My Pending Disability Hearing and the Privatization of Social Security – Notes from Under the Free Market Bus

by Scott Creighton

The path to privatization model is always the same. First you drastically yet gradually scale back funding for something, like a government service you have targeted for privatization. Then you step back and screech about how dysfunctional the system is, pointing to the chaos created by the scaling back of the funding for it. Then you proclaim the solution to the manufactured crisis rests somewhere in the glorious free markets while simultaneously denouncing the “communist” aspects of the previous system. The process takes a while but typically it works just so long as people forget how well the system worked in the first place before the scaling back of the funding crippled it. That’s a key element.

If you need examples you can look at the public education system, the prison industrial complex and the VA for starters. For further reference, or a more contemporary one, simply take a look at how much the insurance industry is profiting from the ObamaCare mandated insurance plan. Watch how the rates go up and the service they provide goes down. That shows you the nature of the wonderful free markets out there and what they ultimately always do when granted access to what should be a government service.

In this article I am going to talk about the gold standard of privatization, the Nirvana of the free marketeers, Social Security.

Specifically I am going to talk about what is happening to the Social Security Disability system and how it is suffering from that first stage of privatization and the brutal consequences it is having on people across the country.

But I’m not going to talk about people across the country in general. I’m going to give you a first hand account of what’s going on right now, here in my own home, with my disability and the pending final evaluation of my illness before the Social Security administration that will take place in less than two weeks.  This has been a long process for me and I have rarely mentioned it, but circumstances being what they are, I feel it’s important for a number of reasons to let you guys know what is going on and the possible ramifications of it.

A Little Background on the Disability Program

When it comes to the movement to privatize Social Security or “entitlement reform” as it’s dishonestly described, the record of slashing funding for the program is crystal clear. The “progressive” neoliberal New Dem, President Obama, has on several occasions been “forced” to “compromise” with Republicans in ways that have dramatically reduced payments being made into the system by Big Business. This saves the corporations money and simultaneously adds to the narrative that there is a crisis with Social Security. It’s a “win-win” as the brain-dead corporatists like too say.

Claims that Social Security is “broke” or the money is “gone” just further the undermining of the reputation of the system, scaring younger generations into thinking they will never see a penny of what they are paying into when they are ready to retire. This false notion held by so many young people will only make it easier in the future for those looking to privatize the system. After all, what do they have at stake if it wont be there for them when they need it.

As is often the case, when these free marketeers attack anything, they also target the lowest hanging fruit first. The weakest. And in the case of Social Security, the weakest link in the public relations field of support for the system remaining as it is, is the disability program.

Often presented as fakers sitting around scamming the system while eating bon-bons on their couch watching Jerry Springer all day, the disabled have become the target in the first round of crisis attacks.

Reports came out a couple years ago that the Social Security Disability program would be bankrupt by 2016, unable to pay any of the people on the program a dime in benefits. This provoked actions on a state-by-state basis to re-examine many of the claimants currently on disability in an effort to weed out the bon-bon eating frauds and get them back out there to work at Walmart or at an Amazon packaging facility or something.

It’s important to understand why they decided to go after the disability program in the first place.

You see, as they have been successful in convincing some young people that they aren’t ever going to see a penny of what they pay into Social Security when they retire, they didn’t really have to get them or any other working American to dismiss the disability program, because humans will do that naturally.

We all know we will age. It is inevitable. Many of us hope to be well off enough that we don’t depend on Social Security payments when we retire, but the fact is, with this economy, no one can be quite sure about that, at least not most of us, so the idea that there will be something there to fall back on, a financial safety net, is universally considered to be a good idea.

It’s not so much a given that most workers feel the same way about disability insurance protection, which is what the Social Security Disability program is.

When you are working through your daily life, it’s hard to imagine that something so catastrophic will happen to you that leaves you unable to work without some kind of compensation for it. A lawsuit, insurance payments, worker’s compensation… something. Very hard to relate to something happening out of the blue like this when your going through your daily routine while everyone knows they will eventually age and wish to retire.

So as you can see, it’s far easier to target the disabled than it is the elderly. We all know aging is our common denominator while being disabled is something that always happens to the “other guy”, the bon-bon eating guy watching Springer. And that’s why I feel we are where we are at today.

