Disability Denial

Woman With Invisible Illnesses's Disability Claim Was Denied Because of Photos She Posted Online


What does being disabled look like when your chronic condition is an invisible illness?

According to a Tumblr post from Kayla Barry, a New York City-based comedian, if you want your disability to be taken seriously, then you shouldn’t look awake, smiling or alert.

Barry, known on Tumblr as Fibro-larious, shared a series of photos on Wednesday after her request for long-term disability was denied. Barry lives with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) and fibromyalgia – conditions that can cause widespread chronic pain and extreme exhaustion.

The post begins with a snapshot of the document she received denying her disability claim. The form asks, “Are the claimant’s self-reported symptoms and complaints consistent with the medical documentation and other information in the claim file regarding the claimant’s activity?”

The answer, pointing to her Twitter profile, states:

The material viewed show photographs and some activities that were posted between 9/8/14 and 7/30/15. There is nothing in the posts that identify actually when the photos were taken. However, the person depicted in most of these posts appears to be a young woman who is engaged in life activities, awake, smiling and alert. They do not appear to depict an individual who looks chronically ill.

Disability Denial

“The physician who was hired to make the decision on my LTD benefit appeal denied me based on “facts” like this one,” Barry writes in her post. Below the form, Barry shares photos of herself “engaged in life activities.”

Kayla Barry

“The few photos that “appear to be a young woman who is engaged in life activities” and “awake, smiling and alert” are FAKE,” she writes. “People always use social media to show the BEST moments from their lives, even if they aren’t the whole truth.”

“They’re called invisible illnesses for a reason,” she says. “People with chronic illnesses can look completely normal. They are hidden in plain sight.”

Barry then points out what she doesn’t share, the toll her invisible illnesses take after she gets to be “happy for a day.”

“I don’t share the three days I have to sleep to recover from one stand-up comedy set. I don’t share the intense pain my body is in after walking around in Central Park for a day.”

Barry updated her Tumblr later in the day to say she is working with a social worker on her disability claim, and has an appointment with a lawyer to discuss her claim.

You can read her full post below:

http://fibro-larious.tumblr.com/post/145948678177/the-physician-who-was-hired-to-make-the-decision

The physician who was hired to make the decision on my LTD benefit appeal denied me based on “facts” like this one. The twitter account he referred to as evidence that I’m lying about my illness is hardly active. Also, the majority of the posts are:

• Photos of pets
• Photos from Timehop (aka from years ago)
• Photos of things around my house

The few photos that “appear to be a young woman who is engaged in life activities” and “awake, smiling and alert” are FAKE. People always use social media to show the BEST moments from their lives, even if they aren’t the whole truth. I’ve had some great experiences in New York, so of course I am going to brag about them! What I don’t share on social media are the consequences of being happy for a day. I don’t share the three days I have to sleep to recover from one stand-up comedy set. I don’t share the intense pain my body is in after walking around in Central Park for a day.

They’re called invisible illnesses for a reason. People with chronic illnesses can look completely normal. They are hidden in plain sight.

The Mighty reached out to Kayla Barry for comment and has yet to hear back. 

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