Disability 101 Help?

Discussion in 'Fibromyalgia Main Forum' started by achingbytch, Feb 10, 2007.

  1. achingbytch

    achingbytch New Member

    I joined this site and have been reading and doing research. But as dumb as this may sound, I still am not understanding one point. I am still working but want to apply for permanent disability. I work because I am 53 with no family to support me, its either work or be on the street. I have fibro, degenerative discs and spondylosis. I need not explain the pain I live with I hope. I crawl to work and crawl home. But now my mental abilities, required for the work I do, are fading and the work is getting more intense and stressful. I can;'t hang on much longer. Do I have to quit, be fired to apply? Please can anyone advise? THank you all for listening, I look forward to hearing from anyone.

    *Pam...thank you for the head's up:)
    [This Message was Edited on 02/10/2007]
  2. AllWXRider

    AllWXRider New Member

    See where you get with that first. Eventually, a doctor will have to sign that you are disabled. Ask the nurse for assistance.
  3. achingbytch

    achingbytch New Member

    I wanted to thank you for answering...i'm just so depressed and tired. I'll talk to my doctor, common sense should have told me that's a good place to start:)
  4. cct

    cct Member

    Along with consulting with your diagnosing physcian, as allwxrider suggested, I would also recommend finding and consulting with a disability attorney.

    If you cannot find an attorney who will give you a free consultation, see if you can find any social security consultants to advise you. Senior citizen centers and organizations often provide consultations for people over 50.

    Do you have any CFS/FM support groups in your area? Someone there may be able to point you in the right direction.
  5. pam_d

    pam_d New Member

    ...but I think the idea of finding an FM support group in your area is excellent---even if you aren't a "joiner" long-term, I agree that that can be a great way to get referrals for all kinds of things, including disability attorneys. Some of the best doctors I've ever had came from recommendations from my local support group.

    A suggestion---change your Title to "May I ask a question on getting disability?"---many more people will respond if they know your query is about how you qualify for & get disability. Notice I left out the "dumb" part---no question is dumb here! I wouldn't know the first thing about how to do it myself, but there are MANY here who do! That's why I suggest changing your title so it will attract the responses of the many knowledgeable people here who have successfully gotten disability.

    Good luck to you!

  6. achingbytch

    achingbytch New Member

    I live in brooklyn and work in NYC, when I tell you I've looked high and low to find a local support group (online) and found nothing except upstate NY, way far from me. I'm sure there must be a closer group, this is a big city!! I sent an email to Scott Davis the site's online lawyer to see what he suggests and asked a lawyer friend to suggest a disability colleague. My emotions, physical being etc are so fried and exhausted, I'm sorry if it sounds like I'm whining, I dont mean to. I really don't know what I'll do if I have to continue working just to stay alive...I guess millions of people are so much worse off and I should be grateful for a job that's killing me.
  7. achingbytch

    achingbytch New Member

    hi Huck
    so I needed a good laugh Huck, but not at you, at life. How do people with no other means of support except their paychecks, take 6 months off work and explain to their landlord, utilities etc they can't pay anyone? Not to mention medical expenses, food, etc.
    The cat will never accept not having her daily tuna fish either:)
  8. achingbytch

    achingbytch New Member

    Hello Ouch...not so distant 'cousin' of achingbytch:)
    I suppose I'm 'lucky' so have been diagnosed by family and rhuematologist & chiropractor with Fibro as well as degenerative discs and spondylosis...I guess I have to make the rounds now and talk to everyone about paperwork.
    One of the members here suggested I edit my topic title and now it appears I've lost everyone who was posting. I thank you for taking this on and helping me...
  9. LouiseK

    LouiseK New Member

    I just wanted to sympathize, first of all. I went through that. Many days I didn't leave work because I truly didn't know how I would be able to walk to the car (crawl is right)let alone drive it home. I would get something to eat from the vending machine I passed on the way to the car because I knew I couldn't take one extra step even to feed myself. Unfortunately the sicker you get the harder the work is and the more stress it is on your body and mind. I'm just really sorry for you and I really know what it's like. I am in your age group and self-supporting also.

    You may be entitled to state disability or, as my employer did, have private disability. Often one can use this as a stop-gap for some financial support for at least some of the time it will take to get through the SS process. Try to find out what your employer offers -- without revealing anything would be my advice. You can always let them know but once you do there is no turning back.

