There are two parts to this article.
Part 1 is the background and my beef with SSA and the process to get
Disability Benefits. Part 2 is the really interesting part. They
sent me ALL OF SOMEONE ELSE'S INFORMATION... everything that person
has submitted to them! Read on.
All my life I've suffered with various
symptoms of depression, and several diagnoses along the lines of
"Seasonal Depression", "Situational Depression"
(both temporary), and "Manic Depression" (which, as most
of us know, is in its own category now as Bi-Polar Disorder). I
would love to be able to regularly see a psychologist and get a solid
diagnosis, but in my experience a good psychologist is a rare and
expensive thing, and the amount of money I typically bring in means I
get no help, and can afford no help. The local Mental Health and
Mental Rehab place is a joke (or at least their intake is –
I've never gotten farther than that).
Due to other events which are beyond
the scope of this article, in addition to my poor mental health, I've
been unemployed for quite some time. With two children and a poor
extended family, things became desperate. I had several people
suggest to me that I would qualify for disability, and while it's not
much having a little bit of financial security between jobs would go
a long way. I'd heard I might be able to draw some years ago, but I
fought filing for it as in my mind disability is for someone who
can't work at all. I can work, I just can't work with the type of
people I had been working with. And it seems like these days, in
food service at least, there are more and more aggressive type
When you apply for disability, the
first thing the social worker will tell you is that YOU WILL BE
TURNED DOWN. You could be a walking heart attack, and they will deny
your benefit. I think if you're blind or slow, they might pass you
on your first try. Technically, this is to weed out the people who
don't really need it – on the other hand, I think it's just a
huge waste of taxdollars. They mail out tons of paper.
Ok, so you get your first denial three
months or so later. Note that: three months wasted already,
in which someone probably didn't even look at much of your paperwork.
Now you begin the real application, the appeals process. If you
think the terminology is a bit backwards and confusing, most of SSA
is. You file your first appeal, which is pretty much the same
process that you just went through
you will never meet).
In my case, Depression is probably a
hard case to argue for unless a professional says I stay on the couch
all day and have tried to blow my brains out a few times. If you
know someone with real depression, you probably have noticed the pain
in their eyes. Every day is different. For instance, the last
several days I would sometimes cry in front of total strangers.
Today I've been so jittery I doubt the school counselor could really
follow along. At the same time, half the day I could sometimes
hardly keep my eyes open, and tonight I expect I'll never feel tired.
Three months after filing your appeal,
you'll finally get your second denial, which makes half a year or
more gone by since you first screwed up and quit your job because
Barney kept yelling at you about something totally stupid, and it was
either knock his lights out and risk a total out of control rampage
until the cops shot you dead and yanked the bloody knife out of your
hand, or you walk off the job and got home quick as you could, sleep
it off and feel completely physically wasted the next day. Ok, maybe
not that bad, but you get the idea! Six months since work, and you
still havn't gotten to where most disability applications are
In your latest paperwork, you'll get to
decide whether to do the same appeal again, or take the case before
an "Administrative Law Judge". In my case, I figured why
keep doing circles? Lets go talk before a live studio audience! I
forget exactly when I sent that off, but I'm thinking it's been
almost four months now. I've received at least two more mailings
from them threatening to mail me 20 days notice of a date with the
judge. All told it's been at least 9 or 10 months since I filed this
time. That's right, this is not my first time to file. A year
or two ago I tried it, and appealed once or twice before giving up,
since I only have depression. I did manage to get a job pulling
trash and cleaning stuff, but my boss was among the worst I've ever
had, and despite my resolve to keep to myself and just get the work
done...well, you've got to interact with your boss at some time. I
think I only broke one thing on the way out the door that day.
You see, if you don't follow their
steps properly you have to start the process all over again. While I
haven't completed the process yet, I can imagine it would be easy to
go up to three or four years for some people before completing a good
and proper claim. And yet, we wonder why people end up living on the
streets, homeless in this day and age. In my case, it's just me and
my two children here. My family has no room for us, and my exwife
does not help much. I at least look at the available jobs once a
day, and spend one or two days a week actively filing applications,
resumes, and forms for work. In the meantime, my mother's bank
account containing her inheritance of my dad's final benefits and her
retirement has been drained to zero, and she's returned to work to
help support us. I've gone from being angry at the world to suicidal
and back again.
Today I receive more junk from the SSA
asking me to make sure they have the most complete and accurate
picture. To ensure we're all on the same page, they've copied
everything they have on my to an encrypted CD. How convenient! How
scary. However, the first page mentions that in order to protect my
personal information, the instructions to decrypt were enclosed in a
separate mailing. Which kind of sucks because I was hoping to look
through it today. But no fear, they conveniently attached the
separate mailing, stapled, with the rest of the forms! Thanks, SSA!
In another envelope I received today,
the SSA kindly sent me Mr. or Ms. Stefas' CD, which should include
everything they ever sent to the SSA. That's pretty cool they sent
me this, as I needed some good reading while I'm on the toilet.
I popped my CD in my drive, and checked
out what's on it. It appears to contain an unencrypted filesystem
(only the contents of the files are encrypted), and an unencrypted
executable from Pointsec. Wonder if they do Linux or Mac? Anyhow, a
quick search reveals at least one good way to crack the encryption
via a Firewire port. I learned that much in less than two minutes.
One thing which I'm guessing the SSA IT
people don't know is that encryption is just junk for anyone who
really wants the data. I just had someone else's medical (and
probably ID) data fall in my lap. I can even copy the contents of
the CD and be a Good Samaritan, and turn it in. I figure I can crack
this thing in less than two weeks.
Oh snap! I have instructions for BOTH
CDs. Apparently, to open mine, I use my first name, the pound sign,
and the last four digits of my SS#. Luckily, they wrote my last four
on my disc so I don't have to go hunting it down; that would have
been horrible. Example (not mine): mick#6789.
This should be even easier than I
thought. To me, this last name looks Hispanic, or possibly Greek...
of course, I'm sure I could do a simple Google search, and quickly
compile a dictionary list. Only have to put in first names, I wonder
how long to guess the right one. What are the statistics on it being
John, Jose, George, or Dimitris? I couldn't help myself while typing
that last sentence, and put the name into Google, which spit out
Facebook, which was kind enough to provide a list of users with the
same last name. Thanks Facebook!
Ok, all that's left is to start a
dictionary attack on this thing. The software which came with the
disc probably has some sort of countermeasure against this. I'm too
lazy to go look – I'm not actually going to break the law for
the sake of making a point. So far, all I've done is look at it and
wonder – in amazement. I mean, to get serious now, really...
amazing. You see, in order for me to have received two identical
paper mailings with two seperate CDs, someone would have had to have
realized they sent the wrong CD in one. Instead of notifying someone
to grab the mail and bring it back (or, you know, run down real quick
to your mail department – I know, elevators are hard to use),
they REPRINTED my mail and remailed it.
Even worse is the fact that the SSA is
even sending these CDs out, with a last name AND last four SS# hand
written on them. If my neighbor had gotten this, how hard would it
be to open? The instructions, and everything they need to view the
files, is right there in the envelope.
For that matter, how much are they
paying to use the encryption software? Because, you know, encryption
is not only useless, it's pointless when you ship the key with it.