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Author Topic: Returning to work after disability  (Read 1313 times)

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Offline Buckmark

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Returning to work after disability
« on: January 22, 2015, 10:04:01 AM »
Folks,

After my lengthy ordeal with lymphoma (which isn't really over, but I have been in remission for some time now) I will be returning to work on Monday February 2nd. Am I crazy for doing so?  I'm not sure -- I've received varying opinions.  So I am starting this thread to document my experience returning to work after receiving both SSDI and private disability insurance, and also to (hopefully) benefit from the experience and advice of other forum members.  I think this is the right forum for this post, as there are many threads here about returning to work.

I will be returning to work part-time initially (30 hours per week) since I'm slowly overcoming my cancer-related fatigue.  I work in the tech industry (software development), and as a manager no less, so it is a rather fast-paced environment.  That's why I insisted my doctor release me to work only part-time, so I could get back on my feet again slowly.  My manager is fine with that, and overall has been one of my biggest supporters.  Of course, by going back to work, I am giving up both my SSDI and my private disability insurance.

Why did I decide to try going back to work?  I think I can do it, as my health has continued to improve (albeit more slowly than I would like).  I want to do it -- or do something.  I want to feel productive (not that all of my activities for recuperation haven't been productive).  This may not be the dream job I want to do the rest of my life (cancer, like HIV, has a way of changing your perspective and priorities).  But it is a job that is right here in front of me for the taking, complete with a nice salary and benefits.  And people that I really like.

I've received some good counseling (from a forum member who knows who she is  ;) ) about how this impacts SSDI.  Here is my understanding of returning to work on SSDI.  When I engage in "substantial gainful activity" (SGA, i.e., earning income above a certain level), it means I am enter a "trial work period" (TWP).  After 9 months -- assuming I make it that far -- my TWP ends and I will no longer receive SSDI benefits.  There is then a 36 month extended period of eligibility, where I could receive benefits if my SGA (earnings / income) falls below a specified level -- but if my SGA is above that level, my benefits end. 

After my SSDI benefits end there is still a 5 year expedited reinstatement period (though I am skeptical about anything related to Social Security being "expedited").  At *any* time in this process, I could be reviewed to determine if I am still medically disabled or not.  The cynic in me wonders why they don't do that to everyone who tries to return to work from SSDI.  Also, I need to promptly report my earnings to the folks at Social Security, lest I run afoul of the beast.

My private disability ends as soon as I return to work.  I do get a 90 day period where I do not have to reapply if my disability returns (though I'm sure they will want evidence).

A few people (not here on the forums) have said I am crazy for giving up my SSDI and private disability.  It is certainly a position of some security.  But I haven't been receiving SSDI long enough to receive Medicare yet.  I am really missing the daily social interaction of the work environment.  I could get that by going back to my volunteering, but I'd have to report that to my private disability company.  And that company is already contacting all of my physicians, asking them what is preventing me from returning to work (in their words, returning to my "sedentary" job   ::)  ).

I really don't know what the future holds for me (but none of us ever really do).  I'm eager to jump back in to something.  And I think that going back to work will mark another important milestone in my journey with lymphoma -- a personal triumph, of sorts.

Thoughts?  Advice?  Perspective?

Thanks,

Henry
"Life in Lubbock, Texas, taught me two things:
     One is that God loves you and you're going to burn in hell.
     The other is that sex is the most awful, filthy thing on earth and you should save it for someone you love."
- Butch Hancock, Musician, The Flatlanders

Offline wolfter

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Re: Returning to work after disability
« Reply #1 on: January 22, 2015, 01:10:36 PM »
Henry, I wish you absolutely the best in whatever you decide.  This is such a personal and difficult decision. 

I'm reading about the need to be productive and I totally understand that.  The first 2 times I was on disability, I only remained on it long enough to get healthy enough to return to work.  I did not enjoy not working. 

Both times, I applied and was approved almost immediately.  This last time (when I was the most AIDSY) required a 3 year ordeal.  I've always felt that people should work to their ability but the current system isn't designed to individualize that.

I would absolutely love to return to work but am terrified of what would happen in the future if my health declined again. 

take care and best wishes buddy
Complacency is the enemy.  ;)  Challenge yourself daily for maximum  return on investment.