My Specific Case

I want to first of all state that what is about to happen to me is happening all across the country to many other good people. People who worked hard and through no fault of their own, became disabled and relied on the disability insurance payments they contributed to their entire working careers. People who are being forced off disability with literally no way to provide themselves with adequate financing for the necessities of life. This article is dedicated to them, the ones who don’t have a voice, who suffer in silence. My situation is not unique. Nor are the victims of this particular privatization project. In prisons and schools all across the country, the people suffer so that the very rich can profit. That is the nature of free market ideology.

The sooner we all understand that, the better off we are.

In my case, the final review of the particulars of my disability will take place in less than two weeks. I have already been declared fit to return to work on two separate occasions and the third and final hearing is about to take place. When it does, if they again find me fit as a fiddle, the disability payments that I have depending on for my sole source of income will end and I will be forced to either end up homeless or go to work with some day-labor company, digging ditches by the side of the road until the blot-clots in my leg and lungs kill me.

This of course is “liberty” to those who profess that any dependency on the government is designed to weaken and shackle the “free man”

My “liberty” will be found in death and that is not a question.

The procedure to take place as described to me in the notification letter I received is quite specific. They have to determine if the status of my health in terms of the specific ailments that rendered me disabled are still present and if they have either improved to the point where I can work again or not. Very simple.

To that end, I will list the specifics of my original disability determination.

A massive DVT developed in my left leg when at 40, my metabolism changed and my blood started clotting differently. I did not know this. Swelling and pain was ignored until I stood up one day in my apartment and crashed to the floor having suffered a major pulmonary embolism.  I was found by neighbors and family members and sent to the hospital where I stayed for 6 days with no insurance.

Prior to the DVT and PE, I had been diagnosed with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) as I suffered with acute bronchitis as a young adult.

Unable to continue to work for a number of months following the PE, I lost all my contracts with local businesses I was doing drafting and design for (RSCdesigns is still part of my email address for some reason) so my business tanked. Attempts to go back to doing the construction work I had done in the past ended when bosses found out about the blood thinner I was on or saw me breathing heavily or noticed my swollen left leg.

For years I lingered unable to provide for myself and becoming gradually sicker, a suicide attempt was made and I ended up being Baker Acted and sent for evaluation at a local hospital. It was not my first attempt and I have the scars to prove it.

Then a second PE happened and my doctor at the time apologized for taking me off blood thinner. He said it was clear to him that mine was not a unique one-off case of DVTs and that I would likely remain on thinner for the rest of my life.

While I was in the hospital, my mother brought me the letter from the Social Security Disability office which said I had been granted full disability. I called my lawyer at Binder and Binder who didn’t believe me. I faxed her the letter from the hospital with Luvenox (sp) IV in my arm.  The hearing had taken place several months prior to the second PE which landed me back in the hospital.

I was declared disabled due to:

  1. DVTs in left leg
  2. PE damage to lungs and possibilities of more events
  3. Depression
  4. COPD

Fast forward to today:

Today I am suffering from chest pains as I write this. I should be in the hospital but I am not because for various reasons I am reluctant to go. I have a 96 pound dog and a 76-year-old mother who might feel compelled to try to walk him if she can’t get my neighbor to do so. He could pull on her and cause her to fall which would be horrible for her as she would probably break her hip and while she naturally screams on the ground, he would panic and run off and the only two things I love in this world would be harmed if not completely lost to me. it’s probably irrational, I understand that, but that explains one reason I am reluctant to go. The other is the probability of a filter being put in my leg if indeed I have suffered yet another clotting event or even a new PE.

What has changed in my condition since the first determination of my disability is well documented and I will present this information, once again, to the Social Security office, this time to this final board, in hopes that they will reconsider their previous two findings. That information I will explain now in relation to the 4 above listed illnesses which I suffered from at that time.

1. DVTs in left leg – As recently as this past November, I was given a sonogram of my left leg and it was determined that there is indeed old residual clotting damage to my veins (Post-Thrombic disorder) but there is also evidence of new clotting taking place. Since my first PE occurred, I have been to the hospital on multiple occasions for PEs. Two more in fact. That proves that I am still developing blood clots in spite of the blood thinner I am taking.

Back then I was on 6 mgs of coumadin. Today my daily dosage is 12 mgs. Anything over 10 mgs a day is considered risky.

The pain in my chest, the swelling of my leg shows even with this large dose of blood thinner, the clotting issue continues.

