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Mentally ill man caught in disability-unemployment snafu

Fraternal male-female twins both suffer from schizophrenia. The difference for them is that the sister was diagnosed at age 12 and has never been able to work. The brother, unwilling to submit to that fate, did all he could to work and maintain an independent lifestyle. This included holding down continuous employment at fast food restaurants, cleaning services and retail stores, such as Wal-Mart. While this happened outside California, it could have happened anywhere.

The man persevered until 2009 when debilitating delusions got him fired from his job. He then checked himself into a mental hospital and was diagnosed with schizophrenia, major depressive disorder and borderline intellectual functioning. On his doctor's recommendation, he applied to the Social Security Administration for disability benefits because he was no longer able to maintain a job. His initial Social Security Disability request was denied.

He appealed the ruling. Understanding that sometimes the appeals process with the SSA can take up to two years, and because he was unemployed and unable to work, he also applied for state unemployment benefits. He desperately wanted to reenter the work force and has since tried, but his mental impairment prevents him from doing so.

Interestingly, only able-bodied and able-minded individuals are eligible to collect unemployment insurance. Those collecting SSD have been deemed disabled and unable to work. This mentally ill Missouri man ended up being caught in the middle of the two systems.

The appeal was successful entitling him to receive disability payments beginning in March of 2010, along with retroactive compensation during the appeals process. The SSA was supposed to work with the state unemployment agency to calculate the amount the government should deduct from the retroactive disability payment in order to take into consideration the amount of unemployment income he received while awaiting the SSD appeals decision.

Apparently, a mistake was made somewhere between the SSA and the state unemployment system, leaving this innocent mentally disabled man caught in the middle. Now, the state agency is demanding the return of $3,000 for the mistake. His case is now headed to the Missouri Supreme Court, and hopefully a resolution will be found in his favor.

Source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, "Mentally ill Dardenne Prairie man challenges unemployment bureaucracy," Steve Giegerich, March 23, 2012

1 Comment

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