Offline WillyWump

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Re: Returning to work after disability
« Reply #2 on: January 22, 2015, 05:24:27 PM »

Henry, I dont have any experince with Lymphoma or disabilty but I think you are doing the right thing by getting back in the workforce. It seems you have plenty of safety nets with the trial periods, etc. to give it a go. I certainly understand your desire to become productive again and be amongst people, so yeah I think this is good for you.

Best wishes bud!
Will
POZ since '08

Last Labs-
11-6-14 CD4- 871, UD
6/3/14 CD4- 736, UD 34%
6/25/13 CD4- 1036, UD,
2/4/13, CD4 - 489, UD, 28%

Current Meds: Prezista/Epzicom/ Norvir
.

Offline Jeff G

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Re: Returning to work after disability
« Reply #3 on: January 22, 2015, 05:54:18 PM »
I think you are doing just the right thing and as Willy said, you have safety nets . I nearly lost my mind from boredom when I had to quit working … it wasn’t so bad when I was really sick but when I recovered I felt like I had no purpose anymore. I know you have a great job and that you enjoy the work so if you go back and feel its too early you can always say you tried … nothing to lose in trying . Best of luck .

Online mitch777

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Re: Returning to work after disability
« Reply #4 on: January 22, 2015, 06:41:13 PM »
I agree with the above posts Henry. Give it a try and if it doesn't work out you have some outs.

I'm just wondering if 30 hours might be a bit much at the beginning but you know your capabilities best. Would 20 hours be an option if need be?

Your private disability company sounds typical from what I've read. Pushy, pushy. Grr...

I totally understand your cynical view about the SSA and have no idea about the aspect of dealing with the "expedited" process. Hopefully someone here can address that.

I've had to adjust my perspective on what is important to me this past decade but it was slow going. You are a smart cookie and I have no doubt you will find your way as you go.

Hope everything goes your way! Best wishes.







32 years hiv+ (oct. 2013) with a curtsy.

Offline initforlife

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Re: Returning to work after disability
« Reply #5 on: January 22, 2015, 07:47:57 PM »
Good luck. I too understand wanting to go back to work. I haven't worked since the end of may and that is a lot of my problem sitting at home alone with way to much time to think. it is destroying me! anyway I hope it all works out for you!
sometimes it is best to say nothing at all. then to offend

Offline Lou-ah-vull

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Re: Returning to work after disability
« Reply #6 on: January 23, 2015, 12:14:49 AM »
Henry,

You already know I am ALWAYS in your corner.  I especially salute the careful process you used in making the decision to return to work and to recognize that for you "the socialization of work" was very important to you.  I have admired through this entire "crisis" your ability to weigh the options, gather feedback, and empower yourself to make a decision.  You continue to be an inspiration to me, and I am sure, to others. On a forum like ours, who knows, it might be life saving or at life changing for someone else who will benefit from your witness.

I sure hope we are going to see you in Memphis this summer.  We have much reason to celebrate and anticipate.

Gary
Diagnosed Oct. 2005
10/05:  367 (26.2%), 24556 VL
01/06:  344 (24.6%), 86299 VL
04/06:  374 (22.0%), 87657 VL
05/06:  Began HAART 05/15/06, Combivir/Kaletra
07/06:  361 (27.8%), 1299 VL
10/06:  454 (32.4%), 55 VL
01/07:  499 (38.4%), UD
02/07:  Switched to Atripla 2/8/07
04/07:  566 (37.7%), UD
08/07:  761 (42.3%), UD
06/08:  659 (47.1%), UD
01/09:  613 (43.8%), UD
07/09:  616 (47.4%), UD
01/10:  530 (44.2%), UD
07/10:  636 (48.9%), UD
01/11:  627 (48.2%), UD
07/11:  840 (52.5%), UD
01/12:  920 (51.1%), UD
07/12:  857 (50.4%), 40
10/12:  UD
01/13:  710 (47.3%), UD
07/13:  886 (49.2%), UD
01/14:  985 (46.9%), UD
06/14:  823 (47.2%), UD
01/15: 1366 (45.2%), UD

Offline BT65

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Re: Returning to work after disability
« Reply #7 on: January 25, 2015, 06:37:42 PM »
Henry, I knew you were going to decide to do this when we talked and you know your body better than anyone.  If you need anymore support or just to talk, don't hesitate to call me again.  I may call you in a couple weeks to see how you're doing.

