But Wait, There’s More!

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If you have been around here for a while, you may remember the whole Social Security fiasco that began in September/October 2016. (If not, you can read it here)

I will not rehash all of the details again, but long story short I had an account that Social Security determined was a resource. Contrary to popular belief, I do know what I am doing; I did check into that many years ago, and I knew that they were wrong. But still I was required to close the account, spend it down, and prove I had spent it on him. Until it was spent, his benefits would be suspended.

Even though I knew they were wrong, a suspension of his benefits until I could prove them wrong could snowball into other areas and his day program. (read how it all goes together in our area here). I spent it down and sent all of the information to the caseworker.

Within 4 days, I received a letter stating that his benefits would not be suspended due to the spend down but I would be required to pay back 12,000.00 in benefits that he has received over the last year and a half (12,000.00 over a 2600.00 account)

Before contacting an attorney, I started the appeals process. I was not appealing the payback, I was appealing the account. I knew they were wrong.  I mailed the form on November 4, 2016 and waited to receive an appeal date.

I heard nothing.

On November 28, I sent another form along with the letter below. I decided to include it at the last minute.

  The enclosed appeal form was mailed on November 4, 2016. As of today, (November 28, 2016) I have not received any word or notification of an appeal date.

   Because historically things tend to get “lost”, I did not want to sit and wait for a date only to find out after the 60 day appeal window had expired, that the form was never received or seen.

  I am re-sending a copy of the form along with this information about the account in question:

  The account in question was a life insurance policy that I purchased when DC was an infant.

The premise was that I could turn it over to him when he was 18 and it would then be his policy and the premium would never increase.

  As he was an infant at the time, I did not know that he would be diagnosed with Autism and not understand money, never mind an insurance policy. Due to this diagnosis and his very limited capabilities the account was never turned over to him.

I was the owner of the account.

He was the INSURED.

I was the beneficiary.

  As I was told by the insurance company more than once, he had no rights to the account. Even if he could understand what an insurance policy was, he had no rights to it. He was the insured, only.

  He could not withdraw the cash value. He could not close the account. He had no rights to the account at all.

  I did close the account and spend the cash value of 2,600 some odd dollars on him, only because I was told that his benefits would be suspended until I did. SPENDING IT DOWN WAS IN NO WAY AN INDICATION OF MY AGREEMENT WITH THE DETERMINATION!

  The woman who processed his re-determination insisted that this account was considered a resource for him because in theory I could very well cash it out and give him the money.

  If we are going to use that line of thinking, I could cash my paycheck and give it to him (he has no right to that either). She also said that if/when I die that this account would become the property of someone else. This is true but then THAT person would be the owner of the account, HE WOULD STILL BE THE INSURED and that person would then be the beneficiary. He would still have no rights to the account.

 

I waited for an appeal date…. and waited.

On December 17 while still not having an appeal date, I received another kick in the face; my step-father, against my wishes, saw fit to make DC a beneficiary on a small life insurance policy and the insurance company had contacted me about a payout (more about that later). This I knew was going to be a problem – this was considered a resource. I knew that for a fact (because, again I do know things).

This was happening while I still had the first 12,000.00 hanging over my head.

I got home and checked the mail, and there was still no appeal date, so I got on the phone. I was not sure who I should speak to but I waited the 45 minutes on hold and finally got a person at social security.

I explained that I had filled out two appeal forms, one on November 4 and another on November 28 and I had still not received an appeal date.

She checked the records and came back and told me that the issue was disposed of. The account was not considered a resource.

Really? I have spent all of this time waiting for an appeal date and the issue was disposed of but no one bothered to inform me?

She apologized and went to speak with someone I assumed was her supervisor, who told her that she did not know why I did not receive any notification. I asked for a letter stating that this issue was resolved, for my records. I was told I would receive that letter shortly.

In the end I was correct. Unfortunately it cost me $2600.00, which no one seemed to mention or apologize for and no one saw fit to notify me while I was still waiting for a date.

I certainly would have taken this new insurance policy issue a little bit better if I had not had this other issue hanging over my head.

Let’s just look at this whole mess:

I did my due diligence and checked into that account more than once.

They were wrong, but before that was determined, I was required to spend $2600.00 so his benefits would not be suspended.

If I had not appealed, I would now be paying back $12,000.00 for absolutely no reason other than the case worker did not know what she was talking about. I explained it to her exactly the way I explained it in the appeal letter, more than once and I was also required to send a copy of the policy to her at the time, so I know that there had been no miscommunication with the caseworker. She either just did not know what she was doing or just saw an opportunity to make herself look better in the eyes of the agency by collecting a good chunk of money.

We are required to jump though so many hoops when our children reach adulthood and unfortunately we are at the mercy of these agencies who seem know next to nothing when it comes to our children, and what we are required to know and do. As a parents, we jump through every hoop laid out in front of us to ensure that everything is in place for or child’s future, because that is really what all of this is about, isn’t it?

Bottom line is, you can not trust that you are not being taken advantage of by these people and you can not trust that they know what they are doing – always appeal!

But wait, there’s still more! (And it gets really ridiculous at one point)

We will get to that next week……………..

 

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Autism; In “The Old Days” – Diagnosis via St. Elsewhere

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As you may or may not know, DC is 25 (almost 26 – gulp) years old. He was finally and officially diagnosed with Autism when he was 5.

I knew there was “something” by the time he was a year old and looking back, probably before that.

I originally thought that he could not hear.

After many visits to many doctors any many different hearing tests, they determined that he in fact, could hear perfectly.

This and a whole list of other issues, still had me believing that there was “something” –  they were telling me that he could hear– okay, but there was still something.

