Saturday, March 9, 2013

"Hard Times," the Beat by Social Security

I’ve been having a hard time lately. Since the first week of January. It started with a letter from Social Security (SSA), an agency that has become my nemesis, my worst nightmare. They sent me notice that I had been denied a benefit that I’d had for about three years, maybe more.
As I read through the five-pager I  especially noticed page four, the one with the calculations of my income and then showing the income limit allowed for the benefit. I looked at it and looked at it. Questioned every figure. Then I noticed the parentheses around two significant figures…and that SSA had added them in instead of subtracting them.
I groaned. I moaned. I felt like screaming. But I didn’t want the police coming over. I just wanted SSA to fix their mistake and allow me the benefit.
It’s not that easy (of course).
Okay, what was the benefit? Help with my medication costs. Turns out it means they mostly just pay your insurance premium for your prescription insurance. This turns out to be a very big deal, though, because you can get a much better plan, with a relatively high premium and maybe no deductible. A Big Deal.
I didn’t know this important factoid about Extra Help with Medications, so I picked a very low premium and a costly deductible. Well, crap.
I have a very expensive drug that I only paid $6.30 a month last year – because I had a very good prescription plan AND Extra Help from SSA. This year, with this new plan and no Extra Help (though it wouldn’t have really helped the cost much) my monthly copay was going to be $348. Yowza! Now what am I going to do?
I started dancing, that’s what. I went to every source of help I could think of including beginning with the Financial Counselor at University of Colorado Hospital because she’s so smart and she could advise me to do something. I was willing to do anything.
This expensive drug (retail: $1393/month) was keeping me going cognitively, staying independent, being able to drive, shop, cook, and work. Everything.
I was scared. Never this scared before in what began to seem like maybe a long-enough life.
Every single business day in January I was attempting some new plan, some new idea, something, anything, everything. And nothing, I mean absolutely nothing worked. In mid-January I ran out of the drug and started to panic. Two weeks later, by about January 28, I was a complete basket case and spent a lot of time crying.
What followed that, on January 30 and 31, is another chapter and I’ll write it and post it in a couple of days.
At about mid-January my nephew Jay Rowden, who lives in Chester, New Hampshire, contacted me to offer some help. Wow. Someone was going to help me. And he was great at it. First, he told me to contact my Congressional Representative. Diana DeGette. I liked her and had always voted for her. She was a good and decent Democratic representative for her district. Her office in Denver started helping me and filed a Congressional Inquiry into the matter with SSA. 

Jay would contact me every day by phone or text, check on progress, do more research. He was relentless, persistent, sweet, kind and funny. Like he’s always been. Always.
The phone conference with SSA is coming up in just a week and a half, March 20. What’s so bloomin’ strange about the whole thing is this:  SSA made the mistake; why couldn’t they just correct it, send me a letter in a couple of weeks, and we move on? They don’t do things that way. Anyone who has to deal with the agency – senior, disabled, sick – knows this after a few transactions with them. Or maybe just one.
Last week I started taking an antidepressant. I didn’t want to. But damn, it really is working. (Yeah, it’s a strong, atypical one.) And have a therapy appointment on April 1st. I don’t want to do that either. I’ve had enough therapy. But talk therapy works the best with me.
I have a lot of anger, frustration, and sadness to work through.