Dear Prospective VR Counsellor

Thank you for choosing to work with me on starting my new endeavour as a potential business entrepreneur. There are some things I would like to share with you, so that we can all be on the same page. I apologise in advance for the length of this letter, but I think it is well worth the read. I also apologise for the number of links in this letter, but I think these are great resources I found for what I would like to do moving forward. I realise that most of this will be going into political territory, and there’s no doubt that the workplace mandates political neutrality, but I would at least like to tell you my story and the reasons things turned out the way they did. Also, if you do not have experience working with people from marginalised communities or other backgrounds, or if you don’t have the knowledge and expertise for developing a business plan for a self-employed-oriented individual, then I ask that my case be transferred to someone who is more knowledgeable on these topics. Alternatively, you can go here to learn more.

I decided to reopen my case following a long series of unfortunate events. Given that I closed my case with the Commission for the Blind in early 2017, I thought I could find a different provider and start from scratch. As I soon found out, though, a case must be opened with the commission if you are legally blind because they use specialised funding to specifically address the blindness population that is generally not available to the regular voc rehab agencies. They offered to set up a joint case to address my other disabilities, though.

I am also submitting a court order with my new legal name, and with your permission, I would like to remove old and outdated information from your records.

 

I already had some work experience since 2010. Out of the belief that I needed more independence training, I was asked to attend a ten-month programme in Vancouver to further explore my options and attend college at the counsellor’s request in 2012–this after I discovered what I really wanted to do and how I could share my talents with the world. Subsequently, I found my passion for piano tuning, but I was advised to wait to determine whether my hearing loss was going to worsen because as it was at the time, I did pretty well, but there was no guarantee that it would continue to remain the same.

I did not know that there was something lurking in a dark corner and waiting to jump out at me when I had made the turn. In November of 2012, I attempted to apply for Financial Aid, but I was informed that, because I was coercively assigned male at birth, I had to register for the Selective Service in case there was ever a draft. I did not consider myself to be transgender just yet until a few weeks after I completed the programme in June.

I started objecting to this from day 1, though, and to this day I continue to object. I was told numerous times that nobody will be able to draft me because of my disabilities even if I identified as male, but unfortunately, you still must register to get those benefits. I found this out when my mother tried to get my brother financial aid, as well. There are also repercussions for knowingly lying about your gender. Given that this is an old issue, I could not get the media and legal organisations interested to pursue this issue further. It is too bad that nobody wants to address these issues given that transgender and nonbinary people are making headlines today. I should not have to register if I did not identify as male unless they Require that everybody sign up, regardless of biological sex or gender identity, the way they do with jury duty. I would rather have this policy abolished altogether, though.

I started a petition to address these issues, to given the political climate, I doubt anything will come of it, so this is where the folks from Basic Rights Oregon, who are advocating for me, come in. I recently graduated from a leadership development programme called Catalyst, because my hope was to start a project to address these issues. I have vowed to remain civilly disobedient and boycotting Financial Aid, and I entreat anyone who identifies as transgender, gender nonbinary, or gender-nonconforming or whatever, to do this as well if they believe that the 103-year-old policy is giving cisgender males preferential treatment, and everybody else unfair and unequal access to education. Now, I am not opposed to going to college. I have nothing against that whatsoever. I would gladly go back if it were not for the whole Selective Service issue. And there are other ways to get stipends and scholarships or grants depending on what the goals are and how they can be achieved. There are funding sources for marginalised folks and underserved populations. There is also the option of studying in another country, as well. For that, I would suggest checking out Mobility International USA. They have resources for joining the Job or Peace Corps. Most of them require college degrees, but a few let you join with experience and references.

You can take my word for it that I am smart and intelligent, but evidently that is not enough for many things in any developed country. Fortunately, there are still lots of ways to be successful without ever going to college. Also, here are some freelance jobs requiring no degree or experience. People say that you need a job, but you cannot get a job without experience, which sort of sounds backwards, since a job is supposed to help you build that experience.

I’ve been trying to make it as an aspiring or emerging author (with five manuscripts under my belt and counting–through self and traditional publishing), freelance writer, blogger, ceramic artist, baker, musician (DJ and sound tech), authorised dealer, or even a breeder.

As I learnt throughout most of my life, though, a lot of people stressed the importance of getting employment. That means working for someone else instead of suggesting that you could theoretically take employment into your own hands and work for yourself, on your terms. When I asked around, I learnt that many voc rehab places view entrepreneurship as a dirty word because it’s often a waste of government money to support you on something that is likely to not get off the ground, and that it doesn’t guarantee verification that you were working. This is because starting and running a business can be extremely debilitating, and funds can be misused or abused. Similarly, it seemed to me that voc rehab agencies only supported knowledge and intelligence-based careers rather than those that involved crafting or arts. You hardly hear about blind performing artists going to Hollywood because it is often a burden to support all their accommodations. Recently, the Helen Keller National Centre posted an article about the first DeafBlind actor being featured in a film. They also told me that a lot of blind people, of which 70 percent are unemployed, do not have the needed capital or creditworthiness to start their business. I do not know if this number is higher, lower, or the same for blind people with intersecting characteristics, either in the United States or anywhere else. But there are grants you can apply for, like this one, this one, and this one. Once a year, OSU hosts a Funding Blitz webinar to teach you how you can increase your chances of getting the funding you need for whatever purpose you have in mind. They even have a section that focuses on funding for women, minority, and underserved entrepreneurs.

It also seems from what I’ve observed that people want you to work at a job site instead of suggesting that you could work from home, as well, but there’s nothing wrong with that. With the whole COVID19 outbreak, it is pretty much the only option right now, anyway. Maybe it is because they wanted you to build good mobility and punctuality skills, build experience with writing a resume, wearing good clothes to an interview, etc., which would otherwise be lost or remain undeveloped if working at home or running a business. By the way, since I cannot afford to buy clothes, I was referred by Goodwill Job Connections to visit Dress for Success, which is very inclusive.

