On April 28th I had written an article entitled, "Need Your Prayers-SSI Disability Bureaucracy"--you can see the article here:
It was the shock of my life to have received a letter on that date, from Social Security informing me that I was to be terminated from my SSI DisabilityÂ benefits that I had been receiving since 1996.Â Since I got the letter on a Saturday, there was no one I could connect, and I had to sit tight, while admittedly having level ten panic attacks until Monday to start making phone calls.
You see this all stemmed from the fact, that my mother had passed away on August 27, 2006, and it turned out that she did leave me a small policy...nothing grandiose, nothing that Donald Trump would have to worry about, but just a little over $5,000.Â Now as you can imagine, the bulk of the money went toward my mother's funeral costs, other bills, and what I had left over, I figured on finally realizing my dream of getting my own computer system, which I didn't have previously.Â The thing is, is that anyone getting SSI benefits cannot have more than $2,000 in financial assets without their benefits being affected.Â So sure enough in October of 2006, I got a letterÂ from Social Security (Big Brother here)Â stating that due to the fact that I had assets that exceeded the allowable amount, my benefits were to be terminated.Â Right away I downloaded the Request For Reconsideration form right off the Social Security website, filled and mailed it out to them. Â
Then, during the first week of November I got a letter stating that my benefits were to continue, then a week after that, I got another letter, that not only were my benefits were to continue but I was to get my"yearly" raise of $20.00 giving me a grand total ofÂ $710.00 a month to live on.Â So all those months from NovemberÂ 2006 up until April 2007,Â I just assumed that my benefits were intact and had no worries....that was untilÂ April 28th.
First thing that Monday morning, April 30th, you better believe I was calling up an awful lot of people--forget my local Social Security office--can't get through to these people no how, no way, and due to my disability couldn't travel to the office...it's not exactly close by and I can't drive.Â So I called the toll free "800" number.Â I was informed that I had been sentÂ forms to fill out to verify my continuing eligibility...---Oh?Â Never got them!Â So once again my computer was to come in handy, as I went back to the Social Security website to download every form known to mankind and filled them out...hey I'm an expert now in filling those forms. Â The next day I went to a nearby place to photo-copy proofs of everything imaginable, from my mother's funeral expenses,utility bills, copies of my paid rent receipts--EVERYTHING.Â I came back home...organized everythingÂ in some kind of logical order, stuffed everything into a large envelope, then went back out again to mail thisÂ one-inch thick envelope with proof that, number one I wasn't rolling in the millions of dollars here, number two, proofs of my expenses, and most of all, that my SSI benefits were my only source of income, as that policy money had been completely spent by last December.
Then the following week, I got another letter...and naturally I had hoped it was some kind of letter to inform me of THEIR error, and I was to receive my benefits again...Nope...actually what the letter was, was to inform me that Social Security believed that an overpayment of benefits were made to me for the months of October 2006 to April 2007, in the amount of $4, 910.00 and they were requesting that I pay them back by June 9th.Â Know what I did? Â Rather than get into another panic about this...I did only one thing...I laughed.Â I laughed at the sheer lunacy of it all.
Now in the meantime, as you can imagine, I was frantic..I had no money to pay anything, not my rent, not my bills, nothing--I had exactly $5.71 in my savings...that was it.Â I did scramble to see about getting some kind of Public Assistance to help me at least temporarily until this mess could be straightened out.Â Also, I downloaded another form, The Waiver For Overpayment to show these jerks that I didn't have any financial assets.Â
I kiddingly would joke to my friends,for you see, as one part of this form, they wanted you to indicate all vehicles one owned --and I guess this was in order to see if one could turn them into financial assets to pay off the overpayment.Â So I would joke with my friends, that , oh sure,Â I could list my Ferrari, BMW, Jaguar, Rolls Royce, and yacht...oh, and my goodness, don't let me forget that Lear Jet!Â They also wanted one to list all the real estate one owned...so once again I joked and said, sure, I'll list my Chateau in France, my private island in The Bahamas, and my English Manor Estate in England---Uh, no I didn't...but I was so tempted to be wicked about it and fabricate these non-existent assets...I don't even have one car, and I live in a studio apartment!
Some people suggested naturally for me to get in contact with a lawyer...I did get in contact with Binder & Binder, reputably one of the largest SSI Disability law firms going.Â I explained the whole situation to them, but they said that due to that overpayment issue no lawyer would handle my case until I got that cleared up,...not ever a Legal Aid lawyer--So I was stuck.Â In the meantime, the clock was ticking...and still no word from Social Security whether my benefits were to be reinstated.Â And perhaps it was just as well, in a way, that I didn't get legal help, as I've heard horror stories by others in the same situation as myself, and even WITH a lawyer it took years to get benefits.
So now I'm getting in contact with advocate groups, especially those help-line groups from the TV media, like NY1-On Your Side, Roseanne Colleti, Help Me Howard, anyone I could think of....Then a brainstorm struck...I began e-mailing local politicians, such as Assemblywoman Helen Sears...and Congressman Joesep Crowley--heck, I even e-mailed a letter to Senator Hillary Clinton.Â The very next day, I got an e-mail back from Congressman Crowley's office, and informed me to expect a phone call from a representative who handled disability issues that following Monday, May 21st.
Sure enough, the representative called.Â She asked me to write a letter to authorize anyone in Congressman Crowley's office to intervene in my behalf, and to fax this letter to her as well as all the letters I had received from Social Security....this I did...since I didn't have my own fax, had to go out to do this. By the time I got back, I decided to make a phone call to her to see if she got the faxed material.Â Not only had she, but she had already made a phone call to Social Security.Â It seemed that yes, they did have all the material I had sent them, but due to the back log of work hadn't been able to get to my case yet. However, I guess getting a call from a Congressman's representative shook things up a bit, for lo and behold, a few days later, I get a call from a caseworker from Social Security--and she wanted me to mail her photo-copies of all bank statements going back to August 2006 and up to the present---I hadn't sent all my bank statements, at least not that far back.
Now it was a waiting game...nothing was happening...it was like a stalemate, and in the meantime it was drawing to the end of May, and while I tried to remain calm about it, at the same time I was in panic mode.Â I made a few more phone calls to the representative at the Congressman's office to quite frankly find out if things could be speeded up here...She must have made more phone calls,Â sinceÂ when June st arrived, I got a phone call from that caseworker at Social Security.Â She informed me that yes, not only were my benefits to be reinstated, but that overpayment of $4,910.00 was to be completely waived.Â I didn't owe a penny!! Â
As you can imagine, that was probably the happiest day of my life...if I could've without breaking my neck, I would've literally done cartwheels.
So for any of you who may be going through some kind of horror tale yourself about trying to get SSI benefits, either just applying for the first time, or in getting benefits back that were terminated, my suggestion is that forget a lawyer--get Congressional help---It sure helped me.