Labeled. Fear of “Cheating”.

Responsibility

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:

Earnings Goal - 2016 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.

2015 Poverty Guidelines

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:

  1. I asked for work options, shorter hours, flex time, different job.  Denied.
  2. I *do* want to work and earn my money vs. begging for handouts from my benefits.
  3. I *don’t* want to jeopardize my lawsuit standing because I’m frustrated.
  4. 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.

4 thoughts on “Labeled. Fear of “Cheating”.

  1. Okay, I’m confused. I thought your disability had been approved, and that now you’re fighting the ‘man’ (the last company you worked for or your insurance) for benefits you are supposed to get, being labelled ‘disabled’? GOVERNMENT disability payments aren’t much, I’ve lived on them for the past five years and it doesn’t get easier to parse life because of funds I can say. But then I’m blessed to have a secondary ‘income’ in the form of hubby’s pension from the VA (not huge in itself either). The two together mean that I have ‘sufficient for my needs’ (I’m thinking of that a LOT lately as my savings is depleted ((almost)) and what’s left is going to be held for future upkeep of my home. I get the enjoy life versus merely exist argument, but it seems that our particular strata of society (disabled and on fixed income) isn’t taken very seriously…maybe due to the influx of cheaters and frauds who have come before, AND (this is my private belief) the government’s lust for that money for their own ends. So I hope for you to have a positive outcome and to make that journey to Australia as you want to. And to find an answer that satisfies you. ‘Sufficient for my needs’ has to become my personal mantra though. No more traveling and therefore perhaps a smaller life (I don’t think so, but I can see where others do) for me. Blessings sweetie. Your new home is going to be beautiful and i hope a place of peace and a haven for you as things progress!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh and our mutual FB friend? Has a spouse in a high income earning field, so he’s blessed too. When hubby was alive and the one or two years he earned up to his potential for a truck driver, I was blessed to not have to work and to be able to go back to college. I still had a part time job all the same. But it’s much MUCH easier (IMHO) when you have that back-up. So our mutual friend can AFFORD (double meaning intended) to be smug about his never claiming his owed benefits from the government. If his spouse were to be rendered unable to work tomorrow though, I suspect the tune would change. Just my thought. Take care!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, and I figured it was something like that. Not one to judge, but there has to be $$$ coming from somewhere to have a home, raise a kid, and survive simply by “volunteering” vs. having a paid job.

      I have no problem with however he’s surviving, but I have a real problem with people saying that I’m somehow less worthy to exist because my health has forced me into this particular situation.

      There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think about what I can do next to earn a healthy living that’s sustainable and get me off the dole.

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  3. Hi, Embeecee – you got it right.

    This whole post is about fighting “the man” for my supplemental disability income – my matching salary benefits – and the calculations about what’s possible if I never get that income.

    In my case, as soon as the lawsuit is resolved, I will be focusing on whether or not it’s time to pursue a stem cell treatment, or with working with Disability (SSDI) to see what I can be qualified to do that won’t bring the wolf directly to my door by losing the benefits that I do have and then finding out that I can’t keep up.

    One of the catch-22’s of being on only SSDI is that you can make some money, but you’re penalized. I don’t want to try working, and find out that I have lost my existing SSDI benefits because I’m “too healthy” to be truly disabled.

    Friends were talking about a job site, flexjobs, yesterday at breakfast (they are all in their 70’s and 80’s looking for supplemental income for their retirement benefits), so it was a very interesting conversation, too, as I’m not the only one who is fixated on not just existing but also doing well despite the financial challenges involved in life.

    My business partner will turn 70 in October, so she’s finally going to start collecting her retirement benefits as well as her regular paycheck, and will be able to have room to breathe financially, for once.

    I, too, am looking for something that will give me room to breathe as I like keeping busy and that all takes $$$.

    Hope this now makes more sense.

    Like

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