I am open to working with someone who is willing to support and accommodate me with all my access needs and other characteristics. I am good at writing and editing, speaking English and Spanish fluently (I am a better writer in English), crowdsourcing and building connections, organising information, and writing about technical topics based on research. I have also been in a cohort as of 2013 that explores reproductive medicine, and I have been curious about how to advance my understanding of this to help with my own research as a transgender person. I also love to teach one-on-one about various topics, like Braille and music, amateur radio, or teaching English or Spanish. I could be a technology instructor, Braille proofreader, translator or interpreter, specifically focusing on gender affirmation and inclusion. I could also work in a music store or somewhere in the amusement ride industry. And I am also willing to try working as a caregiver if I can find resources on how that can be done for someone who is completely blind and severely hard-of-hearing.

One of my teachers of the Visually Impaired got me signed up with LegalShield. They look like a typical multi-level marketing company or pyramid scheme, and they are often notorious for selling low-quality products or illegitimate services. However, I found their services to be very satisfactory, and I have been able to resolve legal disputes at the administrative level, so I make it noticeably clear when selling memberships.

When I told people about my talents and interests, a few of them offered to donate their used equipment if they had no further use for it. I am thinking of asking churches and other organisations about building my pro audio or ceramics gear based on donations or finding some in a pawn shop. This after I have taken some audio fundamental and music composition courses online and a ceramics class at the local cultural arts centre. I am also a member of the Able Artist Foundation, and I will be applying for grants later this spring.

Another thing I’ve noticed about job-seeking was that not only did a lot of people emphasise how important it was to get a job, but that you should pursue mainstream jobs as well, rather than suggesting that you could technically get a job pertaining to the minority of which you belong. I guess it all depends on your level of comfort. Somehow, this might seem like we are reinforcing the stereotype that blind people can only get blindness-related jobs and stuff, but what about when someone has intersecting characteristics that also marginalises them as well? How many employers are ready to hire someone who is blind, hard-of-hearing, a person of colour, legally non-binary, comes from an impoverished family, and with no college degree? And at the same time, what if they have mental health issues like anxiety, panic disorder, and PTSD? By the way, it is not being transgender or nonbinary that is the barrier. It is the way people are being treated for their perceived gender contrary to how they identify that is the barrier. So, some people may choose to avoid these barriers altogether. It doesn’t mean that they are cowards, but rather, they are building their own path and finding a way to cross those barriers by cutting right through it.

In 2016, I came out to my former VR counsellor, and they agreed to change my name, although they could not change my gender yet. Some of the staff, especially those from the older generation, continued misgendering me, though. Then I got sick, unfortunately, following a trip to Arizona because of the excessive heat, and I spent almost a year and a half recovering from the aftermath. I could not commit to VR anymore, so I had to close my case in 2017 so I could work on getting better. At the same time, I got into a major family emergency that lasted a long time.

There is barely any support in Oregon for folks who are deaf-blind. There is a lot of support if you have one disability or the other, but not both. Anyway, there has been several attempts to implement a support service provider system to assist deaf-blind individuals like they already have over in Seattle and provide case management, but all efforts have been in vain. I had to miss out on various recreational and leisurely activities because I could not get the support needed like I could when I was younger. My mother usually provided this support, but she always needed to ensure that my older brother (who has a significant developmental disability in addition to his blindness and hearing loss) was being looked after first. As I got older, I found that my mother did not have time for me anymore because of the countless number of errands she had to run every time the caregiver came, which is currently once or twice a week. Update: we are expected to have a caregiver come five days a week, which should hopefully be more than enough. Soon, we may talk about hiring an awake overnight provider.

I am also afraid of having anything to do with my life as a transgender person compromised because my mother does not know anything about it, as she and other family members are not supportive and accepting. Before you read on, I am going to be straight up blunt. I’m not going to give out any names unless it were in the best interest of the public good, but it seemed like there were two kinds of people who worked with disabled individuals: those who are genuinely caring, and those who were flat-out controlling and infantilising. These individuals are what I have clashes and misunderstandings with. An author actually talked about it in his book, White Coat, White Cane: The Extraordinary Odyssey of a Blind Physician, by David Hartman. I can understand that they only wanted me to thrive, so they did it in ways that were probably not favourable for me. These are the individuals who manipulated or talked folks into doing things they probably were not ready for. They most likely put them in one of their pigeonholes and made it hard for them to get out of. Young and new adults might as well be coerced into going to college, but maybe it is because they also feed on people’s fears and ignorance about what their rights are.

I actually had to file a grievance against someone for releasing information about me and unprofessionally expressing a negative opinion behind my back to my mother, whom I trusted, but since it was hearsay, I was not a witness to the incident and therefore wasn’t able to escalate the issue further.

All of this has cost me financially, and as a result, I am currently battling a decision that was made by Social Security about two years ago. I invite you to read my brief, which is in the next post. After you read it, I think you will understand where I am coming from, and why I will ultimately need your support. Sufficient to say here that it involves housing issues, and I am looking into applying for housing grants, like this and this, to settle the debt. Some of these services ask you to pay for them, though. I was able to get a church to pay one month worth of rent.

One of the folx from BRO told me about a programme called PASS (Plan to Achieve Self-support), but I did not know that there was a catch to it. It will only work if I were getting income that would significantly reduce my SSI. The PASS Cadre then referred me to another programme called Ticket to Work. I would argue that getting grants, if I qualified for them, would count as income, so a PASS would therefore be valid. I said before that churches and organisations may be able to donate equipment, but I think some of them may also provide financial assistance, as well. At least, that was one of my friends’ suggestions, but I could not get anywhere with that.

Also, when someone recommended that I apply for Section Eight Housing, which is run by Housing Urban Development, I objected to the way they collected and used certain demographic information. I discovered that not only do they have a long waiting list, but they also require you to only select male or female on the application. I asked myself, What business is it of theirs to know what sex or gender I am? Furthermore, when I got my court order, birth certificate, and ID that all declare that I am legally non-binary, there was going to be a legal mismatch between the two systems. So, I decided to boycott Section Eight as well. I heard that Oregon is working to provide state-funded inclusive housing, but I do not know much about that.

