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breadwinner and hg

PostPosted: Jun 11, 2004 10:21 pm
by aaronsmommy
Someone expressed some ideas on this subject and since it happens to be an interest of mine I decided to go ahead and start a thread here and get some ideas going.

I am definitely the breadwinner in our family. We always knew I would be making a lot more money than my husband, and since we wanted to have someone at home when we had kids we always knew that would be my husband. He hasn't worked since I got sick the first time with hg. He was my caregiver through 1 1/2 pgs with terrible hg and now he stays home with our 18 month old. I will never need to prepare for another pg, but I still think about what I would have to do to do that, and I did do some things to prepare for my second as well as learned a few lessons the hard way!

The biggest thing we did to prepare was to save, save, save! We made out a detailed budget of our planned expenses during hg. Remember for this to add in things like insurance copays, deductibles and drug expenses, extra child care if you have kids, etc. For u,s our expenses during hg actually were lower than usual because we had no kids and one car sat unused, we spent nothing on entertainment and travel, and I didn't eat so we saved lots on food! Plan out what your income will be if you are not working. Hopefully you have disability insurance, so find out the waiting period and the amount they pay (for me, the wait was 10 days for the short term disability which covered about 1/3 of our expenses, and 90 days for the long term disability which covered almost all of our expenses). If you think you might be sick the whole pg, budget for that, and the difference is what you need to save! Yikes!

Some hints on the disability - if you pay your premiums with post-tax dollars, then you are not taxed on your disability checks, so that helps. Also, some policies will cover "partial" disability, so if your hg comes on gradually like mine, you can cut back hours first and this will count toward your waiting period for disability payments even though you are still getting some income.

Something I kicked myself for not learning about before my pg is something called "hospital income insurance" you can often get it through your employer or a professional organization and they don't ask many medical questions, so it should be easy for someone to get with a bad hg history. It pays you a specific dollar amount for each day you are admitted to a hospital. I spent 6 1/2 weeks in the hospital and could have gotten $500/day this way. Argh!!!!!

I had good medical insurance through my employer, but if you don't and have trouble getting it for yourself for pg, you can always look in to what it takes to qualify for medicaid during pg (usually much easier than when you aren't pg). If you make too much for that, most states have some kind of "major risk" insurance program for people who can't get insurance because of medical problems, it isn't cheap, but at least it's insurance. If you are in CA, they have a great program call AIM for middle income mothers and children that will cover pg and is really good and quite cheap (depends on income, but is usually like $20/month!).

I'm going to take a break now, but I wanted to get this discussion started. I have some ideas on dealing with employers that I learned the hard way and will post later.

PostPosted: Jun 11, 2004 11:00 pm
by aaronsmommy
(that wonderful husband of mine offered to wash the dishes, so I guess I'll continue :D )

My employers were less than pleased about my hg, and I ended up getting fired over the whole thing, had to get a lawyer and thankfully we ended up okay financially, but I do feel like I've been digging my career out of a hole ever since. I'm not sure there would have been any way to prepare them so they wouldn't have taken it so poorly, but my only suggestion is that this is your life, not theirs and if the timing is right for you, just make sure you are prepared for the consequences!

Before you get pg, research your federal and state laws regarding disability leave and family leave. Does the FMLA apply to you? find out and keep in mind the details of the law.

The federal disability laws require that pregnancy disability leave be handled the same as any other disability, so find out if your company has any policies on this, or ask around to see what they have done for others in the past. If they didn't fire the guy that was out for his knee surgery, they can't fire you either.

Some state laws go MUCH further (search for "disability leave" and your state to find websites with this information). In CA, you basically can't fire someone for being out of work due to disability, and this includes pregnancy related disability. Also, the burden of proof is on the employer. You do not have to prove that they fired you because of hg, they have to prove that they didn't. Also find out what the statute of limitations is for this kind of a lawsuit. In CA you have one year, so if you are fired during pg you can wait until you are feeling better to do something about it.

It will be much easier to research this information when you are preparing and still feeling good, than when you have to take a break every 10 mins to stick your head in a toilet. Consider asking for names of a good employment lawyer, just so you have them around in case you have a question.