M, I have some experience with expedited reinstatement.  Pm me if you want to know anything.
I've never killed anyone, but I frequently get satisfaction reading the obituary notices.-Clarence Darrow

Offline Buckmark

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Re: Returning to work after disability
« Reply #8 on: February 01, 2015, 01:21:51 PM »
My thanks to all who have responded -- Betty, Gary, Init, Mark, Jeff, Will and Greg.  I have spent the past few weeks wondering if I am making the right decision to return to work.  Funny how I am second-guessing myself now that my return to work  approaches.  Oh, and the fact that my company announced big layoffs last Wednesday doesn't help.  But, knowing the layoff process, they can't lay me off since I have virtually disappeared from most HR systems within the company.

I return to work tomorrow, Monday February 2nd.  I meet my boss at 10AM.  Fuck it all -- it is what I want to do.  And I'm not going to worry about the inane processes and procedures at my company -- they could find ways to screw me if they really wanted to, and my boss has been nothing but supportive.  Plus, after going through cancer treatment, I really cannot worry about the stupidities of Corporate America.

Tomorrow will be easy.  I meet my boss at 10AM, and he has planned a lunch for me and the team at 12 Noon.  :) 

I will let you know how it all goes.  I may get a bit emotional.

Henry
"Life in Lubbock, Texas, taught me two things:
     One is that God loves you and you're going to burn in hell.
     The other is that sex is the most awful, filthy thing on earth and you should save it for someone you love."
- Butch Hancock, Musician, The Flatlanders

Offline wolfter

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Re: Returning to work after disability
« Reply #9 on: February 02, 2015, 11:25:30 AM »
Hope all is going well Henry.  Best of luck.
Complacency is the enemy.  ;)  Challenge yourself daily for maximum  return on investment.

Offline pozniceguy

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Re: Returning to work after disability
« Reply #10 on: February 28, 2015, 05:25:57 PM »
Hey  Henry   how is it  going  being back  at the  workplace???   same  people??  any major  changes??   job  requirements?  you  coping  without too much  fatigue??
  hope all is  well  but  fill us in

Nick
remember the good times...honor the past but don't live there
Le stelle la notte sono grandie luminose, nel cuore profondo del Texas

Offline Buckmark

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Re: Returning to work after disability
« Reply #11 on: April 12, 2015, 11:28:07 AM »
I've been back to work for 10 weeks now.  It is mostly the same people, which is great.  A new project (but related to my old one) which has all the usual demands.  And all the corporate bullshit.  In some ways, it's like I never left.  Which itself feels kinds sad...   but I don't know why I would expect it to be different.

Just to add fuel to the fire, last Thursday my disability insurance company calls me and tells me they have spoken with my doctor, and decided I am able to go back to full time starting next week.  I'm irritated because:  (1) the original plan with my doctor was to work part-time for 4 to 6 months, and (2) they didn't even both to consult me.  I called my doc to find out why she changed her tune, but got the standard response of "the tests and evidence say you should be fine".  And that's all the insurance company kept repeating to me over and over, despite my telling them that you can't see everything from lab tests (and that some of my basic lab tests are not quite the same as before, specifically my WBC and RBC, which I can expect to remain on the low end for quite a while).

But, either I make this "attempt" (in their words) to return to work full-time, or they will discontinue my claim (and payments).  So I will make the attempt, even though I told them I did not fell I was ready yet.

I suspect the next thing is that my social security disability benefits will end, if my doctor tells them the same thing she told my insurance company.  I guess the biggest thing that bothers me out of all this is that you would have thought someone (doctor or insurance company) would have contacted me about returning to work full time, before I got a call saying "you are ready to return to work full time".

 :P

"Life in Lubbock, Texas, taught me two things:
     One is that God loves you and you're going to burn in hell.
     The other is that sex is the most awful, filthy thing on earth and you should save it for someone you love."
- Butch Hancock, Musician, The Flatlanders

Online mitch777

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Re: Returning to work after disability
« Reply #12 on: April 12, 2015, 04:37:13 PM »
That's just awful and would get my blood boiling, especially toward the doctor. Sorry you are dealing with this Henry.