Anyhow, I think it is time for me to close out this letter, and I hope now you know where I’m coming from, and how we can work together so I can start over anew and get the life I deserve to live, not based on what someone thinks my life should be. If I return to VR, I would like to work on my terms instead of theirs.

I lost nearly four years of what could have been an enjoyable experience, but I was not able to get relief during the time that I was suffering. I tried alleging mental and emotional distress, negligence, loss of enjoyment of life, and possibly a few other things against the organisation that was responsible for the trip to Arizona, but according to my attorney, I didn’t have enough evidence to file a claim. Somebody also told me that given how small that organisation was, they likely would not have money to settle the judgement, although I could have filed a wage garnish as an alternative. Given all the things I have gone through, I think I should be set for life.

Please take some time to go over the information, and feel free to ask me any questions.

Respectfully yours,

Heavenly Harmony

She/they

To Sue or Not to Sue?

Plan to Sue Social Security for an Alleged Overpayment

 
 

Heavenly Harmony V. Social Security Administration, Andrew Saul, Commissioner

Room 617, Altmeyer Building

6401 Security Boulevard

Baltimore, MD 21235-6401

Social Security Administration Office of General Counsel – Seattle, WA701 Fifth Avenue Suite 2900, M/S 901Seattle, WA 98104

(206) 615-2684

Oregon District Court – Portland, OR

Mark O. Hatfield United States Courthouse

1000 Southwest Third Avenue

Portland, OR 97204-2802

503-326-8008

Processing fee is $400. May be able to grant waiver, which will be deducted from benefits if awarded, along with attorney fees if the Social Security Administration authorises it.

 

I am submitting this brief, which contains some elements used in my April 12th, 2019 hearing at the Office of Hearings Operations (OHO), as well as supplemental testimony submitted to the appeals council in November 2019. I will address any discrepancies in the ALJ’s decision, and why the council’s denial to review the case was erroneous. The chief officer for the council mentioned in their letter that the judge’s decision can only be overturned by special rules, especially if a civil action is not filed within 60 days. My concern is that the federal court judge will not examine any new evidence past the date of the hearing transcript. Under federal law, one cannot sue the Social Security Administration directly. Therefore, the commissioner named above will be known as the defendant in the case.

Also, I am concerned that, due to lack of communication within a reasonable timeframe, plus not being well trained on working with blind individuals, my attorney, who was referred to by LegalShield, has not done an effective job at representing my case, and I ended up filing a complaint with the Oregon State Bar. As of March of 2020, he called my excuse of ‘poor communication’ ‘completely subjective and utterly preposterous.’ He commended me for being an outstanding witness in my hearing compared to other witnesses he has represented, though.

Here is how a civil action against SSA is initiated: An initial brief must be sent to open a case, then the summons must be served to the commissioner through the office of general council. Upon acknowledgement of the summons, an opening brief is sent by the plaintiff, followed by a response brief from the opposition. Finally, the plaintiff will have one chance to reply to the response before the judge decides. The process generally takes about twelve to eighteen months to complete.

 

In most of 2015 through 2016, I have been consistent in keeping up with my payments to my mother, who is the head of the household and who only speaks Spanish, for rent, but things started going downhill after I got back from a trip in July of 2016 . I live in a household with one other disabled person, who is my brother, and a single mother, who has been divorced since 2005.

The reason I stopped paying my mother $200 for rent beginning in August 2016 was because I paid for air fare to an event that took place a few months later, which then turned into months of severe medical hardship. I will not go into detail here, as there are plenty of exhibits covering the matter. Suffice it to say that there were two stages of why I have not been able to keep up with my payments during the time. The first was due to unexpected medical and transportation expenses, and later, it was due to a misunderstanding. However, in February 2017, I managed to pay my mother two hundred dollars for rent. This may have to be calculated when I present the new evidence, assuming that I can still submit it. Basically, my mother was concerned for my health and did not require me to pay her until I felt better, and I have paid off my medical bills. At the same time, she was demanding that I pay her every month. She was basically trying to milk an emaciated cow.

 

The administrative law judge begins the letter with, ‘You will not have the right to a federal court review.’ Despite this, though, I do not think that anyone at the administrative level has the power to say what your rights are. It may have been an error on the judge’s part for concluding that a federal district court judge might also conclude that the evidence was consistent for why the case was denied at the previous three stages of the appeals process that they simply followed all laws, rules and regulations. He probably did not want me to spend $400 and have my case dismissed without prejudice. Therefore, it is extremely important that we submit a motion to allow new evidence to be considered. This may include a subpoena to be delivered to my mother in person. It must call for her to either testify at an oral argument hearing or submit copies of the new evidence directly since she is not willing to do it on her own. Otherwise, I can deliver the evidence myself.

 

On page three of the judge’s decision, as well as in the original notice dated 26 April, the Social Security Administration indicated that they had been counting the overpayment since November 2016 based on information they collected from my mother. But, in another exhibit, my mother signed a sworn statement, which reads in part, ‘I hereby certify that Deadname used to pay $200 a month. In August 2016, however, Deadname stopped paying.’ This was based on a phone conversation she had with an SSA caseworker in early April of 2018. In the recording or transcript, my attorney is heard asking me, ‘Do you agree with your mother’s sworn statement?’ My response to that question was yes. However, in light of having someone else look at the case, I strongly disagree with this statement now. In response to my complaint, my attorney showed great dislike towards the supposed non-lawyer for critiquing his work and telling me what I should do legally and has asked the bar to determine the identity of this non-lawyer to inform them about the bars against practising law without a valid licence. As a consumer, I have every right to seek advice from whomever I want, and my friends are entitled to think whatever they want, but unless they are attorneys, they should always say, That doesn’t sound right. You might want to bring this up with an attorney.

Also, I cannot find any explanation for why the Social Security Administration did not count August, September, or October as being overpaid since both notices clearly said November 2016, contrary to the sworn statements.

