Very long story short: I haven't worked in 6 years due to a disability. I'm a veteran. Part of the disability is due to non-sexual non-combat PTSD I can't get the VA to acknowledge. A second part should also be service connected as it was a result of a surgery to fix something that happened when I was enlisted. The rest occurred as a civilian, and was complicated by a VA Doctors negligence. I am trying to get Social Security Disability but have been denied. I am now on day 6 of a 60 day period to appeal in federal court. I have not found a lawyer but have got some nibbles. If I can't find a lawyer by the end of next week I'll start working on the appeal myself. I completed my 1L. Hopefully I can limp through it. So I need a social security appeals lawyer in Sacramento/San Francisco in a hurry. I have/had a 1138 claim at the VA to add the injury from the doctors negligence to my service connection compensation. I need help with it. My mental situation isn't great. It's hard to focus on these things. I may just need an experienced person to hold my hand through this. I need money from some stable benefit to survive. I currently have 40% from the VA and food stamps. I'm waiting on SSI which I am angry I have to apply for, but glad exists. I'm not quite "desperate", but I'm in a bad place right now. I am fortunate to have a family safety net, but I haven't worked since 2011 and that net is fraying. I also feel guilty being a burden. ------ Very long story long: I left the Army with an Honorable discharge in 2003 with 4 years of service. At that time my medical issues were a reoccurring pilonidal cyst on my tailbone (excised after rupturing at the size of half a softball, followed by another excision at half the size of a baseball. After I got out I had another half golfball sized excision of tissue.), sciatic nerve damage from that cyst, non-combat non-sexual trauma PTSD partially based on that cyst (There was something more respectable, but nothing I feel like I should go to the head of the line for), headaches, no big toenails, acid reflux, upper and lower back pain, and tachycardia likely brought on by an opiate that was later found to cause heart damage. I went on to do emergency response in Katrina, worked for a private investigator, was a Campaign Manager for a US Congressional primary (we lost horribly!), Recruited for the Army as a civilian, became a Haberdasher at Men's Wearhouse, and was a Service Retention Manager at an Infiniti dealership. I also owned and ran my own security company. So I tried to make things work. I also got a B.S. from USF and finished my first year of law school at a top 100 school. In 2007 I had my acid reflux fixed. Apparently I had suffered trauma to the cap that keeps the acid from coming back up (A hiatal hernia). Unfortunately the artificial cap makes it impossible to vomit. This was a good tradeoff at the time... but is a plot point later in things becoming hellish. In 2011 I was working at that dealership and my left ear decided to give up. It's called Viral Labrythitis and it hits about 1 person in 50,000 each year. So I won the lottery. 9 in 10 people recover all their hearing. I recovered none of mine as the inner ear fully died. I had called my doctor. My doctor, after hearing my symptoms, told me I had "benign positional vertigo" which he described as "rocks in your ears". He said it would go away on it's own and not to come in. I called a second time 2 days later and got the same message from his assistant. 2 days after that I was flopping on the ground, not able to walk straight, wanting to die from nausea as I couldn't vomit and my abdominal muscles were viably bruising. I finally decided to ignore my doctor and go to the ER. When I got to the ER they explained the Viral Labrynthitis thing, gave me a ton of drugs in hopes of fixing it, and kept me in critical care for over a month. I had to relearn to walk as one of my inner ears died. I was told twice that had I come in sooner I probably would have had a better outcome. So now we come to today. I've relearned to walk. I've stabilized myself. Lots of physical therapy. I have a service dog that loves me. I now only have panic attacks maybe twice a week if nothing bad is going on and it isn't allergy season. I am not able to work. I wouldn't hire me. My doctors do not disagree (though none of them are very helpful). Briefly, here is my biggest problem: My PTSD causes my eyes to dart here and there to people around me. This was a GREAT thing when I did security. Now it's killing me. The eyes darting causes vertigo due to my dead inner ear. The vertigo makes me need to vomit. I can't so I retch and convulse until my abdominal muscles bruise. All of this causes a panic attack, at which point I am useless. When I carefully control my environment I end up with that sort of situation 1-3x a week. There are a lot of normal activities I can do for awhile... but once something triggers