#DisabledLife is filled with unexpected surprises. Sometimes, it’s having a caregiver call out, leaving you scrambling to find someone to come get you out of bed before your bladder explodes. Sometimes it’s getting into your wheelchair, desperate for coffee, only to discover that the motors have died. Mind you, this is just 18 months after you spent $1,000 to replace those same motors. Good luck getting insurance to pay for it… those miserly wankers only dispense wheelchair repair money in tiny allotments— like it’s radioactive uranium.
#DisabledLife is also all the time you burn navigating the minutia of a society not designed for people like you. Inaccessible places. Healthcare bureaucracy. People that won’t wear masks. But, if that wasn’t enough, #DisabledLife is also spending hours trying to get medical professionals to believe that you know more about your own needs than they do. (Heaven forbid!)
This weekend, I had another one of these #DisabledLife surprises. In my mailbox, there was a packet with one of the most dreaded return marks in the corner:
SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION
When I saw it, I knew that nothing fun would be inside. There would be no Target gift cards, or 50% off coupons for pumpkin spice candles. There would be no sweet messages with heart emojis or stickers that smell like root beer. Instantly, I knew that no matter how good my day had been going up to that point, that the rest of my joy (and patience) was going to be drained by the contents of that envelope— like a damn black hole.
Yes, I actually said this aloud.
Then, I stared at the envelope for a few moments, debating when/how to open it. I eyed it suspiciously, like a bomb squad specialist defusing an explosive. When I couldn’t take the anxiety anymore, I grabbed my homemade letter opener (with a long handle designed for my weak, skinny hands), and sliced it open.
I read the top of the page:
“The Social Security Administration must regularly review the cases of people getting disability benefits to make sure they are still disabled under our rules. It is time for us to review this case. Enclosed is a Disability Update Report for you to answer to update us about your health and medical conditions, and any recent work activity… Please complete the report, sign it and send it to us in the enclosed envelope within 30 days…”
In case this jargon is confusing, let me translate: Social Security has given me 30 days to prove that my permanent, genetic disability hasn’t magically disappeared… like classified documents do at Mar-a-Lago.
I grumbled. And cussed some more. Then, I changed my weekend plans from “Binge Abbott Elementary on Hulu” to “Fill Out Useless Paperwork.”
My irritation was massive. It took all my willpower not to set the packet on fire. (Truly.) Yet, I managed to complete the forms. For the sake of my own sanity, though, I added the following letter for good measure.
Think they will reply?…
October 8, 2022
SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, P.O. BOX 4550, WILKES BARRE, PA 18767-4550
SENT VIA UNITED STATES MAIL
Dear Person Working At The Social Security Administration:
Hello. First, I’m sorry that you work at Social Security opening mail and reading letters just like this one. Everyday. Even after you’ve been sick with the “flu” — or, as is more likely, just hungover from too many margaritas.
Second, I’d like to introduce myself. My name is Elizabette. I live in California with a cat named Charley that likes to steal my breakfast. I was diagnosed with Spinal Muscular Atrophy, a genetic neuromuscular disability, at the University of California, San Francisco, just before my 2nd birthday. I started using a wheelchair at the age of four, when most kids are just learning how to pick their nose. My disability is progressive, so I transitioned to a power wheelchair at the age of seven.
Third, I’d like to assure everyone at the Social Security Administration that, yes, I’m still disabled. My genetic disability can’t be cured by clicking my heels together three times. In fact, I couldn’t even click my heels together if you asked me. Because, yes, I’m THAT disabled.
I need help with all my daily needs— like getting out of bed, showering, getting into my wheelchair, and cooking meth in my kitchen.
Anyway, here are a few more facts that might help you determine my disabledness. (Yes, I just made up that word. Feel free to use it, if you want.)
— I’m unable to drive, so I must hitchhike everywhere like a 1970s hippie just before they were murdered by the Zodiac Killer.
(Just kidding. Folks drive me around in an adapted minivan. You know, the kind of car that hauls around eight-year-olds and smells of stale Happy Meals.)
— I’m a patient of the Stanford Neuromuscular Clinic. I am followed by their team of neurologists, pulmonologists, physical therapists, respiratory therapists, nutritionists, butchers, bakers, and candlestick makers. My last checkup was on March 15, 2022. My next checkup is just a few days away.
— I’m attaching a copy of my health record from Stanford, just in case you don’t believe how damned disabled I actually am.
— I work from home a few hours a week as a bookkeeper. This part-time job gives me the flexibility to rest when necessary, and to tailor my work-schedule to my physical and medical needs. I can’t work a full-time job, or work away from home.
— My job pays me $600 a month. You folks at Social Security only give me $596 a month because you think I live in an alternative timeline where everything costs the same as it did in 1958. I use all my money to pay my caregivers. Every. Single. Dime. And it’s NOWHERE near enough to cover the total cost. This is why I sell my body on Craigslist.
— My lung capacity is 42%. Given my respiratory weakness, I am at-risk of severe complications from most illnesses. So, I avoid crowded, public spaces. This is a bummer, yes. But as most people kinda suck, I actually don’t miss this as much as you’d think.
— Oh, and I am unable to wipe my own butt. So someone else has to do it for me. Further, I poop twice a day. I know you didn’t ask this on the form. But, as Social Security seems to want to verify EVERYTHING about me, you might as well know this, too, right?
I guess that’s it for now. Let me know if you need me to provide anything else— like my firstborn child.