 

An SSA caseworker called me on Friday, 17 February 2017 for a routine case review, and, during that call, I told him that I wanted to get a secured credit card, and I asked him if that was going to be an issue for them since the card would be giving me more money. The caseworker reassured me and said something to the effect of, ‘Credit cards are things you have to pay for, so we don’t really need to know about them.’ Based on that statement, I assumed that I did not need to pay my mother since I was then being obligated to pay my credit cards every month.

Note: prior to being notified on 26 April 2018 of the overpayment, no one from Social Security told me outright, either in phone or in writing, that I still had rental obligations, so my mother’s telling me to pay her could be regarded as Hearsay. It is my understanding that some government entities have a standard which articulates that there may be physical, mental, educational, linguistic, or other barriers for not knowing about a code of federal regulation, public law, etc., although one could reasonably argue that ignorance was no excuse. Still, if I had been living on my own, and if I were struggling to pay my rent because of all the medical stuff I was going through, I could have gotten assistance to ensure that I would continue to have a roof over my head. The problem is that I was not able to get this type of assistance because I do not have a formal lease with my mother. Still, I should have had every right to borrow money from her. Instead, she told them that she was not charging me rent, but later, she is still demanding that I pay her when I cannot. Bottom line is that my mother had forgiven me to pay rent when she should loaned that money during the time that I was paying all those bills.

 

I was able to close almost all my debt in early 2018, so, beginning in April, I withdrew two hundred dollars in cash and handed it to my mother. I was initially going to pay her three hundred dollars a month, as I had said on my 5 March 2018 interview with Social Security, but my mother told me that I did not have to pay her that much. I thought I could pay her back for the time I could not pay her by adding $100 to the $200, but I never ended up paying her the extra amount. I also paid my mother in May of 2018.

 

When I learned that my benefits were being threatened, I doubled my efforts to find ways to save money, get grants, etc. I even set up a mutual funds account with Edward Jones so I would have something to fall back on just in case. At the rate I was going, though, I could only deposit around twenty-five to fifty dollars a month at a time. My mutual funds officially opened in October. Then, as the evidence has shown, I called Money Management International, which is a debt management programme certified by the National FOUNDATION FOR Credit Counselling in July of 2018, and I asked whether I should consider filing bankruptcy, but the counsellor suggested that I begin a debt management plan instead. So, as of December 2019, I have successfully completed that plan and no longer have any debt obligations. As part of the agreement, all my accounts had to be closed, but they were able to lower the minimum payment as well, and it also came at a high price (which you’ll see more of below). I wouldn’t have been able to do this, save for some things I’ve sold in some garage sales last year, combined with the money I’ve saved in my mutual funds, and things I have pawned, I was able to pay off a large amount of debt in a short amount of time.

 

According to the judge’s order, a claimant is eligible to receive SSI, pursuant to 20 CFR. 116.1100, if access to income or other resources are limited. Income is counted on a per-month basis. The more income one has, the less one’s benefits will be. Pursuant to 20 CFR. 416.232, if an individual’s countable income and or resources do not exceed a certain limit, they will have no effect on the individual’s benefits. Later down the page, the judge cites several codes of federal regulations that further detail how income is counted, how it affects a person’s eligibility for SSI, and what is counted as income or resources.

The judge also articulated that in-kind income is counted even though it is not monetary. In-kind income is food or shelter, or something that can be used to meet one’s needs. However, 20 CFR. 416.1130 states that an individual is not receiving in-kind income if said individual is paying the amount equals the market value. The later codes, 20 CFR 416.1131 and 20 CFR 416.1140 explain how in-kind support and maintenance is calculated. This last part is what makes it entirely illogical, as I will outline below.

On pages three and four, the judge has concluded that, based on the hearing and evidence submitted, there was no reason to decide in my favour. The Social Security Administration determined that if I had been receiving help from my mother, then I was no longer eligible to receive the full amount, and that they would take that away from me.

However, upon new developments of the case, one of my former teachers of the visually impaired, who I’ve spoken to in October 2019, and who is not an attorney, suggested that if an individual is not able to pay rent for any reason, then one must either borrow money from somebody else, or get evicted. ‘Since my mother did not evict me, it means that she is still expecting me to pay back the money that I owe. So, by willingly telling the Social Security Administration that I had not been paying rent, it meant that she made the situation worse for her because she is ultimately getting less money from me each month. Therefore, I think that if she have had legal representation, the attorney would’ve advised her not to sign whatever Social Security had sent her, but rather, instead sign a different sworn statement saying, ‘I hereby certify that Deadname is on loan for the amount of $3,800 for the time period of August 2016 through March 2018,’ and there would’ve been a different outcome to the case. The Social Security Administration would have requested evidence of a loan or rental agreement and proof that I would indeed pay her back. The problem is that there are not many attorneys who are fluent in both English and Spanish, and interpreters are not always available. In response to my complaint where I said that I felt like we had not made a strong enough argument, my attorney said that he could not have seen any way to win except perhaps by outright lying under oath.

When I told my attorney about my new argument, he said that it obviously put the judge’s decision in conflict with SSI benefits, but it made sense in the same way. The judge articulated that SSA cannot or should not impose a repayment plan that would undermine the intent of the system. They are only using this as an excuse to take back the money they are calling overpaid simply because of a sworn statement signed by my mother when she needs that money more than they do. Still, he agreed that although my case might as well be entirely hopeless, the decision made against me was still basically offensive to a larger sense of decency. For that reason alone, he invited me to submit a supplemental testimony, which did no good because it did not change the underlying facts of the case or raise any new issues of law. He said that he submitted my supplemental testimony electronically, but I got no notice of this, and it wasn’t included in the exhibits provided by the Appeals Council, so I had no way of knowing whether it was received.

