direction.

I say “at the next hearing” because yesterday’s hearing was almost literally a non-starter.  It lasted 5 minutes.  The major reason for the hearing was to get the testimony of a medical professional who is being paid to review my treatment records and determine if I am functionally unable to hold a job.  After we convened the hearing and officially went “on the record” – meaning that everything said from that point forward would actually become part of the case records – the judge asked the court secretary to call the doctor (who was scheduled to give his testimony live over the phone).  When she got him on the line, the first thing he said was that he called the judge’s office yesterday and told someone that he never received the disc with my records.  The judge immediately realized that the doctor couldn’t testify about records he hadn’t reviewed, adjourned the hearing, and made a note that we’d (my lawyer and I) get a notice when the hearing is rescheduled.

VA hospitals . . .

Ok, you know I’m a veteran, and that I’m disabled. I’ve been disabled since I had a bone tumor operated on by the US Army in October of 1980. Up until about 5 years ago, I kept working, doing whatever I could. I reinvented myself over a dozen times to learn a new trade that was within the range of physical ability I was experiencing.

Last year, I finally threw in the towel and applied for Social Security disability (because the VA benefits I get with a service-connected disability are just about enough to go out to eat twice a month). However, as a veteran who hasn’t had private health coverage, the vast majority of my health care records are held at VA hospitals.

Guess what? Yesterday when I got to an administrative hearing on my SS case, I found out that the VA had just flat-out not complied with written requests for records from my lawyer & Social Security. Sadly, that isn’t even unusual. The lawyer and judge both stated – ON THE RECORD – that they were aware of VA’s reputation for not providing records to the courts or Social Security. The absolutely worst VA center between the Rockies and the Appalachian Mountains? St. Louis – where my migraines were diagnosed and initially treated. None of those records were available to corroborate my claim. Not even the information to verify the date of when I first started getting migraines.

Seriously – you do NOT want Obamacare to work. You don’t. Because if it does, the health care I get now is the health care you’re going to live with the rest of your lives. And you children, their children . . . .