I applied for disability over three years ago. I was denied twice, before hiring a law firm to represent me. I then had two court hearings, where I was again denied twice. Yesterday, I had my fifth chance, my third court hearing. Leading up to this, I was very stressed. I’ve been extremely anxious. See, I’ve been relying on my diagnosis of trigeminal neuralgia to do the heavy work, with some other issues, like anxiety disorders and eye problems and more to help out. But it hasn’t. In my last hearing, this past June, I just happened to mention that I had back issues and the judge perked up. He asked if I’d sought treatment and I replied that I had. He asked if there was an MRI. I said that there was. He then said he was going to rule I was capable of “unskilled sedentary labor,” unless my orthopedic doctor could prove otherwise. He asked for the records to be sent to hime, as did my lawyer. I surprised him with it too, cause I hadn’t thought it was relevant.
Over the past few days, I’ve been getting grilled by lawyers in anticipation of yesterday’s hearing. It’s been tough. Yesterday, I spent an hour and a half before the hearing with two lawyers getting grilled like hell, them hitting me with anything and everything, to prepare me for what the judge might ask me. They told me the judge was very volatile and there’s no telling what mood he’ll be in. He has a real bad temper. Because I’d appeared in front of him twice before, I knew what they were referring to. They told me the hearing would probably center solely on my back and that the medical expert the judge was calling in would determine the outcome — the judge would do whatever the medical expert advised. This made me nervous, because in my two previous hearings, the medical experts have drilled the hell out of me. I felt really depressed and defeated before going in there. I was also depressed because what I thought was my slam dunk — a diagnosis of coccydynia, massive tailbone damage and pain, proving I can’t sit for very long — would not be allowed in court because it wouldn’t satisfy the 12 month rule. I was stunned. The lawyers discussed asking the judge to recuse himself and they considered asking me to start over again instead of filing another appeal after the hearing. It was discouraging to hear.
Well, finally it was time. We were 20 minutes late and that never happens with this judge. He’s timely to the second. I took that as a bad sign. The judge got started and called the medical expert in Indianapolis. He said he was prepared to offer his assessment of the situation. I cringed. He starting using terminology I didn’t understand, medical things about my back. But then he said it would satisfy a “listing” and I understood that. My lawyers had told me a listing equates to disability in legal terms. My ears perked up. As he continued to talk, he went on to basically say my back is so screwed up that unless I got a couple of fusions and possibly some other surgeries, that combined with my other issues such as trigeminal neuralgia, means there’s no way I can work. I couldn’t believe it! I was stunned. The judge told him that there were some questions about my having responded favorably to some nerve blocks for my TN, but the doctor said that wasn’t his area of expertise and couldn’t render an opinion on that. So the judge terminated the conversation and said he would rule favorably in the case and that we were excused. I went outside with my two lawyers, holding my breath, and we all looked at each other and then said, holy shit! We couldn’t believe it! We congratulated each other. We were overjoyed. That damn doctor saved my ass. So now, after nearly three and a half years of fighting a lengthy, horrible battle, I’ve won — I’ve gotten disability. I feel so much relief. My lawyers told me I’ll be eligible for insurance and that I should expect a check within three to four months. They did warn me that the government tries to take disability back from people, especially younger people like me, and that if they do, I’ll only have 10 days to appeal, so they told me to watch for that, but we were all thrilled and when I got home, I called my wife and she couldn’t believe it. She was overjoyed. And then I called my mom and she cried. It’s been a very tough three plus years. We’ve barely scraped by. We’ve had to borrow money. I don’t think I’ll be getting all that much, but it’ll be that much more than nothing, right? I just can’t believe I finally won. It feels like a dream. Of course, until I get the judge’s decision in my hands, I won’t fully believe it, but it’s 99%+ as good as gold. Thank God! Finally! All of these doctors, all of these appointments, all of the surgeries, all of these medications, all of this pain — all of it is going to come to something good. I’m really grateful. I feel like such a huge weight has been lifted off of my shoulders.