He was not talking or attempting to communicate, but doctor after doctor told me that boys develop more slowly and not to worry.

I was worried.

By the time he was three there was still no attempt at speech, there was flapping, stimming (although we did not call it that back then) and no eye contact. There were meltdowns (we did not have that word back then either) and as I said, a whole list of other issues that doctors continued to tell me he would grow out of.  I began to feel as if this was all in my head but I finally had him evaluated by Easter Seals and Early Intervention.

Both agencies agreed that there was a “speech delay” and we began to receive weekly home visits through Early Intervention for speech and OT. Although his Early Intervention therapists said that there was “something that they could not put their finger on”, his official diagnosis remained a speech delay.

They told me that because he was an only child, it would benefit him to be around children his own age.  Being a single parent since he was 2, not working was not an option, so at the time, he was with his Godmother’s mother during the day when I was at work.

Following the doctor’s and therapist’s advice, I took him out of the home daycare and placed him in a local daycare a few days a week. The rest of the week he with my friend who not only had a daughter exactly his age but another daughter a few years younger. Activities for special needs children were non-existent at that time, so I found a gymnastics class (he loved to climb) but I decided to put him in the class for children 18 months old, half his age because even though everyone was calling this a speech delay, I knew it was more than that and I knew he would not be able to handle a class made up of his peers.

Well…. That was a disaster! I spent most of the time in a corner crying. He just could not stand to be around the other kids, and most of the time I had to take him away from the situation and bring him over to a corner, nullifying the whole socialization effort.

At the end of each class was “circle-time” – we tried, we really did. He would sit on my lap and scream and scream; he would try to wiggle away. I would chase him and bring him back while trying to ignore the stares from the other mothers.

Then there was “Blaine” and his mother…

It has been 22 years, but I will not forget Blaine and I certainly will never forget his mother. His mother who sat next to us on the floor consoling Blaine loudly as if he was being traumatized by my child’s crying. Let me just say that Blaine was fine, he was really not even paying attention to DC at all, but she continued on and on “Don’t worry, it’s okay. He won’t hurt you” all for my benefit not her son’s.

We did try again the following two weeks with the same result, the third time we just ended up picking up and leaving mid-class. That was my last visit, but I did send his Dad with him the next week just to prove a point that he was not understanding at the time – I will get to that shortly.

A few days after our last disastrous trip to gymnastics, I was giving DC a bath. As he was sitting in the bathtub, I looked at him and he looked as if he did not even know I was there. He looked as if he was having a conversation in his own language with someone that only he could see.

It was right then and there that it hit me! He reminded me of Tommy Westphall, an autistic boy – a character from the old television show, St. Elsewhere. At that point, the show had been off the air for a good five years, but I still remembered the character vividly.

I knew nothing about autism except that Tommy had it. I had never met an autistic person and other than the way Tommy behaved, I knew nothing about it – frankly I cannot even say for sure if I had ever heard of it until then. I know it sounds ridiculous but it was at that moment that the proverbial light bulb went off in my head.

I called his Dad right away, but he was not hearing any of it. In his defense, he really did not see the delays – he really had no experience with children this age and nothing to compare DC to. His was in the military for many years; the years when his nieces and nephews were young. He was never really around young children at any time in his life for any length of time.

I decided that we would change his day with DC that week from Sunday to Saturday so he could take him to that dreaded gymnastics class. All of the talking and explaining in the world was not going to change his mind until he saw the differences first-hand.

He saw them.

He got it.

I will never forget the expression on his face when he brought DC home that day.

I had already called DC’s doctor with the suggestion of autism and she made appointments for him to be evaluated at a Children’s Hospital that was supposed to be very prominent in the diagnosis and study of autism. I did take note of the fact that she did not seem surprised that I was thinking and bringing up autism.

In the meantime, his Dad happened to come across a local news story. The Anchor of one of the local news stations did a story about his own son being diagnosed with Asperger’s. He called the station and requested a copy of the tape and yes, there were quite a few similarities between his son and DC.

Long story, short (too late, I know) – we went through the whole evaluation process and they gave us a diagnosis of:

“Severe speech delay – Rule out Autism”.

What might that mean?

It was explained to us that “Severe speech delays tend to mimic the classic symptoms of autism” including the flapping, lack of eye contact, food and texture aversions and of course the lack of speech itself.

??????

If his speech is just delayed and he should begin to speak, the other symptoms would disappear. They wanted to wait another year to see if he would begin speaking and “rule out autism”.

Fortunately, by this time I already had him in Special Education. He qualified, having previously been diagnosed with a delay, so all of this time was not being wasted, but it would have been beneficial to be able to work with an actual diagnosis. (School-Age for SPED in this area is 3 to 21 years of age)

We returned the following year and he was finally officially diagnosed.

It took more than 4 years since I first thought there was a problem – 4 years of doctors looking at me as if it I was just an over protective, first-time mother – 4 years of people telling me that Albert Einstein did not speak until he was four – 4 years of people telling me that he did not speak because I did everything for him and he did not need to speak for himself – 4 years of the looks, stares and comments from people like Blaine’s mother – 4 years of taking him to doctor after doctor (this is not to say that all of the above does not happen still, because it does, but at the time – not having a diagnosis – I was beginning  to believe that all of this was either all in my own head or all my fault or both) – 4 years…

I honestly do not know if his doctors and therapists back then just did not want to bring up autism, because knowing what I know now – it should have been apparent to all of them.

Apparent as it should have been, still I had to be the one to say it first….

*****

If you were a fan of St. Elsewhere, you will “get” the photo.