Julie Rehmeyer's 'Through the Shadowlands'
Writer Never Give Up talks about Julie Rehmeyer's new book "Through the Shadowlands: A Science Writer's Odyssey into an Illness Science Doesn't Understand" and shares an interview with Julie ...
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Reasonable Accommodations

Discussion in 'Finances, Work, and Disability' started by nettle_tea, Sep 23, 2017.

  1. nettle_tea

    nettle_tea

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    I'm in the US, and I'm trying to request reasonable accommodations through my workplace's disability services office, but they are being incredibly unhelpful about what kind of medical documentation I need. The specific accommodation I'm seeking is a part-time schedule.

    My doctor has already filled out their form, stating that my fatigue and muscle weakness are severe enough that I should not work more than 28 hours. That form also asked whether my condition affected lifting, bending, standing, etc., and she said yes (which is true). Now the disability services people have rejected my application because they want to know how many minutes I can spend standing, lifting, bending, etc. I have asked 4 (!!) times in writing how someone with variable symptoms should approach such a form, but they are avoiding the question. Their documentation process offers no room for nuance at all.

    I'm not asking specifically for formal accommodations around lifting, standing, bending, etc. My direct supervisor and I have worked out solutions to a lot of this stuff already. My job does not regularly require me to exceed my limits in these area (except when I have PEM, which is why I need the part-time schedule!). No matter how my doctor fills out their form, it will be essentially a lie. There is no answer to "how long can you stand" because it varies so much. I'm afraid that I'll either be denied accommodations because I'm not disabled enough, or somehow end up arbitrarily limited in what I'm allowed to do at the office.

    I've already asked to speak to a supervisor, told them I know my rights under the law, and said I am prepared to bring in outside help if necessary. (The university where I work is really only interested in covering its butt, not in helping people, so it can be difficult to get anything accomplished without doing this.) But they are probably not going to provide me with an appropriate medical documentation template.

    For those of you who have received workplace accommodations, specifically going part-time, how did your doctor describe your condition? Are there are existing templates that you used? Do you have any tips, in general, for approaching documentation procedures for unpredictable chronic illnesses?

    Note: I am still undiagnosed, pending an MRI and EMG, but ME and/or fibro are the most likely culprits.
     
    Last edited: Sep 23, 2017
  2. Groggy Doggy

    Groggy Doggy Senior Member

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    What country do you reside in?
     
  3. nettle_tea

    nettle_tea

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    Oops! I'm in the USA, so requesting accommodations under the ADA.

    I know that the ADA does not require requests to happen in writing, but it does permit employers to request medical documentation. My employer is a huge bureaucracy and has red tape for everything. Employees of HR, Disability Services, and similar offices tend to go into what I term "lawsuit avoidance mode" anytime I bring up difficulties relating to a protected aspect of my identity. Basically, once the conversation goes off script, they continue to pretend to be helpful, but will not answer any questions at all. They just repeat the script over and over. It's incredibly frustrating.
     
  4. Groggy Doggy

    Groggy Doggy Senior Member

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    It's a common trick to try and defeat your possible future ERISA case, before you even are thinking of leaving your job, by requiring a the form to be completed that can easily be misinterpreted.

    Yes, it's a bureaucracy set up so that they don't have to pay you, and try to discourage/frustrate you enough so that you quit. Don't be surprised even if they do eventually follow the ADA law, and accommodate your request, that you may be subject to weekly phone calls asking you to reprove your disability (which is also against ADA law).

    You may need to consult with an attorney in how best to approach this matter.
     
    Last edited: Sep 23, 2017
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  5. nettle_tea

    nettle_tea

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    Thank you. This is discouraging, but helpful. It does seem that they don't care whether or not the documentation is accurate. They're also really fixated on the "expected duration" of my condition. My doctor said "unknown" - apparently she is required to know, which is bonkers.

    I thought at first that they just didn't understand how chronic illnesses work, but it's more than that. They clearly have some kind of unstated motivation, and I probably should not try to go it alone.
     
