I am stubborn.
It’s no surprise, as I come from a long line of stubborn people, backs to the wall, who wouldn’t or couldn’t give in.
So, I come by my biggest flaw and strength honestly. It’s in my DNA.
Completing the latest round of Long Term Disability paperwork for my employer’s insurance company came on the heels of a 20th anniversary of one of the darkest times in my life. January 29th, 1996, when the local utility blew up our home. Just like I said they would. And despite our attempts to get them to address an uncontrolled natural gas leak before allowing the landlord to perform a tent-style fumigation to kill termites.
I survived that drama, and I got both my neighbors and myself repaid for our losses after our shared, do-nothing lawyer fired me for daring to question his inaction a year after the explosion occurred. It took 2 years, out of a 4-year battle for justice, but it was faster than the lawyer’s schedule of 5-10 years or never for being repaid and allowing us to move on with our lives.
Erin Brockavich I’m not, but just as another pissed off woman was determined to be heard, so was I, too.
So, during this challenging anniversary, I’m up to my eyeballs in insurance nonsense, trying to answer ludicrous questions about my disability and the same question asked by PG&E all those years ago, “What is your credit rating? Sign here to give us permission to run a credit and background check on you” are being asked by my employer’s agent. On a disability claim.
Do the idiots that write these questionnaires think that one’s credit rating has zip to do with one’s level of disability?
So, I got mad enough that it’s always an “oh-oh” moment on the horizon.
Good, bad or indifferent, I can feel the need to be righteously angry, and I can’t seem to distract myself.
Try as I might.
Unfortunately, I spent a lot of time last week with “shopping as therapy”.
The microwave quit. (I now own a pretty red one, that works!).
The printer quit. (I have a temporary Epson fix, but since they lied about the unit’s “scanner” abilities, the jury is still out on how long or short term that solution may be).
Since I had to run out to get these necessary items, I also bought more clothes for my upcoming trip. I have enough clothes for 20 people, so I should have had more control. However… that wasn’t to be the case.
When I really get agitated, I go jewelry shopping. All my jewelry has a name. There’s my, “I am not a liar” blue topaz bracelet. There’s my, “You’re not taking my money, PG&E (I’ll spend it!)” diamond earrings. And, after last week, there’s now a zambian emerald, “I got approved for STD disability” ring, along with a yellow saphire, “F-you and the horse you rode in on” ring in the Aetna and SAP company colors of golden yellow.
It’s petty, but it’s a solid reminder of my resilience, and a reminder to curb my temper.
Unfortunately, it’s not always enough.
As I was giving a final check to my submission and uploading the paperwork into Aetna’s online portal to ensure compliance, I was getting madder and madder at the hoops I’m being put through as my HR department and Aetna refuse to answer my questions so long as I’ve engaged a lawyer to handle my perceived ERISA violations of my benefits claim.
Opening the “letters” portion of the portal to see that Aetna had written my lawyer to again extend my appeal from January 19th (1st promised response), to February 11th (2nd promised response) out to March 27th (3rd promised response), I lost it.
My employer and their insurance agent have been on notice since August that I needed to reduce my hours / change jobs to work part time, or be put on disability.
Despite being finally approved for Short Term Disability by the State at the end of December (which benefits are exhausted by the end of March), Aetna and my employer continue to take a leisurely approach to answering my legitimate benefits claim with a clear “yes” or “no” answer. If there’s no clear answer, then the ERISA lawyers have less authority to pursue my case, as a judge will simply tell them to continue waiting and assign some other arbitrary date for them to resolve the matter.
While I have been told by HR to not discuss my case with anyone, I wrote to my boss in Germany this afternoon, along with the original HR agent assigned to our team and my case, and including the other two HR agents assigned by “leave management” to run interference on my questions and challenges in complying with the benefits request process.
While I’m feeling doubtful this evening about the choice I have made to escalate this matter in the hope of finding someone with a pulse to go to bat for me, I’m swinging for the bleachers as to fail to try is the worst self-betrayal anyone can do for themselves when trying to remain steady and healthy despite an underlying, chronic condition.
Win, Lose or Draw – no one can ever accuse me of quitting when the stakes are high and my cause is just.
Believe me, I’d much rather go back to work and earn a full paycheck, than to play this waiting game as I sit in my house listening to my blood flow and feeling my heart beat and wondering what the outcome may, eventually, be.
It will be a few months or more before the Feds (Social Security) makes a response to my disability claim. If all funds cease at the end of March, as they are scheduled to do, and if my employer doesn’t pay me or terminate my employment, I’m going to be between a rock and a hard place.
This is certainly no time for me to go shopping, but in lieu of any other talismens to keep me focused on my progress, a gal’s gotta do what a gal’s gotta do.