[The following are part of a series that explains what happens before, during, and after Social Security hearings from an experienced Social Security benefits attorney. Client names and particular fact patterns are changed to protect confidentiality.]
Friday, December 28, 2012. 9:30 a.m.
Denise sat on her family room couch. It was a few days after Christmas. Through the window over the TV, snow covered the backyard yard and framed the windows with sparkles of white. She breathed in. Christmas was nice, she thought. The Christmas tree in the corner was dry. Tree lights sparkled in the slant of the morning sun.
The phone rang. It startled her.
“Hon, bad news.” It was her husband. He was calling from work. Her heart beat fast.
“What?” His voice quivered. “Hold on.” She turned off the TV.
“They’re layin’ a bunch of us guys off here. They’re movin’ things out of Minnesota. Said state taxes are too high. Damn them greedy politicians.”
“What are we going to do?” Denise was running through a list of credit card bills coming in January.
“Hon, we’ll get some severance. A bunch of us guys are talkin’ about unemployment. I’ll start goin’ to the library and lookin’ for jobs.” Denise’s eyes stung and she started crying.
He heard her. “Hon, we’ll get through this. Don’t worry, babe. I’ll be home in a little bit. We’ll talk more.”
Denise hung up. He was a good man. This was too much. She put her fingertips into her forehead. She gagged on a series of short breaths and cried.
Over the rest of the day and into the evening, news of factory job losses spread sadness. Outside, snowflakes fell quietly, absorbing the sounds from the small town, fanning outward past the broad, recumbent fields.
Denise and her husband spent the next few days at home. New Years’ came and went. Days became weeks. Into the new year, late at night in bed, they discussed their most pressing money troubles.
One night in bed, Denise was suddenly scared. She looked at her husband. “If I don’t have medical insurance, how will I prove my Social Security case?” They could pay for her medical care, but they had very little money. She needed a plan.