Thursday, October 29, 2015
I was approved for SSDI benefits 2 days ago (during my hearing). Almost 3 years after my initial request for benefits.
It took me almost 3 years to get approval for VA and SSDI benefits (and I had to get a non-attorney representative familiar with both the VA and with SSA to represent me using the governmental inside info they had accumulated over the years they worked at the VA and at SSA in order to have my case presented in such a way that was "pleased" those who were the decider's). heaven forbid one should say "Yes Ma'am, Yes Sir, or Yes Your Honor more than once (apparently, it is rude to use ma'am,sir.your honor more than once when answering their questions). The information was there the entire 3 years, and yet it wasn't the medical information that won the day, it was how it was categorized and put together in a format that is only understood by insiders (criteria only known by those who are IN the system). VSO's sincerely expect us to understand just how the VA works and genuinely seem perplexed when you have the homer look on you after they try explaining what is essentially, unexplainable to the average lay person.
My VA rep will receive 20% of my benefits (around $4,500) and he did a great job earning it (he knew exactly how to adjust my claim to "fit" VA criteria). My SSDI rep will receive $6,000 of my SSDI benefits (well earned also, as he knew the people in the hearing office, he knew their tendencies, and he knew what would be accepted or not accepted (rightly or wrongly, it depends on the judge and what they expect). And I had to negotiate with the ALJ regarding the 5 month time period prior to my 50th birthday by agreeing to amend my claim to a new onset date (as recommended to me by my representative after he spoke with the judge prior to my going into the hearing room). So in a moment's time, I had to decide whether it was worth fighting for the $10,500 in benefits I would lose if amending my claim by 5 months to fit the judge's decision made easier by my turning 50 on basically a technicality of disability definition (in order to help my family by getting approved now instead of denied and having to prove the 5 months also as the judge was not willing to go back all 5 months). That is the fastest I have lost $10,500 in my entire life. And here is the thing...... if I didn't have this particular judge, I might not even have been awarded a benefit (many judges have their own criteria, despite the fact that they shouldn't).
So.... that is $21,000 in benefits lost to my family and I. The reason why I had representatives is due to a lesson learned in our family.
I felt I had no choice but to get a representative from the beginning, because my wife went in front of a ALJ in 2008 without representation and did what all people do...... explained what she thought was needed to be presented to the ALJ (who then took her attempt at trying to do things as evidence of ability and who called her a malingerer in the Denial letter... yes, we have that in black and white). Despite the evidence of serious limitations including dysfunction of her left arm after she was shot (and she went back to work trying to do a job, but ultimately could not due to her limitations). She tried very hard to keep working. And she was called a malingerer? I knew right away I had to fight for the benefits and use a representative to make that happen.
As far as I am concerned, one should not be allowed to go for any government benefit without a representative because the process is stacked against us..... all of us claimants. Its no different than going to criminal court as far as I am concerned. My wife's claim was closed in 2008 due to the lack of pro-activeness on her Long Term Carrier's part and because my wife thought she was getting a representative who were instead of representing her.... were "keeping an eye on her claim" for her LTD carrier (so her appeal was not filed in time). I had to get it re-opened by providing medical information not present for the ALJ hearing in order to get her case re-opened (it is called, Res Judicata) and she started at the back of the line in 2013. Officially, she has been fighting for SSDI benefits for TEN YEARS now!!!!!!!!!
Now.... I am very grateful for the benefits I am now eligible for (we are very blessed) as it will help us eventually stabilize our lives. However, it took far too long to get them (and it has financially destroyed our family in the process... to the point we are barely hanging onto our home and also having had a vehicle repossessed... the first time in our lives). We STILL have a lot of bills to pay, but we are still limited to what we can pay off because we are still under the microscope regarding our mortgage (and we are advised to not spend anything that is considered "unnecessary" - otherwise, we will harm our effort at a loan modification to save our ability to remain in the home). Speaking of which, even the VA can't understand why Wells Fargo didn't take into account the VA benefits I was just awarded (they didn't even wait the 30 days for them to get proof of my benefit in a bank statement, they just denied us AGAIN and with no options to appeal. We now have all of the information they need plus the income for them to make a re-modification, and they don't care because a government VA benefit award letter isn't "enough proof" of income (one just can't make this stuff up). So after 3 years of fighting this (and using Illinois Hardest Hit to stay in our home), Wells Fargo's underwriter can't read governmental documentation showing a direct deposit to my bank showing the deposit of my VA benefits (theyn need to see TWO monthly bank statements showing the deposit). Auuuuugggghhhhhh!!!!!!!!
So, Penny is scheduled for yet another SSDI hearing (in 10 years) coming next April/May (because the ALJ dropped the ball in 2008 and didn't take into account information from 2001-2004 that permanently limited her ability to use her arm/ and both hands as a result of her neurological damage from being shot). I finally had it entered into their record, they just aren't looking at it when deciding on eligibility (before it ended in 2007). Her file is so thick, no attorney wants to touch it now (even Allsup dropped her file as they thought it was unwinnable), so we are trying to find someone willing to take on this burden with no success thus far. Penny is the only person I know who still has Long Term Disability benefits past 2 years of disability that doesn't have Social Security Disability (mainly due to the lack of a representative at her hearing). We learned our lesson and took a $21,000 hit on my benefits to ensure that didn't happen again. A very expensive lesson.
And stunningly, I am one of the lucky/blessed ones. There are many who lack the resources and support we've had for the past 3 years (most disabled veterans or disabled civilians lose everything in their effort to be awarded a benefit when it is due under Federal law... even though the evidence IS there right in front of the decision makers).
Here is the rub. It can get worse.
Hillary Clinton indicates there isn't a systemic problem at the VA nor with Social Security. As far as I am concerned, anybody who votes for Hillary Clinton who hasn't reviewed the facts on her time in power truly has a screw loose and doesn't see all of the mistakes she has made (that harm people), or how elitist she truly is, how harmful/hateful she is to her own people (including security staff AND Military staff there supporting her regarding the doing of her job). People have DIED as a result of her actions while in power. I cannot imagine a more unfit individual for the top job in the United States. And I pity both veterans AND those seeking Social Security should she come into power again (her blinders and excuses know no bounds). I truly would rather see Bernie Sanders or Donald Trump get the job first before that horrible human being presently smirking her way through hearings at the moment. In order to get qualified for benefits, I first had to give others $21,000 of those benefits (that I EARNED both in service to my country and as a very hard working individual for over 35 years).
Just imagine how much that would have helped my family. No problems with the VA and SSA system? Hillary - you are FIRED.
Posted by Steinar Andersen at 12:54 AM