Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Not innocent, no need to be proven guilty

It is the rule of law in the United States "innocent until proven guilty" ... in every court except our Disability courts. There, you are presumed guilty of attempting fraud unless and until you can prove yourself innocent.

In no other court would the word of an eyewitness be discredited or even disallowed, while speculation of non-eyewitnesses would be accorded Gospel Truth status.

My own testimony as to my symptoms was at first considered unreliable because it was not corroborated, but when I offered a corroborating witness at the next hearing, he was told he could not testify to what he had seen with his own eyes because he did not live with me, and therefore could not testify what I do 24 hours a day.

Yet, a doctor who has seen me only 20 minutes in my entire life was allowed to state without a doubt that because I could sit up for a few minutes in his office, I definitely could sit up for 6-8 hours a day. The doctors don’t live with me; why are they allowed to testify to how much I can do?

In no other court would someone be allowed to state unequivocally that something did not happen at a time they were not present. Yet, a doctor who has never spent the night at my house, who’s never seen me awake all night or being violently ill at 6 AM, says these things don’t happen because he didn’t see them at 1:30 PM, when even I say that these symptoms don’t happen. He can also say that tests that were not done would have been normal.

In no other court would the opinion of someone with no psychological training take precedence over the opinion of a trained psychiatrist. But in Disability court, a PCP who says I am fatigued because I am depressed is right, and the licensed psychiatrist who says there is no evidence of depression, though I report numerous symptoms of physical illness which explain my fatigue, is wrong.

In no other court would a thorough government investigation of trustworthiness for a Notary commission be ignored in favor of the baseless opinion that you’re a habitual liar by someone who has never met you before and has never talked to anyone who knows you personally, based solely on the fact that you didn’t say what he wanted you to.

In no other court would a judge dream of contradicting a witness’ testimony about her marital status. Yet, with my testimony that I am divorced, and no documentation indicating that I have been married at any time since filing the application, the judge nonetheless has repeatedly announced in his decisions that I went out "with my husband". Apparently, he knows better than I do what goes on in my personal life. I would propose that if I’m that addled that I don’t know my own marital status, perhaps I’m too senile to work.

Admit that on one day you were well enough to go out for one hour and that is taken as proof that you could work 40 hours a week. Admit that you walked 4 blocks to get to a doctor because you don’t drive and no cab would come for such a short distance, and that’s taken as proof that you can walk as far as a healthy person every day. Never mind that you were too exhausted to get out of bed the next day.

No doctor has ever asked me to sit up for 8 hours in their presence or do any of the tasks required by my former job ... but they all claim to know for a fact that I’m lying when I say that I cannot do these things well enough to be employed.

If you can remember your name in the doctor’s office, that’s taken as proof that you’re lying when you say you have memory problems. If you make reasonable responses to simple questions in the doctor’s office, that’s taken as proof that you’re lying when you say you have cognitive dysfunction and cannot understand the complex things that you would need to in order to work. When real tests of memory and cognitive function by a psychiatrist show problems, that’s proof you’re faking, because your PCP says you’re functional because you knew your own name.

Lawyers and VocRehab experts have told me that the accommodations I require are far beyond what ADA considers reasonable, so there’s no job available to me; the Disability judge looks only at my work experience and announces that, regardless of what assistance ADA says I can demand, there is certainly some employer out there who would be happy to hire someone with my excellent qualifications, regardless of whether I can do the job NOW.

This is the reality of applying for Disability benefits. The facts are twisted and tortured to "prove" that you’re lying. Anyone who says that you are disabled is discredited no matter what their professional qualifications or proof; the only people who are deemed credible are those that say you could work if you tried..

Would YOU put yourself through this years-long, insulting, degrading, abusive process for what amounts to less than minimum wage? Would YOU agree to be slandered and accused of Federal crimes by people who don’t even know you, so that you could get a small fraction of what you would earn if you were working?

Frankly, I’d rather be back at my desk earning $50,000 a year as a paralegal, but when potential employers notice symptoms during the interview and ask "can you really do the job?", I’m not going to lie and tell them that they are imagining the symptoms they see. I’ve tried going back to work part-time and it made me sicker. But that objective, empirical evidence doesn’t count, either, because when I follow doctor’s orders to take care of myself, I look healthy enough to work, and the judge wrongly assumes that I would still look that healthy if I were working full-time and not able to also rest as much as the doctor recommends.

Sunday, July 9, 2006

Let's try again

My latest appeal of the latest denial of disability benefits has been filed, on grounds that:

1) the judge didn't have a doctor there, even after being ordered to  

2) the judge didn't address the information from friends, even being ordered to consider their first-hand observations

3) the judge mis-stated both my testimony and the doctors' conclusions. 

Personally, I would like the judge to show me any testimony or document showing that I am currently married.  He says that I went out with my husband; the way I read that day's notes, my handyman drove me somewhere that he also wanted to go.  But I guess if the judge says it's my husband, the Court of Appeal is supposed to conclude I'm not desperate for the benefits to pay my bills, since I'm choosing stay at home with the blessing of my husband who supports me so I don't have to work.  I didn't even have that luxury when I had a husband!

The judge's whole decision was based on misstatements of facts, because there ARE no facts showing that I can work full-time.  There are a lot of facts that show I can't, but those facts are dismissed by the judge as "exaggeration", no matter what source they come from.  Even one of the doctors hired to say I could return to work with no problems made it clear that I had been allowed to deteriorate so far without appropriate treatment that I would never work full-time again.  The judge also read that report to say that I could work full-time if I'd just get off my lazy butt and stop faking.

I'm told this judge has never granted benefits to anyone under age 55 for any reason.  Therefore, every one of the hundreds of cases he rules on each year needs to be appealed.  Rough calculations, these unnecessary appeals are costing you, the taxpayer, half a million dollars a year for just this judge alone.  And there are others like him.

Does anyone have the connections to start a Congressional inquiry into judges who waste far more taxpayer money on forcing unnecessary appeals than would be spent to grant all these people their Disability benefits?

What he doesn't realize is that if my goal were to get government money for doing nothing, I could have accomplished it in 9 months, with a one-night stand.  No judge or doctor has to approve your application for welfare -- just show up at the office with a baby and a birth certificate.  And, frankly, I'd get more money and better medical care if I'd taken that route.  Instead, six years later, I'm still fighting for the benefits that I'm legally entitled to, that doctors say I am entitled to, from a judge who claims the doctors said no such thing, and who, by now, has cost the taxpayers more for repeated unnecessary appeals than I'll get when I finally get the check.