And Some People Think It’s Real Easy To Get On Social Security Disability
Marcella Myer, who is 52, was a clumsy child. Not that she remembers it that way. She shook her head when I asked if she ever felt there was something wrong with her. But her mother remembers. “She used to fall in the middle of the floor,” said Delorse Knehans. …
She has lived with her mother her entire life. She never married. After graduating from Lutheran South High School, she worked at a gas station and then in nursing homes. Then she got a job in the warehouse at Famous-Barr, which, of course, became Macy’s. She lost that job in 2008. She told me she just couldn’t keep up anymore.
By that time, Lisa [her niece] had noticed [Marcella’s] condition deteriorating. Her gait was becoming increasingly unsteady. Her speech was slurred. She has been diagnosed with cerebral palsy. …
Lisa suggested she apply for Social Security disability. “You just can’t work any more,” she said.
Marcella applied for disability. She was turned down. She had a hearing on that denial in March of this year.
Attorney Jeffrey Swaney was at the Social Security office representing another client when Marcella’s case was called.
“I was sitting in the waiting room when they called her. I knew it was an appeal, and I remember thinking, ‘How could this woman have been denied?’ You could see she was profoundly disabled,” he said.
Later that afternoon, Swaney got a phone call from Lisa. She had seen his ad in the Yellow Pages about Social Security disability claims.
“She said her aunt had just had an appeal and had been denied and she started describing it, and I said, ‘I was sitting right behind you.'”
So Swaney took the case. He said the problem was a lack of medical documentation.
Incidentally, by this time, Marcella had suffered a series of strokes. She had difficulty speaking. She had to use a cane to walk.
A hearing was scheduled for August.
By then, Marcella was in the nursing home. A doctor from the nursing home wrote that she would never be able to return to the second-story condominium. Lisa and Marcella felt confident that Marcella would finally be approved for disability.
The administrative law judge declared there was not enough information upon which to base a decision. He gave Swaney 30 days to gather more information.
Swaney told me he sent in the additional information this past week. He said he felt optimistic.
I visited Marcella on Friday. Because her speech is slurred, Lisa was there to help interpret for me. Marcella said she has gone through her entire savings since she last worked two years ago. After she exhausted her savings, she began living on a credit card. She is about maxed out, she said. …
When I got back to the newspaper, I called Swaney. I said I was surprised the judge needed more medical records. Marcella clearly seemed disabled to me, I said.
“If she’s faking it,” he said, ‘she should be an Academy Award-winning actress.”
Marcella Myer was sitting on her bed in the nursing home when I visited her Wednesday. She looked exactly as she looked when I saw her in September. In fact, she was sitting in the same bed. Nothing had changed.
How could that be?
Marcella is 53. (That has changed. She had a birthday in November.) She is in the Woodland Manor Nursing Center in Arnold, which seems like a nice nursing home. But even a nice nursing home is not a great place for a 53-year-old woman. Truth is, it’s more appropriate for her mother.
That would be Delorse Knehans, who is 85 and lives down the hall.
Marcella has always lived with her mother. She never married. After graduating from Lutheran High School South, she got a job at a gas station and then worked as an aide in nursing homes. Finally, she got a job in the warehouse at Famous-Barr, which, of course, became Macy’s. She lost that job in 2008. She told me she just couldn’t keep up anymore.
Something was wrong. Her niece, Lisa Volner, had noticed a slurring of her speech. Her gait was increasingly unsteady. She went to a doctor who said she had a form of cerebral palsy.
By this time, she was also having problems keeping up at home. She and her mother were renting a second-story condo, and taking care of her mother just got to be too much. So in the summer of 2008, Delorse moved into the nursing home.
Marcella applied for disability. She was turned down. She had a hearing on that denial last March. By that time, she had suffered a series of strokes. She walked with a cane. She could hardly talk.
Attorney Jeffrey Swaney was at the Social Security office with another client when Marcella’s case was called.
“I knew it was an appeal, and I remember thinking, ‘How could this woman have been denied?’ You could see that she was profoundly disabled,” he told me in September when I first wrote about this case.
At any rate, he ended up with the case. A new hearing was scheduled for August.
But in July of last year, on Delorse’s birthday, Marcella and Lisa decided to take Delorse out to dinner. They stopped at a grocery store to buy flowers. Marcella fell. She ended up in the hospital.
After a few days, the hospital decided she should go to a nursing home to recuperate. She went to Woodland Manor to be with her mother.
In August, the administrative law judge said there was not enough information upon which to base a decision. Lisa gathered doctors’ reports and gave them to Swaney. He gave them to the judge.
When I visited in September, everybody seemed confident that a decision would be rendered soon.
I had no question what the decision would be. Marcella could hardly talk. She could hardly walk.
But in November, she was ordered to go to an office on Brentwood Boulevard for a psychological evaluation. The psychologist noted that the medical records indicated “a history of cerebral palsy, spastic paraparesis, and degenerative arthritis with lumbar stenosis, gait disorder/ataxia, stroke, hypertension” and various other maladies.
That’s not enough?
By the way, the psych evaluation said Marcella functions within the “borderline range” of intelligence and has verbal comprehension in the “low average” range.
“Her knowledge of current events was adequate as evidenced by her ability to name the current President and Mayor, but not the Governor.”
The governor? Who can name the governor? We haven’t seen or heard from him in two years. And what does that have to do with disability, anyway?
Obviously, the administrative judge is in no rush to make a decision.
Perhaps you’re thinking that because these decisions are retroactive, time is not of the essence.
But when Marcella went into the hospital and then the nursing home, she put all her furniture – a lifetime’s worth of stuff – in storage. She has gone through her savings. She has maxed out her credit card. Lisa has helped as much as she can. But the storage unit was locked for lack of payments. If it’s not paid by the middle of next month, the contents will be sold at auction.
Furthermore, if Marcella’s disability claim is approved, she is eligible for Medicare. She needs it.
Perhaps most importantly, a nursing home is not an appropriate place for a 53-year-old woman. Michelle Pannier, the director of Social Service at Woodland Manor Nursing Center, told me that she is hopeful of helping Marcella get into some kind of assisted-living arrangement.
Before I left, I went back to say goodbye to Marcella. She was sitting on the bed.