WALDPORT, Ore. (KOIN) — Christine Ulrich and Charlie Lesiecki are both battling for their lives. Now they’re battling with the Social Security Administration.
Christine, who said she has “a 50/50 chance of surviving” a rare and deadly form of eye cancer, told KOIN 6 News Charlie was diagnosed with myasthenia gravis, a degenerative muscle disease that causes tremors similar to Parkinson’s disease. He has trouble swallowing, breathing and walking.
For 30 years, Charlie worked at the same company until he began developing symptoms. He started collecting disability.
“I’ve worked continuously since I was 17 years old, and at the time I need the government to help me, they basically abandon us,” Charlie said.
A couple from Waldport, OR says despite a long list of illnesses including eye cancer & a severe degenerative muscle disease, their disability payments have been cut by the SSA #koin6news #oregon pic.twitter.com/FDKKPD4j4Z— Jennifer Dowling (@JenDowlingKoin6) July 26, 2018
The Social Security Administration sent the couple a letter in July 2017 that said they were reviewing those disability payments.
After that, Christine said, the SSA was silent for months.
Another letter arrived that declared the Social Security Administration decided to stop her husband’s benefits — the disability and the Medicare — which was a real shock.
“I’m still so numb from this,” she said.
The most disturbing part of the letter, she said, was in the fine print. There the SSA told the couple those benefits were supposed to have ended in August 2017. Now, the government is demanding the couple pay back more than $18,000 they received.
“How are we expected to pay back something that’s their fault?” Christine asked.
They tried to apply for a waiver. But the SSA responded, in writing, that the couple should consider selling their house and car.
“It’s destroying our lives. I feel like they are trying to make us homeless. That’s how I feel,” Christine said.
They’ve tried to talk with the SSA office in Albany, she said. KOIN 6 News tried but was unable to connect with SSA officials about this case.
Ulrich and Lesiecki have contacted an attorney to help them though this process, but, Christine said, that will take time.
“We can’t be the only ones who are going through this,” she said. “I don’t know how we are going to make it. I really don’t.”
“Why,” Charlie asked, “are we both being picked on?”