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I am a nurse and a single mother. I sustained disabling injuries in an accident in November 2003, leaving me unable to work. Four operations and 17 months later, I'm still struggling. My son and I lost everything in covering medical and living expenses.


I applied for Social Security disability benefits but was denied. I appealed and provided letters from my surgeon on my behalf. Again, I was denied. My injuries were not permanent, I was told, and because my upper extremities were not disabled, I could be doing "something" between operations. But severe complications made that impossible. I requested a hearing and was told it could take up to a year.


After my fourth operation I was diagnosed with lumbar disk rupture and nerve root compression. I will require a two-level fusion that I'm trying to get approved. This new development discourages me. It has been very hard for me to ask for help, and I marvel at the lack of it available, as well as at the rudeness of workers in state agencies.


Although I will have to change the way I practice nursing because of my physical limitations, I will gladly go back to work when I'm able to. Why doesn't Social Security support disabled people who wish to regain independence? I thought it was created to protect our nation's most vulnerable citizens.