Appeal grants Knoxville woman her Social Security benefits

Nina showed us a book filled with medical documents describing her illness and limitations.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – A disabled woman who lost her social security benefits two months ago got some good news recently. The government now tells her, she is disabled and her benefits will continue.

Five years ago, the government said Nina Rouse, who has been ill all of her life, was too sick to work. Soon after, she started receiving full social security disability benefits. However, following a routine review in august, Nina was told she is no longer ill, is able to work, and her benefits were being cut.. She appealed and just the other day she got a letter from the government saying she was, in fact, disabled.

“I was thankful for it,” said Rouse. “It was kind of surprising that they didn’t want to go to court or anything, they just sent that right out to me. ”

Rouse would have gone to court had social security rejected her appeal for her disability benefits to be renewed. The initial letter from Social Security that she received in early August said Rouse was able to work again and she was no longer considered disabled.

“I can’t really do anything,” she said. “I too many doctors appointments; I can’t hold a job.”

“Talking from a mother’s viewpoint, a mother for a long time who has been dealing with this, it’s been a tough road and this was such a relief to get this letter,” said her mother, Sharon Rouse. “It’s a very hard thing for people who go through this. We have dealt with this all of our lives with Nina. [She’s had] 72 surgeries [and was] in the hospital for eight and a half months when she was born.

Nina, born with a birth defect, has a twin sister, Jane. As they grew older, Nina’s esophagus and colon impairments worsened. In fact, she was on disability until she was 18.

At 22, Nina’s esophagus and part of her colon were removed. Back in September, Nina showed us a book filled with medical documents describing her illness and limitations. After nearly five years of hearings and doctor visits, Social Security granted Nina total disability in 2013. But following a routine general review this year, Social Security said her benefits would end August 30th.

“The lady that reviewed Nina’s case only spoke to my parents,” Jane remembers. “Never once did she contact Nina or take any of Nina’s phone calls.”

Attorney Andrew Roberto specializes in Social Security cases, although he didn’t represent Nina. He told us when benefits are being dropped, it’s best to appeal quickly within 10 days, Nina did that and her benefits continued.

“When you get the letter and you file the appeal, you get frustrated with it, you don’t read it completely because the letter is three to four pages,” said Sharon. “Because if you have someone to help you, read the papers and know what to do, you have a better chance.”

Hours after our story first aired in September, Nina and her mother received a call, apparently from a new case worker with the Social Security Administration.

“It was a different woman, different lady from the first time,” said Nina. “She called to say she was taking the case.”

‘She asked me questions about Nina, she asked me how she was doing,” recalled Sharon. “The interview that I had on the telephone, the tone was different.”

When that letter arrived last week, the appeal and those calls paid off.

“For someone to tell us she is disabled, that we already knew, I’m ecstatic about it,” Sharon said.

It may be another four or five years before Nina has another general review — until then she remains in the system with full benefits.

Under Social Security guidelines, general reviews for those on disability are routine. If your disability is dropped and you file an appeal within ten days, the rules say while under appeal, you keep benefits,

But if you lose the case, you have to pay the money back. For Nina, she receives $743 a month. The most important part of the disability package, her insurance continues. They were very pleased with the decision from social security.

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