Once you get pg, make sure you record dates, and witnesses for any conversations, comments regarding your illness, just in case you need them for later. Never let your employer convince you to resign instead of being fired (at least without talking to a lawyer) they will do this trick if they know it would be illegal for them to actually fire you. When you have a contract, not renewing you contract is the same as firing you (this is what my employer tried - they told me they weren't renewing my contract and so they were going to keep paying me until the end of it and I could stay home with my baby and get paid - sounds great, only because of a quirk with my profession and contract, that actually turned out to be cheaper for them than if they just fired me)

I guess my experience with employers is that they are tricky and evil. I know not all of them are, but it is best to be prepared.

More ideas anyone?

PostPosted: Jun 12, 2004 4:02 am
by Natalie
Hi there
I also lost my job as a result of having HG. When I was in the throes of trying to cope with the fall out, I spoke to a lawyer friend of mine. She said that many employers have in-house lawyers who are paid to scour employment contracts with a fine toothed comb trying to find 'get out' clauses that make firing employees on the most spurious grounds 'legal'. Perhaps I was naive, but I was astonished that my employers could be so 'heartless' and calculating. :shock: I had busted a gut for my employer, taken only 1 and a 1/2 days sick leave for the previous year, was always early and worked so much unpaid overtime it was shocking. Her advice to me, which from now on I will ALWAYS heed, is to read your employment contract very, very carefully. Ensure that it explicitly details everything you were offered at the interview or afterwards.
Anyway that's just my tuppence worth - hope it can be of some help to someone!

PostPosted: Jun 13, 2004 9:35 pm
by mammaclare
I am a breadwinner too--my husband was a teacher and now is a stay at home daddy. He may return to teaching sometime, but my income is still 3 times what his would be.

I will add a "good-side" story to be fair. I was out for 15 weeks w/ my HG, and then put on travel restriction (meaning off work again, in my line of work) at 36 weeks until 6 weeks after delivery. Those weeks, combined with my 3 weeks vacation (and no, I didn't have to use that up first before the disability) meant I was out exactly half the year-26 weeks.

I was paid full salary the entire time I was out--our short term dis. is 100% base salary. I was also paid my commissions for the first 12 weeks I was out. After that, I had to forgo commission for the other weeks I was out.

My company insurance covered every bit of my care with no struggle and that includes Zofran from week 7 to 38.5 (delivery).

Now, our policy is that you CAN'T lose your job in the first 12 weeks of leave. After that, the decision becomes that of your immediate manager and they are supposed to make a business decision to fire you if the business can't support itself in yoru absence, otherwise they are supposed to be lenient. My manager actually thought I shouldn't come back when I did--she wanted me to get stronger and feel better--but I needed to work again for my deteriorating mental health.

After my maternity leave, I was actually given a promotion! I am very blessed with this company, but part is that I had been with them nearly 4 years and was a top-performer for that time so I proved myself way before the HG hit.

Now, however, my position is different and I don't have overlap partners that cover my accounts with me (I am in hospital sales). So, my fear is that the "business decision" would be different this time as I am a one-woman show with these accounts. I have a different manager as well--I do like and trust her, but can't know her position on what she would do if I were to get pregnant again and need that much leave, or more.

Not fair that we have to consider so much.

PostPosted: Jun 13, 2004 9:41 pm
by otiam
Hi Aimee and Natalie,

Aimee you sure have a lot of ideas on this topic. It's great that you have really researched everything, many people will benefit from this information. I'm sorry you lost your job just because you had HG, it's devastating enough to be sick, then to lose a job, geez double blow.

Natalie I'm also sorry you had a bad experience with your employer and lost your job as well. I just don't understand how they can feel good about themselves when they fire someone who is sick and can not help it!! Just blows my mind.

I actually had a good experience during my HG pregnancy. I worked for a insurance company as an underwriter so I had great Disability insurance. However it was after I came back to work they became very difficult with me and would not be flexable. I wanted to work part time and they knew that from the begining...but because I was out sick they just couldn't let me go part time. They wanted me to work for a year or two and really show I deserved to go part time. HA I quit the next day!! I think employers really do not understand HG and they think of it as we are just not able to handle a little morning sickness......I really believe that is what they think. I just wish they could endure one day of what we have to go through for months...then they could see how sick we really do get.

