Friday, August 13, 2010

I've been heard...

Six years after my brain injury, and three years after I applied for Social Security, I finally had my hearing on Wednesday.

Niels and I arrived about an hour before the hearing--I was a bit paranoid about getting lost! My lawyer arrived about a half hour before. He checked out the disk with all the documentation/evidence and we went into a little room to talk. Everything was current, so that was a relief. Then he talked a little bit about what to expect. He said that first the judge would ask some basic questions about myself (age, education, address, social security number, etc.), then he would ask questions about my health, then my lawyer would ask questions to bring up anything the judge didn't address, then the medical expert (ME) would give his opinion, then the lawyer would ask questions based on what the ME said, then vocational expert (VE) would give her opinion, then the lawyer would ask questions based on that. He said if the ME said I couldn't work, we'd stop at that point. If the ME said I could work, and the VE said I couldn't, we'd stop there because we won. If she said I could work, then we'd bring in my husband to talk about my meltdowns (which I don't remember).

We walked into the meeting room, and I was surprised to see that the judge, ME and lawyer all had computers to look at my file. The person running the recorder was also there. Unfortunately, the VE was not. She didn't call in or anything. I was pretty upset about that because after waiting 3 years to plead your case in person, the person who we were really looking to help me out wasn't there. I hope she wasn't in an accident or anything, but still, very, very strange that she just never showed.

Everything went the way my lawyer said it would. After being sworn in and giving basic details, i was asked a lot of questions about my prior work, my accident, my therapies, my routine today and limitations I have. My ME, who is about EIGHTY, said I should be able to work. (My lawyer said afterwards that this guy NEVER says anyone can't work). He did say I should avoid any factory work where I have quotas. The judge looked at him for about 5 seconds and said, "That's it?" and kind of smirked.

Since the VE still hadn't showed up or called at that point, my lawyer called in my husband to testify. He talked about how we work very hard to order my days, limit my social interactions and try to avoid crashes. He explained what happens when I get overwhelmed and how poorly I deal with stress (my body basically shuts down and i can appear drunk or even catatonic). He also pointed out how he could tell when I was close to crashing, and even pointed out how I appeared at that moment--eyes starting to glaze over, speech slowing down, etc.

The judge decided that he would have the VE listen to the transcript and then answer questions he would submit. Then my lawyer will have the ability to ask follow-up questions. Since she wasn't there, my lawyer said it would likely delay my decision another month, and said not to expect anything for at least two months. Sigh. My original hearing was in April, so it's a bit frustrating that I'm have ANOTHER delay. Yet another example that God is in control and I am clearly not.

So now, I wait.

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