NYACK, New York (WABC) -- A woman was due tens of thousands of dollars in social security benefits for medical treatment she desperately needed.
When Erica Sobel's Medicaid and Medicare coverage lapsed, she was forced to pay out-of-pocket.
"I was suicidal for awhile. Living with chronic pain and not having anyone to support you is very trying," said Sobel.
Sobel said she feels no shame sharing her pain, because she does not want others suffering the way she is to be silenced or feel isolated.
"I suffer from chronic migraines, depression and anxiety, and they are all invisible diseases and the hardest to relate to, and you can't see them a person doesn't look sick from the outside," she added.
Lately, Sobel started looking sick, losing her hair, while locked in battle with the Social Security Administration over her disability benefits.
The licensed social worker was running a successful private practice, but says constant migraines made working full-time, keeping appointments and seeing clients impossible.
"I become visually impaired, I feel a lot of vertigo, a lot of extreme pain, very sensitive to dark light," she said.
Disability benefits were initially denied when she first applied for the entitlement back in 2012. After requesting a hearing, Sobel waited five years for see a, judge and that came via video conference with an SSA judge in Iowa. Sobel said she was told New York is so backed up with cases that the video hearing was necessary. After providing a mountain of evidence from doctors and specialists that Judge granted Sobel a fully favorable decision back in June of 2018.
"I have about 50K in back pay for the five years i was waiting for the trial, and then I have these fees that should be a monthly fee," Sobel adds.
Sobel should have started to receive the lump sum plus $1,372 a month - seven months ago, that is when SSA paid her attorney advocate their cut - but she never got a dime.
She says she has called the SSA office in Nyack every week since she was informed of her favorable decision back in June. First, there was a problem with her direct deposit, now she's told her check is stuck in Baltimore.
Sobel says nobody could get any information - until her advocate contacted 7 on your Side, and then we asked for answers and action from the SSA.
Seven business days later, 7 On Your Side got results.
"I'm feeling very relieved, very empowered, very impressed with the power of the press. I feel you really can get things done if you have people on your side!" Sobel said.
The SSA released a response saying,
"We do not discuss individual cases. Social Security strives to pay all benefits on time. Through routine processing, this goal is usually met. Most applicants receive their current and retroactive benefits within a reasonable amount of time. However, when a beneficiary is adversely affected because payment is not made timely, our goal is to resolve the problem and make a payment as soon as possible. We call this a critical payment--a check is issued by the Treasury Department and received by the individual in 5-7 business days. The critical payment process is used for limited situations when the local Social Security office is unable to resolve the issue through routine processing. The decision to request (or accept) a critical payment rests with the beneficiary."
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7 On Your Side secures long overdue Social Security disability benefit