I really agree with Aimee, if any of us are going to go through this again, we need to prepare. The idea of saving up was great!!!! We to had less expenses when I was home sick because of less travel and me not eating...but their were copays and medication and other expenses to think about. Also it is good to find out what insurance will cover. If I ever would go through this again, I would call my insurance and know what drugs and methods of intervention they would pay for....up front. Mainly because I really had a bad experience with that, I had to talk on the phone and argue a lot of the treatments and why I needed them...and when you are that sick you can't just sit and argue with someone on the was miserable.

Well hope others have some good ideas also. Thanks again Aimee and Natalie.


PostPosted: Jun 13, 2004 9:49 pm
by otiam
Hi Clare,

You must have posted at the same time as me. Thanks for sharing your experience with us. I'm glad you had a good experience. I also had my entire disability paid for....I was out for 3 1/2 months in the begining and 1 month at the end due to preclamsia. I was a lucky HG'er in the fact that I was over the HG at month 6. (If I can call that lucky, lucky would be that I didn't have it :lol: But we were very fortunate that I had the disability insurance and that is was so good. I know many others out there who didn't have the disability insurance and that is really a key. My suggestion is that everyone should have it even if your employer does not offer it. The problem is(and i know this because I was a disability underwriter) that we had HG they would find a way to make us pay higher premiums or even not pay the Disability for pregnancy related I always tell people now that are thinking about getting pregnant to get insurance just in just never know if you will have HG or not and it is better to be prepared....I have to say not worrying about if a paycheck was coming in really least I didn't have to stress about that!!!!


PostPosted: Jun 13, 2004 10:45 pm
by aaronsmommy
I actually just went through applying for disability insurance on my own - what a hassle - and they sure did excude pregnancy for me. I was actually thankful they covered me at all, my agent was starting to think I was going to get a denial the way they were acting.

I always had insurance through my employer and so never really thought about getting my own policy, but it sure would have been nice now.

Amber - I think part of why I lost my job is because my employer felt like I would ask to work part time at some point and as they told me once they didn't do part time employees. HG had turned me in to a weak woman who didn't want to work in their eyes, regardless of the fact that I worked full-time for 5 weeks with a picc line and a zofran pump before missing my first day of work. Getting fired was really stressful, but I did get 6 months of paid "maternity leave" out of it so it could have been worse.

For anyone who is thinking of applying for disability insurance, one thing I learned is that it takes FOREVER. I should be getting my policy soon, but it has been 3 months since I started the process, so think ahead!

PostPosted: Jun 14, 2004 10:03 pm
by otiam

As a former Disability Underwriter...yes it does take forever....and being that you had HG I'm sure that underwriter was reading a lot of information about your pregnancy. I wish I could get the word out to people that they need this type of insurance before they ever get pregnant. I never would have thought I would get that sick during my pregnancy. I'm just so lucky I had changed careers. I am actually an Occupational Therapist who had changed careers to become an underwriter. When I was an OT I didn't have disability insurance and I would have most definately been fired while I was out sick. They would not have kept me on. So I am very very lucky that I got pregnant when I did. I'm glad you are able to have a disability policy. At least you have some coverage for other things. :)


PostPosted: Jun 15, 2004 10:05 am
by Natalie
Amber - I am an OT! I lost my job working in the NHS. Can you believe that? Grrrrrrrr. Maybe I should think of a career change too :lol:

PostPosted: Jun 15, 2004 3:29 pm
by otiam
Oh my gosh Natalie...that is so funny. I am now working in a nursing home and a hospital on the pool staff. It just stinks that working in healthcare they do not provide good disability benefits....I'm sorry to here you lost your job in OT....are you working again now?


PostPosted: Jun 15, 2004 7:53 pm
by HdGAMom2B
I am so frustrated! I spoke to HR about the HG issue. I wanted to double
check, and make sure that we have disability insurance. We do. However, pregnancy does not qualify as a disability-illness. Pregnancy doesn't count, the illnesses that result from pg, don't count. So, they don't have to pay me at all, if I get sick. So, I asked about whether my job would be safe. She said that after I've been here one year, and am vested, I can use the FMLA TIME OFF.

So, I can use 12 weeks, and not get paid, but will still have my job safe here. That's comforting. I'm the breadwinner here, so I HAVE to work.

They would work something out with us, so that I would still have Health
Insurance, either with us sending a check for the premium, or them
deducting it from my check, prior. I told her, there's no prior, it's like, 'i
can't get out of bed anymore, I won't be in'. She said she needs to do some research on this.

