29 November 2009

THE CONGRESSMAN WILL NOT SEE YOU NOW.

I was having trouble with a landlord recently. The landlord knew I had recently qualified for SSDI, and took it upon themselves to mandate that I get a representative payee. A payee is someone who manages your SSDI benefits because, in the opinion of the judge who decides your case, you are unable to manage your own affairs. The administrative law judge who decided my case did not require me to have a payee. I suspected that no third party --- creditors, landlords, etc. --- could mandate a disability recipient to have a payee if the judge or SSA did not. So I visited the ODAR Hearing Office, the Legal Aid Society offices, chatted up Ohio Legal Services, and visited both the SSA website and an actual human being at SSA's 500 Main Street regional office. The consensus was clear: my interpretation of the law was accurate. My landlord was holding no cards. The landlord reminded me that I had signed an "agreement" to obtain a payee "if and when" I received SSDI benefits. I asserted that I signed the agreement under the pretense that I had the legal standing to assign the landlord the authority to require me to have a payee. I do not. Also, they claimed that I would lose my housing if I didn't sign. Since I had no income, that meant homelessness. Again. My take on this: that a threat to put me out constituted coercion. During this time I also emailed and left phone messages at the office of Representative Driehaus. I would like to say that Rep. Driehaus' office was part of the aforementioned consensus, but alas, he was not. As of this writing, I still have not heard from his staff. There was a meeting at the landlord's office. Fortunately, the agency recently hired a new COO. He was well aquainted with SSA regs, having formerly worked as an advocate for disabled people trying to navigate the vast SSA bureacracy. The new COO posed the rhetorical question: "Actually this gentleman is correct. We cannot mandate that he have a payee. So--- what's the problem?" His subordinates deflated like speared pufferfish. It is not in my nature to gloat, and my feeling at the end of the meeting was mostly relief. I grew accustomed to former Rep. Chabot failing to respond to letters, emails, etc. His view of the world is fundementally different from mine. But Driehaus, over a question about SSDI regulations, remained unresponsive to my request for help and information. It was not-for-profit organizations, and SSA itself, that responded with accurate, helpful answers to my questions. My landlord now accepts my rent checks with my signature, not a payees. And the email below from Rep. Driehaus' office is sadly self-explanatory.

OH01-WYR (Service Account)

show details Nov 5

Thank you for contacting Congressman Driehaus' office. We look forward to responding to you as soon as possible. If your request requires immediate attention please call us in Washington, DC at (202) 225-2216 or in Cincinnati at (513) 684-2723. Please do not reply to this message. It was sent from an unattended mailbox.

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All original text (C) 2007, 2008 David J. Carney. All rights reserved.

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