ONEIDA (WATE) – An Oneida woman is desperate after her Social Security was dropped. The mother of two is asking why her coverage has been cut off because she says her condition has not changed.
Jennifer Van Winkle first received her disability benefits two years ago. Social Security disability insurance is paid to workers who have earned this insurance benefit due to their work as a citizen, should they become disabled. The Social Security Administration must believe that your impairment is severe enough to last at least 12 months.
Van Winkle went through a series of medical examinations and was granted disability, but it has now been dropped.
“It was such a shock to find out that I didn’t receive my check this month. I’m worried. I’m frustrated. I don’t know what is going to happen,” she said.
The widow and former nursery school teacher was receiving $707 a month.
“I had osteomyelitis, it attacked my spine. It’s a rapidly moving infection. So I have four metal plates in my lower back. I also have rheumatoid arthritis. I now have something on my lung, they’re not sure what it is,” Van Winkle said.
She got by okay financially with the government check, but she was directed in December by Social Security to see a doctor in LaFollette to determine if her disability still keeps her from working.
“He had me bend over and touch my toes. He had me crouch down and squat,” said Van Winkle.
She said the doctor had her lift her legs, walk forward, turn around and walk back. She said she was able to perform those tasks, but couldn’t do them repeatedly.
Two months later, she received devastating news: her disability benefits were ending.
“We’ve decided that your health has improved since we last reviewed your case. You are no longer disabled as of March 2016,” read a letter from Social Security. Van Winkle was told she’s now able to work and her monthly check would stop in May.
“I don’t think you can examine someone in 15 minutes and know whether or not they’re disabled,” she said.
She filed an appeal with Social Security, but last week she had heard nothing.
“I’ve worked. If I could work now, I would. I want to know why this is happening. Why it is taking so long? Why I can’t get an answer on anything. And, why it’s said I’m not disabled anymore. Because I can bend over one time? That makes me not disabled? That’s not right,” said Van Winkle.
“A medical review will occur on all Social Security cases. The timing is the difference,” said attorney Andrew Roberto, who specializes in Social Security cases.
He does not know Van Winkle, but he’s familiar with cases like hers. He says that medical review she received is common, that the timing within two years of getting her disability was not unusual.
“You want to make sure you are consistently seeing your doctor about your medical condition. So when this medical review comes up and they pull your medical history for the last year, they’re going to look at it and say this person continues to have this problem and it may continue to be causing an issue with getting employment,” said Roberto.
Roberto says if Van Winkle appealed within 10 days, her disability check should have continued until she received notice of a decision. On Monday, July 11, WATE 6 On Your Side gathered all of Van Winkle’s information and sent it electronically to Social Security. Within hours, they said they will reach out and provide her assistance.
Within one day, Van Winkle received an answer and an apology.
“I’ll be granted my check every month, my regular disability payment. I’ll receive that every month now,” she said.
Van Winkle was told her checks will continue while her case was under appeal.
“It’s not over but it certainly makes the wait better, much better.”
During the appeal process, Van Winkle’s case will be reevaluated. However, if she loses, the rule states she will owe the Social Security Administration money she received while under appeal. The process is complicated, which is why professional assistance from an attorney is often needed.