Social Security Hearing – How Did It Go?

Yesterday I had my Social Security (SS) hearing. It went pretty well.

 

First off, I had to get to the location 30 minutes early on the request of my representative. FYI, I have spoken to this man 2-3 times and he wanted me there to ask me all of the same questions he has asked me over the phone. I know what you are thinking. You are thinking he just wants to make sure I’m prepared with my answer. No, no that’s not the reason. He was just totally inept. He also thought the security line was going to take a long time. Really? From the front door of the building until I met him in the conference room, it was all of 45 seconds. So ridiculous. This guy had no clue.

 

He did ask me a few questions right before hand that I felt were a little late in the game. Things like what types of procedures did I try. He seemed to be scrambling. This guy was supposed to have prepared for my case and he knew nothing. I was absolutely shocked.

 

I mean, take some pride in your job. He just seemed like such a loser. I couldn’t believe it.

 

My hearing was about 25 minutes late, I guess they had technical difficulties. I walked in, and of course, they offered for me to sit. I declined, and they all looked at me weird. Good thing I’m used to it.

 

First off, they asked me my name, weight, and height. Weirdly, they asked if I was right or left handed? I kinda felt like this isn’t the middle ages. Why would being left-handed even matter?

 

Then they asked me, well, the lawyer, what my diagnosis was. He said chronic pain. Immediately the judge said pain is a symptom, not a diagnosis.  The repeats, what is her diagnosis.

 

I do not bullshit you, my lawyer said “Uhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.”

 

FFS.

 

The lawyer then says I have parthyroidism. No, I don’t. I have hypoparathyroidism that created a connective tissue disorder. My stupid fucking lawyer had no clue.

 

I had to worm that answer in later. I could not believe it.

 

After that, most of the questions pertained to:

– where is the pain

-how is the pain

-what can you do

-what ADL’s can you do

-who cares for you

… things of that nature.

 

At the end  the judge asked if there was anything my lawyer wanted to add (my lawyer did warn me before hand this might happen and that it was my opportunity to make sure my case was fully represented. My lawyer said he would ask me a bunch of questions to make sure the judge understood my case).

 

The lawyer asked “how did you get from Northern California to Southern California?”

 

I said RV and ambulance.

 

After that, I looked at him for more questions. He turns to the judge and says “that’s all I have your honor.”

 

WTF?!

 

I could have done a much, much better job if I had just represented myself. There is nothing this company has done that improved my chances. If anything they hurt my long term chances by almost getting the case thrown out when they screwed up the first videoconference. If they had not of done that, I would have had my court date in December, and a decision by now. If I win, I would be able to go to my disability insurance company an appeal with the fact that the United States government deems me disabled. Now, I won’t find out until May, so it’s a moot point as I have to appeal with the disability insurance carrier by April 4th. So irritating. I really wanted to look over at the lawyer and be like “why are you even here?” or “how about you do all of us a favor and just go get yourself some coffee. You are contributing nothing to this.”

 

Back to the hearing, at that point I asked the judge if I could add something. He agreed. The weird thing you should know is that there is no real room for narrative. It’s very yes, no, and short answer. It was a bit weird to ask if I could add something, the judge agreed, but I’m not entirely sure that’s the norm.

 

The one thing my lawyer said was really important is that you illustrate that you have tried multiple doctors. Then, in the course of the hearing, he only referred to two doctors that I saw. I took the opportunity to list all the doctors that I had seen so that I would fulfill the requirement of seeing multiple specialties. The one thing I did wish I had done differently at this point is list all the treatments I had tried. Even if I just quickly rattled them off, I think it would have helped. I also wish I had kind of added a personal statement about how hard it was to go from being super active to not active at all. However, I do think they care more about determining whether or not you are disabled, not how it feels to be disabled. So I think I am okay there. I do wish I had listed all of my treatments though.

 

The judge did apologize and say it would take 2 months to get the determination.

 

That’s fine, in and of itself. It is what it is. I’m just mostly mad, as I said above, that the lawyer company messed up the original court date because I would already have my decision by now.

 

There it is. That’s how it went. I feel good knowing that I tried my best and that if I do get an unfavorable decision that it wasn’t for lack of preparation on my part. If I don’t get approved I think it will be because no one can give me a diagnosis, which, if I had one, I might be better now! Oh, the irony.

 

If you have any questions, feel free to ask. I can answer whatever it is you might like to know about the process.

Support Group

I hosted a support group last night for the second time. It went very well. I was supposed to have two people come, out of the 30 that joined the group, but only one of them showed up.

The other lady said she was going to go and then cancelled last minute. At least she let me know that she was cancelling before hand.

However, what was weird about it was after she had cancelled, she rewrote back and asked how many people were going. I said myself and one other.

