Hi new here, depressed because of chronic pain!!

Discussion in 'General Health & Wellness' started by slaveraider, May 18, 2004.

  1. slaveraider

    slaveraider New Member



    Hi, my name is Kim and I'm 34 yrs. old and I have permanent nerve damage in my upper abdomen from having gallbladder surgery (gallbladder removed) 18 months ago,
    November 2002 (darn surgeron) :-(
    I have seen numerous doctors, neurologists, etc..
    and all of them said that there's nothing that can be done
    (surgically) to stop my 24/7 pain! So I have to take pain pills everyday which sucks, because I get bad side effects,
    headaches, sickness, etc.. I am on "ultram" for my pain, I have been on it for a year now and I want to get off of it but I can't because now my body is physcially dependant on it! :-( Before my doctor prescribed me the ultram she told me that it "WASN'T" a narcotic and that I wouldn't go thru horrible withdrawals while trying to stop taking it, (YEAH RIGHT)!! (Before she prescribed me ultram I told her that I didn't want to be on any narcotic pain med's so that's why she prescribed me the ultram little did I know that ultram acts like a narcotic, if I would of known that before I started taking it, I wouldn't of took it) I am sooooo depressed because of my chronic pain but also because now my body is physcially dependant on the ultram. I have tried to stop taking it but then the withdrawals get so darn bad that I end up taking another pill, it is so darn depressing! :-( Here the surgeron screws me over by giving me chronic nerve pain and now my primary doctor whom I trusted gave me a pain med that makes me dependant on and go thru horrible withdrawals (UGH) what's next???
    I have been on different kinds of anti-depressants but I either get bad side effects from them or the pharmacy tells me that the anti-depressant and the ultram interact with each other and I could get seizures. Plus ultram has some anti-depressants in it.
    I have seen 2 different "shrinks" and one even sent me to a pain clinic which was a joke, all they wanted me to do was join a 6 week class from 7:00am. to 3:00pm monday thru friday and "exercise" go swimming, tread mill, etc.. to learn how to cope with my pain, so ofcourse I didn't join the class. I have asked numerous doctors if there is like a chronic pain group that I could join (talk to other people who are going thru chronic pain) and there is NONE in my area. :-(
    so I guess the internet is the closest that I can get to find people who are in the same boat as I am sorta speak.
    None of the doctors have ever heard of someone getting permanent nerve damage from having there gallbladder removed, so they look at me like I'm either making it up or that I'm some sort of freak! :-(
    I have had numerous tests, MRI, CT SCAN, HIDA SCAN, BLOOD TESTS, URINE TESTS, X-RAYS, SCOPE DOWN THE THROAT, EKG, ETC.. and all tests were normal, so it's more depressing to know that I am in chronic pain but the doctors don't believe me because of all of the tests coming out normal.
    Now I have a bad sinus infection which I have had for 3 months now and I have been on numerous antibotics and none of them are helping and my doctor ordered a CT SCAN and ofcourse that also showed up normal, I'm just at my wits end with all of this pain that I am going thru along with all of the doctors not believeing that i'm actually in all of this pain. I am going to see another "shrink" this coming Thursday to talk about my pain, etc..
    Plus I feel so guilty for taking pain pills everyday and I want to get off of it to try something else for my pain but my body won't let me! God I just hate living like this!! This surgeron ruined my life big time, I can't work because of the pain, I had to quit my job which I loved (Food Service worker at an Elementary School) I tried getting disability but I got denied they said it's because my husband makes too much (YEAH RIGHT) he's an auto mechanic he doesn't make that much, his money goes towards bills then we have nothing left over to do anything. People have told me to try to file a malpractice lawsuit I have tried contacting 2 differnt lawyers but both of them said that they wouldn't take my case, (because there's no proof that I am in chronic pain and that I have nerve damage) UGH!! :-(
    So if this surgeron botched my pancrease then I could sue?? get real!!!
    I'm not looking for money, money won't take away my pain, I'm just seeking justice!!
    so now here this surgeron is still practicing and getting his big paychecks while I sit here and cry my eyes out everyday because of the pain and what my life has become, (can't work, do anything fun, etc..)
    If I didn't have my 2 daughters (ages 12yrs.& 14yrs.)
    I don't think that I would be alive today.
    Sorry this is soooo long, but I just had to tell you what all happend to me and why I'm sooo depressed! Kim

