Am I Really Pretending to Be Disabled, Or Are You Just Pretending Not to See My Disability? An Open Letter to a Disability Claims Investigator, Part 1

Background

Yesterday I was contacted by a professional disability-insurance claims investigator actively in the employ of a billion-dollar, multi-national insurance company that is not MetLife.

Apparently the man has been reading my posts about my misadventures with MetLife (for example) and in the process has developed some intensely negative opinions of me which he felt compelled to share yesterday. The upshot of his position is that he thinks I’m only pretending to have a disability and that all of my efforts vis-a-vis MetLife amount to nothing more than an elaborate attempt at fraud.

Of course, the guy gets paid a tidy sum by his Insurance Company employer to think exactly that sort of thing and probably does so robotically about every disability claim that he encounters or even hears about, regardless of the merits of the claim itself.

In any event, he and I had an illuminating exchange via Text yesterday, and today I have a few follow up comments and questions that I wish to share with him and the rest of my readers.

Hello Mr. Claims Investigator,

To begin with, I really think that you and I must each mean something very different by the word disability. You stated yesterday that you think I have a “hate filled obsession” with my former employer (MetLife), to the point where you repeatedly advised me to check myself into a mental health facility, but at the same time you also made it clear that for you none of that indicates that I have a “legitimate disability”.

For my part, although I don’t actually hate anybody or any company, including MetLife, and I am certainly not any sort of danger to myself or anybody else, I do totally agree that I have an abnormally intense obsession with what roughly a dozen MetLife employees did to me (and indirectly my family) last year.

But what I don’t understand is how this abnormally intense obsession is not a “legitimate disability”, as you put it. To begin with, my lifelong tendency to obsess abnormally intensely about particular topics fulfills a cornerstone diagnostic criterion of the modern definition of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), which is usually recognized as a disability.  Here is the relevant passage from the DSM-V:

…Restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior, interests, or activities, as manifested by…[h]ighly restricted, fixated interests that are abnormal in intensity or focus….

[emphasis added]. Furthermore, although while obsessing about something I do retain a great deal of control over my overt behavior and can therefore perform quite successfully any highly practiced activity like brushing my teeth, dressing myself, or taking out the trash, unfortunately when it comes to any activity that demands mental focus and sustained concentration and which falls outside the realm of my obsession I am utterly useless — totally unable to function.

That last condition is critical, because if the task in question is somehow suitably relevant to my obsession, then in that case I have absolutely no problem focusing and sustaining concentration, and in fact can often exhibit superior performance on the task. That can happen quite easily provided the task in question is suitably relevant to my obsession. But if the task is not suitably relevant to my obsession, then in that case my performance can be severely degraded. For any task that is not suitably relevant to my presenting obsession I can manifest an abject incompetence.

Again, how is that not a “legitimate disability”?

[Note: there’s also another whole dimension of my autistic disability which is my inability to effectively manage the complexities of interpersonal relationships, but we didn’t actually get to that yesterday, so other than mentioning it in passing, I’ll leave a deeper analysis for a another day.]

Continue with Am I Really Pretending to Be Disabled, Or Are You Just Pretending Not to See My Disability? An Open Letter to a Disability Claims Investigator, Part 2

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