Disability Hearings and a Death In The Family

After two years of waiting, I had my disability hearing in front of a judge this morning. I had thought this would be a preliminary hearing, but it turns out my case does not require that. I'm not counting my chickens at this point, (there is always the possibility that I will have to file another appeal), but I believe the hearing went well.

I was oddly not nervous at all in the days coming up to the hearing. I'd read online and called my lawyer to prepare for the kinds of questions I'd be expected to answer. The do's and don'ts, the specifics of what my answers needed to cover and, of course, what not to say. (Those were mostly in the realm of "don't argue with the judge" or "don't say you know fakers on disability, so you should get it easily"....which....duh? People have to be told NOT to say those things???) I DID get severely stressed right before the hearing, as I got lost and had to call my lawyer for directions.

But once I was in the building, I calmed down. This hearing would be what it would be. All I could do would be to answer honestly, remain calm, and be truthful. I could tell I was nervous in how tight I held my body, but my words were steady and my heart paced. (Of course, that's likely the insane increase we've put on my blood pressure medications, as my BP has been in the 160/110 range for six months now. Still, med induced or not, it was a pleasant surprise that my heart stayed where it was instead of racing out of my ribcage.)

From what I can tell, it was all standard stuff. My lawyer asked most of the questions, with the judge breaking in once to clarify a hospital date. There were the regular questions about how my days were spent and what symptoms influenced what activities. The largest influencers centered on the medical accomodations I'd need with full time employment. I see my doctors on average 2-4 times a month. That would affect work attendance.

Due to the medications and the lupus, I'd require frequent bathroom breaks. My lawyer brought up the looming dialysis, which of course would greatly affect work attendance. The symptoms of both my medical issues and mental issues (much worsened now with the lupus) produce cognitive dysfunction. That would also require medical accommodations. The only moment where I was nervous when was the Vocational Expert mentioned three types of jobs that cases with my presentation are sometimes able to work. I calmed myself by saying to myself "It's okay, she's just doing her job. This is what she is paid to do. Relax."

After that the judge took a moment and re-read over my files and the testimony my lawyer and I had given. She then stated that based on my case, I'd be operating "off-task" 20% or more of the time. My lawyer and the Vocational Expert agreed. I can see that "off-task" relates to on-job performance but I am unsure if that also includes work attendance.

Several disability websites I've read said that a ranking of 10% off-task is necessary for approval. A ranking of 20% or higher is generally a high marker in being approved.

Near the end, the judge and my lawyer asked the Vocational Expert if she believed I'd be able to work full-time with being 20% off-task. The Vocational Expert replied, first to the judge and then again to my lawyer, that she "did not believe I would qualify for competitive work." I'm not quite sure what that means exactly. Google has not been helpful. If I go by contextual clues, however, I think it means that she stated I would not qualify full-time work.

Does anyone have any clarification on that phrase specifically??? "Competitive work?"

The hearing closed after that. My lawyer, in the quick de-briefing we had outside, said it's very likely I'll be approved, especially with the Vocational Expert's testimony. He said the mere fact that I'd be taking off (or leaving early/coming in late) a minimum of 2 days a month for doctor's appointments is a strong carrying point. I left feeling encouraged by the proceedings, but also wildly relieved at it being over.

At least for now. There is always the possibility I'll need to appeal again, even as my lawyer said he does not think it is likely. But I've been waiting on this day for two years. I now have nothing - absolutely nothing - I can do until I get the decision letter. My lawyer said it should be between 30-60 days. Some websites say 90 days. No matter when it arrives, though, all I can do is wait. So I will wait. Everything I could do, I have done. Everything I may have to do later will come later. Right now, I can only let the cards fall where they may. It is now out of my hands.

For the first time in a long time, powerlessness is a relief, not a frustration.

For a commentary on the state of America: My biggest concern with my disability case is the continuation of my insurance. I couldn't care less about the backpay right now. I just want to be able to continue seeing my doctors, as the quality of my life - and painful death from renal failure - would be on the line without insurance.

