Just another Friggin’ Hearing?


So I woke up this morning and immediately had to write a five-page statement to today’s administrative law judge. The government had been totally screwing me again and I had to put a stop to it.

I was incarcerated—not treated, merely housed—in St. Joe’s psychiatric unit for two weeks last May. So sometime later some dorkhead social worker checked the box on the PRI (Patient Review Instrument) that I had been “treated,” which triggered a Level II Screen.

To make a long story short, the Level II Screen ended up with IPRO, which used to be the Island Peer Review Organization until they moved off Long Island. IPRO is an agency that subcontracts to Medicare. In the last couple years I’ve had too much to do with IPRO and to the best of my experience and knowledge they do not do anything valuable or good. They do, however, get paid with your money.

So IPRO informs Crouse Hospital, where I was housed and not treated for 104 days—we all remember that, don’t we?—that I cannot be discharged to a skilled nursing facility.

I have to be committed to a geriatric psychiatric facility where I can be medicated over objection.

Well, shit, no.

So I file for a fair hearing and, being totally wrecked with all sorts of physical maladies, I request a homebound hearing. Last week I went into total crisis just from sitting in my doctor’s waiting room for ninety minutes, for Pete’s sake.

So the fair hearing gets scheduled without homebound status so I call OTDA (pronounced oh-ta-da and meaning the NYS Office of Temporary and Disability something-or-other) and they say, oops, we forgot to send you the right papers so we’ll postpone the hearing and send you the papers.

Except they don’t come. On my second phone call to Oh-Ta-Da I get a dorkhead who tells me the Post Office returned the papers as “undeliverable.” No way. I was here, waiting. Why would they send the papers back?

Let’s be absolutely clear about this one thing: I AM NOT NOW AND NEVER WILL BE RESPONSIBLE FOR ANYTHING THE UNITED STATES POSTAL SERVICE DOES OR DOESN’T DO.

So the dorkhead says he’ll send me another set of medical papers but, no, he won’t send them to my Power of Attorney (POA). No good reason; he just won’t do it.

So more time passes and the fair hearing gets scheduled again and again I have not gotten the papers for medical justification of a homebound hearing. So I call Oh-ta-da yet again and get Caitlin, who is about four times smarter than the dorkhead. Caitlin and I do a lot of righteous stuff and think we’ve solved all the problems.

Except the next day—we are now up to March 4, the day before yesterday—some dorkhead from the administrative law judge’s office calls the POA and tells him THERE WILL BE NO MORE POSTPONEMENTS. WE’VE ALREADY GOTTEN TWO; NO MORE, NO MORE.

At which point I kinda-sorta start screaming. We still haven’t gotten any medical papers and I’m still too sick to go downtown and sit for about three hours. So I call Legal Aid, where a stupid receptionist runs me around for two days, then I finally get to talk to a lawyer who says that my representative has to show up in court. Absolutely has to!

No! I didn’t appoint my POA to do the fair hearing. He doesn’t know from shit about fair hearings; I was going to do it myself, just I had to do it by phone from home.

Well, all this just kept getting worse and worse. POA said he was going to cancel his travel plans and do the fair hearing. No, no, I said; you need to go travel, do your thing. No, he said, I don’t want to have to drive to Yonkers to visit you. Yonkers is four hours away from Syracuse, and apparently he thinks it’s a natural setting for crazy old people who are incarcerated.

So he goes to the hearing and I stay home with a housekeeping sort of person we are paying privately because the freaking damn county still hasn’t come through with the aides I’ve been waiting for for two months and somebody’s just got to get the dishes washed.

So POA goes to court and the housekeeper comes and then the administrative law judge calls. We spend, oh, three or four days on the phone. There are about a hundred pages in the file he has from IPRO and he can’t figure out what their position is, so he calls them up.

The paper on the top says I can be discharged to the community; the paper in the middle says I have to be committed to a geriatric psychiatric institution (which, by the way, the psychiatrist I talked to said there is no such thing in New York State). Well, I mean seriously, make up your mind, will you? Do we put crazy old ladies in the community or in an institution? The issue, apparently, is not whether I’m crazy but, being crazy, where I should live.

You will, of course, remember how I dealt with this. Christmas night I went out of the hospital AMA and have been living at home ever since.

So here’s my question to the judge: if I no longer am in the hospital, is the whole question moot?

Yeah, he thought that was a good question, too.

So he called up IPRO and got through to the woman I couldn’t get through to and she said that since I’m not in the hospital none of this really matters anymore. If, at some time in the future, I again apply for a bed in skilled nursing then we’ll have to go through this all over again because you see, dear citizens of this totally screwed up state, if the Level II Screen box has ever in your life been checked, then you cannot un-check it.

If you ever have been admitted to inpatient psychiatry then the box stays checked forever. Your name will never be cleared. New York State will never again give you the presumption of innocence or of a sound mind.

Welcome to my world.

About annecwoodlen

I am a tenth generation American, descended from a family that has been working a farm that was deeded to us by William Penn. The country has changed around us but we have held true. I stand in my grandmother’s kitchen, look down the valley to her brother’s farm and see my great-great-great-great-great-grandmother Hannah standing on the porch. She is holding the baby, surrounded by four other children, and saying goodbye to her husband and oldest son who are going off to fight in the Revolutionary War. The war is twenty miles away and her husband will die fighting. We are not the Daughters of the American Revolution; we were its mothers. My father, Milton C. Woodlen, got his doctorate from Temple University in the 1940’s when—in his words—“a doctorate still meant something.” He became an education professor at West Chester State Teachers College, where my mother, Elizabeth Hope Copeland, had graduated. My mother raised four girls and one boy, of which I am the middle child. My parents are deceased and my siblings are estranged. My fiancé, Robert H. Dobrow, was a fighter pilot in the Marine Corps. In 1974, his plane crashed, his parachute did not open, and we buried him in a cemetery on Long Island. I could say a great deal about him, or nothing; there is no middle ground. I have loved other men; Bob was my soul mate. The single greatest determinate of who I am and what my life has been is that I inherited my father’s gene for bipolar disorder, type II. Associated with all bipolar disorders is executive dysfunction, a learning disability that interferes with the ability to sort and organize. Despite an I.Q. of 139, I failed twelve subjects and got expelled from high school and prep school. I attended Syracuse University and Onondaga Community College and got an associate’s degree after twenty-five years. I am nothing if not tenacious. Gifted with intelligence, constrained by disability, and compromised by depression, my employment was limited to entry level jobs. Being female in the 1960’s meant that I did office work—billing at the university library, calling out telegrams at Western Union, and filing papers at a law firm. During one decade, I worked at about a hundred different places as a temporary secretary. I worked for hospitals, banks, manufacturers and others, including the county government. I quit the District Attorney’s Office to manage a gas station; it was more honest work. After Bob’s death, I started taking antidepressants. Following doctor’s orders, I took them every day for twenty-six years. During that time, I attempted%2
This entry was posted in activism, advocacy, Government Services, Independence, Inpatient psychiatry, Medicare, Mental Illness & Health, Nursing home, Power, Powerlessness and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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