Disability Denial: Our Family’s Story

by RyanD on December 5, 2012

I still remember the day my husband came home from work with exciting news. He had been offered a promotion. He hadn’t hesitated to accept the offer of more money than he’d ever made before. It wasn’t even hard work, he said. The last three guys had quit because of the stink, he said. But he was looking forward to giving our kids the best Christmas they’d ever had. He planned to pay off my car and buy a new truck. He started the new job the following Monday.

He was right about the stink. Every night he came home and went straight to the shower. The clothes went into the washer. After a few weeks, I started noticing a change in him. He was becoming forgetful, irritable, and easily confused. He didn’t want to miss work to go to the doctor, insisting that he wasn’t sick. By the time I convinced him to get a checkup, it was obvious that something was wrong. Our doctor referred him to several specialists.

He took a leave of absence from work, and reassured me that his short term disability payments would make up for the lost income. But the disability payments were only a fraction of what his paycheck had been. My car was repossessed. We got a foreclosure notice on our house. My parents set up a used mobile home on their farm, and we moved into it. We had to sign up for food stamps. We got a letter that his employment–and his disability payments–had been terminated.

Meanwhile, the doctors diagnosed him with permanent brain damage from chemical exposure at work. He applied for Social Security Disability, and hired an attorney to fight for Worker’s Compensation benefits and personal injury damages.

His application for Social Security benefits was denied. We sent in the paperwork to appeal the denial. We couldn’t afford our utility bills. My parents and our church stepped in to keep the lights on. His physical condition was getting worse. He couldn’t go outside and shoot baskets with our son without getting short of breath. I was afraid to leave him home alone, and embarrassed by his behavior in public. When our Social Security appeal was denied, I gathered up all the paperwork and took it to our lawyer.

The lawyer explained that most applications for SSD are denied. He said that it was important to appeal the denial, since appeals have a better chance of approval. If an appeal is denied, one can request a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge.

The initial determination of eligibility is based upon a review of medical records submitted with the application for benefits. Conditions such as amputations are easily confirmed by medical records, and may be routinely approved. However, other conditions, such as soft tissue injuries or chemical brain damage, are more difficult to document. When our attorney reviewed the denial, he found several serious errors. The reviewer had “found no evidence” of test results that were already in the record.

I didn’t know what to expect at the hearing. Would my husband control his temper? Could he remember important facts? Would he pass out from the stress?
The walk from the parking garage into the Federal office building pushed his physical endurance almost to the limit.

The ALJ ruled in our favor. A few weeks later, we received a check for back benefits. Not giving up and letting the attorney speak for us got us the disability benefits we needed for our family to survive.

Byline:  Susan Anderson suggest studying about long term disability laws for protection if you are ever denied disability rights.




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