I’m not sure what to make of that. Would she have gone if there were more people? Was she wondering if there were going to be only a few people and then it would be more manageable? I’m not sure. I’m kind of curious though what difference it made.

The woman I did meet was really great. She has Fibromyalgia and works in the health industry. It was really nice to hear another person’s opinion about how they deal with stuff. She was very active, or so it seemed, so I am happy for her. She ran fairly late, even though I stated in my group bio that when there are meetup’s people need to be on time. Since it was only us, she pushed it back from 6:00 to 6:30, but then didn’t show up until 6:50. Had she not let me know, I would have had to have left after only a few minutes of meeting her. Oh, how I long for the days when we didn’t have cell phones and people had to be where they said they would be when they said they would be there. I wouldn’t care as much if I wasn’t sick, but I am. Our society today just lives for themselves, not realizing that that is how they come across when they are late like that. It is somehow okay that someone is technically 50 minutes late for an appointment just because they have the ability to tell you that they will be late. I really wanted this support group to abide by the rules that people are in pain, myself included, and only have a limited amount of time to socialize. I can’t wait all night for someone to show up, and I’m sure others are the same way.

You know why I also want people to show up on time? Because I really liked this lady and then when the designated time was done, I didn’t want to leave. I was then having a debate with myself on whether or not I could tough it out. Unfortunately, as we all know by now, I am always worse the next day than I am at the current time of an event. However, it wouldn’t have been as big of a deal if she had been on time. I had to leave at 7:30, because of my back, so really, I only got about 40 minutes to talk with her.

Plus, my two friends showed up because they didn’t want me sitting alone, which was sweet, so I really didn’t even talk to the lady that much.

Oh, well — enough of my rantfest. I liked her, so we actually made plans for a few weeks from now. I’m looking forward to it.

However, I am a little bit sad today. I know it was a big deal that I reached out, and am trying improve my social circle here in a new city, with a lot of physical restrictions, but I’m sad. I’m sad because no matter how fun last night was, how proud my friends were of me, I’m still in pain. I still hurt all the time. I hurt today from yesterday’s 1.5 hour excursion. Is it worth it? I’m not really sure anymore. I’m just so exhausted from hurting all the time. I’m tired of hurting all the time. It’s annoying, and anger-inducing, and sometimes I just want to scream. I can’t even scream because it would hurt me too much. It just feels like no matter what I accomplish: making it to doctors appointments, starting support groups, walking a bit — I’m never actually accomplishing the feat of not being in pain. It’s always there and it’s a fucking nightmare.

I just feel lost.

First doctor appointment in San Diego

This past Friday I had my first doctor appointment in San Diego. I had a litany of errors which delayed me seeing someone, one of which was just recovering from the move.

Another was that I had signed up for Covered California and I found myself in a horrible, horrible medical plan. It was a PPO, which I thought meant you could see any doctor you wanted to, you just might have to pay a little bit more.

This is actually not the case.

The doctor still has to agree to contract with your insurance as a PPO. No one did with my insurance. I couldn’t believe it. On this insurance’s website there were maybe 3-5 doctors that I could see. For pain management there was maybe 5-7. The first one was closed. The second one was in a chiropractor’s office which seemed very sketchy when I called. the other 3 were from Redwood City — 7 to 8 hours away. Really?

I was paying $450 a month and I couldn’t see anyone.

Therefore, I spent countless hours on the phone over a few weeks trying to get my plan switched. Then I had to wait until the last day of February to change so I wouldn’t have a lapse in coverage. Right when I thought it was all handled? Nope, they called me back and said they couldn’t do it. I didn’t stand for that, and after and hour or more, I finally got my plan switched. I paid for the plan that day. This was a Saturday.

So I called on Monday to get my new insurance ID (I knew the cards wouldn’t be ready, but I thought at least I would have a member ID). Nope. No ID. I was told 7-10 business days. Well, shit. That was this past Monday, and the appointment was on Friday. I really didn’t want to cancel as I had gotten my nerve up to go.

Needless to say I called at 10:00 am on Friday morning and my appointment was at 2:00. Low-and-behold, something finally went my way and I got an ID. I then went online with Anthem Blue Cross and printed out temporary ID cards.

Phew.

I was very worried about the drive there. I have no idea where I live. In San Francisco, I had been well the 10 years I lived there. If you told me a doctor office was on California and Cherry, I knew exactly where that was. I would be able to pep talk myself into knowing I was half way there, how many lights there were. I would even be able to tell you if there were a bunch of bumps in the road.

That is not the case here.

I have no idea how long it takes to drive down certain streets here. I don’t know where the construction is. Is that one way street a time-suck? I really haven’t a clue. So that added to my stress.

