I am having to deal with the bogeyman of “loss of benefits income”. To recap, I’m not receiving the funds due from my employer, so there’s a lawsuit going on to try and get me that which I am owed. Not “entitled”, that hotbutton word, but OWED. I paid into the benefits. I was promised the benefits in the event of disability. I am disabled. I am OWED. (Yes, I’m getting a bit militant on this topic).
I started this disability acceptance adventure, for lack of a better word, because of multiple car accidents that could have killed me or someone else. 3 car accidents in less than 9 months (with 2 happening in one week) was a warning that I was pushing myself too hard in order to keep up and pass for normal.
But, at the time I asked for a decision about whether or not it was time to be put on disability due to my numbers, I also asked my doctor a number of key questions, including: “If I’m whining, please say so. This is a hard topic to address, but I’m exhausted trying to keep up.”
I went on to say that I would like to be able to have the safety cushion of financial security (as disability benefits keep the wolf from the door), while also figuring out whether or not I could be allowed to work some other type of job and not starve to death.
There is a neat little provision in the Disability benefits calculator that says one cannot be forced to take another job if that job pays less than 80% of the pay that one received prior to going on disability. It’s that “gotcha” that has my focus, as the only jobs that I’d likely to be able to accept have to be lightweight, and where I’m replaceable if I can’t come into work on any particular day. You know, temp work. Consulting gigs.
I get it, that people need a purpose. People need to earn their money, so that they feel engaged in life. I’ve done that in the last 42 years, and it does not take into account the loss of identity and freedom (financial freedom, especially) that one has to deal with if one is disabled.
With that in mind, I’ve done the calculations about what might be possible once I finish preparing and moving into my new home, and how much I’d need to make to equal what I am currently receiving on disability:
But, I’m sitting here unable to work at all, and make progress on that topic, until my lawsuit is resolved. Due to a very nasty piece of litigation, Jenkins v Price Watershouse Cooper, I am forced to sit on my butt instead of coming up with a plan (once my move is completed) to find a new way to afford to live in my new home.
While another internet life friend made an amazing post on facebook yesterday about his ability to always refuse benefits despite being in pain and handicapped, I am not that stubborn or fortunate enough to have another 12 years worth of savings equal to that of SSDI to get me through to retirement without being reimbursed the money I’ve paid into for just this disaster – being on disability.
I don’t have a spouse that brings in an income and medical benefits to help keep the wolf from the door.
$28.8k per year doesn’t sound like much, until you don’t have it. When you don’t have it, you can’t afford to live, you can’t eat, buy meds, play on the internet, etc. You lose your place in society, and you fall through the cracks.
While the chart above says I should be able to handle a family of 5 on my income, the reality is anything but when one lives in CA. One of the highest costs of living locations in the nation, and where I chose to move for work and improved health way back in 1985.
So, my life is filled with fear right now. Fear of failing. Fear of my life being more expensive than I can afford. Fear of going to the UK and being denied my (already denied) benefits because I choose to travel while I can vs. sitting and stewing in fear.
Life is for the living. I will outspend my limited assets anyway, so I’m choosing to fight for my income so that I can find a way to keep on continuing to live, while also being cognizant that no one gets enough time in life to do all that they want. This isn’t about medical science outpacing common sense (through more meds, stem cells, etc.), past the point of rationality. This is about evaluating what is vs. what I fear things may become.
While downsizing my life, I’m also spending all my physical labor / mental rummaging time designing an argument that has yet to be launched by the lawyer (who says I must sit and do nothing or be denied my benefits) to say that I want to work, but that non-payment of my matching benefits is preventing me from finding a new career or having a stem cell treatment. It takes money to make money, is my argument, and I’m on a precipice of financial poverty because I dared to step back and say, “hey, somebody’s going to get hurt” if things don’t change for me on the workfront.
I get it, that many people “cheat” the system who should be working. I get it, that I question my own motives to try and understand whether or not I can work and am just lazy, or whether or not my disability is as severe as what I’ve seen it to be.
The biggest answer I have for myself is this:
- I asked for work options, shorter hours, flex time, different job. Denied.
- I *do* want to work and earn my money vs. begging for handouts from my benefits.
- I *don’t* want to jeopardize my lawsuit standing because I’m frustrated.
- I’m not getting paid anyway; the SSDI folks don’t say I can’t travel if I feel it’s ok.
No answers here, but I do know that I will be pursuing this issue with the talk therapist and the SSDI department of re-employment at some point, as soon as my lawsuit is resolved. For now, I simply sit in fear. Waiting to see what happens next and hoping that I’m not judged to be a “cheater”.
Trying to justify to someone else how I can do things some days and not others is immensely frustrating, and I’d rather tune them out (adding to my anxiety) while I concentrate on getting situated in the new place and a more affordable living situation out in the boonies where I can then re-assess what might be possible if I were to declare myself disabled in my job hunt and try and get employment through that option.
I don’t want to burn the safety net that the SSDI documentation proves I need.
But, I also don’t want to have to try to work and end up burning my house down around my ears because I tried and failed and lost access to financial benefits that I’ve paid into during these last 42 years of working.
No answers here. This is just what I’ve been thinking about as I’m trying to get ready to move.