    Additionally I would say that perhaps your company has some sort of medical leave program and you might try taking a couple of months leave (if you can swing it financially -- perhaps with a short term disability of some sort) to see if that helps you recover a little.

    I took three months off with short term disability. At one point I also worked part time and the short term disability filled in the rest financially.

    Check with your employer and check with the state.

    The pressures are overwhelming on you. You must find some way to relax your mind and body as often as you can to counter some of this.

    Best wishes.
  10. georgie0826

    georgie0826 New Member

    I applied for disability the day I had to quit work. I received it within 4 months. I didn't know you couldn't get a check until after 5 months. so i had to wait one month. But start the paperwork right away. My social security office was great.
    Good luck
  11. achingbytch

    achingbytch New Member

    I must be in bad shape because you all have me in tears with your kindness and words. I know I'm isolated. I go to work everyday, but I'm totally internalized...not sure how to explain it. There's the functioning mask (barely) and the 'real' me who made a couple of attempts to speak about the life I'm living and found people only want to see a smile and hear cheery BS. I guess everyone has their load to carry and dont need to hear anything else...maybe its where I live...I've been on short term (3 month)disability 3x in 15 yrs at my job, all after surgery. My employer pays full...but they've been quietly warning staff this year you take disability at your own risk...that's new. In the past, if you were sick no one scared you this way. Its realy become brutal...its as if no one has history, no worth or track record...you mean nothing, you are entirely replaceable even if the incoming person knows nothing...whatever happened to intellectual capital or personal humanity meaning anything? Its the same in relationships, work, everywhere...everything is dispensable.
  12. suzetal

    suzetal New Member

    Before you take sick leave go out on FMLA ( family medical leave) so that your position with the company is protected.

    for ssdi you must be out of work or expected to be out at least one full year.This means that you can file right away .The process takes about that long for most who apply.Took 2 yrs for me.I was approved on FM I have a sever case.

    Most attorneys will not take the case unless you have been denied at least once.

    If you have short term disability were your employed do you have LTD if you do I would suggest going out on that.

    Here in RI we have temporary disability through the state and I collected that till it ran out and than went on LTD through my co.I was also salaried management had my pay check paid by the Co. for the first 90 days.I was lucky did not have to live without a check.

    Also get copies now of every medical report and test you have had since you were diagnosed this will help a lot.Also letters from employers and friends or family on how they have noticed changes in you due to illness.Make sure they are notarized.Send copies of the letters to SS with your application keep originals for you.

    SSDI does not pay me that much I could not live on it.After my Medicare gets paid and my part D coverage I am left with a whopping 631.00 a month.Thank goodness I have a husband.

    You are ill and it can be won so do not give up after you apply.

    Good luck

  13. achingbytch

    achingbytch New Member

    Hello lovelies, guys and gals:
    You are all wonderful. Reading your posts and the uphill battle I'm wondering how any of us with true illness; I mean legitimate incapacitating physical and mental issues, can manage to pull together everything necessary to prove a case to SS. I already know from dealing with lawyers (2 divorces) that you cannot depend on them to do footwork, get documents. I've had 2 lawyers and both had exceptional reputations (& fees) and both told me I could save money on their fees by researching and getting my own documents. So what I'm reading tells me its a major battle to prepare for, this is not something that will be resolved easily. I've had doctors in the last 2 years refuse to release my file to me, telling me they only release to another doctor. Has anyone heard that before? One doctor told me if he releases information to another doctor, there's no fee. If I wanted copies there was a clerical fee of $125. I know matters vary from state to state, sometimes its hard to know where the legal issues begin and the BS comes in. What do people do with doctors who retired or don't have your records?
    Thank you all again for being here and your support in your answers.
  14. jaltair

    jaltair New Member

    You are legally entitled to medical records through HIPAA (HEALTH INSURANCE PORTABILITY AND ACCOUNTABILITY ACT OF 1996 - Federal regulations); however, doctors can charge a fee for copying the records. It's generally a per page fee.

    Your post could be mine as I'm dragging my way through work these days and trying to hold on for another year .. don't know if I'll be able to.

    Here’s the link to the regulations: http://www.hhs.gov/ocr/hipaa/

    You'll be in my thoughts and prayers. Please let us know how it all goes.

