I'm glad the disability examiner seems to know more about my health condition and my capabilities than I do. They insist (saying in both determination explanations) that I am able to do sedentary work because I can tolerate sitting for 6 hours out of an 8 hour work period even though my reason for applying for disability is because I cannot sit. I explained that I can only tolerate sitting for about 20-30 minutes (and that's with pain) with my cushion on a good day. I further explained that if after 30 minutes my pain level is a 7, for example, I cannot just stand up for a few minutes and then sit back down for my pain to decrease. When I stand my pain does usually decrease, until I have stood in one position for very long and then my legs begin burning, but after standing I cannot sit back down at my pre-sitting pain level. If the pain was a 7 when I stood up, when I sit back down it will quickly become a 7 again and only increase until I finally stop sitting for several hours. For example, if I go to church and sit 30+ minutes (pushing myself) through Sunday school that will likely be my sitting capacity for the day.
But the inability to sit is not a disability really accepted by the SSA. My condition is not clear-cut, as I've discussed before. There are specific listings and criterion that a disability must fit under prior to being approved, and as it currently stands my symptoms and diagnoses do not really fit under any of these listings. One would think I would fall under the category of "major dysfunction of a joint (do to any cause)" or "peripheral neuropathy", but under both of these listings a person must be unable to ambulate (or walk) effectively. It's as if the ability to stand in one position or sit for more than a few minutes is not necessary to hold a job? What can of job would allow a person to lie down every few minutes, other than maybe working from home (which unfortunately my background and training do not allow). I can still walk, praise God, but not long distances and even going for a short shopping trip can be difficult for me on some days due to leg and low back pain.
It seems that my case has been denied primarily because of my age and education level, which is why they haven't even looked at the massive amount of paperwork I have completed and continue to say that I can perform sedentary work, despite the fact I cannot sit. Unfortunately pain, illness, or disability does not only affect the aged and uneducated! The first attorney we spoke with explained that unfortunately SSA disability is a system. It is often a system that is abused, therefore, it cannot afford to pay benefits to someone like me who is still very young and may need to draw aid for a long time.
The sad thing is, it's $1,000 per month. It's not a huge amount of money (in the western world). Why would I really choose to stop working so I could make $1,000/month when I could easily make $40,000+/year as a nurse?! Who would do that? Who can live off $12,000 a year?! I hope and pray I do not have to live long term on disability, if I am ever granted it, but currently if it were not for savings and financial help from family/friends we would not be able to pay our medical bills. Last month alone we had over $2,000 in medical bills and medical related travel. All we hope to do is use a disability check to pay for my medical care until my husband can either get a better paying job or I get better.
We thought we had found an attorney to take my case, but he is not experienced enough in disability to feel confident with a complicated case like mine. We plan to meet with a case worker from a large firm on Monday to discuss my case. The next step is to apply for a hearing to meet before a judge and basically plead my case, however, it will be at least 8-12 months before we will get a hearing date. I only have about a month left to file for the hearing so we are praying this firm will take my case. They handle around 250-300 cases a year and have about an 85-90% success rate so we are hopeful they will be knowledgeable enough to help me. But in reality it boils down to whether the judge will have compassion on me or not. It's easy to stamp "denied" on some paperwork, but much harder to look someone in the eye and tell them, "we don't believe you."
On my denial explanations they say that my account of my pain is only partially credible meaning basically they don't believe me because there's no "proof" of my pain. But who or what can really measure pain? Does a "negative" MRI mean that a person should not be in pain? Two people with the exact same injury will not rate their pain exactly the same; why is that? What about depression, is there any way to prove that a person is depressed? How can we be sure they aren't pretending or exaggerating?
Even with our advanced modern Western medicine, there are many things about the human body that are not understood. Ironically these mysteries often cause dehumanization when in reality they are what make humans so fearfully and wonderfully made. Afterall, who marvels at what he completely understands? Thankfully my worth does not come from a disability examiner or in the ability to work and be "normal". My purpose and value is found in the One who intricately knitted me together in my mother's womb and who knows every hair on my head. My condition has not escaped His notice or His plan. In this I find peace and hope.
"For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them." Psalm 139:13-16
"Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows." Matthew 10:29-31