I felt better, that my job would be safe, even if I wouldn't get paid for the
leave, I'd still have insurance, and I would still be able to anticipate
returning to work.

But, she said that in November, I would be vested, and could use the time off with the FMLA Program. Not paid. So, that means, don't get sick until November. PROBLEM!!! We have an appnt on the 24th, and we anticipate being pregnant SOON! SOONER THAN NOVEMBER!

Should we pursue adoption, and not get pregnant now? Or should we risk losing my job, so that we can conceive now?

Should we update our home study, and keep on track for adoption, and worry about pregnancy after an adoption, in a couple years? I'd be more vested then. We'd have to switch gears, and get into the adoption thing more, putting aside conceiving for now. (After my best laid plans!!)

I just don't know what to say, or do.

Why is everything out of our control? Why can't we just be parents? Without people having to know every detail, and plan out every wrinkle in advance? Why can't we even conceive without a meeting with the OB? Ugh!

I just feel like I"m banging my head against a wall all the


PostPosted: Jun 15, 2004 8:40 pm
by aaronsmommy
NEVER trust anything your employer's HR tells you!!!!!

Here's a link to Maryland state law regarding disability leave and benefits. Download the fact sheet it is more clear and has phone numbers where you can ask question.

If I am reading this correctly it says that if your employer has more than 15 employees and they offer disability insurance it MUST cover pregnancy and pregnancy related disability.

Could it be that your HR department is telling you a bunch of crap (sorry!) hoping that it will either change your mind about getting pg or about being disabled during pg (yeah right!)??

I would ask your disability insurance provider directly, and if they say pg related illnesses truly are not covered, you may be able to force your employer to change that based on this law!

Another possibility would be to investigate whether you can get a disability policy on your own, like we have been talking about. Since your pregnancy was so long ago, maybe they won't think too much of it.

Remember, you can have a disability even if you don't have insurance to cover your income, and therefore, if they don't fire people for other disability leave they still can't fire you.

PostPosted: Jun 15, 2004 9:03 pm
by otiam

The first thing you should do is contact your companies disability provider. Now I worked for an insurance company and the health nurses also told me there was no way I could claim a disability just because of "a little morning sickness" as they put it. But I DID claim doctor took me out of work due to being so sick that I needed to be at home and guess what....the disability policy paid me. So do not believe what they are telling you in HR....yes they do not cover regular labor and delivery for long term disability but they did cover my HG and then again when I had preclamsia at the end. So I would do more research for sure.

I understand your frustration. I would really think about what you really want. If you really want a baby now...then can you handle it if you lose your job. Can you find another one after you are feeling better or well after you deliver? If you feel your career is more important then maybe I would wait until you are vested and can take the family leave. However I do need to warn you...that 12 weeks family leave is part of your maternity leave. I learned this one the hard way. But luckily my boss was nice, he felt bad for me I think and they had help to cover for me being gone...but leave and maternity leave count together. So I took my 3 months while I was sick with HG....I still had the doctors excuse until 6 wks post partum....but then I may have been forced into going back to work. That last 6 wks is really what we take mainly has family medical leave. It is our right. However if we already used it they can make you go back to work at 6 wks. Just know that also before you decide.

I really wish you the best. I know this must be so hard for you to make a decision. I know I am going to have to really soul search to decide if I can even go through all this again. I just don't know.

If you need anything...let me know.


PostPosted: Jun 15, 2004 9:50 pm
by aaronsmommy
I would think that it is probably best not to mention hg when you are asking about this, you really don't need anyone's opinions on morning sickness.

Just ask about pregnancy complications in general, if they want something specific say "if I have to go out on bedrest for bleeding or early labor or something." Everyone understands those, and what counts for deciding whether the insurance covers you is your physicians statement, when the time comes.

Also, something I found out about FMLA, it runs concurrently with disability leave only if they tell you about that in advance. My employer never told me that I was taking FMLA time when I was out on disability, so I could have taken a total of 20 weeks off after my baby (my doctor gave me 8 weeks of disability postpartum). Of course, I couldn't afford the time off without pay, and they ended up firing me anyway so it wasn't an issue. (Maybe they didn't tell me because they knew they were going to fire me and were hoping I would take the time and they would wait until it was over to fire me and that would be 12 weeks of my contract they wouldn't have to pay me, hmmmm . . .)