2. PE damage to lungs and possibilities of more events –  Since being declared disabled after suffering one pulmonary embolism, I have suffered two more with the first of those described above and the second (third overall) taking place just 12 months ago in Feb. of 2015. Many lesser events such as the one I am probably suffering from right now, I ignore, or at least, I don’t respond to by going to the hospital like I should for reasons explained above. But there is no doubt that I have now had a total of three PEs and will probably continue to have them.

3. Depression – There is a clear medical history of depression going back as far as 25 years in my case. That hasn’t changed. My behavior now is even more secluded now that I can’t play tennis or basketball like I used to right up until the first PE. In late 2014 I sought treatment with a psychiatrist and was undergoing regular with him until I was unable to pay the co-pay one day and asked if I could reschedule. They never called me back or answered the several messages I left at his office. He prescribed anti-depressants  for me at the time when I started treatment with him and I took them, reluctantly, until I ran out of them. What is clear here is that since being declared disabled, partly due to severe depression, I have been diagnosed as still suffering from depression and prescribed medication to treat that condition.

4. COPD – This past summer, my primary care doctor sent me for the first time to a doctor who specializes in the care of one’s lungs. I don’t know how to spell it, so I’m not going to try to. A pulminologist? Alright, there I tried and failed. He sent me for the new sonogram and CT scan which showed new clotting (that I mentioned earlier) and he also had a specialist give me a test to see if I was still suffering from COPD. They determined I was, which supports the previous decision of my primary care doctor to prescribe for me 3 breathing treatments a day. He wanted to prescribe various inhalers for me, but the co-pays on some of those are unbelievable ($300 for one) so instead, he took pity on me and gave me a few samples. What is clear here is the fact that I am still suffering from COPD.

I don’t think it could be any clearer that I am still suffering from the same conditions that left me disabled years ago in the minds of the Social Security Disability office. In fact, what is very obvious in my mind is the fact that I am significantly worse in terms of the clotting, breathing and the effects of the rather large dosage of blood thinner I am forced to take. I was also not on the breathing treatments back then which take up a significant portion of my day and severely limit any flexibility in my routine.

In short, my case should be cut and dry but given the fact that I have been declared fit as a fiddle twice now in spite of evidence to the contrary, I worry about what is to come… and of course, given that I am prone to depression anyway…. well…

Come What May

Let me say living on disability at my age is horrible. I wouldn’t wish this life on anyone. Well, maybe Dick Cheney and Hillary Clinton but aside from them… no one.

I have barely enough income to pay bills and that is only because I get assistance from readers on my website. My poor mother has to help with food for myself and my pets.

I am about to make a drastic change in my living situation in April which will help considerably but only if this hearing has a positive result.

Bernie Sanders to his credit has stated that payments to both retirees and people living with disabilities should be increased and for that I give him credit. I do not expect to live a life of luxury since becoming disabled, but a life free of fear of starvation and an occasional movie every now and then might be nice (the last film I saw in a theater was the second Lord of the Rings thing)

I have a plan to get off disability in the future and that is the only thing that really gives me hope. The thought of living like this or worse for the next 20 years is terrifying. It’s worse than the idea of dying and that is a fact. Many in my situation may relate to that conclusion of mine.

This hearing to take place gives me reason to worry in that if they continue with their current assessment of my condition, in spite of the mounds of evidence to the contrary, I fear the only reasonable course of action left to me is to attempt a return to work in the only field that will give someone like me a chance to work: day labor. And that will kill me.

It’s an odd process this hearing. I was told when Binder and Binder first represented me that anytime in the future if I find myself in this situation, they would be there to stand with me and stand up for me. So I signed on the dotted line.

When I contacted them a year ago, they informed me it would cost $3,000 to stand with me.

Ironic isn’t it? I think that the only people who will be able to afford a lawyer in a hearing like this will be those who are obviously working on the side. Who else could afford that kind of money while trying to live on what I live on? So the only ones who can properly defend themselves from losing their disability might just be the very ones that should lose their disability. At least, that’s part of them.

I  don’t know how this will turn out. I hope they are decent people doing a job trying to get rid of folks gaming the system. To that end I will present my case in the best possible way I can and I will hope that what is clear to me will be clear to them and that they do not see my lack of legal representation as an opportunity to edge closer to a quota.

The fact is, many people across this nation are facing the situation I am facing or they have already gone through it and chances are some truly disabled people have been or will be removed from the disabled list and sent back into society to try to eek out an existence as they suffer every day in silence. And that thought bothers me. I thought we were better than that.