This is just a guess but I imagine your energy level is still poor? Maybe during your "attempt" you should be calling your doc a few times and bitch about how crappy you are feeling and that you find working full time is too much at this point. I would imagine he/she has the final say as far as the insurance company goes.

Best wishes!

32 years hiv+ (oct. 2013) with a curtsy.

Offline BT65

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Re: Returning to work after disability
« Reply #13 on: April 13, 2015, 06:47:27 AM »
That's awful Henry.  I don't know about your private insurance company, but SSDI will probably not check up on you right away.  It sucks that you have to go back to full time when you're not ready.  Maybe you should make an appointment with your doctor so you can talk to her face to face. 

Please let us know how it's going!

Betty
I've never killed anyone, but I frequently get satisfaction reading the obituary notices.-Clarence Darrow

Offline wolfter

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Re: Returning to work after disability
« Reply #14 on: April 13, 2015, 08:55:18 AM »
That's terrible Henry.  The "system" is so flawed as their primary objective is financial instead of the health of individuals. 

I'd reconsider my relationship with my doctor if he ever pulled this.  She absolutely should have consulted with you before making such an arbitrary decision based solely on "numbers".  Hell, my lab results would make it appear that I'm perfectly healthy and able to return to corporate life but these labs don't tell the entire story.

Best of luck buddy and take care of yourself.
Complacency is the enemy.  ;)  Challenge yourself daily for maximum  return on investment.

Offline bubba53

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Re: Returning to work after disability
« Reply #15 on: April 13, 2015, 09:31:57 AM »
That really sucks Henry,
I would have a word with your doc ,if there's still time.
Having this virus in your body a few decades or more is not as cut and dry and
as predictable as they are making it sound .

My body became more fatigued and weary though my 50s.
I'm 60 now , the older I got , the good and productive days got
fewer and farther between. I need more sleep.
I think expecting you to go back to work full time is asking too much
with all you've been through.

You shouldn't have any problem with SSID if you need your benefits
reinstated , at least that was my experience.
Good Luck with this, Wade

"Who put the pepper in the....Vaseline  ? " Coffee Butler

Offline zach

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Re: Returning to work after disability
« Reply #16 on: April 13, 2015, 09:38:04 AM »
I really want to go back to work, but when I read things like this I am nervous as hell.

Henry, it's a fucked up system, and I hate to see you in wringer man. Good luck.
An honest tune with a lingering lead has taken me this far

Offline Buckmark

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Re: Returning to work after disability
« Reply #17 on: April 13, 2015, 10:26:42 AM »
In reflection, I suppose I shouldn't be too surprised that my disability insurance company is pushing so hard.  Finances and expenses always take top priority over patent well-being (I'm having a cynical but realistic Monday).  And still what irks me the most is that you would think someone would have contacted me sooner -- but heck, I'm just the client who paid my premiums for disability insurance.  :-\

@Mitch:  My energy level is OK.  I just don't think it is "full-time work" OK, just yet.  Because today's full-time work (for salaried folks) is more like 50 hours a week, at least in the tech industry.

@Betty:  I'm really hoping SSDI is too busy to check in again for a while. 

@Wolfie:  I'm not ready to fire my doctor (oncologist) just yet, but I am going to schedule a visit.  I know how ridiculously busy she is.  Part of the problem is that I have so many doctors, including oncologists.  My insurance has all of their contact information, and I asked them to reach out to all of them, particularly the doctors at MD Anderson and not just my local oncologist. 

@Bubba:  Some days I do wonder if this is just all too much (HIV, Lymphoma, aging, etc.).  But I'm the type that keeps pushing and pushing myself.  I do listen to my body.  Back in January I didn't think I would be able to get this far. 

@Zach:  I don't blame you for being nervous about returning to work.  In my case, I had a well-defined work situation to return to (same boss, project, employees, etc.) so that helps a lot.  But if I had to dive in to another company and another job, that would fuck me up.

I guess I'll make that full-time "attempt".  Not sure how long it will last.

Henry
"Life in Lubbock, Texas, taught me two things:
     One is that God loves you and you're going to burn in hell.
     The other is that sex is the most awful, filthy thing on earth and you should save it for someone you love."
- Butch Hancock, Musician, The Flatlanders

 


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