As an aside, in the information published by CA about our state disability laws, they specifically that this includes "severe morning sickness".

Amber - I was thinking about talking to Andy about co-moderating this forum with you - I'm not always around, but I think we'd make a great pair here! What do you think?

PostPosted: Jun 16, 2004 5:37 am
by HdGAMom2B
Thakn YOu so much. I printed up the MD laws pages. However, I work for a MANSEF School (Maryland Association of Non-Public Special Ed Facility), so they appear to have their own private rules re: pg. I thought that the state would mandte all employers, but it appears that THAT only applies to fed/state/local gov't employees, none of which am I.

So, I guess I'm wondering, with that info, that they don't fall under that in the MD law, I guess they could make whatever laws they want, and not get in trouble for not covering me.

I"m still researching this. HR should get back to me. I just feel like, I am TOO honest! I told me HR dept, that I might get sick, and use disability leave, I mean, who does that?! Maybe I should've just kep tmy mouth shut.. but then, I'd be at the point of no return, and might lose my job, wihtout being to help it. At leat at this point, I"m healthy, not pg, and can plan more, before I take unnecesary risks.

I"ll accept any and all advice at this point.


Laws FOR Pregnant Women in the Workplace

PostPosted: Jun 16, 2004 6:04 am
by HdGAMom2B
1. What laws govern the employment of pregnant workers?

Federal and state laws governing pregnancy generally fall into two categories – prohibitions against adverse employment actions and rules covering pregnancy-related leave.

The primary law prohibiting adverse employment actions against pregnant employees is the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA), which amended Title VII of the Civil Rights Act to recognize discrimination based on pregnancy as a form of sex discrimination. The PDA applies to employers with 15 or more employees and requires covered employers to treat women affected by pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions in the same manner as other applicants or employees with temporary disabilities.

Pregnancy-related leave is covered by the PDA, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and, in limited circumstances, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). These laws govern how pregnant employees should be treated when they are not able to work as a result of their pregnancy. The ADA covers employers with 15 or more employees, while the FMLA applies to employers with 50 or more employees and to all public agencies and schools, without regard to the number of employees. A pregnant employee is eligible for FMLA leave if she (1) has worked for the employer for at least 12 months (not necessarily consecutively), (2) has worked for the employer for at least 1,250 hours in the previous 12 months, and (3) works at or is assigned to a worksite that has 50 or more employees or which is within 75 miles of employer worksites that taken together have a total of 50 or more employees.

In addition, several states also have leave laws similar to the FMLA or that apply only to pregnancy that should be consulted.

2. Is pregnancy covered by the ADA?
Generally, a normal pregnancy resulting in temporary disability is not covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). However, in certain limited circumstances, a pregnant employee who is experiencing substantial complications that limit a major life activity may be considered disabled under the ADA and entitled to accommodation.

3. Do we have to hire a pregnant applicant? What if we are concerned about her ability to do the job because of the pregnancy?

The PDA does not require that you hire pregnant women, but rather that you treat them the same way as other applicants with temporary disabilities. This means you cannot refuse to hire a woman because of her pregnancy if she is qualified and is able to perform the job.

To avoid potential liability, you should not discuss an applicant’s pregnancy during an interview, even if her condition is obvious. Instead, you should focus on the requirements of the job and the candi-date’s ability to meet them. If, for example, it is vital that the applicant start work immediately and take no leave for the first six months of employment, ask the applicant if she can meet those requirements. If she says she cannot, you are under no obligation to hire her. Just make sure you are imposing the same requirements on all applicants.

4. Can we require employees to tell us as soon as they know they are pregnant?

When it comes to reporting requirements, employers may not burden pregnant workers with more stringent reporting rules than it requires of others who will need disability leave. Thus, if you only require 30 days notice of the need for foreseeable leave (as the FMLA allows), you cannot require pregnant employees to give more notice.

5. Can we discipline a pregnant employee for performance and attendance problems?

Generally, yes. Although a pregnant employee is protected from discrimination, you do not have to tolerate poor performance or attendance simply because she is pregnant. You may hold her to the same work standards as other employees, as long as you apply them consistently.