the cycle it's all downhill. Once I start having those episodes I am less able to prevent more from occurring in rapid succession. For instance, if I go out to dinner with my family I might sit with my back to a corner and shield my eyes from anything beyond our table. I'll be good, even able to have a conversation, until someone on the other end of the table calls for my attention. I look too far out of my box and the vertigo hits. A waiter dropping a water glass is another possible trigger. At that point I have to leave, and someone else usually has to drive. On occasion that car trip is directly to the emergency room. If anything... anything at all happens to my right ear it's like someone is holding a gun to my head. I lived in terror for years that my other ear would die. Now my mind is past it, but my body still freaks out like my child is on fire. I can't use a phone without the speaker for more than a minute or two without what I am sure is psychosomatic pain, but it is godawful. There is volumes more... but you get the idea. I've done emergency response. Security. Sales. Recruiting. Everything requires movement, engagement, interpersonal skills... I wouldn't hire me. So now I have asked for an 1138 claim to add the disability caused by my VA doctors negligence to my ear. I asked first in 2014. Sometime in 2015 they sent me a letter telling me I was scheduled for a Videonystagmography test for my compensation request. It said I would have hot water put in one ear, cold water in the other. It said the doctor would violently fling my head back in the chair (not the exact words of course) and then pull it similarly violently forward, then stare into my pupils to see what happens. If it sounds like I have an axe to grind on that note, I apologize. I do. They did the head flinging bit when I was in critical care and had I not been so weak I might have done something I would have later regretted. I understand that it is medically useful, maybe even necessary and agree that it should occur. Subjectively, however, you're triggering a guy with PTSD with several of his worst fears all at once while he is disoriented and having a panic attack. Oh yeah, and that guy has cardiac problems. I called the medical people. I called the administrative people. I begged for an alternative to the test. I begged for a waiver. My doctor said he'd write one, but the administrative people said that no waiver could excuse me from the test. Defeated, I suggested that I simply be restrained during the procedure. They have leather straps or something right? Apparently not. Uncivilized or something. In desperation I said I'd buy some bondage restraints for them to put on me if it had to happen. Apparently that is a non-starter. At that point I had another complete nervous breakdown and stopped talking to anyone, stopped paying my bills, and have periods of blackout due to the lorizopram I was using under a doctors orders. Developed a lorizopram dependence that I kicked without help recently. So yeah. It was pretty bad. I also missed that appointment. Did I mention I had no meds at this time, because the instruction letter said that I had to be clean of all prescriptions for the test? Anxiety. Anti Nausia. Antidepressants. That helped with my mental state. As did the fact that, despite having a regular mental health councilor in 2 SoCal VA Hospitals, I was told I was ineligible for anything but drugs and 1 meeting a year with the prescriber. What is the point of all that whining? I hate whining but I have to get this out, and there is a point. My file sat inactive so long that now the benefit dates are no longer backdated to 2014. They're treating it as a new claim. 39 months of benefits is a life changing amount of money for me right now. My argument is that the mental health crisis I was in (implied: they caused) seems like an awfully good reason to waiver the statute of limitations. That would work in court. I'm not sure what rule to point to... and unfortunately I'm too scattered to do a deep dive right now. It's gotta be there. Or else there must be a human being I can appeal to. Any lawyers or VA Advocates out there who know what rule I can point to (I hope there is one!) or person I can talk to? There doesn't seem to be a form for it. Anyway, some good news on that front. I did go to my congressman's office. In short order I got a call from a nice lady who let me know she'd set me up for a new VNG test, and had spoken personally to the person who conducts the test about how it would be modified in my case. I'm now waiting on said test. One final note. I'm torn about how to present this because I'm bothered that this will paint her in an unduly bad light. My best guess is that this person is a decent person that I'm seeing the worst of. I lost my access to a therapist. Apparently they interpreted my service connection slightly differently than the previous 2 hospitals did. Instead