 

So, when I got the letter of adverse action from Social Security on 26 April 2018, I immediately faxed it to my LegalShield provider firm, which I have had since 2012, thanks to my former teacher. The attorney who was assigned to my file asked me why my mother would do such a thing. I told her that she was probably afraid of committing fraud. She then said this: Doesn’t she know how to be sophisticated? I did not know what the attorney meant by that, but there would be a time when I wish I knew. My mother, not knowing how much this would hurt me financially, was very intimidated by Social Security’s strict policies that she thought what she did was right. Therefore, I am not blaming her for what she did, but I hope that this will be a lesson that we can all learn from. My attorney could have taken a chance to make this a high profile or landmark case. It only takes one person to change the rules.

 

Thus, I am proposing to settle the debt with my mother by using forgivable loans or rental assistance grants, so that I can put this behind me and move on with my life. I am also actively working to reestablish my credit history after I closed all my accounts before legally changing my name. This has made it virtually impossible for me to get the needed loan or credit to pay back my mother because I lost almost two years of historical information, but I want to get the satisfaction of turning the tables on Social Security for subsequently making my life worse by providing them with the new evidence. I have spent a little over six months disputing with the credit bureaus to get them to migrate and merge my reports together. I might have to work with a loan officer or credit analyst. The good news is that I got approved for an unsecured credit card with a very low credit limit, so hopefully within a year, I’ll have proven myself to be creditworthy again to get the needed amount to pay back the rent.

Also, considering some historic events that started in early March, the world is currently experiencing a pandemic of the Corona Virus Disease of 2019 (COVID19.) This has consequently shifted the entire social, political, educational, economic, and any other imaginable landscape in a new direction. As such, local, state, and federal governments have started issuing stimulus packages and economic impact relief payments to eligible recipients while they continue to practise social distancing and self-quarantine. Another thing my attorney said in his response to my complaint was that although he agreed that my case was grossly unfair given the extent of my disability, American society has always been grossly unfair, and he’s had several clients die while waiting for their hearings. For this reason, I feel that the novel corona virus is Karma’s way of punishing our society for bearing ill will towards its weakest members. Congress has even proposed a rent and mortgage forgiveness act, which I hope passes. This would make my and anyone else’s life easier during these trying times.

If I were still a kid, or if my mother had legal custody of me as an adult, she would have every right to withhold any amount of money to take care of me, and I would have no control over it. If I had a job, or if my business was successful, and I was making lots of money, that’s another thing. But since neither is the case, I shouldn’t be forced to give up what little money I have and still try to make ends meet. My mother could have gotten a better job, gotten a degree, and have been able to provide me with the best things in life. In fact, there is a special needs trust which articulates that disabled people are entitled to have as much right (no more, no less) as anyone else to experience life’s luxuries and basic needs for the purpose of maintaining good self-esteem. That’s why I look forward to the day when one or both of my parents retire so that my brother and I can get Disabled Adult Child Programme benefits.

Following the letter that I received from the Social Security Appeals Council’s denial of the case on Friday, 29 November 2019, I believe that my attorney was not able to submit my new argument in time. I also wonder how something so obvious was so easy for him to miss that he failed to see it. According to the complaint, he said that at the beginning of the consultation, he hesitated to take on my case because the chance of prevailing was virtually impossible to achieve. He only agreed to do it as a favour for the public good I.E. pro-bono. This is the main reason attorneys almost never take on overpayment cases.

 

In conclusion, I ask that the district judge require the Social Security Administration to return:

  1. The total amount collected for overpayment equalling approximately $1,196 as of December 2019.
  2. Redetermine the market value and return approximately $2,680.

These figures should amount to $3,876.

 

Given all the circumstances of my severe medical and financial hardship, and all the evidence in this case detailing those incidents, as well as how much time and energy I’ve spent to challenge the decision and the fact that we are now all in this together because of the pandemic, I am asking for the federal district court’s review of the administrative law judge’s decision, as well as the denial of the council’s review, so that my benefits can be restored to their original state, and that my mother is paid for the time that I should’ve been paying her. I also think my attorney deserves some compensation for his time, as well.

The Social Security Act was signed into law in 1935 to prevent abject poverty, and, by continuing to steal money from me each month because of a mistake, the Social Security Administration is also stealing money from my mother, as well, so it would defeat that purpose. My attorney even said that ‘stealing money from a blind person because of a mistake’ was strong language, but he hoped that by saying that, it would have influenced whoever was reading my supplemental testimony.

Furthermore, it would be against equity and good conscience to continue withholding any amount of overpayment because I depend on my benefits for food, clothing, transportation, and other necessities. I know that it is their money, and that they technically have every right to withhold any amount that they feel is negotiable, but it is only because of what evidence they have. Therefore, I personally believe that my mother deserves the money more than Social Security does because it would have helped her with the bills and other things. I will eventually be filing a plan to achieve self-support, as well.

Regardless as to whether I can get this decision overturned, I may report to the media, especially to someone who works on matters of consumer advocacy based on advice my friend has given me, who is big on journalism concerning financial affairs. I was forewarned by some people (who are not attorneys) that I could get in trouble for doing so, but I think not, because I will be exercising my first amendment right to freedom of speech and freedom of press, the freedom to assemble, and the right to petition congress, which I will no doubt do if I cannot get anywhere through the administrative or legal system. Also, I would technically not be libeling or slandering the Social Security Administration, for I would be presenting evidence that would err any of the opposition’s rebuttals. Their answer would have to be, ‘No comment.’ It will make them look bad in the media that it will hopefully lead to an internal review of their policies, and that is what I will need to win. Plus, I believe that there are some whistleblower laws enacted by Congress, which prevents any entities from retaliating against you for exposing them. I also believe that if I share my story with one person, and if that one person were credible, then most people would be more likely to listen to that one person because of their credibility. Another thing that might count against me is that because a lot of this was taking place before I legally changed my name, all the evidence is currently listed under my Deadname. As someone who has undergone several traumatic experiences, I want to have nothing to do with this name, in public or otherwise, but unfortunately, it cannot be changed because it would degrade the value of the evidence. So, before I allow the media to publish my story, I will make sure they address me by my correct name and pronouns, and also blot out any documents containing my old name and pronouns on my terms, not theirs. Likewise, I have asked the bar to refrain from publishing my complaint, or at least removing any references to my Deadname.