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  6. boombachi

    boombachi Senior Member

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    Hampshire, UK
    Can your doctor write "variable" and put a maximum that you should be expected to stand, lift etc... I live in the UK so things might be different where you are, but it sounds like this form is one the university have created themselves.
     
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  7. Invisible Woman

    Invisible Woman Senior Member

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    It does sound as if they are playing a long game here & setting you up for easier dismissal etc further down the line.

    Get yourself some proper advice now so you can fill in your forms and answer them in such a way that doesn't cause you problems in the future.

    In the UK I would suggest answering along the lines of for example:. I can do this for X duration of time provided I only work do many hours and am allowed whatever rest/accommodations you need. If I push myself to do more it may worsen my condition resulting in me needing days or even weeks off to recover.

    For duration I wonder if you could put something like: likely to be long term i.e. years but if regularly asked to push beyond limits the condition is likely to worsen & may become permanent.

    Things may be different in the UK though.
     
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  8. Groggy Doggy

    Groggy Doggy Senior Member

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    The good news is that your employer did not fire you.

    Regarding the form, what the employer wants is to see the form filled out in such as way as to sum all the parts and get a total greater than what you are claiming your limitation is.

    For example, your employer would like to see; (per 8 hour day)

    Standing = 3 hours
    Sitting = 4 hours
    Bending = 1 hour
    Lifting = 1 hour

    Your employer will then total 3 + 4 + 1 + 1= 9 hours

    Then your employer will deny your request since you can work a nine hour work day.

    Also don't use the SSDI disability firm that your employer will offer to pay for, because essentially that company works for your employer, and not you. You are better off finding your own SSDI attorney.

    Separate attorneys are needed for ERISA, and SSDI.

    Some employer ERISA plans exclude mental illness, or limit it to two years. Some employer ERISA plans say you can't change your diagnosis. Some employer plans say they exclude CFS.

    So it's important to know how to fill out the form, because it may be difficult to pivot at a later date.

    As long as your employer can keep you feeling pressured and rattled, especially without an attorneys advise, they essential have a greater advantage over you.

    Even if your are initially able to physical and cognitively work part time, you can't assume that you will be able to keep it up. This illness is whacky, and it's best not to push ourselves early on and over commit.

    Best of Luck!!
     
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  9. *GG*

    *GG* Senior Member

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    Yeah, I would consult a lawyer ASAP who is familiar with the issue. I thought I was going to be "rescued" due to a letter from my Dr, my employer still denied my request, its very hard to work with this illness. Have not worked in about 4 years now, and so glad to be out of that rat race to the bottom with my health.

    What I did for some time was work 2 days, 1 day off for rest, then work 2 days. I changed that eventually because I was having trouble getting to work on time.

    GG
     
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  10. Wonko

    Wonko Senior Member

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    The other side.
    This may not be helpful, sorry, but given they appear not to "understand" the concept of variability, I would interpret such as request for how long a time you can do an activity as a request for a length of time you can guarantee, on your worst day at work, being able to carry out that activity.

    If that's zero then it's zero.

    If course, depending upon your employer's attitude, that could result in them deeming you can work zero hours a day and should therefore be pain zero hours, i.e laid off, which is why i said it may not be helpful.

    I am in the UK so our employment.disability laws are probably a little different.
     
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  11. Valentijn

    Valentijn Senior Member

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    The employer has all the info they need to verify that you need accommodations. Their additional requests are for a different reason. Since they're playing games with you and your health, you need to get a disability/employment lawyer involved.

    Don't resign unless you fully know the consequences - such as if you'll be losing out on a disability insurance policy, etc.
     
  12. Kati

    Kati Patient in training

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    Hi @nettle_tea, I would recommend you read the Linda Nee Disability blog. She has a lot of general information for those navigating the working life and disability life. She also does consultations should you need.
    (i have no link whatsoever with her, I just know she is a great ressource)

    Best of luck. You are not alone, many struggle with their employer as well.

    This post is an important one
     
    Last edited: Sep 24, 2017
  13. nettle_tea

    nettle_tea

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    Thanks everyone for the advice! My partner's mom connected me with the disability lawyer she uses (my partner's brother is autistic and needs lots of services), and she's even paying my legal fees! I am a little afraid to make the call, but it seems like a good idea. I just feel stupid now, for trying to have a normal human conversation with them. I'm worried that could come back to bite me, but I'm trying not to blame myself.