If her performance or attendance problems are related to her pregnancy (for example, she is late to work because of morning sickness or cannot lift boxes as required to perform her job), the PDA requires only that you treat her the same as you would any other employee with a temporary medical condition. Thus, if you allow employees with temporary medical conditions to be late because of their conditions or accommodate their lifting restrictions, you should apply the same standards to a pregnant employee.

Note, however, if she is covered under the FMLA, you may have to take her pregnancy into consideration if her attendance problems are caused by pregnancy-related medical conditions. Absences that qualify as FMLA leave should not be counted when determining whether an employee’s attendance problems warrant discipline or discharge.

6. Do we have to provide light duty or part-time work for pregnant employees?

The answer depends on your policies and the employee’s FMLA eligibility.

Your policies. The PDA does not specifically require an employer to transfer a pregnant employee to a light duty position or part-time work to accommodate her pregnancy. However, if you have a policy or practice that normally allows an employee with a temporary medical condition to transfer to a position that better accommodates his condition or to work part-time, then you should do the same for a pregnant employee.

The FMLA. The FMLA allows employees with serious health conditions, including conditions related to pregnancy, to take leave on a reduced work schedule if it is “medically necessary.â€ÂÂ

PostPosted: Jun 16, 2004 8:52 am
by aaronsmommy
Aaack! I think that fact sheet may have a mistake on it! On the other page it says this:

Q. Who is covered?
A. Federal, State and local government employers with and all private employers with 15 or more employees.

I would contact one of those numbers to find out for sure (having a law that only applies to federal state and local employers with 15 or more employees doesn't seem to make sense to me).

I don't think the federal law requires that they offer you benefits, but it does say that they have to offer you the same job pretection they offer someone who is disabled for another reason. So if they are telling you that the disability insurance doesn't cover pg, but if it did, they would keep your job for you, then this is wrong. If they say you can be fired if they feel like it no matter what the disability is for, then neither of these laws seem to protect your job. Do they have a written policy on this? What have they done for others who got sick?

Make sure you write down and date all of the detaits of this conversation now so you can remember them later (and use then as evidence if needed).

Hopefully one of those offices can help you with the details.

PostPosted: Jun 16, 2004 7:01 pm
by Linablu
What a wealth of info... too much to read for me right I just wanted to post that I, too, have always been the bread-winner of our family, and I, too, lost my job due to HG. I exceeded the limits (12 weeks) of being off on FMLA. Technically, they didn't "fire" me. They filled my position. I was told I could reapply for any positions available when I was able to return. However, the state I was in is an "at-will" state, and I know my bosses would have found a reason to let me go when I came back. We ended up moving out of state, back to where hubby's and my parents are. This all just happened at the beginning of May.

PostPosted: Jun 16, 2004 8:27 pm
by otiam
Aimee.....that sounds great. I would love to have your help in moderating this have a lot of information as well!! I know that Andy will not mind because then she will not need to co moderate....I love the idea!!!! not feel bad about telling your employer.....for one you are not sick now so it's really just you asking a question...what if I'm sick. (Maybe just maybe you will be ok does not hurt to hope for you :) ) It's best to be prepared and know what will happen if you need to go out on disability. Just keep it with HR and do not mention it to your manager. HR should not have any reason to contact your direct manager about any of this, so you should be ok.

Let us know what you find out...I wish you all the luck in the world.....


PostPosted: Jul 15, 2004 8:23 am
by Kschwintz
I would just like to add my story to the pot...

I worked for a small (5 people) advertising agency, so FMLA did not apply to them. At first, my boss was really sympathetic, and I even returned to work after my first week of IV therapy. Of course, I thought that hg was over at that point.

My doc immediately told me NOT to work and filled out all of my disability papers, etc... It got to the point where my boss would call me and ask me work questions, while puking, etc... My only option was to quit answering the phones/email...

At about 4 months pg, hg still in full force, my disability company (THROUGH my employer) tells me that HG only occurs in the first trimester and I am fine, since my blood pressure is okay. (Ironic, in that I did end up developing a life-threatening case of preeclampsia)...

I fought and fought, but even their ob review board agreed with them. Keep in mind that they are being PAID by my insurance company and my employer.

We ended up having to sell our house, my career fell in the toilet and we are still in a horrible financial mess, 18 months later.