Thursday, June 18, 2009

Fighting For My Children

As parents, we have many things we do on a daily basis; loose sleep, hug and kiss, yell, laugh, and the biggest is dream! Why do we do these? It’s pretty simple…our children! They are a gift as well as a hindrance at times, but they are the definition of who we have become as well as the world’s greatest teachers. I’ll admit that my road as a single parent has been a bit of a roller coaster ride, but I feel that I have at last conquered that last mighty hill, leveled off, and am in high hopes the ride has turned into something enjoyable.
As a single mom, hopes of a real family always lurk in my heart no matter how hard I try to fend it off. As a result, I have not always acted upon gut instinct, but instead shoved it aside for wishful thinking in the hopes of making a relationship work. What’s my type? I no longer know, for I have tried them all…jocks, cocky, meek, fat, thin, manly, girlie, country, city, and my least favorite is the dominating psychotic, abusive, mind-controlling jerk. This last one seems to dominate all categories and for some reason seek me out in hopes of destroying all hopes and dreams.
It is not with pride that I admit to having three children with just as many fathers, all of them unsuitable and dangerous for the safety of my kids. Of course that’s not how it was upon meeting them, but tables turn and true colors blossom when hopes and dreams falter. Their identity has been kept a secret from all authorities over the years in the effort to maintain a healthy life for my children. Putting myself at risk, I was led to believe by the authorities themselves that there was no other way. I denied myself medical coverage and income at the risk of causing myself future trouble with the authorities.
Upon the circumstances you read about in my previous post, I was being forced to disclose the identities of these men. I have had an open relationship with a case worker that has done her best to help me over the last year or so with all of these technical issues. When push came to shove and I was losing ground, I finally confided in her about the repercussions of disclosing the names. It’s sad when you are forced into placing your children in danger just so you can ensure your ability to care for them, but that is where I was at. Mad is an extreme understatement, and they knew I was terrified of the outcome. But then my case worker told me I could file for ‘Due Cause.’ I would have to provide documentation to support it, but that would be no problem.
Finally, after 11 years of worrying, I had a little bit of hope. I made a phone call to a friend that just so happened to be a detective and he was more than willing to help. Then I sat down and wrote out my life with each man individually and what damage it had already done. Unfortunately I only had ten days to get the information in, an impossible feat. So the detective made a call to Child Support Enforcement, the lady in charge of my case told him we had time and it was up to my case worker, she had already approved an extension so we should be ok. Wrong! She failed to notify him that she had already sent out a letter to the most dangerous father of them all. He immediately called in Child Protective Services on me and had started back in on the harassing and stalking. I was left no choice but to go and get a restraining order.
I made a very heated phone call to the lady at CSE responsible for the disaster and informed her of what she had done. After explaining to her what kind of situation she had placed us in, she wasn’t feeling quite so happy about making that decision. Within 24 hours, I had all the gathered evidence faxed and hand delivered to everyone possible and all cases were closed and all testing cancelled. In gathering all the documentation, I learned a few things about them also and can’t help but wonder how I came to be with such low-life people. One thing that saddens me is that I have had to live with the guilt and fear of keeping everything listed as unknown for so long when I didn’t have to.
People in my situation are not told of the alternatives that they have that could drastically turn the tables for the better, ensuring them health, safety, and prosperity. The fight I have had over the last month alone to keep my children safe and my family intact has been intense and heart-breaking; and yet I know that there are many cases out there worse than mine. I encourage those who are fighting for their children to not give up, ask many questions, and turn to the people of power in their lives to find that extra link that pushes the limits and throws it all into your court. We are the only ones that can fight for them, and in turn they will now just how far we will go to protect them and what it means to love and fight for your kids.
There has been much emotional abuse, disappointment, and broken promises in my children’s lives already; but I am finally making all the changes physically, emotionally, and socially to provide us with some stable ground. It’s unfortunate that I did not see it all earlier, but it’s never too late to make a better life for all involved. And although my fight has not yet ended completely, and the possibility of danger will always be there, I have to thank my family and my friends, especially the detective, for all of the help and support. I could not have gotten this far without them and have been reminded of their purpose in my life.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The FMLA, It's Rules, and Why It's Impartial

Everyone is familiar with the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), but what parts are missing in the rules of it? How many are shoved under the rug because of it’s gaps?

The FMLA came into effect in February 5, 1993 as an attempt to give individuals a secure position of employment in the event of illness, injury, or childbirth. Unfortunately, the act was created with some loop holes to help protect the smaller businesses that could not afford to hold a position for an 'injured' employee for up to 12 weeks. For instance, if the business has less than 50 employees, they do not have to honor the FMLA guidelines; even if they state the intention to do so in the company handbook. This is where my personal experience comes into play, and this is my story.