    Warm hugs, Jeannette
  15. LouiseK

    LouiseK New Member

    I hear so much of what I went through in your story.

    I completely understand about your company putting the pressure on like that. They do have very subtle ways of getting rid of anyone who can't cut it on any level.

    Not to make this about me but just so you know you are not alone, my HR person literally tricked me into admitting I had CFS by telling me she had had it. At that time I had told no one and I was under so much pressure when she pretended to befriend me and even recommend a doctor I broke down crying and admitted that's what was wrong with me because I was so grateful that she knew what I was going through and cared. Within a very short time I was called to central HR under some pretense about helping me which was more trickery (I won't bother you with details). Then they started the clock ticking on several fronts and finally had me "medically separated" from the company three months before my pension was to vest. So, yeah, it's hard out there.

    It sounds like you are having the typical medical office/doctor problems too. Yes, they must give you your records but who knows how much they can charge you. Also, it sounds like you might be concerned with what they say. Perhaps, if you can find the strength, you should start fresh with another physician and tell the person your entire story at an initial office visit which seems to be the only time they even consider taking good notes.

    I see people on this site talking about Dr. Susan Levine who seems to be at least "friendly" to CFS/FM. She is in Manhattan. Perhaps you can check into seeing her.

    Good luck.
  16. achingbytch

    achingbytch New Member

    I read your posts, and all the others, and think this is a bigger game than I'm interested in playing. I submitted a proposal at the request of Boss1, who's been sitting on it for 3 months. I asked 2x what's happening, told there's 'no interest.' Total BS. Meeting last night, I blew it wide open when complaints were voiced, that nothings happening. I let them all talk and then let them all know, I submitted a full proposal and dont know why it hasn't been moved forward...can anyone tell me why, (I asked). VP called Boss1 at home last night and asked what's up, cuz Boss1 came into my office this morning to tell me she called and said MOVE IT FORWARD, NOW.
    One day like this, next day like that, sometimes it changes by the hour. Do you know what its like trying to keep your head above water? If being normal is being able to play this game, I am not only handicapped, I will stay handicapped and proudly.
  17. achingbytch

    achingbytch New Member

    Turn the page, find another thread, have a cuppa tea, I gotta write to someone...I made an appt for Thurs to see my family DR. for a letter asking for accomodations. Yes, I am the same dummy writing about the wacky office, nasty bosses and decided to ask for 'acomodations'
    I read the threads and posts and was thinking that to take disability (6 months at full pay) will shut the door to my job; I couldnt take 2 weeks vacation this summer due to quitters and new staff coming on. Essentialy disability will mean end of employment. I think with a record of illness, disability it means the end of ALL employment. AS I am alone and without family, it seems kinda stupid to cut my nose off entirely. They are like dogs that smell blood..one sniff and they go for your neck. If my VP is telling my Boss1 to get off her ass and get my project moving, then should I assume I have an ally? I can't trust any of them and this isnt my paranoia, I've seen them escort from the building bigger an better than me. CAn you believe this is a freakin major COLLEGE, you'd think this was corporate IBM the way the game is played.
    I am exhausted and overwhelmed, want to get ikn bed and stay there.
  18. JLH

    JLH New Member

    Before you quit your job and file for SSDI, make sure you qualify (see www.ssa.gov) and make sure you will be able to make it financially for at least a year to two while you are waiting/fighting for your SSDI.

    Also, you cannot qualify for Medicare until you have been on SSDI for one year (check www.ssa.gov to make sure this time amount is still current). So, if you take early retirement from your company, make sure you take their medical benefits package, if offered.

  19. JLH

    JLH New Member

    SSDI -- The Disability Maze 01/09/07 10:41 PM

    Social Security Disability -- The Disability Maze

    If you have enough work credits (see www.ssa.gov) to qualify for SSDI, to start the process, all you have to do is go to your local SSA office and obtain an application. You can also complete one online, or via telephone--I think, but I preferred to complete the actual application so I could attach additional sheets of info, if needed.

    Your doc is correct, it CAN be a long process; however, sometimes a person hits it lucky and is approved on their first try. In fact, that's me! From the time I mailed my application, it was 4 months until I received a letter from SSA stating that I had been approved for SSDI and that my check was in the mail--and it was--I received it a few days after the letter!

