Her problems started in 2005. Donna had back surgery for a work-related injury but didn’t want to go through the Workers Compensation process and apply for benefits. She had just been hired and didn’t want to rock the boat. But she ended up losing her job five years later.
“I had a new manager and he didn’t want to work with my restrictions,” Donna explains. “I filed an EEOC discrimination charge against him, which went into mediation and I was offered a settlement - I had seven days to think about it.” Donna adds that the EEOC ruled in her favor for the right to sue with cause but they wouldn’t represent her in court (that is a whole different story).
Donna decided the settlement wasn’t in her best interest so she revoked the agreement and sent an email to the EEOC, requesting that she return to work. But FedEx replied that Georgia is a “right to work” state and they didn’t have to hire Donna back. She went to work anyway, only to be terminated.
“I was fired because I didn’t take the settlement,” says Donna. “This put me in a position where I had to find another job. I applied for different positions with the state of Georgia, but because of my disability, I couldn’t get a job. So I applied for social security benefits.
“After I filed for disability benefits, I had to see a social security psychologist for an evaluation. The stress I was dealing with after losing my job was wreaking havoc with my health.”
In 2002, Donna was diagnosed with sarcoidosis, an inflammatory disease that affects multiple organs in the body. She also suffered from asthma and IBS. By 2011, she had developed fibromyalgia. And she was on meds that made her drowsy.
“I got lost going to the social security hearing so I was 10 minutes late, and I was upset and nervous,” says Donna. “I told the judge about losing my job and filing a complaint with EEOC but at that point the judge seemed to get frustrated. The interview process is weird. You sit there but you cannot say anything. I had an attorney with me at the hearing, whom I had never met before the court date, and I don’t think he was very experienced with insurance and disability claims.”
Donna received the social security decision a few months later. She doesn’t know how the judge concluded that she “wasn’t credible.” In the report, the judge noted that Donna “was fired after filing a complaint against a supervisor who she felt was engaging in racial discrimination.”
Also in the report was the psychologist’s statement:
“The claimant was able to dress and bathe, wash dishes, wash laundry, go shopping, cook simple meals, drive short distances, make purchases, pay bills, and take medications as prescribed. She indicated that the claimant needed supervision or assistance when cooking complex meals or driving extended distances. Upon mental status examination, some problems with attention and concentration were noted, specifically that she tended to be some what tangential when answering questions. The claimant's immediate recall was poor and she exhibited significant problems with short-term memory.”
“The judge said that I was able to work an 8-hour job, 40 hours a week, so the social security evaluation from the psychologist was disregarded,” Donna says.” I am a documentation freak - I also had all my doctors’ reports, which he ignored.
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“After the hearing, my attorney said judges don’t like complicated situations. I appealed but it was like I was on my own at that point. I called social security last week and asked how long the appeals process would take. That is where I am at now. I just wish I had an experienced lawyer in court.”
Here is a testimonial from a complainant who was also denied benefits:
“I did an interview with lawyersandsettlements regarding a disability claim…in which I believe I was wrongfully denied. I would have never known or would have never had the chance to reopen this claim if it weren't for this website. Keep up the good work!”