Dr. W consults with the Chargers

Yet, the drive wasn’t so bad. 4 minutes! I thought it was going to be about ten, which is out of my driving range, and it all ended up being fine!

We got there and my friend dropped me off at the front. That was great; however, I couldn’t open the door. The nice receptionist came out without me having to ask and opened the door for me. She was a lovely young lady and she handed me what looked like an Etch A Sketch with a Palm Pilot stylus pen. It was the most cumbersome thing I have ever used. It took me 20 minutes to enter information that otherwise would have taken 5 minutes! I couldn’t even help but huff right next to the lady over it. It was getting so frustrating! Then my friend decided to help me finish it and even he was getting upset!

After we filled out that document, we were ushered right back. I liked that. There wasn’t a huge waiting room or huge amount of people waiting in line. The room was super tiny and pretty much entirely filled with the bed. We waited for just a few minutes and then could hear the doc outside of the room. Too bad there was one more snafu! Stupid pharmaceutical sales rep snagged him! I looked at my friend and was like “I”m not gonna sit here and wait while that girl makes a stupid fucking sale or tries to give him a free bagel so she can talk to him for 30 minutes!”

My friend, immediately on my side, was like “I’ll go out there and shut this thing down now.” I was like no, just wait a few minutes and see what happens; however, he already had the bug in him to stand up for me, so he went out there with the excuse that if the doc needed to talk to someone, perhaps I could get my flu shot now, instead of after the visit. That hustled the doc right in.

The doctor was fantastic. I will refer to him as Dr. W from here on out. Dr. W came right in and got to work asking me really great questions and actually listening. Myself and my friend relayed my strong reservations of being moved or manipulated form fear of becoming more injured as a result of the appointment. That was about 1/2 the appointment. The other 1/2 was giving him a background of all my previous injuries that may help him in a diagnosis of what is wrong with my back and what is wrong with me overall. Dr. W then went on to try to do an exam, but relented to just having me answer how it would feel if he were to do certain motions. I was super-duper grateful for him doing that.

He then said some wonderful things. One, he said “You are not normal. We have people who come in here with huge bulging discs that compress their spines and they have more mobility and less pain than you.”

I was like, I know.

He then went on to say that this all was a lot to digest. He said his first inclination would be to send me to physical therapy to see if that would help with my range of motion but that he was hesitant, as I have done in before and been hurt every time.

Thanks for taking the time to consider my case

Then he said this, he wanted to take a few weeks to review my notes and think on it.

How great is that!

I have had so many doctors just shrug their shoulders. One, even literally. One doc said to me ‘What do you want me to do?”

Not Dr. W.

Who knows if the guy can fix me, I know I am an anomaly, however, I like that he isn’t just dropping the ball. He wants to call my other doctors, see what they can come up with together. So far, I love this doctor just for taking the time to listen to me and the time to care enough about my case to try and do something about it. Really, that’s all I can ask for. It doesn’t seem anyone really knows what’s wrong with me or how to fix me. At least this guy is taking more than five minutes to come to that conclusion.

Overall, I was at his office for about one hour standing, which was completely reasonable. It was later in the day, so I was very worried about the drive home. After sitting to get there, standing, the stress of having to relay how shitty my life is, and then get back into the car? Yes, I was worried. Yet, it wasn’t that bad. The one ways on the way home worked in our favor.

Nothing happened that day that made me feel nervous. Sometimes I leave doctors and I’m like, well, that wouldn’t have hurt a normal person, but I’m worried for myself. Nope. All was fine that night and the next day. Today is Sunday and I’m back to my normal crappy baseline.

I’ll take it.

One last thought. I’m really grateful Dr. W wants to contact my old doctors and kind of conference about my case. My only reservation is that Dr. D who was my primary before, really is set on my condition being a result of idiopathic hypoparathyroidism. I just really want fresh eyes on the case, not for Dr. W to be swayed by Dr. D.

Also, in regards to that point, it makes me more mad that my previous sports medicine doctor wouldn’t consult with his mentor. I had blogged previously that my sports medicine doctor ran out of ideas on how to help me, and thought I should go see his mentor. However, the trip was too far for me so I asked if he would call him up to discuss my case. He said no.

I had seen that doctor for years in regards to my back ailment and previous ailments. He wouldn’t even consider going out of his way for his patient. This new guy? He did it within one hour of meeting me.

I like him.

****

Madeline Fresco is a novelist who lives in San Diego. She is the author of CROSSED THE LINE, available for Kindle at Amazon.com, for Nook at Barnes & Noble, and as an ePub at other eBook retailers. You can also listen to her novel as a free, serialized audiobook at madelinefresco.com. Her second book THE CHOICE, is available on Kindle at Amazon. Her third book ANGUISH, is available for Kindle at Amazon.com