Each handicap is like a hurdle in a steeplechase, and when you ride up to it, if you throw your heart over, the horse will go along, too. ~~Lawrence Bixby

Monday, July 11, 2011

Pins and Needles

We’re waiting on pins and needles – which describes how my feet and legs feel a lot of the time, but now means something quite different. I’ve applied for Social Security Disability at the urging of a number of people in the know. It never occurred to me that I might be eligible, since I’ve already retired and am drawing on my retirement pension, but that doesn’t matter for eligibility. If one is deemed disabled and unable to work, one is potentially eligible for SSDI.

So we filled out a lot of paperwork, no small task. I had two different 8-page forms to fill out in addition to the online forms, and Laurie, since she is witness to my disability, filled out an 8-page form (she’s convinced that the teardrop stains on the form will get me approved). We expected to have to wait for up to four months to hear back. And we expected to hear that I would not be approved, because that apparently is the norm for most people who apply. There are a lot of avenues for appeal, and I fully expected to be going through appeals processes for a long time.

Last week I received a notice stating that I “meet the medical requirements for disability payments.” Wow. Knock me over with a feather (which is not hard to do, actually). But the next paragraph says “We have not yet made a decision about whether you meet the nonmedical requirements, but we will make that decision soon.” OK. So what are the nonmedical requirements?? From what I’ve been able to gather, it’s simply verifying my date of birth, my work history, SS contributions and marital status. That can’t be too difficult.

So we are just a bit short of celebrating – I can’t imagine the nonmedical requirements are a problem, but until that final letter is in my hands, I’ll hold off on the confetti and sparkling cider.

And then there is this: It is a validation of disability, which is a double-edged sword. It is good that physicians and government investigators agree that my physical difficulties are debilitating enough to deem me officially disabled: I get the stamp of approval. And now I come to terms emotionally with the fact that I’m declared officially disabled. It’s not that I didn’t know that, but now the government acknowledges it and will likely compensate me for it. What do I do with that? What emotional compartment does that fit into?

When I was going through cancer treatments, I read something about the terminology we use that can empower or defeat us. I tried never to use the term “my cancer,” since I was treating the tumor as an intruder in my body. It was important to me to not define myself by the cancer. Now I’m trying to figure out the terminology for disability. Am I a disabled person or a person with disabilities? The latter feels more appropriate to me. To say “I am disabled” defines me only in those terms. “I have disabilities” says that’s only part of the person I am.

These are big, ongoing issues I will be grappling with for a long time. I'd love to hear your feedback. Meantime, keep the cider chilled - I'll let you know when to uncork it.


Nancy said...

Great progress, good news! Perhaps you've seen use of the cap "A" within the word "disAbility," which helps focus on the word Abilities. But do we "dis" even those? I've heard "differently abled," by omg that's just trying too hard! Mobility issues, mobility impaired, mobility challenged. But, with good support and technology and equipment support, you become none of the above. So maybe "Ability Support" is a better term for "Disability Insurance."

Terri said...

Oh I like those ideas! Ability Support, yes. DisAbility, yes - think I'll own that one!

dohlink said...

Some of the terms seem like they're twisting themselves in knots not to say what's going on. I like the disAbility too, tho you only know that in the written word. I agree about not owning "I'm disabled". And quite honestly, you are one of the more Able people I know. The reality is that all of us have disAbilities, some just more visible than others. And the chance that ours become more visible and challenging as we age, is quite likely.

Linda Koons said...

I dunno...the government is good at putting labels on people. I say use 'em to your advantage if you can, and ignore 'em otherwise. You live with who you are, so you know the significance of what you can and cannot do. I feel extremely blessed to know you, and I see way more of your talents and abilities than I do of the other thing.

Nancy said...

And since you do have so many abilities, perhaps the term "mobility support" is even better?

Tiffin said...

When my lads were diagnosed with learning disabilities and were "identified" by the school system, this initially gave them a hard time, as they wanted so badly to be normal. I said that there was no such thing as normal, everyone has something they deal with. If being "identified" gave them access to a whole support system which worked WITH their learning style, it would be like having a tool put into their hands to do the job at hand. It's just part of making it a level playing field. Happily they agreed and equally happily it worked that way.

So if this goes through, Ter, you are having a new tool put into your hand to provide support to enable you to do more of the things you want to do. Neither you nor those who love you think in lables about you, so it will only be relevant to have access to that system of support.

@Nancy has an excellent perspective: D.'s agency is called "communication support systems", not 'agency in support of mentally disabled adults who are deaf' for a reason!

Sorry this was so long.

Terri said...

Oh Tui, please don't apologize. That's beautiful and gives me even more to work with in my grapplings. I know these things intellectually but...well, you know the struggle.

I love that you all are my support system too! You bring such richness to my life. Thank you!