    There seems to be some good information here about the insurance side of things, but it's hard for me to look past the inaccurate ideas she has about chronic illnesses. For example, in her post "Fibromyalgia - What NOT to Say to An Insurance Company," she says "Although it may seem so at times having fibromyalgia does NOT in fact hurt all over. There are 18 specific tender points, when touched with pressure that can hurt... Although admittedly, your body may seem to hurt all over when several tender points are positive, in fact, it DOES NOT hurt all over." Regardless of what insurance companies believe, this is medically false. The validity of tender points as diagnostic criteria is under question, and plenty of fibro patients have pain in other areas. (Last week I had such severe pain in my feet that I had difficulty walking.)

    In another post, she states that insurance claims can and should be rejected if the patient is able to play golf at any point during the period of disability. Surely she should know that the ability to spend a couple of hours (probably half-assedly) hitting a ball around, on a good day, in ideal weather, is not the same thing as being able to hold down a full time job that only offers one sick day a month. Obviously an insurance company would argue otherwise, but an advocate should at least be able to comprehend why it's more complicated than that.


    Note: I have asked that people please don't continue this particular debate on this particular thread. I didn't realize that anyone would find my take on the articles controversial, or would interpret this post to mean I needed further explanation. Hearing debate on this issue from fellow patients at this time is triggering for me, and I've already had a few panic attacks. I need to save that energy for going to work and fighting for my rights. Out of respect for my boundaries, please start a new thread to continue the debate if you would like.
     
    Last edited: Sep 25, 2017
  14. Kati

    Kati Patient in training

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    hi @nettle_tea, Linda used to work for the insurance company. She knows the inside scoop and how people get denied and why. She knows that people WILL be surveiled to make sure they are truthful when they state their limitations.

    With ME and FM things get complicated, because of the variability in our symptoms and because of the lack of accepted biomarkers, jsut to name these two. ME and FM are litterally targets of the insurance company. She is simpy saying that if you are unable to work then you should be unable to play golf.

    In reviewing my disability documents from the insurance company, i found out i was surveiled, at least twice. This was deeply upsetting, but it is a reality.

    When your employer is asking capacity questions, these may be hard to answer since you may be able to bend over and stand, but if you state you have work limitations, and they see you rollerblading in the park in the evening, then there will be a problem.

    As for the tender points example you gave, the Article you refered to was 2010, the same year the rheumatology association removed the requirement for tender points in their case definition for fibromyalgia.
     
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  15. nettle_tea

    nettle_tea

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    Kati, I understand the point you are trying to make, but I am respectfully asking you to step back and keep this debate off my post. There is a distinction between informing people about what insurance companies believe about disability, and parroting their views. The blogger is doing both.
     
    Last edited: Sep 24, 2017
  16. Kati

    Kati Patient in training

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    All right, @nettle_tea, sending my very best wishes.
     
  17. nettle_tea

    nettle_tea

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    Thank you for understanding! Best wishes to you as well.
     
  18. Groggy Doggy

    Groggy Doggy Senior Member

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    Private insurance companies are in the business to make money, period. They can simply choose to stop paying benefits and give no reason at all. It's up to the the consumer to hire an attorney and hope to get the benefits reinstated. It's very one sided. Whether the advocate choose to use the term "should" or "most likely will", IMO the end result to the consumer is the same.

    I get that you are engaged in a steep learning curve, but there is a lot of wisdom on PR from veterans with many years of experience.
     
    Last edited: Sep 24, 2017
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  19. Groggy Doggy

    Groggy Doggy Senior Member

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    @nettle_tea
    This is a bit harsh; from what I read @Kati is simply trying to point you to a resource, and supply updated information. Killing the messenger will not help. If you feel upset, then direct it toward Linda Née.
     
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  20. Dechi

    Dechi Senior Member

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    Thank you for the Linda Nee link. Very useful. My lawyer was just telling me this week how insurance companies thinks and some of the point she made were mentioned in this article.
     

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