Despite others telling me to just let it go, I refuse to put it at rest until something is done about it. I personally feel this is a battle worth fighting for, even if it takes a lifetime to do it. Or I could just drop the ball for now and just pay my mother $300 and have SSA pay me the full amount minus the minimum sum needed to collect on the overpayment even though my mother would be the one losing the money. Then I will come back to it a year later when I have built up to the required amount in credit. It will sort of be like a form of psychological warfare. The good news is that there are no statutes of limitations, so I can take as much time as I need to accomplish this.

 

Thank you for your time and consideration.

CORONAVIRUS: Thirty-one Days of Solitary Confinement

Well, maybe that’s a bit of an overstatement. Considering the medical issues I’ve had in 2016, or maybe before that, I’ve gotten used to not going to lots of places. I usually got sick from various things because I went to school. But since I mostly worked from home and hardly interacted with people outside after I graduated, I didn’t get sick as often. I didn’t know much about immunity back then, so I was pretty surprised to find that I wasn’t getting sick as often. I usually got sick in between September through October, then December through February, and again from April through June. Some people were excellent at avoiding germs, and they’ve been able to get perfect attendance as a result. Unfortunately, I wasn’t one of them.
When I got sick in late 2016, though, I had to withdraw myself from society for a while and limit most of my outings except for my essential needs. That didn’t end until nearly two years later. I started going to mental health therapy beginning July 2017, and it ended one year later, in July of 2018. I had my house fitted with a central air conditioner attached to the furnace so I could get housewide relief because the year before, I could only get roomwide relief. When we got our new air conditioner, I sold the old one I got in 2015 on eBay along with a few other things. In late December, though, I got sick twice because I went out a lot, and then I got TMJ on my right side. It looked like 2019 was going to be a great year going forward, and for a while, it was. That’s how I was introduced to Catalyst, and because I was still in debt, I basically had to sell and pawn a lot of things, which I’ve been able to do thanks to NextDoor, as well as going to my local pawn shop. I also got set up with a mutual funds account with Edward Jones in May of 2018, so I used that to accumulate as much money as I could. Combined that with a few things I sold at a garage sale, I was finally able to close out all my debts in early November of that year. Unfortunately, because I closed my accounts, and because I legally changed my name, I consequently lost almost all my credit history that I’ve worked so hard to build.
I previously joined a gender-affirming choir in March of 2017, but when I wasn’t able to get them to accommodate my needs, I left. I tried again a year later, but the story was the same. When I met the current director at one of the Catalyst retreats in 2019, though, I told them about my frustrations in getting these accessibility measures put in place so that I could fully participate. They agreed to try again, and this time, it worked out well. So, when we held our winter term concert in January, almost all of us were oblivious that an epidemic was raging in most of China and a few other places.
I’ve stopped watching the news for a while, so I didn’t know anything about what was happening outside of my local area. It wasn’t until early March that I heard that Pope Francis had contracted Coronavirus, which was why he had to cancel an event, and from that day on, it quickly expanded at an alarming rate. Germs can multiply fifty million times faster than humans can reproduce.
I was in tenth grade when we had the swine flu outbreak of 2009, and I was taking classes at the local training centre for the blind during the Ebola Virus epidemic of Africa. The world previously encountered a Spanish flu pandemic in 1918, and at the time, there were only about one billion five hundred million humans roaming the planet. Almost nobody was immune to that particular strain of the virus. Whenever a new germ emerges, it is usually called a novel germ. With the #COVID19 (pronounced coh-vid) outbreak, we are seeing a repeat of what happened back then, but not with the last pandemic of 2009. Why? I’ve wondered that too, and for a while I didn’t find the answer. But through a lot of poking around on the web, as well as using what I’ve gathered in the past, I’ve concluded that the reason we continued going to school and leading a normal life was because although the Swine Flu was slightly different from the Spanish Flu in the sense of there being more than one strain of the flu, there were enough people who already built up tolerance to it. If a traveller had just arrived from a country that is ravaged by MMR or MMRV, they might infect children who have not yet been vaccinated. But fortunately, there will not be an outbreak because the majority of the people living there will have immunity to it. That is what community or herd immunity is. This is a good thing because certain people are not eligible for vaccines, but they will still get some protection when the pathogen is contained. I wonder if people who led a hermit lifestyle could avoid getting sick altogether. Then of course, you wouldn’t be immune to anything if you had to stop leading that lifestyle. We have to protect those who have compromised immune systems. This is how diseases are almost entirely eliminated or eradicated, although not completely wiped out. The chain reaction largely depends on the speed of transmission, which is based on how contageous it is. The more frequent, the more vaccines are needed. We can use formulas and models to predict the vaccination proportion within a given population. So, what makes it a lot more stealthier than some of the other viruses? Well, it’s the incubation period. That means that if you were around somebody that had it and who coughed or sneezed frequently, and you inhaled those viral particles into your body, then those particles will immediately start looking for a cell that will allow it to proliferate rapidly. In other words, infect it. That process can take a while in which time the person who has it is completely unaware that they have it, so when they cough or sneeze, they can spread the virus and not know it. When the virus has infected enough cels, the immune system will immediately see that something is wrong, so it will quickly launch an attack to destroy the virus. After the person recovers from it, they would’ve developed enough antibodies to fight off future exposure. So, why are certain viruses like HIV not transmissible like the flu, and why are there no vaccines for it? And why can our pets not get common colds, but they can get the flu from us? Usually, the immune system is strong enough to attack viruses and bacteria. HIV is one of those viruses that attacks the immune system itself, so it makes it weaker, which makes the virus stronger. The virus doesn’t infect cells in the respiratory tract, so it cannot be transmitted through airborne pathogens. It can be transmitted through internal body fluids, though, which is why there is a lot of stigma about who is likely to get it and why. But this stigma is usually based on ignorance and stupidity. Stigma occurs when people, because of fear of disease and death, lack of knowledge about how germs spread, a need to blame another human being, and general overall gossip that spread rumours and myth, people end up spreading misinformation. This leads to discrimination towards an identifiable group of people, place, or nation. To combat this, many social media apps are previewing or flagging your posts for deletion to ensure that you are using the correct terms (COVID19 and Coronavirus), and that you are always referencing the World Health Organisation and your country’s health authority’s guidance, and that you are also linking a source to back up your claims.
An example of how viruses cannot become a transmission vector between species is Feline Leukaemia, which is not to be confused with human leukaemia. Those viruses need a special cell or genetic material that is only found in cats. Since humans don’t have those cells, the virus is harmless to us. Likewise, our pets cannot get the common cold, which is actually a type of corona virus. So, it’s possible that if you do get infected, you might get a feeling of malaise. I actually think I got infected, but the symptoms were so mild that it went away in four days. Anyhow, if we got the H1M1 Influenza virus, we can transmit it to our pets, and they can become infected.
It is believed that viruses originate from three possible mechanisms such as

