True Story: Disabled at 17
At 17 years old we are all, in our own minds, invincible. Nothing I could have done at that age had ramifications and nothing that happened to me would have a long-term impact…or so I thought.
I was 17 in the summer of 2006 when I was diagnosed with a herniated disc in my lower back that was pinching my sciatic nerve. Fall came around and we hadn't found a fix, so the last option for me was spinal surgery.
The surgery went smoothly, and after a few months of recovery and physical therapy I was back to playing soccer and living a normal life.
I went on to college, graduated Magna Cum Laude a year ahead of my class and held three different high-profile political internships. I accepted a position with a major retailer in the fall of 2010 and began the next stage of my life, which for me was a very physically demanding “real world” job. In the winter of 2010, an all-too familiar feeling crept back in… a stabbing low back pain. Slowly, it shifted down my legs, this time both of them, and I was back to pain and uncertainty. MRIs revealed 2 herniated discs, more pinched nerves, and a fracture in one of my vertebrae. The treatment options varied, many of them costing (even with insurance) over $1,000 per treatment.
At 22, you don’t think you will be asking yourself, “This month do I worry about being able to walk normally, or buying groceries?”
This was not the invincible life I had once felt I was living. After a year of expensive treatments didn't work, I was out of options. It was either an expensive and invasive second surgery, or a career change. Unfortunately for me, I was not ready to do either. When I spoke with my employer, they told me that accommodating the injury would not be an option. They said that because of the medical information my doctor provided, it was unrealistic that I could fulfill most of my core roles and that I would be placed on short-term disability while they determined if they could find another role for me.
After two weeks with no answers, not only was I not placed, but my employer denied the claim they had issued in the first place. As I began the lengthy appeals process, I was shocked that my “benefits” and the protection I was supposed to have in place were not protecting me. My employer, who had decided for me that I would be on leave, was now denying my claim. Forget the stacks of MRIs and written information that my doctor had sent, I had to partake in testing by their physicians and all of those costs were to come out of my pocket.
I won my appeal, but it was a hollow victory. Not only did I incur a ton of additional expenses, but I hadn't been paid for over two months. When I finally received back pay, all the missed checks were put together, taxed at a higher rate, and I received only about ¾ of what I was due. The lesson here is simple: protection is important at any age.
At 17, I wasn't invincible, and I had no idea that what happened to me then would be carried into my later life. If I had additional disability coverage, I would have been better protected and wouldn't have lost money and time. What’s more, I would have been protected if I hadn't won my appeal. Today, I am so incredibly blessed: I work for an incredible company. One of the difficult times I faced in my life is a story I can share to help better protect others. I want to be a voice for the incredible options we have to protect people… people just like me.
Written by Stacy Dannenberg
This blog post is from the Author's perspective and doesn't speak for brightpeak financial. Contact brightpeak if you want to know more about brightpeak products, and keep in mind that they are not available in all states and there are some limitations (some exclusions and restrictions may apply).