It can also be the outcome of Tim’s disability review. Yep, we got the letter on Saturday saying that they didn’t see enough evidence of health impairments.
The problem with taking care of your health
Like most people with health problems, we’ve structured our lives to take as small a toll as possible on our bodies. Alas, doing that can screw you when dealing with a bureaucracy.
Tim only seems better because he avoids as much stress as possible. Saying he can work because he’s breakout-free is like saying that I can work a normal job just because I have can work from home.
And because he’s been better, he hasn’t gone to a dermatologist about his skin. Although that’s sure to change in a big way.
The day the letter came, the crook of his right arm broke out, badly. He’s actually been (briefly) icing them at times because it’s so uncomfortable. I haven’t seen him do that since we lived in Washington. Oh, and the left arm is starting to follow suit.
Moving/breathing/concentrating is important to work
It’s not just his skin. His joints are terrible. Unfortunately, those weren’t well-documented for the review. He only recently explained just what’s going on with his back:
- He can’t stand up for more than five minutes without his back and maybe knees becoming painful.
- Sitting for too long aggravates his back
- Sitting on hard surfaces for too long make his legs go to sleep.
- He can’t walk for more than maybe 10 minutes without irritating his back.
Add to that his other ailments:
- He can’t kneel or squat for more than a minute or two, or he might need help getting back up.
- He can’t breathe in much dust, dirt or cold air without causing an asthma attack.
- His hands are increasingly bad, so typing is going to get increasingly difficult.
- He can’t lift more than 20-30 lbs without aggravating his back.
- He can’t get medicated for his ADD (long story)
- He can’t do what he’s best at — sales — because of the extra stress in that line of work.
- Even regular jobs stress healthy people out.
By the way, when I say that his back is painful or aggravated, understand that he has a high pain threshold. He’s in constant pain, but he’s grown accustomed to it. So what he calls bad days would probably be excruciating for the rest of us.
But due to relatively paltry records, the SSA determined that he has “some pain and discomfort in [his] joints.” And that ADD can distract him, but routine, simple work would be fine. And that asthma attacks do happen, but not often enough to “seriously interfere with normal activities.”
It’s about the big picture
The SSA is failing to see that all of these conditions combine to make the work that he’s actually qualified for to be a no-go:
- Fast food/movie theater/gas station? Too much standing/bending/being around chemicals. (Gloves also cause breakouts.)
- Inventory? Too much dust, and ADD causes him to lose his place/count.
- Warehouse? Dust again, plus, if the place is refrigerated, he’ll have asthma attacks.
- Grocery store? Can’t work the cash register (remembering codes, twisting/standing), can’t stock shelves (back, knees), can’t be in the back (dirt, dust), can’t sell food (no one wants to buy food from a guy who looks like he has a rash).
- Receptionist? No previous work in that field, and then there’s the typing, keeping things organized, etc.
The list goes on. It’s especially limited by the fact that most of his experience is in construction. Not an option anymore. Plus his (sorry, hon) somewhat limited schooling. (By the way, please don’t suggest other jobs. I assure you, we’ve thought of them. And, while you don’t mean it that way, it can seem dismissive of his conditions.)
So what do we do now? Appeal!
We sent off an appeal priority mail. We’ll be able to track that it reached its destination. Which is important because you have to request the continuation of benefits within 10 days of receiving the letter.
My therapist has a bunch of clients with disabilities, so he had the name of a lawyer that his clients had praised. I’ll be calling her today or tomorrow to set up an appointment.
She will go with us to the appeal, and we’ll be allowed in, too. She can question us about his ailments.
Document, document, document
We now have x-rays of his back and knees. There’s degeneration on the lower lumbar, and his knees have that extra band of tissue.
He has an appointment on Thursday to see an orthopedist about his hands. He showed me his grip strength yesterday, and it’s gone waaaay down. Without full pressure, he used to make me feel like my fingers were being crushed. Now, it was mild discomfort.
Friday, he has an MRI to find out why his legs go numb when sitting on hard surfaces. There’s a followup appointment in a couple of weeks.
Granted, some of this stuff may be ameliorated with cortisone shots (knees and probably hands) and physical therapy (he starts next Tuesday). If it does, I’m sure he’ll be thrilled. If it doesn’t, he can prove that he’s trying to get better.
We also made an appointment on July 8th to see his dermatologist. It’ll be under the pretext of checking for any new medications that might help. But mainly it’ll be to ensure that when he does break out, we don’t have to wait for a new patient appointment.
Finally, we’re taking pictures of his problem areas daily. We want to show the inevitable progression as the stress builds.
Prepare for the worst
Attorneys can generally win these types of cases. But if the worst happens, there are apparently steps beyond the appeal to be taken. It’s just that I’m pretty sure his benefits will get cutoff in the meantime.
That would suck for us financially.
It’s not just the $776 a month, though that’s big. It’s also the fact that we’ll need to get him private insurance. We make enough that we’ll probably end up with a high-as-hell deductible plan and still pay $300-400 a month. And that will pretty much kill any chance at savings.
But you know what? We have no idea when the appeal hearing will happen. Could be a month or two, could be a year. We have no idea whether the attorney and our documentation will be convincing enough. (Though it sure as hell ought to be.)
Meanwhile, I can’t sit around fretting about something coming at an unknown date with an unknown outcome. Not good for me, not good for any baby I might currently have in my uterus.
Look at me, being all mentally healthy about it.