Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Ongoing Saga of a Sitting Duck


Here’s the latest: following Senator Feinstein’s intervention in my case, my Disability benefits have been continued for now; it has also suddenly been decided that I do NOT owe 20 years of back pay to Social Security. You can imagine my relief.

But new issues have risen in their wake. The Social Security Administration now says it will instead conduct a “medical review” to see if I am still disabled.  Um, guys? I’m still Bipolar. I take antipsychotics daily. Because I need them, see? Last time I looked, there were no miraculous ‘cures’ on offer. Of course, if they consult my doctor, that is what they will learn. But Disability Medical Reviews are known to be kangaroo courts in which you are condemned before the trial ever begins. I once had a friend told, after one of these, “You can walk and follow instructions. Therefore you can get a job.” Well, that’s a nice system, isn’t it? If you can walk to their office and fill out the application, you are automatically disqualified!

It’s also suspicious that immediately after contacting Senator Feinstein and supporting my case, my friend Mel C. Thompson was likewise put under investigation.

The second concern is that Social Security is claiming I have already finished my Trial Work Period, though in fact I have never had one. There are some worrisome limits attached to how long you can continue to receive benefits or Medicare after the Trial Work Period is finished…I may STILL end up judged “ineligible” and having to pay back one year of benefits. But not 20! At least that’s settled.

My stalwart friend and I are working our way up the political food chain. I am contacting Feinstein again, as much as I hate to bug her. Last week we contacted the Office of the Inspector General; next week it is Social Security Commissioner Michael Astrue. Mel has done a brilliant job of writing these letters, pointing out case after case personally known to us in which these reviews have been abused, and demanding cessation of such hung juries not just for ourselves but for everybody in the system. He's also requested a permit to protest outside the Social Security branch in Walnut Creek, whose brainchild all this is. That will hopefully put a spotlight on the harassment we are receiving.

Where it will all end, God knows. I personally would be delighted if it caused an inner shakeup and some actual change in policy. At the minimum, I hope we can stop being personal targets, and I, at least, can go back to the anonymity I prefer.

It may seem odd for an author to say she prefers anonymity. But I didn’t take up show biz, folks, I picked up a pen behind a desk in a shadowy back room. No matter what adventures my books go off and have without me, that’s where I’d like to remain.

And so, until next week…

Deborah Fruchey is the author of 3 books, including Is There Room for Me, Too? 12 Steps & 12 Strategies for Coping with Mental Illness. It is available on Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble.com, Kindle, and many other online sources. It is temporarily unavailable on Apple's iBookstore.