I got 1 meeting a year with a psychiatrist and the drugs I was prescribed at that meeting. I also got a "Care Manager" who I am convinced has the actual job description of "Prevent access by your patient to any service in this department." Hey, it's a living. Here's the thing. I went in and leveled with her. I asked her point blank if the above idea was true. She confirmed it was. I'm a realist here. I can accept that. I do not need to see a doctor for this thing. Can you help me with it? If you can help me with it I'll be OK. That thing was my social security disability paperwork. "So you're just here for disability?" No. I need mental help but I understand that you will not provide it. I can survive if you help me with my disability paperwork based on existing records of treatment that already happened. "No. We have a conflict of interest and so we cannot help you in any way on this matter. Have you tried a service representative?" So I left. I was angry but I didn't take it out on her. I cannot fathom why she did what she did at that point. She wrote something absurdly out of context in my file. It would feature prominently in the Social Security Disability rejection "...states that he was 'very upfront that part of his ultimate goal is to get social security disability and a mental health service connection' rather than to treat for his mental health..." The crux here, and it makes all the difference in the world, is "rather than". I wanted both. I was told flatly I wouldn't get treatment. I told her that I didn't know how I would deal with not having a councilor, but that at least my survival needs would be met if she helped me with the rest. That is quite a significant bit of context to miss. Did it influence the judges decision? I don't know. I only know it was quoted in it... so I feel like it is implied. So... that brings us to my social security disability situation. My lawyer just fired me. To be fair, he let me know in advance that if we got to this point he would probably back out. Apparently it's a different specialty. Still, it sucked to find out by letter. I asked his assistants voicemail for a copy of my case to look at and for a referral to an appropriate lawyer on Thursday evening. I haven't heard back, but that's only 1 business day. My appeals board review was declined. So I need to file in federal court in the next 54 days. I've talked to 5 lawyers and left about 20 messages. Two have had junior attorneys or intake representatives express interest, but I need to see a boss-attorney to decide. I'm waiting on those appointments this week. I just learned that I should probably look in San Francisco for a lawyer as that is where these trials are held? That might help. That's on my plan for Tuesday. I'd wait to hear back from the lawyers before bothering you all with this post, but I have a ticking clock. 54 days. I may have to write it myself. I'm pretty sure I can do a competent job at it, but I'll need a bit of case law pulled off Westlaw since I don't have access anymore. I also need someone who is familiar with the formatting needed to file in federal court. Apparently it is tricky. I didn't get to that point in law school. I'm hoping I can go to the legal clinic at McGeorge to get those bits of assistance, but I don't know what I'll find when I get there. I'm open to suggestions. I need a lawyer. I need someone to hold my hand through this. My biggest concern for writing it is that I'm not sure what it should look like. I'm clearly logically in the right, so once I see a template I'm confident my facts will fill in the legal mad-lib. I received what amounted to a rebuttal to my claim from the judge. Except it was the decision- each of the findings/arguments was totally new to me. These were not presented in court to be challenged or explained. I don't dispute any of the actual words, just the interpretations... simple, concise explanations I'd have been happy to testify to if asked. Now I have to explain that evidence. Someone with power MUST hear my side. I never got that chance.This is insane. If someone can find the laws for me and help me with the organization I'll put the work in myself. Or at least I'll try to. I'm not holding it together too well. I'm a former soldier who never gave up his integrity. I'm being implied to be a liar without the ability to answer my accusers. That judgement is partially at fault for my current poverty, and potentially my death in the near future. It has kept me out of law school. It has kept me from the chance to enjoy life. I know I had a hand in my own misfortune- we all make mistakes, and I've probably made more than my share. I have to be my own advocate here, though. I deserve to be heard and I deserve the insurance benefits I paid into or earned through service. I just don't know how to do that. 54 days. If you read all of this, whether you want to help me or not, I am deeply appreciative of your time.