Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Terrible Lawyer Experience

So as I don't know if i mentioned it, but over a month ago, I was turned down for disability. This in and of itself is apparently entirely commonplace, as the system will do whatever it can to ensure not paying out to people, instead actively discouraging applicants by making it as tedious and difficult as possible. Once you receive your rejection you have 60 days during which you can file for a review. If that gets turned down (which it typically does) you then have to go in for a hearing, which is obviously incredibly upsetting, stressful, etc. I don't want disability to be a long term solution for me, but right now I'm not stable enough for a job, and honestly if i were to interview anywhere, explaining the 12 month gap in employment with "well i have this disease....." would probably eliminate me from the candidate pool immediately, what with the current economy being as it is.

I decided to skip trying to get a review without having a lawyer because I really wanted this process over with. A friend of mine spoke to his father (who is lawyer) and his father recommended a friend of his who *used* to do disability law. We met with said lawyer within days of receiving the rejection letter. He told us that he no longer did disability law since there was no money in it, however as a favor to said friend' dad, he would take my case. He then told us to do all the footwork for him (getting medical files, writing out histories, getting consent forms) so that it would minimize the amount we had to pay him since it would minimize the amount of work he would have to do. He also asked us to compile and tab my medical history to show which doctor covered which specialty and find out which doctors would be willing to write letters explaining why ISM is a systemic and generally devastating condition. He asked me to write out a 10 year comprehensive history of my medical health.

We jumped through all his hoops and fulfilled all his obligations immediately. We got all -15- of my specialists willing and wanting to write letters explaining why and how I was disabled. He told us that he would contact that doctors himself so as to coach them in how to phrase things so that they would be more understandable to the medial board at social security, that they shouldn't do anything until they heard from him. He told me to not start working on filling out the application for a reconsideration until I heard from him.

Then he fell off the face of the planet, saying that he would handle things and that we shouldn't contact him too much because he didn't want to feel like we were micromanaging him or the case.

I ended up in the hospital again last week (i had a burst ovarian cyst, the pain of which caused my masto symptoms to flair up like crazy), which of course resulted in my having to see a bunch of my doctors in the wake of my stay at B&W, and I asked them if they had heard from my lawyer, as the 60day deadline was bearing down on us quickly. As it turns out, he hadn't contacted any of them. We sent him an email asking him what was up, if our expectations were not the same as his plan of action in dealing with the case, etc.

This morning, we get an email from him stating that he's just too darn busy to handle our case (or more likely there wasn't enough money in it for him), and was so kind as to give us the referral number for the Mass Bar Hotline, something Social Security had already done when they rejected my claim. He also offered to overnight all the medical work that I had done to whatever lawyer I ended up finding, free of charge.

Now, this son of a bitch obviously knew he had a heavy caseload when he took on my appeal. He knew it when he kept giving Ethan and I more forms to fill out, more forms to pass along to doctors and hospitals, he knew it when he refused to return our 2 phone calls over the past three weeks (as more and more doctors were saying that they hadn't heard from him, we left a couple calls seeing if there was anything more we should be doing, making sure he had gotten all the proper documentation from us. totally cordial messages just wanting to know what was up since the deadline for my appeal was steadily approaching).

Now, with a little over 20 days to go, I need to find a new lawyer, fill out 15 new patient confidentiality forms, and get 15 doctors with incredibly busy schedule (as they are all top tier specialists in their fields, their time is incredibly limited) to write letters, otherwise I will have to start the entire process all over again, which takes months.

To say I am livid is an understatement. Not only did he completely fuck up my appeal process, he also made the colleague of his that referred us to him look terrible in the process, something he has to be aware of.

So now I don't know what to do. I'm going to call a few lawyer referral hotlines, and I also contacted some former coworkers who are lawyers (one was a partner in a lawfirm) to see if they have any recommendations.

This entire situation is just utterly disgusting and has just left me feeling completely and utterly demoralized. -15- doctors say I'm disabled, I've been paying into the system for as many years, I've got medical bills that are insane, and spent the past 40 days under the impression that I had a lawyer who was helping me navigate this whole system. If he'd contacted us weeks ago with this news it would've been upsetting, but this is just beyond reproach.

I have a phone interview with a law firm later today (they helped someone out on one of the larger masto patient lists) so hopefully that will turn out well. It just sucks that a)i have to go through this at all and b) my lawyer turned out to be a money hungry prick in the end.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

That sucks Bridget....Just remember Stress is our enemy....
Tony
Did you check out the Chondrotin/Quercitan links or google them? Chondroitin sulfate is a mast cell inhibitor and Quercitin is a natural antihistamine, both you can buy over the counter cheap.Just started experimenting a week ago...

Gaiden said...

Hi Bridget it's been a while since I visited The Mastocytosis Society. I ran into your blog link and decided to take a look.

Don't give up that's what they would like you to do. It took me 2 and a half years to get my disability, I went through the same ordeal you are speaking of. I finally had to hire a lawyer myself, honestly he did not do all that much to be truthful. I had to tell this U.S. Magistrate why I felt I needed disability and explain my illness in detail about how I lived day to day with it.

I was diagnosed in 1997, if it wasn't for people like Olive, Joe and Diane Devins I may not be here today.

I have systemic mastocytosis in case you are wondering I'm known as a shocker I'm sure you can relate. I'm currently doing chemo by pill at M.D. Anderson.

Take care and I hope you are doing well.

Kevin Shoemake, Victoria Texas