    Here is a magazine article that you might find interesting reading .... it's long, but worth reading it all!!


    The Disability Maze -- Article re Filing for Disability 06/17/06 09:58 PM

    Note: this article is about someone with arthritis applying for disability. The same can be applied to fibromyalgia or CFS.

    "The Disability Maze"
    by Amy Brayfield

    Disability cases are won and lost on the strength of the application. We'll help you through the process, step-by-step.

    Shawn Sluder knew it wasn't going to be easy to give up her job. She'd been an executive assistant for almost 10 years and loved the busy pace and constant multi-tasking her work required. But Sluder, 38, who has lupus and fibromyalgia, found herself struggling more and more to get her job done.

    After six months of collapsing onto her couch at night, running through all her time off and more than one breakdown in the office bathroom, Sluder had to accept the fact she couldn't keep doing her job. She took her doctor's advice and filed for disability. Four months later, she was denied.

    "As frustrating and embarrassing as it is to have to file for disability, it's about 10 times worse to have your claim denied," says Sluder. Almost 24 months after her initial application, Sluder is still fighting her way through the Social Security Administration (SSA)'s appeals process.

    She isn't alone. Of the approximately 1.5 million Americans who file for disability benefits every year, 65 percent are denied on their first try. Even people who aren't rejected often feel confused and overwhelmed by the process, which seems arcane at best and tortuous at worst. For people like Sluder, the system can seem designed specifically to batter their already fragile emotions, making a difficult situation even worse.

    "There have definitely been times when I feel like the SSA thinks I'm just trying to get a free ride," says Sluder.
    There's no magic spell to make applying for disability benefits suddenly easy, but you can reduce your frustration - and maybe even increase your chances of getting a fast approval - by understanding the process before you apply, says Bob Keck, an attorney with the national disability advocacy firm Allsup Inc.

    Alphabet Soup

    Scanning your disability application may bring on a headache as you try to make sense of the myriad forms with their alphabet soup of options. Is the Disability Report the same as the Symptom Questionnaire? What remarks go in section 9? And does the SSA really think you can finish this paperwork in the half-hour estimated completion time named on the application?

    The answer to that last question, at least, is no, says R.M. Bottger, a former Social Security disability specialist. "We used to joke that anybody who could actually fill out that disability report in half an hour automatically didn't qualify for disability," says Bottger.

    The application can be intimidating, but it's important, says Keck, who encourages his clients to focus most of their energy on the Disability Report. "The SSA uses the information in your application to evaluate your case at every stage of the process. Even on appeal, they'll compare the testimony you give on appeal to that first application."

    For someone with arthritis, the application can be even more important, says Bottger, because of the variation in arthritis symptoms. "Every case is different, but you have a pretty good upfront understanding of what limitations a person in a wheelchair has. Arthritis is different -- there's no 'basic' effect of arthritis. The burden is on the applicant to show that his arthritis is disabling."
    This may be why the application for disability is such a dichotomy: on one hand, a just-the-facts, fill-in-the-blanks form; on the other, a personal and infinitely variable story of the effects of arthritis on your life. It's important to keep both aspects in mind when you're filling out your application, says Keck.

    The emotional component is often most difficult. Most people with arthritis focus on staying positive, but working on your disability application means focusing on the things you can't do. Be too stoic or Pollyanna-ish, and your case manager won't have all the information she needs to evaluate your case.

    "I think that's where I went wrong," Sluder says. "I spent so much time trying to figure out how to keep doing things that I didn't want to say I couldn't do something."

    People like Sluder who've adapted their routines because of arthritis may no longer even notice the accommodations they've had to make. Keck recommends inviting a friend to watch you do a few household chores. "Seeing how your arthritis affects one task, it's easier for you to see the accommodations you make in other tasks, too," he says.

    It can be emotionally taxing to spend a lot of time dwelling on your limitations. Try not to work on your application for more than a few hours at a time -- it's OK if it takes you a week or so to complete it - and keep in mind the reason you're going through the process at all is to get the support you need to live a better, healthier life.

    Inside the Application

    Bottger and Keck agree that the part of your application that deserves the most attention is the Disability Report, a 16-page, nine-section form in which you describe your arthritis (or other illnesses), its symptoms and effects on your work."