Isn't that sad? Here in America, I have been fighting not for money, but healthcare.

A family friend passed away a couple of days ago. Pamela's sister. She'd developed cancer a few years ago and gone into remission. There were permanent complications, though, and I guess one of those was the risk of developing an abdominal abscess. It was what killed her. Likely sepsis, though I'm not entirely sure. It was sudden, so very sudden. As far as I know, she'd gone into the hospital a few days before for pain and fever.

She never walked out of that hospital.

It has scared me on a personal level. Here she was, barely having broken 50, in complete remission from a disease that kills, and she was done in by a complication from her chronic illness. A complication that came out of nowhere. It took her out so quickly, with no build-up, no lead, no warning. She was here one day and gone the next.

Will that happen to me? Is that how I will die? A dirty trick of the human body? The fact that the body can fail at any time, just because? I do not fear death itself but I DO fear the swiftness of medical complications. I fear my death blindsiding my loved ones. I fear my death not having meaning beyond having been physically frail beforehand. A cautionary tale of how doctors cannot save everyone, no matter how hard they try.

It's selfish to feel this way. Pat's grandmother has now buried two out of her four children. Pamela, two days before her sister died, had a malignant breast tumor removed. They are going through so much. So I ask these questions here, away from their grief.

We are all waiting for Death. I know this. I just want to have some kind of warning, some kind of real warning, that it's coming.

This entry was originally posted at https://quirkytizzy.dreamwidth.org/1118862.html
Can't blame you any bit for your concerns about healthcare...

Saying, this is a point for me why I get to not liking the leftist blabbermouths which only argue on their theoretical academic level. They talk about tons of shit and needing to define every little grain of sand in order to finally get to some consensus... While meanwhile waiting for the breakdown of everything.
All that I have in mind for this scenario is: I'd like to avoid it. I'd like to avoid the complete breakdown and fall into the big black nothing.
How are you gonna achieve this? Well... by - maybe - developing a parallel new structure already while the old one is still in power? So when the day X comes, not masses of people need to die because society's gonna lack everything and nothing in order to keep them alive?
I don't know, as far as my impression goes, this systematic way of looking at it and searching for a productive solution seems like something too complicated for most humans to grasp.
Or it simply is the case that some still have a life that still is going too well... No body aches and such things.
And that short-sightedness not too few times even comes from people I can recognize as older than me (who'd have to have these problems even more than me, actually).
Yeah, i tbink competitive work just means regular work. You couldnt compete because=disability
Yeah, I was going to say that; "competitive" work probably means you're not in a sheltered workshop.
What a tortuous process. Painful reading. I hope it goes your way. I suppose by competitive work they mean work in which an employer wouldn't keep you unless you maintained an identical or higher work pace than your completely healthy colleagues.
I assume "competitive work" is a job you have to apply for against other applicants and not just a "gimme" position from a friend or family member. So they are saying you probably couldn't be hired, which in this case is a very good thing.

As for "leftist blabbermouths"... I have to admit, it took me a while to wrap my arms around the ACA and embrace it. But it moved the ball down the field, which is probably all that was achievable at the time. Some improvement in the situation *right now*…
One of my most dearly-held beliefs is that the time comes when the time comes. Goodness knows I've seen enough outcomes - both affirmative and negative - to know that there is some aspect of it that's out of anyone's hands, like it was with the rough-sleeping old guy in Groundhog Day.

Maybe that can help you to understand why in neither your case nor mine, have I lost a minute's sleep wondering if it's all right. If I lose sleep over your illness, it's because I'm there at the end, keeping you company at odd hours so that you'll be sure of the comfort of being not-alone.

In spite of all the obstacles, my fondest wish is that at all moments you'll give more care to the living than the dying - and in my judgment, you're actually not too shabby at that. Your willingness to be upfront about where you've been and where you are provides an example that lots of folks would do well to follow... and all of us reading here are better off for it.

Edited at 2018-12-01 07:51 am (UTC)