Monday, June 15, 2009

A current challenge I'm facing

Dear Readers,

Here's an email I sent out to a number of friends and family members last Friday:

Dear friends and loved ones,

This morning I received a certified letter from the bishop of Oklahoma informing me that, for financial reasons, my position with the diocese is being eliminated and that my employment will be discontinued effective December 31, 2009.

I had already begun the process of petitioning for early retirement and was hoping to qualify for medical retirement. That effort now seems to have been preempted unless there is some legal loophole I don't know about.

I'm confident that I can raise enough money to live on through my work at the Center (St. John's Center for Spiritual Formation here in Tulsa). My big concern, of course, is health care coverage. The law gives me 18 months of extended group coverage if I pay what it costs my previous employer. As of today that cost is $611 a month. After that I am essentially uninsurable privately because of my medical history. I will need to come up with some plan to provide medical coverage for myself until I'm eligible for Medicare when I'm 65. (I turn 60 next month, by the way.)

Well, that's the news, folks! Do keep me in your thoughts and prayers and if anybody has any ideas regarding my predicament, I'll be glad to hear them!

Every blessing to you all,

Of course, there's more to this story. The "official" reason the Diocese is giving has to do with budgetary concerns. However the reality is that the new bishop has disliked me from the get go -- for reasons that continue to escape me. It's all very sad.

I will probably say more about this later. For now, this will have to do.


  1. I don't ck your blog nearly as often as I used to, due to constraints on my time....which is regrettable and frustrating. When I read this post, I was not surprised, but I was saddened...

    When you say "early medical retirement", I am guessing that you must have a serious and long-term medical condition? If so, have you tried applying for medical disability, thru Social Security? If so, then you would, at least, have access to Medicare.
    This is just a thought....

    Are you looking for coverage that will include RX and dr ofc visits, or just for major medical? I work in the medical "industry" (for lack of a better word), and so am concerned for you, from a very practical standpoint.

    Please know that you will be in my prayers, my sister in Christ...

  2. Hi, Kristin. Thanks for your comment and your questions and concern.

    Well, I learned that there's only "permanent disability retirement" and ordinary "early retirement." I doubt if I could prove permanent disability. I did want to retire for medical reasons. I have chronic pain from a back injury and continued pain from a severe case of shingles from which I have not been able to recover.

    I also have had well documnented unpredictable and delibitating panic attacks triggered by the bishop's abusive treatment. I had hoped those things would have allowed me to retire for medical reasons. As things are shaping up now, it looks as if I will get no medical coverage with retiring early. So I'll probably just be unemployed on Jan. 1 and go on COBRA for 18 months and then hope Obama gets something in place to cover me for the three years before I qualify for Medicare.

    Yes, I'm on a number of expensive prescriptions so I need a plan that covers those. Of course, I imagine if I could get my premiums low enough for catastrophic coverage I might be able to pay for prescriptions out of pocket.

    Of course, I get some income from the Center and we're working on finding a way to raise more money.

    Anyway, I'm working on it!

  3. Ellie, I am catching up on my favorite bloggers and have come upon this post. I am so sorry for the circumstances that you've become surrounded by. Having a non-supporter in the hierarchy of one's organization is a tough obstacle to overcome; I commiserate but have little to offer other than check every possible detail you can find to get around the issue of being dismissed prior to your being able to secure an appropriate health care plan. Is there a council or committee in the diocese that could receive petition of your issues? I will keep you in my prayers.


  4. Good to hear from you again, Sunrise Sister.

    Obviously, I'm doing the best I can to come up with a health care plan. But, no, there's no committee or council to whom I can appeal. The bishop micromanages everything in the diocese and had made it clear that if anyone is seen to be trying to support me, that will be interpreted as disloyalty to him. Very sad. I've concluded that he is a tragically insecure human being.

    I will, of course, be elibible for COBRA for 18 months. It's possible I will be able to take an early retirement. There's hardly anything in my pension fund so I won't be able to get any income that way but I might be able to extend my medical coverage by paying for it myself if I retire. The difficulty is getting that information out of the national church offices. As it stands, they won't tell me unless I actually DO retire.

    I've got a lawyer working on it. Right now I truly cannot obtain the information I need to determine whether it will be to my advantage to retire or not.

  5. With what you are explaining, it may take some determination on your part, but it is VERY possible that you COULD qualify for a medical disability...I have been in the healthcare field for over 25 yrs, and have seen it approved for people with lesser problems than what you have described. The problem is that "the system" is often so bogged down, and those who make the determinations are often so stressed and abused, so that they become cynical...this affects how (and how quickly) they make their decisions on applications. A disability lawyer is a good move, as very often the "average person" can be run over by the system (picture a "freight train"), before they have even begun the process. It's lengthy. It's tedious. It's often borderlining on cruel. BUT, it CAN (and often DOES) work....I tend to get disheartened when I see the people qualify who I know, full well, don't honestly NEED the help. They look for the "loopholes", and then they dig in until they get their desired result (which is not to work). But, there ARE ALSO people who NEED the help, and they are the ones who concern me, and who I have often gone to bat for, in the past. Gather together ALL your medical records, and take everything to your atty. If you have a personal "log" (like a diary, or a scrapbook) of your condition, take this to him as well. In the meantime, you will remain in my prayers, often.

    God will be your defender, and He will guide you thru this "maze" of by day.

    God bless you, and I thank you, for the many ways that your blog has blessed me (and those that I have shared it with), over the past couple of yrs.


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