But this is the nature of privatization and mine is but one example of how it affects people every day. It is not a unique example or a particularly egregious one but it is mine.

I wanted to share this with you readers so might better understand what is about to take place and so you might know what happens in the near future if I suddenly start only writing in the evenings as I hobble off to dig ditches in the morning with a dayglo tee-shirt (seriously, the last time I tried day labor, some 5 years ago, that’s literally what I was doing)

Tomorrow I will head off to the hospital if these pains don’t go away on their own tonight. I may not be writing much as a result for the next day or so. I will try to keep you updated from my phone, but I suck with that thing so I can’t make any promises. It looks to be a slow start to the news week anyway now that Deep Twitchy has fallen by the wayside.


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Speaking truth ABOUT power since 2007

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17 Responses

  1. I tryed to get on this and still trying, i have two bad knees and have trouble walking. pain all the time. they said there were 500 jobs in my state i could do. i should have asked for that list as i can not find any job. noone will give a job to someone that can not stand more than a hour. also i am 58 so i am old.
    i am in minnesota and TV has people who fake it all the time. week does not go by that they do not show fakers. and yes fakers should be taken off this bt why when they say i am disabled but still will not give me money? i do not get it!
    i would take 1/2 the money i do not need it all.

    • man, I hear you. My first two attempts failed automatically then I got Binder and Binder and it went well. That was the final appeal (like this one coming up). If I could suggest, find a law-firm that specializes in this. it helps. I wish you the best of luck.

  2. For whatever it might mean, know that I’ll be thinking of you, and of Jan

  3. I hope it works out for the best. You’ll probably be able to convince them if you have the opportunity to speak face to face; you have a solid argument backed up with proof. But regardless of how it all goes down, hang in there. I don’t know how good you are at digging ditches but you’re pretty good as a writer, and we appreciate that. Once again, thank you for all the effort you put into this website!

    • for the record, I suck at digging ditches. I keep complaining the whole time “ow… my leg hurts. ow… my chest hurts. ow… I’m bleeding out”, that kind of thing. tends to piss off the supervisors.

  4. The real irony here is that you are one of the more valuable members of our society. You often contribute more in a week than any 40 Yukon-driving lardasses do in a year. Keep punching, Scott. Just keep punching.

  5. The only stories I hear about disability are the ones where the people who should be on it are denied it, or given it after having to fight for it for years. I’ve personally been witness to at least 4 cases where the person is clearly disabled, yet they deny, deny, deny, for years, then finally come to their senses.

    I have a relative that worked in probation. The stories he told me were incredible. Most of them on disability for ADD or ADHD, and one was on it for stuttering. I kid you not. But the kid who was a diagnosed schizophrenic? He was denied. I have no answers. There seems to be no rhyme or reason to the way they make decisions.

    Positive thoughts and energies to you as you tackle the system.

    • thank you very much. yeah, it seems representation is the only key to success with Social Security. So it kind of worries me seeing as how I have none this time around… I am hoping for a miracle I guess. cross your fingers.

  6. Dear Scott,
    Please let me know how your case is decided. My husband and son have both received social security and disability.
    Please contact me personally and I’ll help in some way.
    You give so much day in and day out. I’m here in some way to help you.
    Best to you.

    • Thank you Liz. I will know in a little more than a week. The hearing is that day and though they don’t inform you of the outcome right away, I should be able to get a feel for how it went by how they react. I really am hoping its just a formality but you never know. My case I think is pretty cut and dry, but… we’ll see.

  7. Good luck with healing and with your health care. God bless you, Scott. You are one of the best of those of us who still care about the America our elders taught us to believe in. You are among the front line of our battle between the “Truthers”, or whatever the hen-house shit they call us, and the Liars.

    • Thanks. And when you put it that way, it really is pretty Orwellian what they’re doing, isn’t it? “Oh. You want the Truth, huh? Our lies aren’t good enough for you are they? hey look everyone, this guy thinks he’s special”

  8. America fuck yeh commin to save the mother fuckin day yeh. So much for givin a shit about what matters ….love your blog you’re a national treasure. Dont let them bury you Scott. From Darwin a US drone supporting outpost in Oz.

    • thank you sedwith. nah, they aren’t burying me just yet though I feel like that guy lying on the dead wagon in the Monty Python flick: “I’m not dead yet. Feeling better”

  9. This blog is proof enuf u have zero disability other than slight retardation.

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