Monday, July 27, 2009

Disability: Not as Easy as You'd Think

This is a personal blurb. Feel free to skip, though I'll go light on the glurge.

My mother-in-law is 58. 32 years ago, she began showing symptoms and was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. That's where your body sees the cartilage between the joints as an enemy to be attacked. 26 is absurdly early for symptoms and diagnosis.

She's had shoulders, knees, and elbows replaced and rebuilt, some twice. Once your cartilage goes completely, your bones will actually fuse together. Her wrists are fused, ankles and parts of her spine in process. Her fingers are curled tightly and almost immobile. She can barely get up from a sitting position, let alone do anything more complicated than that. She's been studied by doctors all over the world. She is 58.

This weekend we were in Cleveland to keep an eye on her in the hospital because she'd come down with pneumonia. It appears to be clearing, but the big issue that came through the family discussions was disability. Despite her limitations, she is still a licensed nurse and was working as of 3 weeks ago (interesting note: she is certified in CPR to do compressions with her elbows because she can not do them with her hands).

So stubborn as she is, she has finally agreed to go on disability. But you can't just go on disability. Short term disability is not quite the obstacle course, but since she is not yet 62, she can't just stop working and collect Social Security. So that's where disability comes in. And it turns out that even with some 30 years of records of limitations and surgeries and remedies and descriptions of her condition, there is about a 95% chance she will be turned down in the first round of long-term disability application.

And the reviewers work in groups. And when the group reviews the case and the Denied stamp goes on the application and is resubmitted, another member of the group is assigned to it for round 2. And since group dynamics in a working environment generally don't put you in a position where you are comfortable pointing to your colleague and saying "you're wrong," round 2 denial comes at a chance of about 99.9%. I guess that's a combination of job security and the governmental sieve to weed out some of the cheats by effort level.

Now, once denial 2 comes around it goes to court and as soon as they see her wheeled in, it's an immediate win. Unfortunately, that stage can take several months, enough time to leave a gap between short term and long term.

And then we spin out into a multitude of issues like rent, day-to-day care, inability of kids to support her, inability of her mother (with whom she lives) to take care of her, and - always - where is this money going to come from?

But I shall not bore you or trouble you with that. I haven't written since Van Mural Wednesday and thought I'd give you a taste of my world for the past couple days. But I guess if it were a real taste, you'd get a back-of-the-tongue lapping of that antiseptic, hospital, hand-cleanser-and-rubber-gloves that chokes you a bit and makes taking down food a little more difficult. And I wouldn't want that for anyone.


Dr. Monkey Von Monkerstein said...

Best of luck to her in her quest. I was lucky in that it only took me a little over a year to get my SSDI.

Silliyak said...

So sorry. Glad to hear however that someone of my generation (I'm 59) has the spunk to carry on.

Megan said...

The Arthritis runs in my family. I think I'm starting to get it in the finger joints. Argh.

58 is too damn young to be on disability...

Canadian Cave of Coolness said...

See this is why everything needs to be changed. She is the exact type of person that health care should be there to look out for...the most vulnerable in society. Her condition is not due to something she did...she is just the person her genetics made her. She deserves the help without all the roadblocks. Stories like yours infuriate me. I hope things get easier for your family.

Randal Graves said...

Remember, Murka, you're supposed to work until your joints no longer do.

What a dumb country. Good luck to your mom-in-law.

Ricky Shambles said...

Thanks all for your comments. It's been a rough couple days. The worst is the play between Mrs. Shambles and myself. My inherent, over-analytical man-ness dictates that there somewhere exists a solution in the form of a person or remedy, and her minor OCD that demands a level of control over anything chaotic both get torn to shit and simply raise our stress levels. Ugh. But, seriously, thank you.