So, where were you in April, Hunt?

I’ve been promising to fill in the blanks as to what happened during April and the first few weeks of May that made me such a low profile blogger. Here it is:

Long Historical Background:

As most of you know, I have been unemployed since March 1, 2012. Due to amazing state and federal programs, I received income – oh yes, gotta count it as income because it was taxable. I received unemployment and then when the initial six months ran out, I qualified for extended unemployment benefits that carried me until September 19, 2013 when I received a sudden notice that the party was over, no more benefits. Mind, that’s fair. I did wish, however, there had been some notice. They claim, she says darkly, that they did provide notice. I disagree.

But that was nine months ago, so…. what did I do for money to pay rent, for food, for bills? Ummm, in a nutshell: I borrowed it from myself a la credit cards and from friends who stepped forward – and thank you to all my family and friends who did indeed step forward in my time of need, against all logic, against any belief they would be paid back.

Sometime in October of 2013, I yielded to those same friends and family who had been urging that I apply for disability. For my readers not of the United States, we have a program run through our Social Security Administration that will determine whether you qualify as being disabled, and if you do, you will receive your Social Security benefits earlier than normal, i.e., age 65, our normal retirement age. Under what disability would I file my claim? Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). I had been diagnosed in 2010 as having COPD, which is a progressive, terminal disease with no cure in sight as yet. I didn’t want to apply. It offended my sense of order, of being independent, of carrying my own weight, despite the almost two years of unemployment I’d been drawing upon. It never occurred to me that I would not work again. I have worked since I was 16 years old and have been paying into the Social Security from my very first paycheck.

I thought if I applied I would be crossing a Rubicon, a bridge of no return. I would be acknowledging to all and sundry that I had COPD, that I was not getting better, but never mind the all and sundry. Most importantly, I would be acknowledging it to myself, to my cellular structure, to that awareness in me that maintains my sense of health, of balance, of rightness with the world. It could go so far as to mean I would be saying aloud the words, “I am disabled.” Break it down, “dis-abled.” No longer capable, no longer able. Out of the running, no longer worth counting. Bill Hamilton of Dealing with COPD, wrote a post recently about how devastating our own expectations of ourselves can be. To our own selves. Have I ever viewed a disabled person in that light? No. I reserved that deep in my bone morrow just for me. As we do. The things we say to ourselves, we would never in a million years say aloud to another. I don’t even think it where others are concerned. I am more likely to admire them than think they are less than. Not so me.

The convincer was the argument that it can take more than two years to be approved. It is almost a guarantee that you will have to appeal their decision three times before it will be approved. Now, maybe I wasn’t wholly disabled now, but I might be in two years and then I’d be looking at another two years delay in getting some help. Hmm. I checked out the parameters of the COPD qualifiers for disability and it is a number based on height and the results of a spirometry test – how fast you can blow out air. In my case, the number I would have to be at or below was 1.15. I knew from the last tests given back in 2012 before I lost my insurance that my numbers had been fairly close to that, but I had no idea what it was now.

It may have been the push of my friends and family to apply, maybe it was a bad breath day, or maybe it was the name and number of a law firm that represented clients filing disability claims and that they did not charge a fee unless the disability claim was approved. So, I called the law firm, they ran me through a checklist of symptoms and the firm and I agreed to their representation. They did another two hour interview, filled out the proper forms for me, sent them to me for review and approval and filed on my behalf.

By April 2014, I was in bad straits financially. I was on welfare, accepting and very grateful for it, food stamps, which is now electronically done by issuing a card, similar to a debit card, that is filled with your approved amount once a month, from which I could go into any market and purchase food items. Not anything else except food. No toilet paper, for instance. But I could purchase filet mignon or bon bons or wheat flour or vegetables or cheese or frozen dinners. The most ridiculous scene took place when I used it for the first time. I’d gone to the market and shopped and the clerk was ringing up the items. It came to $27.32. I crossed my fingers, ran the special food stamp card through the machine, and the amount showed $5.69. I stared at it for a moment and said, “Um… the amount reads $5.69. Didn’t you say it was $27 something?”

The clerk instantly looked at the machine, then to my basket, clearly worried his machine was breaking down. “Oh!” He said in relief. “It’s the dog food. You pay that separately.”

I stared at him in genuine puzzlement. “What do you mean I pay that separately?”

“It’s dog food.” He said.

“Yes.” I agreed, still puzzled.

“Not people food.” He said gently.

I stared at him in horror. “But… the dog has to eat, too.”

I am embarrassed to admit I actually said that, but I did. And in the most plaintive of voices, too. Shudder. I think that was in March and indicative of where I was headed.

Continued in Part 2.

34 thoughts on “So, where were you in April, Hunt?

  1. Like you dear Huntie, I’m just so independent and proud. I’ve held a job since I had a paper route at age ten. I had year of unemployment 24 years ago. Like you, I believe in pulling my own weight. That being said, disability is another issue separate from sitting back and letting the gov.keep you up. Disability does take forever to obtain and I am so glad you were proactive about getting it going. You’ve done a valiant job of working and paying taxes holding your own. I am proud we have such a program that helps all ages and circumstances. I missed you!

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    • Thank you, Kanzen. I realized just how far behind I’d become when trying to catch up with everyone’s blogs. Grin. But what a great time I have had and am having, catching up.

