How to convince Cal SDI I shouldn't have claimed I could work?
September 23, 2019 12:48 AM   Subscribe

YANML. Physically disabled. Employed but with significant accomodations. Laid off. Believed and presented myself as able/available to work. Recent diagnosis suggests I was wrong (and delusional) to do so. Califorbnia SDI is side-eying me. Which experts should I consult and what should I do to convince Cal SDI that I'm entitled to benefits from the point of layoff until I improve and/or SSDI kicks in?

Highly technical IT worker in California. I've been mobility impaired and unable to work outside my home for about 5 years now. My eyesight went wonky at the time as well, but I attributerd that to age and didn't explicitly tie it in with my disability.

Three years ago, I talked my way into my first job since the onset of my illness/disability. It was a full-time full-telecommute job - a significant and unusual level of accomodation for the company, my particular job and location. My job brcame increasingly difficult as my eyesight worsened, but I just informally told my management I was having issues. went to the next magnification level OTC reading glasses and soldiered on (how Calvinist of me). Nearly two years later, the assignmet ended and I was laid off because no other job with similar accomodation could be found for me. They really did try and the parting was amicable.

I started looking for work and have so far been unsuccessful - didn't expect to be so undesirable even on paper. I recently got fed up and got an eye exam for proper glasses. I was instead diagnosed with cataracts, probaly a complication of my disabiklity. I will be getting it fixed soon.

I ran out of money. I got over my strong aversion to bureaucracy and reluctantly applied for benefits - SSDI plus both Cal UI and Cal SDI assuming only one Cal claim would survive. And I was quickly reminded why I have an aversion to bureaucracy.

UI disqualified me, saying the level of accomodation was unusual and I'm not really able and available for work. SDI says I'm ineligiblle because I held a job with accomodations (at all), I wasn't laid off specifically due to disability, and my claim that I was able and available to work was by itself sufficient for denial. They also cautioned me if I go back to claim UI, my SSDI claim may be jeopardized.

I'm out of money and need aid badly and asap. I feel stupid for believing in myself and fighting to overcome my disability and get back to work. If I had just given up and gone back to bed, I wouldn't be in this position. And given my recent cataract diagnosis - yes I should have gotten it checked earlier - I now don't want to present myself as able until after I have recuperated.

I believe Cal SDI is the appropriate option, and I have temporarily stopped representing myself as able/available. I believe I will be minimally able, once I get my eyes fixed and learn to use some mobility-enhancing equipment I also expect to get soon.

I have an SSDI lawyer and claim, and believe SSDI will be ok with my situation and approve me, but I can't wait 6 months for their process.

YANML. Which experts should I consult. what should I ask of my GP and eye doctors, and what should I do to quickly convince Cal SDI that I am entitled to SDI from the end of my job until SSDI/my eyes/mobility are addressed?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
This sounds tough -- I'm sorry. I have no answers, but I've noticed that occasionally on Reddit I'll see a post about EDD policies get answered by someone who seems to have some inside knowledge or shared by someone who just had to deal with EDD. You might try posting this in r/Sacramento and r/CAStateWorkers. There's also r/disability and r/askHR. It might go nowhere, but it's anonymous and you could just copy / paste this question.
posted by Spokane at 1:17 AM on September 23, 2019 [1 favorite]

The SDI should work for you. It is not at all uncommon for people to start with a UI claim and then toggle to SDI. You don't have to be laid off based on disability to get SDI. It is not uncommon for people to lose their jobs unrelated to disability, start on UI, and switch over to SDI when a disability worsens. Medical evidence for SDI is really minimal -- just a doctor's note.

It seems to me that this may be a glitch in the bureaucracy rather than any true opposition to your claim from SDI. I recommend that you try to get to a live EDD customer service representative. This worked for me one year ago: call 1-800-300-5616. Select 1 for English. After that type 6-7-1. **Make sure to wait for the next prompt before typing each number.** <-- You have to wait a long time to wait for each prompt but you have to do it this way for it to work.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 8:34 AM on September 23, 2019 [1 favorite]

You can contact your local legal aid office to see if they can assist you with Cal SDI, and in the meantime, apply for food stamps (CalFresh) and General Assistance. Local agencies, such as California Community Action, may be able to offer funding for housing, utilities, and other needs, and your local legal aid organization should have more information about local nonprofits that can provide assistance.
posted by katra at 9:22 AM on September 23, 2019

From the OP:
What I wrote re Cal UI and SDI above were taken from live telephone conversations with UI and SDI reps. The UI interview was scheduled, I initiated the SDI call afterward. My heart aches in particular for the Cal SDI reps - talking to them made me suspect that these poor people may have been forced to have their empathy surgically removed in order to be able to do the job without having hourly nervous breakdowns.

For those interested in Cal GA, please be aware that you only get 100% of the GApayment if you are living on your own. However, in my case, if you are in a skilled nursing facility (hopefully temporarily), GA pays the facility roughly $900/mo and you get roughly $30/mo - which is understandable, but won't help pay rent/mortgage on the home you are trying to return to.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 11:12 AM on September 23, 2019 [1 favorite]

You may want to contact the Workers' Rights Disability Law Clinic. You can ask for a phone appointment if you are not nearby or are unable to have an in-person appointment. When I worked there -- 5 plus years ago so it may have changed -- if you were unemployed or had a significant disability (you meet both), you could get assistance through this clinic. The clinic may be able to match you with a law student or lawyer to do your SDI appeal (if it gets to that).
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 5:28 PM on September 23, 2019 [1 favorite]

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