This post is in conduction with the AL.com series where they talk about people who are on Social Security Disability. In their reporting, they profiled people in Gadsden/Anniston, which has some of the highest rates of people on disability in Alabama. At the same time, Alabama has the second highest amount of people on SS Disability. The number one state for SS Disability is West Virginia. Before I get started, I want you to watch this 60 Minutes piece called Disability USA.
I was contacted by a reporter at AL.com, after I filled out a form on their website about applying to SS Disability. So, they want to know how the process has been going, and here is my story. After being fired from my last job in July 2011, I was first denied for unemployment benefits, but me and the contractor who was also fired fought and I won. To make the story short, I applied to many jobs online, went to job fairs from Huntsville, Birmingham, Atlanta, and areas in between, and even had my own mother fill out job applications since my handwriting is not so good, but nothing happened.
I was diagnosed with Autistic Disorder, Reading Disorder, Depression, and Obesity by a psychologist in Wyoming in 2006, the people in Alabama never did it. Before the diagnosis, I knew I was different. I was in and out of special need schools and special education classes throughout my time in public school. So, when I got the official diagnosis in 2006, I was not that surprised. But during this time, I was in and out of any jobs I could find. I did jobs ranging from prep cooking, desk clerk, janitorial, day hire work, and I was even a shift manager for a short period of time, but all of these jobs ended as either seasonal jobs coming to an end or I was fired.
In between any jobs I could find, I just kept on applying and applying, while in between places to stay, and even being homeless. One thing people kept picking up when they first saw me or I was interviewed, was how big I was, or how different my behavior and speaking was. In the diagnosis, I was also labeled as having financial stress, lack of social support, poor social skills, interpersonal deficits, lack of social support, and others. I am not going to embed or share my entire psychological evaluation online. If you folks from AL.com want to see it, you have to see it in person.
So, on with the disability story. After the unemployment benefits ran out, and I was nearing 1000 job application rejections, my mother thought it was best to apply for SS Disability. So, I went to the Social Security office and applied. I handed them a copy of the psychological evaluation, and other forms needed to prove that I am disabled, and judging by the evaluation, I had a disability. First, the Disability Determination Service out of Birmingham mailed me some stuff to fill out, and soon I had an appointment with a psychologist in Anniston.
After the meeting, about a week later, I got the letter that I was denied. Which was quick in my opinion. So the next step, was going to an attorney. I contacted every attorney in Anniston/Oxford who said they work with people trying to get on Social Security Disability. I even got turned down by the giants like Pitts and Zanaty. However, one attorney did contact me and we soon had a meeting. This is what the attorney said: “because of you working, your chances of getting on SS Disability are near zero.” He recommended I go into treatment to improve my chances to get on SS Disability, the only problem. How can you afford treatment when you don’t have the funds?
The next step, the Alabama Department of Vocational Rehabilitation. And we have worked with these folks twice now. The first time, ended not so good as the job I was placed in failed, and the counselor I worked with would not do anything. So we had to appeal to Montgomery and we were placed with another counselor, who also did nothing, and we eventually stopped working with them. The second time we worked with ADRS, I was sent to a three-week program doing janitorial work, which ended. And the people up at the Opportunity Center in Anniston only help me out by sending me job sheets listing available jobs found in the Anniston Star and other sites, the only problem is the jobs are few and far between. As you know, Anniston and Gadsden has some of the worst economic problems in America, I have been covering it.
As of right now, I am still on the appeal process, which could take up to two years until we get a hearing. My mother is paying for my apartment rent, and I survive by walking a couple of miles one way on most days to go to the library to search for jobs and write on Geek Alabama. As for other state agencies, the Anniston Career Center is a joke, because the employees there don’t help you, and I have had to help others myself. As you can guess, state agencies here in Anniston/Oxford are a joke, who runs these places?
For those who have said to me “you should not say you have Autism or you are a Aspie.” I am not going to do that, it would be like Superman fighting crime, but instead of Superman, it’s Clark Kent fighting crime without his superhero suit. I mean, it’s out there everywhere now. I am not going to stop saying I have Autism or Asperger’s Syndrome. Yes, there are plenty of people across the world who have Autism, and are doing very well in their careers, but somehow, no one is willing to give me a shot. I mention that I am an Aspie on all on my social media accounts, I will not change that!
Let me just say this, I would rather be in a job/career instead of relying on SS Disability. The reason why you see the highest rates of SS Disability in Alabama in the Anniston/Gadsden areas, is because the economy has imploded. Many jobs have vanished, and people are struggling. Just like the folks from West Virginia who were profiled on 60 Minutes in that video above, people here know they can not find any jobs. So they either move away from East Alabama, or apply to SS Disability. People can not live without a income, so what do these people do?
Since no one will give me a shot, I have had to go the independent route. This is why I write on Geek Alabama. I have written about many things, I have taken many photos and videos, and I have done many great interviews and reviews. Many people around here wonder why other media places like the Anniston Star or TV 24 would not pick me up. I wonder why myself? The Anniston Star thinks I am competition and wish I would leave town already. I did help out the TV 24 show Pigskin Roundup with their social media, only to be shown the door, doing this without any pay. And yes, since I am the manager, I could delete the page, but I won’t since I am a nice guy.
I have asked and begged anyone who was hiring here in Anniston/Oxford, and a few times, someone did contact me back, but the offer fell through. Now, I am the highest ranked blogger in the world (245,000 Alexa worldwide), who is also unemployed. While other writers and bloggers in Alabama like Jamie’s Rabbits, Grasping For Objectivity, and Wade Kwon, who all know me, have a career, I sit here depressed and wondering what to do next! Lots of people have asked why places like ABC 33/40, FOX 6, AL.com, or a magazine in Birmingham has not hired me yet? Good question! And as of today, I am up to my 1,230th job rejection, and I do keep track of this at home.
At the end, I hope I get a chance to talk about my struggles in the job search, and applying to Social Security Disability on AL.com. I have many people in the media job fields already following me on social media, and of course they wonder why no one has hired me yet when I am this good at this stuff. If someone does hire me, I would end the process for SS Disability, but until that day, I will continue the process. At the end, I would rather have a career than be on SS Disability, it just sucks that I currently live in one of the worst regions in America for economics. So I have to keep applying to SS Disability, because I don’t have a choice!
I am embedding my Visual Resume (over 10,000 views now), if you or someone you know is hiring, e-mail me at [email protected]
Categories: Personal Life Stuff