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      • I am such a prolific reader myself and…..I speed read!!!! so I can read tons of books, blogs, and do homework. I think I am now following 460+ give or take a few. I have stopped following some because their content became objectionable (why women should give in to inferior men – about the young man who recently massacred some women because, boo hoo, they weren’t interested in him. Or blogs that use the eff word gratuitously and as part of their “intellectual” diatribes, for example) but I’ve added a couple on so I guess it works out. I’m going to take some time and glean out some more. get it down to a more manageable number. I’m old fashioned. I follow someone who follows me and then many times they just drop off because I guess I’m not what they wanted in a blog, which is cool. I do the same thing!

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        • I can’t remember if you’ve ever been to M-R Stringer’s blog. She did this amazing thing this past month. From what I can gather, each and every day, for 30 days, she found a blog worth mentioning and she profiled it to her readers, explaining why she liked it. And, I was one of ’em, Kazen! See last entry of yesterday. What a fabulous, innovative thing to do! I’ve resolved to do something similar. I like it better than the awards where we scattershot 11 blogs. I think M.R.’s solution was brillant! (‘course, it helps that she thought I was brilliant, too!) Laughter!

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          • I saw that and reblogged it so my readers would also know of your brilliance! I thought it was great. And this is why I’m making more comments than in the past instead of awards. it is more steady and hits more people on the bullseye rather than like you said, scattershot 11 folks and have to blither on about a bunch of questions. I was truly so very happy. it made me grin and grin.

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  2. Huntie – It makes me beyond angry that all governments hold disability hostage for those that clearly qualify. It’s the same as wishing the individual dead before the claim is processed. I’ve seen it time and time again.
    The fact that you lost your insurance when you lost your job couldn’t have helped your health and it hurts your gaining disability. Time after time I’ve seen this happen in the US. It all comes down to the individual not having enough doctors supporting documents to prove the disability. At least there seems to be a specific number determining if you qualify or not but this doesn’t calm my anger. Some things in life simply aren’t fair. Disability was created to help not harm. Bureaucrats seem to take pleasure in seeing how many times they can deny someone help.

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    • Ah, Sheri, your wonderful defense speaks volumes and reminds me that you are that fearsome attorney from the west coast who cleaned out bureaucracies. I know your hands are full, but I sure wish Rara had you as her attorney – you’d make fur fly!

      I warned you I write very long posts and you challenged me to prove it. This one turned out to have four parts…

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      • Huntie, Do you have a preferred way of being addressed? I certainly don’t want to call you by a name you find offensive.

        I need to set the record straight. I’m not an attorney. I have my PhD in Public Administration plus 30 hours of labor law and another 15 hours of industrial law. I have enough credits and could sit for the attorney exam but I have no desire to do so. I help individuals with their presentations (prepare and file all the necessary paperwork and then track it through the system). Because I know the federal legal system better than most civilian attorneys I know a lot about getting federal disability but it’s still a real pain. My career was primarily in ferreting out all kinds/types of federal white-collar crime. In doing so, I learned more than I ever wanted to know about many things that happens in our government every day.

        If I might, where does Rara live? You may e-mail me at sheri@sheridegrom.com. I am so happy your disability came through for you.

        I also write long posts. Most are around 1,500 so be prepared.

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  3. I don’t get it. Why is it when the powers that be, before they got there, used to think and act like real people with hearts and feelings but then forget how. What are they fed, these bureaucrats, that they make it almost impossible to help those who have pulled their weight their whole lives prior to needing help.
    I’m glad to see you back, Huntie.

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        • No, it is a true word of art. An independent medical exam (IME) is used, ostensibly, for fair and balanced assessment – the idea being the petitioner might have suborned their own doctor…. Grrr. To be fair, having spent 25 years as a legal secretary/assistant, there are practioners who can be suborned….

          In this instance, the woman who performed the IME was actively hostile, certain I was scamming the system. She began with, “Why can’t you get a job?” in the most stunning tone. My jaw literally fell open. It went downhill from there. Not a breath test in sight – she tested reflexes, grilled me with questions, there was even an eye examination that took place in a hallway with the chart at the end of the hall on the wall…. Quite an eye opener to our medical system. I walked out of that appointment convinced I would be denied. And to top it off, she was very late in turning in her report.

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  4. Hunt, Me of so few words will truly enjoy each of the 4 parts. Our friendship began early in the process, and you even bounced a few things off me. I remember us chatting abut your use of foodstamps to buy dog food. I am proudest of you because you never gave up. And even today you continue your good fight. The people and things that are near and dear to you stay that way. Take care, sweet friend. Bill

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    • Bill, long ago in far distant land of Yesterday, my school mates gave me the award, invented just for me, called, “The Try Hard Die Hard” award. Laughter. Somethings just don’t change. Grin. And, thank you for your never ending patience and counsel and encouragement through these long six months.

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  5. This reminds me of a lot of years ago, when I was going through my first divorce. My ex-husband had me so tied up financially, I was living hand to mouth & having to borrow money from my parents to afford bus fare to get to & from work. My dog had just gotten sick & I was also trying to pay some big vet bills. As the creditors were calling, trying to collect debts my ex-husband was supposed to assume in the divorce, I was trying to explain to them I had no money to pay due to a sick dog. One of them thought I said sick daughter so she was quite sympathetic during the conversation. I must have said vet at some point & she realized it was my dog not my daughter that was sick & she turned right around, saying I had no right to not pay them over a “sick dog!” My dog was part of my family, so to me it was important to get him the care he needed.
    Chin up Huntie, I am glad you are finally trying to get the disability benefits you need. I am in the appeal process for my benefits now. I have been refused for the first time, the government recognizes I may not be able to do my previous job but think I should be able to do some type of work. Right now I spend more time visiting doctor’s offices to prove I cannot work, than I do staying at home “not working.” We’re in the same boat, if you need some support.

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