I have lived my life in a man's occupation, going at it full-bore. Naturally, this can cause some complications physically. In September of 2007 I took a job for a small city municipality as an equipment operator and truck driver. I began to have problems with my knees and neck, as well as some other health issues that directly affected my work. In June of 2008, with my company insurance in tow, I went to the doctor for help. He set up an appointment for an MRI on both my neck and my knee.

The MRI of my knee showed something that was explained to me as a ligament that was slowly crushing my kneecap. But the one of my neck was a bit more complicated. It showed allot of arthritis, degenerative disc disease, a herniated disc, and the one below it was bulging. I was sent home with an order for physical therapy, steroids, and muscle relaxers.

Although my knee showed progress with the therapy, my neck didn't; in fact, it continued to get worse. The muscle spasms began to intensify and radiated to other parts of my body; like the back of my head and my shoulders. My physical abilities were deteriorating quickly and I had gotten to the point where I had to back out of a lot of duties on the job, as well as home. For example, I could lift the trailer ramps once or twice a day, and then would have to call someone to do it for me. I knew my time was limited and before long I would be forced out of my work completely by my physical impairments.

That day came on December 31, 2008. The day before I had supervised a group of community service workers on a project shoveling rock. Not being one to sit and watch, I joined in. Within an hour or two, I had a headache, my neck was hurting, and I was getting sick. At that point I 'whimped out' and watched their progress. On the 31st, I was home with sick kids when I sat up in bed and something popped in my neck, and instantly knew the disc had ruptured again. Within 30 minutes I was in excruciating pain.

I naturally had the next day off for New Year, but still put in a phone call to my boss explaining what had happened and that I would be going to the doctor on Friday instead of coming to work. This time however, the doctor referred me on to a pain specialists and a neurosurgeon and was sent home with a two week off work notice and allot of medication. Two weeks later, I had another MRI ordered from the surgeon and a note for another week off of work. This is where it starts to get really complicated.

At this point the insurance had already denied the first MRI due to false reports of an automobile accident in 2007. The interesting part is that there was never an accident, and I couldn't get any written proof from anyone on the claim. On the day before the second MRI, the insurance denies the preauthorization claiming that it is a new injury and they can't authorize until I had been under the surgeons care for eight weeks without improvement. Even with a report from the doctor saying it was the same herniation previously diagnosed and that I had been under constant treatment for it, they still denied the coverage.

He sent me home with a doctor's note for six weeks of very light office duty only in an attempt for me to get the situation resolved. The note was faxed in to my employer and I immediately received a phone call from the office manager. She informed me that she did not have a position for me and I would have to sit it out at home without pay. I was also told that they would be contacting their attorney due to the fact that they were paying for my insurance and not getting anything in return from me. It was a bad situation for the city and made them look bad. I guess compassion is a dying virtue.

At this point, I had made countless phone calls to the insurance, doctors, attorneys, you name it and I called them all. My days where spent on the phone and computer trying to sort out the mess. I was informed that the cities attorney had notified them that they had to keep my insurance, but that didn't stop them. I had requested medical leave forms in which I was denied. Attorneys would not call me back when they learned of my case, or they would refuse my calls.

On Thursday, January 28 I received a phone call from the insurance company. The very lady that hated me for harassing her for six months asked me if I had any idea what my employer was trying to do to me. When I told her I had no idea, I was informed that they had requested cancellation of my insurance policy as of January 30, 2009. It cancelled on midnight of that day. I didn't receive the letter from the city until the following Monday, too late to do anything about it. The reason given for cancellation of the policy was that I had not put in any hours in the month of January to support full-time benefits as required in the handbook. I guess it's ok to refuse an employee hours and then terminate their position because they didn't have any.

The law supposedly states that an individual's insurance cannot be cancelled for a condition that a patient has been consistently treated for. In trying to push this issue, the insurance made it's own loop hole by claiming that the doctor had stated in his report that my condition was directly exasperated by the heavy physical labor that I do at my employment; thus pushing it off as a workers' comp issue. This left me no choice but to file for a workers' comp claim. The city tried to refuse me the claim papers, until I told them they could not legally deny me the application; especially since it was their insurance company making the claim.

What a mess! I ended up going back to my family practitioner who supplied me with a doctor's note stating that I was off work indefinitely; and in all honestly, I can't work. Currently I cannot get insurance and have no income. With three kids to support, it is a little stressful. I know there are legal issues that would more than defend my situation, but they don't do any good without an attorney that is willing to help.

As far as the FMLA goes, it was issued and approved by the government to help people in my situation. It is my personal opinion that if the government is going to pass laws and acts like the FMLA to help it's tax-paying citizens, the government offices (no matter their size) should have to honor it's guidelines. Many small business would go under if they had to follow guidelines such as these very often, but the government offices get federal grants and funding no matter their size. As it stands, the city has only around 18 employees, give or take a couple, leaving me just plain out of luck.

Any information or input on this situation would be greatly appreciated. This blog is solely intended to inform others so that they may be aware in similar situations, but I am still fighting this and am looking for anything that may help me to win this battle.