    When I denied an application, it was because it lacked compelling medical or vocational evidence. The disability report is where you can give that information," says Bottger.

    The secret to success is simply knowing what information your SSA representative is really looking for in each section, says Keck. We asked our experts to take us through the Disability Report, section by section, to help you make the most of your application.

    Section 1 -- Information About the Disabled Person

    Why they're asking: The SSA needs this basic information -- your address, Social Security number, etc. -- to contact you and request case information. The SSA also uses it to see if you qualify for special programs based on your age or weight.

    What you should know: This section asks you to provide a personal, or non-work, reference familiar with your condition. Think carefully about who you choose, says Keck. The best choice is someone who's seen the impact of arthritis (or your other illnesses) on your life and who is close enough to share your struggles with. It's OK to pick a family member. Give the person you choose a heads-up that the SSA may contact her about your case, says Keck.

    Section 2 -- Your Illness, Injuries or Conditions and How They Affect You

    Why they're asking: The SSA needs to understand two things to evaluate your case: what your condition is, and how it affects your ability to work. This section connects the two.
    What you should know: Both Keck and Bottger recommend answering this important section last.

    The key here, says Keck, is to break down your job, task by task, to explaining how your condition limits your ability to do it. Say you're a customer service representative, and part of your job is filing order records. To do this, you must label folders; kneel, reach, bend and stoop to file; occasionally carry 10- to 15-pound boxes of file folders to restock your supply; etc. Break down each task into its specific components, then explain how arthritis (or your other illnesses) makes each one a challenge: kneeling, reaching, bending and stooping are painful because, for example, osteoarthritis (OA) in your hips and knees makes bending at the knees and waist difficult. Do this for every task.

    Section 3 -- Information About Your Work

    Why they're asking: Knowing what tasks your job regularly requires helps the SSA decide how your arthritis (or other illnesses) affects your ability to do that job.
    What you should know: Remember your job title doesn't necessarily reflect your actual responsibilities, says Keck. One insurance customer service representative may do little more than field incoming calls; another might stock office supplies, visit claim sites and do the office filing. Explain the specific responsibilities of your position. Keep in mind, too, that the more specialized your position, the more likely it is your representative might believe you can continue working -- in another position, says Bottger. If your job is highly specialized, highlight its more universal facets, such as sitting, standing, walking, carrying, bending, and so on.

    Section 4 -- Information About Your Medical Records

    Why they're asking: You can provide copies of your medical records, but the SSA requests its own copies from your doctors, using the information in this section.
    What you should know: Make sure all the information is correct so your application doesn't get delayed, says Bottger. He also recommends writing in each doctor's specialty on the space beside his name, even though the application doesn't ask for it.

    Section 5 -- Medications

    Why they're asking: Before granting disability, the SSA confirms you've tried medical intervention.
    What you should know: List your current meds, plus all medications you've tried, whether they worked or not, says Keck.

    Section 6 -- Tests

    Why they're asking: The SSA looks for a test to confirm your diagnosis - for rheumatoid arthritis (RA), it's usually a blood test; for OA, an X-ray.
    What you should know: If you have a form of arthritis, such a fibromyalgia, that doesn't have an accepted diagnostic test, make sure your medical records include tests to support your condition's symptoms, says Bottger. The presence of several symptoms that aren't debilitating on their own can be considered debilitating when they co-exist.

    Section 7 -- Educational/Training Information

    Why they're asking: Understanding your education and professional experience helps the SSA determine other jobs you might be able to do.
    What you should know: This section is important for borderline applications, says Bottger. The more specialized your experience, the less likely it is that the SSA will recommend you try another form of employment before reapplying.

    Section 8 -- Vocational Rehabilitation, Employment or Other
    Support Services Information

    Why they're asking: The SSA considers what steps you've tried to continue working.
    What you should know: The younger you are, the harder it is to prove you can't work at any job, says Bottger. People younger than 55 must show that they can't work even at a mostly sedentary job. Participating in a vocational rehab program can show the SSA how your limitations really do impair your ability to work at any job. And -- of course -- there's always the chance that a rehab program might be able to help you find a job you can actually do.

