Thursday, March 27, 2008

Bipolar Disorder, Disability Benefits, Going Back to work and Disability Activists

You know, I tend to get very irritated when I come across blogs run by so-called disability activists who know nothing about the social security disability adjudication process but, yet, trumpet things like disability benefit work incentives and the ticket to work program.

Here's my opinion, my personal opinion, on engaging in work activity if you have been approved for either social security disability or SSI benefits: you take a risk by doing it.

I've seen countless examples of individuals who have gone back to work part-time and triggered a work CDR (continuing disability review) and other examples of individuals who started working, actually reported their work activity to the social security administration, and then got hit by an overpayment nightmare (in such a case where a person did report their work activity, it would have been the responsibility of SSA to adjust the individual's benefits to avoid an overpayment).

You have to ask yourself, why does the social security administration even attempt to promote work incentives? The answer is so easy that it is laughable: to save money by getting people off disability benefits. Now, this may be, in some cases, where the (idiot) "disability activist" says Yay! That's what we want! Because we're not handicapped, we're handicapable!

...Only thing is, the individual with severe back pain or MS who is no longer capable of working in the industry that employed him for many years, and whose only insurance is medicare, would be entirely screwed if he lost his disability benefits. He would no longer have the ability to pay his rent or mortgage, his utility bills, buy food, and, oh, would no longer have health insurance.

No problem says the disability activist (very often, with the disability activist blog). If it doesn't work out, they can get their benefits established again.

...Only thing is, that may take years.

Here are some comments provided by a social security employee I spoke with recently (who works as a claims rep in a social security office).

I'm paraphrasing, but this is essentially what she said:

"If I knew someone with a mental impairment, I would tell them not to go back to work. Especially if you have bipolar disorder, which is hard enough to win a disability claim with. My brother has bipolar disorder and if he suddenly got the idea that he should earn extra money by working, I would discourage him. There's too much of a chance that social security will review his claim and decide that medical improvement has taken place. This is especially risky for people who were approved on the basis of mental disorders in the first place, such as bipolar disorder."

My response was "Well, even if a review is triggered and a disability examiner develops the opinion that some medical improvement has taken place, that doesn't necessarily mean the person is capable of earning a competitive wage (known as SGA, or substantial gainful activity)".

Her answer: "Would you personally want to take the chance of losing your benefits and health insurance, and then going bankrupt as a result, or having a relative take that kind of risk?".

And my answer damn way.

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