  • Genetic elements joining together, gaining ability to move between cells
  • Previously free-living paracytic organisms, or
  • A precursor to life as we know it.
  • Because of how quickly livestock (and maybe even deadstock) is evolving, it’s very likely that new strains of viruses will develop as well, so the chance of another novel pandemic might increase unless strategic measures are set in place.
    Everyone in the scientific and medical communities are scrambling to come up with several prototypes to combat the novel disease, and one of them involves using plasma from recovered blood donors. The idea is that if we can infuse antibodies into people who are already fighting the virus, those antibodies will bind to the person’s immune system and help them fight it more quickly. It could also help those who have never been exposed to it. Still, this is only a stopgap until a better solution is found since people are apt to get sick a second time despite it being an interim measure. This area of testing is called serology, but it is only effective after somebody has fully recovered from the virus. Correction: it doesn’t test for who has already recovered from the virus. It tests for who is at risk for contracting it.
    This brings us to the next question. I hope we will soon develop vaccines that you can inhale directly for those who are afraid of needles. I certainly do not like the idea of having a long, thin swab shoved through your nose almost to the back of your throat to test for COVID19 while you are awake. Why is that the only way to test it? Isn’t there another way? If the virus is easily aerosolised when someone coughs, sneezes, talks, sings, etc, then it would be simple to have someone do that in a special test tube and then let it sit in a special reagent to preserve its structure until it could be sent to a biotechnology lab to be multiplied into long strands.
    I once said on my Facebook post that I thought the recent bans on public gatherings and closing of non-essential businesses was a conspiracy to cover up something huge, like preventing voters from going to the primaries and caucuses, or to stop the presidential debates from occurring, leading up to the election. It would make a clear path for Trump to win again. In fact, there’s only one democrat left. Some people told me that it was because if we let everyone become infected, we would quickly overwhelm the limited supply of medical resources in a short amount of time. Still, I didn’t know why people were panicking over a small virus that wasn’t supposed to cause severe enough symptoms anyway. I mean, if it were a virus that could kill you, like HIV, and if it were a mutant form of HIV that could be transmitted through airborne pathogens, or if it were a virus that changed our behaviour or thought processes, or something more drastic, then I’d be worried. But none of that was happening. Still, all this panic has caused people to hoard all of their essential needs that I came up with a possible solution to criminalise hoarding. We would need a state or federal anti-hoarding order of essential goods and permit drug and law enforcement personnel (wearing personal protective equipment) to check to see who is hoarding these things and then launch a raid to confiscate all but the number of needed items proportional to the number of people living in the household. These confiscated items would go to people who are not genuinely hoarding these items to give them needed access. This might scare people even more, but during a time of crisis, every possible avenue has to be explored for the good of humanity, and you’ll see this phrase again. Desperate times call for desperate measures. Some people are randomly being selected to be tested. Right now, it is voluntary, but no one knows if that will stay for long.
    But a few years ago, I read about how people went to the bathroom in other countries. They don’t use toilets. Or at least, not the kinds we are used to. They use squat toilets which are supposed to be better for you. They also don’t use toilet paper. They either use a bidet or hand-wipe with water. The Western world has developed a yuck factor to poop at a young age that we grow up taking our toilet paper for granted. People also found that using bidets were totally disgusting because it was commonly associated with sexual acts and fancy mansions. So, I got creative and started using a plant waterer with a long spout, which I will keep using until my Tushy toilet attachment arrives, which, according to Amazon, won’t be for another two months. All the personal protective equipment and other medical supplies are backordered because those on the front line need it the most right now. Google and a few other places have started making parodies of well-known kids’ songs with the emphasis of washing your hands.
    All this led to another discovery, although I’ve known about this from having watched some of George Carlin’s speeches on our preparedness to war compared to other worst case scenarios of mass human destruction. Personally, if we confronted pandemics the same way we confronted terorists, our healthcare system would be in much better shape. Other countries seem to have far greater successes. So, why not we? What is it about us that supposedly makes us the most arrogant, yet the most vulnerable, nation in the world? Is it about time that we are seeing a viral apocalypse here? Lots of people in popular culture believed that zombies would take over one day, but that didn’t happen. Instead, this happened, and almost nobody was prepared for it. This is not science fiction anymore. This is real. Yes, a lot of sci-fi writers have anticipated scenarios like this for years, but almost nobody thought it would really happen. COVID19 shows just how weak we really are when it comes to biowarfare. People said, Oh well, these things come and go, but we’ll do something to prepare ourselves for the next one. Instead of that happening, we quickly forget our promises until we get a wake-up call one day. I also despise all those people who have the attitude of ignoring other people’s aches and pains because of an assumption that they want to get out of playing a sport, rehearsing, or working in general. So, what better way than to use a major pandemic like this one as a stabbing point to force people’s attitudes to change? Although I wish anyone no harm, I personally felt that nobody really understood how I felt when I got home from Arizona because of the heat, and now we’re all in this together. So, What goes around comes around. The number of telehealth appointments has increased tremendously. Something that doctors had always scrutinised is now being favoured. Although I don’t know if this is a contributing factor, I read that some of the countries that had better success rates were primarily led by females. And, unless a miracle were to happen, I don’t see the United States electing a female, minority, or underserved president anytime soon and for a very long time.