    Section 9 -- Remarks

    Why they're asking: As big as the application is, you might run out of room on some sections. Section 9 lets you continue information from other sections.
    What you should know: Many people find they need more space to list their medications and on-the-job challenges than the form provides, and it's better to continue in section nine than to leave out important information.

    The Aftermath

    Most disability applications are determined within five months. If your claim is denied, you may start the process over by appealing for reconsideration. If it's accepted, you may wonder, "What's next?"

    Filing for disability can be so time-consuming and emotionally draining that you don't have time to deal with the implications of not working. In a society where people define themselves by their careers and many view "disability" and "laziness" as synonyms, it's hard to cope with the personal and social pressures of being unemployed. No wonder 40 percent of people report feeling depressed after being awarded disability benefits.
    Sheryl Cohen-Alexander, 48, who applied for disability in 1990, wasn't prepared for the sadness she felt when her application was accepted. "It finally hit me what being on disability really meant."

    Cohen-Alexander didn't want to sit around feeling sorry for herself. Cohen-Alexander has the right idea, says Keck, who asks his clients to plan for their lives post-disability and to stay active during the application process. "It can consume you if you let it," says Keck. "So don't let it."

    Are You Ready for Disability?

    Ask yourself these questions before you decide to file:

    • Are you working? You must have been unable to work for at least a year or show that you won't be able to work for at least a year before applying for disability. If you earn more than $810 each month, even if you can't work full-time, you're not eligible for benefits.

    • Does your arthritis (or other illnesses) make it impossible for you to do basic job tasks? Your arthritis (or other illnesses) must be severe enough to limit your ability to perform the basic tasks that most jobs require, such as standing, reaching, sitting, carrying and walking.

    • Do your limitations keep you from doing your specific job? If you can continue to do your job, even if you're in pain while you're doing it, you're not eligible for disability benefits.

    • Are there any other jobs you can do? Just because your arthritis (or other illnesses) keeps you from continuing work as, say, a construction foreman, does not automatically mean you can't do a more sedentary job. The SSA will consider your work history, age, education and physical limitations to determine what other work you can perform.

    • Does your diagnosis match the Social Security Administration (SSA)'s medical listing? The SSA's Blue Book lists the criteria for disability for all medical conditions. For rheumatoid arthritis (RA), for example, the Blue Book says applicants must show persistent pain, swelling and limited joint mobility to qualify.

    The Appeals Cycle

    Insider Tip: Apply in Person

    Are You Ready for Disability?

    Only about 35 percent of applicants are APPROVED for disability benefits on their first try. If you're denied, you enter another maze: the appeals process. If your initial application is DENIED, you can file for reconsideration.


    Reconsideration is basically just resubmitting your application, but you should take the opportunity to make sure you're being as specific as possible on the sections describing your condition and limitations. Your claim can be APPROVED or DENIED. If it's denied, you can appeal.

    Administrative Judge Law Hearing

    At this local hearing, you can give testimony in person. The judge can APPROVE, Deny or REMAND your case back to reconsideration. If it's denied, you can appeal.

    Appeals Council

    You must appear before the Appeals Council in Falls Church, Va. in person. They can APPROVE, Deny or REMAND your case back to the Administrative JUDGE. If the council denies your claim, you can appeal.

    Federal District Court

    As a last resort, you can appeal outside the SSA's jurisdiction in Federal District Court. This is your final appeal -- if your claim is denied here, you have no more appeal options.



    SSDI Eligibility 09/06/06 09:48 PM

    A good site to checkout ... to determine if you are eligible for disability.




    Also, when applying for SSDI or SSI, make sure you list every single medical problem or complaint that you have. Sometimes one problem may not make you unable to work all by itself, but when you combine 10 problems or so, it does!


    Good luck on your application.


  20. RicksChic

    RicksChic New Member

    Look up ALLSUP, Inc. online. It in a company that deals only with Disability and if they take your case, they do all the work right from the beginning! You don't have to wait until after that first denial. They do a phone consult with you for about an hour and a half getting your history and such, and they take it from there. They obtain all your records, contact the doctors for letters, etc. You probably will never have to speak to the Disability people unless you go before a judge, and Allsup will prepare you for this 3 times before you go...and they will be there with you. And they don't get paid unless you do!

    Check it out!!! I'll be doing it shortly. When I found out about them, I took a beg sigh of RELIEF!


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