Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Disability Hearing

About a month ago we had a call from Ryan's (Kyle's) attorney saying a date had been set for his disability claim hearing. He had made application a long time before he died, was rejected (as are most), and the attorney filed an appeal. It seems like this happened quite a while before he died. 20 months after he left us, he finally gets a disability hearing. We were ready to walk away, I have no interest in taking money from the Social Security Administration after he's gone, but the wife and I discussed it and decided that, if for no other reason, the attorney could recover some of her costs. She really is a caring and compassionate person. So we decided to proceed.

We walked into the hearing room and there was my wife and I, Ryan's attorney, the judge, a medical expert on speaker phone, and a vocational expert. They all had files as thick as a big-city phone book. They were referencing many exhibits, sub-exhibits, schedules, and so forth. They had his counseling records, his medical and hospital records, his psychiatrist's records. Things he'd NEVER want to share with anyone, and it was an open book. To hear his life reduced to a stack of papers was almost more than I could handle, and I choked up at times during the testimony. There was information read aloud he would NEVER want us, let alone others, to know. It was really sad. We wanted them to know what a caring, compassionate, loving, brilliant kid he was, but that wasn't material to the case.

The system is broken, probably irreparably. It's designed to deny benefits rather than help those in need. It sucks out the motivation, the self-worth, the soul of those attempting to collect disability. Unfortunately, it won't change, given the state of politics today.

The weeks leading up to this, both my wife and I fell into a depression. The deepest depression I've had since he died. The day after the hearing, we're both improving a bit, but it may take a while.