    Other countries have invented several models for contact tracing and testing through existing technology. Still, a lot of people here are paranoid about the government encroaching on our privacy, especially because they fear power-hungry governments and data-hungry corporations; they might as well be friends. That’s why so many laws and policies are geared towards them and not us. Anybody can form a corporation, but it takes a lot of selflessness and willpower to be truly alltruistic. Contact tracing should help bring things to normalcy, but in the meantime, think of your quarantine as a prison sentence. I know we didn’t deserved to be punished, but prisoners get used to this all the time because they truly deserved it, unless of course they were wrongly convicted because of a frame-up. A quarantine is usually supposed to last for forty days, which is how it got its name, but this is definitely going to be a lot longer than that. We need to be in an indefinite and continued state of emergency until a reliable vaccine has been developed and widely distributed. Just like how we’re worried about an economic recession, we should be worried about a social recession, as well. So, the next time you go out in public, you may be required to submit some personal information for contact tracing purposes, and they might also require you to wear a mask until you had left their premises.
    If we want to ultimately save the human race from extinction, we need to make some sacrifices for the good of humanity. The Atlantic outlined three possible scenarios. One that is very unlikely, one that is very dangerous, and one that is very long. We did the first one with the SARS CoV1 in 2003, and I hardly remember that one, for I was but eight years of age. Now you know how old I am. The second one was what people had to do with the flu in 1918 and 2009. We simply let it consume lives until there were enough survivors to start a new population. The third one is probably our best option, but it will also be the longest. It would require us to sit here and play wack a mole with the virus while we work together to make a vaccine and antiviral drugs to fight the virus and continue ramping up and slacking down on social distancing requirements. Soon, the virus will be like the flu, and we can start over once more until the next novel pandemic comes along.
    Now, more than ever, people are turning to on-line businesses and working from home. Choirs, bands, orchestras, and other ensembles are using digital audio workstations to mix music recordings to make virtual concerts. In fact, GALA Choruses is compiling a list of tools and procedures to teach choir directors how to put something like this together.
    This would probably teach technophobes a lesson about not to let their insecurities get in the way if it meant making a decision between life and death. More people are signing up to become amateur radio operators, which are essential during a time of any crisis. In fact, a group of hams built an emergency ventilator that is expected to exceed FDA specifications. Ham radio volunteer examiners are now administering tests remotely.
    Earlier this year, I predicted that the 2020’s would see a lot of changes to the healthcare and technology industry, but I never thought a pandemic would be the catalyst to cause such a change. The Corona Virus Disease of 2019 will go down in history as being the virus that shifted the entire social, educational, political, economic, and any other landscape imaginable. So, in the future, if you meet somebody named Covid or Lockdown, don’t be surprised. Many parents name their children after historical events, which is a way to keep track of when they happened if technology is not available. These kids of generation C will probably grow up to become epidemiologists, and hopefully that will become our new foreign policy. These attitudes doctors and nurses have about not believing patients who have rare medical conditions need to change, and hopefully COVID19 will change that. It’s easy for people to dismiss rare disease research with a simple gesture because it is not important in the current moment. Oh, well, if it isn’t happening to everyone, then there’s no need for us to waste our time when there are bigger problems to deal with. People need to practise more participatory medicine and only see the doctor if they absolutely need to, at least until the day comes when everybody has equal access to healthcare. We thought we got rid of all of the viruses, but I guess not, for now we have to fight this one. Something that is considered rare can suddenly become common in a mere eyeblink. That’s why we need more basic research instead of dedicated research for things like trying to cure diabetes. If we funded more basic research, there’s a far greater chance that we can cure more than just that one disease. Some religious believers feel that the universe wanted to teach this world a lesson for not getting along with one another, and I believe it. As cruel, nasty, unmersiful, and coldhearted as this world is, it is a shame that it took a novel virus to get us to think twice about reassessing what it meant to be interdependent, compassionate, and providing mutual aid for those who are truly and honestly unfortunate, marginalised, or who are otherwise struggling to survive when they should be given a chance at life to really show off their talents to the world. Showing such things is evidently considered a sign of weakness. Our society simply sits and waits until disaster strikes. Then we spend a lot of time and energy scrambling to calm down the public when we should’ve done that a long time ago. A lot of people also emphasise the need for self-care, but hardly anybody focuses on community support. And now, we pretty much don’t have a choice. We need to start using science rather than politics to fight the virus. When our stress level increases, our ability to maintain standards decrease. Adversity can either bring out the best in us, or it can bring out the worst. But it is all based on your schemas and how you view the world.
    Some people in the DeafBlind community fear that they are not worthy of being treated if they got sick. These two articles, here and here, addresses the issues that social distancing has caused, but they haven’t advocated for potential solutions to address these problems. I thought about using a six-foot-long tether to trail behind my mother or a stranger when out and about. This was how I ran track events during high school with a sighted hearing athlete, although the tether was only two feet long. I later learnt that people from the same household don’t have to socially distance. It’s only people from other households who have to do this. The other thing that needs to be addressed is identify why our healthcare system is currently being seen as a privilege rather than a right, as is the case in other countries like Canada. As I had said in my open letter to friends and family who are shocked to discover I’m a liberal, I believe that the way our taxes are currently allocated are making it such that healthcare is at the bottom when it should be at the top. Obviously, we are seeing first hand how bad the repercussions can be as a result of that. In just a little over a hundred years, this pandemic has changed everything we previously took for granted.
    Although we are alone and separate, we are still together thanks to how much technology has enabled us to communicate with one another. Our new anthem should probably be Separately Together.
    Stay safe, and stay healthy!

%d bloggers like this: