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Today, I discovered a report submitted to Congress regarding modifying the Social Security Disability Program. I read enough of the report to know that the people who prepared it had never actually tried to get help to survive despite their disabilities. Rather, the report focused on way to limit the number of citizens who were eligible.

A more laudable goal might be to support a program for disabled people that actually works.

I have worked with, lived with, and represented people living with disabilities for fourteen years. Here is a letter from one of them. I sent it on to the named research associate.


If I had the support of a functioning Federal Disability Program, I might have been employed three years ago. Instead, I am facing homelessness, starvation, and absolute poverty within the month. Am I a victim of disability fraud?

I am an extremely competent, educated, and experienced member of American society. I am also disabled. Thirty-two years ago, I was a passenger in a Honda Prelude that was hit head on at 60 MPH by a Chevy Van. I suffered major injuries. Both legs were seriously damaged and could never be restored to full functionality despite six surgeries and years of physical therapy.

Now, those legs that I have worked so hard to protect no longer serve me as well as they used to. I cannot run normal errands any more. The day after, I spend the entire time in a recliner or in bed, medicated for pain. I cannot walk on grass or gravel. I purchased a mobility scooter with my own money at the end of January. It has given me enough relief that I now feel able to seek work.

I was deemed disabled as of November 2011. My disability began in 1983 when was struck by 3 tons of steel. I claim that my disability began in 2006, not 1983, because I was able to work and go to school a majority of that time.  Since March of 2012, I have been waiting for a ruling from the Social Security Administration on the date my disability began. A favorable ruling means $1,200 a month income and eligibility for Medicare. Truly a magnificent income. I look forward to purchasing my first yacht.

I have been receiving $600 a month from SSI. I have survived because of private charity from friends. This month, I will not be able to bring my rent current and face homelessness, again. I was homeless for six months in 2006. Friends took me in. It was not pleasant, living in the home of a hoarder. When I felt well enough, I spent my spare time clearing out twenty years of her detritus and her outright disgusting garbage.

In 2009, I was declared disabled by the California Department of Rehabilitation. My case manager recommended that I apply for Social Security Disability. I submitted an application online in October 2009. It did not take, apparently, although SSA admitted that I had completed it.

I kept asking friends to help me make sure that I had done everything I needed to but could never receive the assistance I needed. I was too disabled to apply for disability.

In November of 2011, I was finally well enough to pursue my disability application. I was denied twice, and finally had to hire an attorney to represent me. That has not been a pleasant experience, either.

I have a hearing date now, August 1, 2013. I was happy to learn of my hearing date. I asked my attorney, “If my case is successful, when might SSDI payments start?” She replied, “It varies widely. There’s no way to know.”

I became eligible for Medi-Cal, the State of California’s program for indigent residents, in December of 2012. Medi-Cal established my account on April 1, 2013. I called for an appointment with my primary physician. That appointment is on October 17, 2013.

If I had the support of a functioning Federal Disability Program, I might have been employed three years ago. Instead, I am facing homelessness, starvation, and absolute poverty within the month. Am I a victim of disability fraud?

Sincerely, (confidential)

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Comment Preferences

  •  I was disabled in 2007 and received SSDI in 2011 (16+ / 0-)

    after 4 years of appeals, finally appearing before an ALJ with my attorney who charged me $6500 for 15 minutes work (he had not read my file prior to the hearing because his partner was handling the appeal and had to bail at the last minute)  That was about 6 months' worth of my SSDI back payments to him.

    I had handled all appeals before this myself but employed this attorney upon recommendation of some of the "courthouse mafia gang" who owed me a favor. Otherwise, I had no chance.

    I assert that SSDI does not really exist to serve the disabled but instead is some sort of full employment plan for mid level attorneys since the top tiers have waiting lists of clients

    •  I Think SSDI Exists to Serve the Disabled (3+ / 0-)

      But states have been working for years now to move people off of Welfare (which they have to pay for) onto SSDI (which they don't)--whether the people in question are disabled or not. Combine that with the multi-multi-multi-million dollar business that disability attorneys have created and you've got a system that's much harder for people with "legitmate" need to take full advantage of.

      Worse yet, the exploitation of the system by (A) attorneys and (B) the non-disabled will almost certainly create a backlash that makes it even worse for those who actually need the program.

      Too Folk For You. - Schmidting in the Punch Bowl - verb - Committing an unexpected and underhanded political act intended to "spoil the party."

      by TooFolkGR on Wed May 01, 2013 at 06:46:00 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  SSDI exists to underserve the disabled (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        TooFolkGR, FloridaSNMOM

        I agree that states have been moving people into the Federal Disability system. I respectfully disagree with your statement that this system is overcome by fraudulent claimants. My experience is TYPICAL. I provided SSA with a thousand pages of documentation of my medical conditions.  My claim for SSDI was denied because I worked two days as a substitute teacher within a time period of two years.

        Attorneys don't make lots of money on disability cases. First, they are all taken on contingency. Second, the attorney's fees are limited to 25% of any back award, with a $10,000 cap. Hardly the multi-multi-multi million dollar business that you claim exists, in my humble opinion.

        •  Well I Respect Your Opinion (0+ / 0-)

          But your facts are a bit off.

          A single law firm--Binder and Binder--made 88 million dollars off of disability claims/appeals alone in a single year (2011).

          Disability cases are not adversarial--meaning nobody shows up from the government to "object."  It takes a very small time investment on behalf of the attorney and victory is almost guaranteed (more than 90% of appeals are successful).

          I never claimed that the system was "overcome by fraudelent claimants," in fact many people without disabilities are referred to disability programs by their physicians.

          Too Folk For You. - Schmidting in the Punch Bowl - verb - Committing an unexpected and underhanded political act intended to "spoil the party."

          by TooFolkGR on Wed May 01, 2013 at 09:22:17 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Facts off? Analysis spot on (0+ / 0-)

            Well, it may be so that Binder and Binder, after being in this kind of law practice for many years, has a substantial accumulated income stream. But as I noted above, their fees are strictly limited by law. B&B is a big operation.

            Disability lawyers are paid based on the BACK benefits a recipient is entitled to. This means that in a case like the one I wrote about, if the claimant is successful, she will be owed benefits back to the day when her disability actually began in 2006. That's 7 years of unpaid benefits.

            The problem does not lie with the attorneys. It lies within a system that is so heavily invested in delaying and denying payment to truly disabled people. If SSA managed its caseload properly and accurately, attorneys wouldn't make a dime.

  •  Another example of how the system is rigged. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Alexandra Lynch

    Plato's " The Cave" taught me to question reality.

    by CTDemoFarmer on Wed May 01, 2013 at 06:34:28 AM PDT

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