  2. joyfully

    joyfully New Member

    As complicated as your case has become, I think you need to be seen at a major medical school with a team of doctors looking over your results. I'd take the test results with me to help defray the costs.
  3. LIZsCLOSET

    LIZsCLOSET New Member

    You certainly have a horrible end result from your surgery.
    So sorry that happened. I sympathize with you. I know you feel like it's the end of the world. The Doctors can surely confirm the nerve damage.I would go to my family Dr. and request him/her to comfirm the nerve damage. You hear of damaged nerves all the time. So, someone knows how to find it. Do you live in a small town? If so, go to the nearest largest city around you for a Dr. to confirm this.
    Then, you possibly could get SSI.I was 43 when I fell on the job. An attorney handled my closed head injury. However, I went to social security alone, told them all I knew about my injury and social security was granted. Hope this helps. It took me 10 years to get over the fact that I couldn't work. Medication is a necessity. I'v gone off and on mine many times, but it's not fair to the mind to be punished by severe pain all the time. A tens unit could work too. I wore one until I had to have a heart defibrilator (has a battery, can't wear tens anymore). Do you have a computer and an interest in Genealogy. The Genealogy took my mind off not being able to work and finally at age 63 I don't think of it anyore. I also have fibromyalgia, confirmed 2 years ago.
    I do want to know how things go with you. Please keep me posted. Betty (Liz) (edited to remove E-Mail Address).

  4. basethound

    basethound New Member

    Kim I also was hurt and had surgery and now have severe chronic pain and fibro, I have ddd.oa,cdd,ldd, I was real healthy before I got hurt at39, now at 41, I have to walk with a cain, use a wheel chair etc, when I told the surgeon that something was terribly wrong when I woke up from surgery it felt like my arms had been cut off, no one had a answer, and since I read this board lots of people have severe pain in arms, shld, neck, back, leg hurts can't raise arms, so you keep digging and do your own search you will find something that will confirm your problem,don't give up on ssa fight them, I'm still fighting them and its been a yr. good luck Barb
  5. Matz

    Matz New Member

    Hi Kim!!

    Isn't it amazing how one (or a few) person's opinion can really screw up things up in "your" life and they really don't seem to care. Know this... I am, as well as the others here, able the empathize with you and your situation. Always remember, "you" know how "you" feel... they don't. Fight for yourself and your family... there is always light at the end of the tunnel, sometimes you just need a tour guide to help find it. Hope you find one here. Almost makes you want to say, "...oh really? so how long have you taken Ultram, obviously awhile, you're the authority on it" doesn't it? //Matt//
  6. ceres

    ceres New Member

    hi my name is deanna,im 43 yrs old and even though i didnt have the same surgy(excuse my spelling)well in 94 i was having problems and didnt feel good my left side kept cramping and i kept going to the doctor they couldnt find any thing wrong and put me on antidepressent,that didnt work
    then i finaly had it and moved to a town 60 miles away,guess
    what i was carring a 6 pound tumor so much for being in my head:)had the hysterrectomy and was put on premiren and that was worse,the moved to wi. and i became worse and the doctors couldnt find any thing wrong,but that didnt help the pain i was in then a dr.said i have fibromyaliga i didnt want to belive this,they put me on prozac and cyclobenzaprine and it helped iv gone with out the prozac
    and cyc. and had no problems since i moved to a warmer state
    i still have the pain but not so sever,have you asked if there is something else you can take?have you tried hollistic meds?im not real knowldgeable about the pancress:(
  7. Lana56

    Lana56 New Member

    Hi,
    First of I am so sorry that you are suffering so much.I just want to mention that if you contact The American Chronic Pain Association they may help you find some support group in your area.Just search chronic pain and that Association may be listed.This Ass. was started in California and groups are all over the country.I got in to a support group in my area and have been with them since 1990!I can't even begin to tell you how much they have done for me.Most important,some loving friends who have seen me through so much and right beside me when I had difficult times.I do hope there is something near you.If not have you checked with your nearest hospital or even a pain clinic.They may have support groups we don't always hear about.I do hope you will fight for the medical care you need and deserve.You are in a tough spot and I for one knows how difficult it is.You know you have support here!
    I also wanted to mention about disability.Did you apply for SSI or Social Security Disability?The reason I ask is because you mentioned you could not get it since your husband's income was too high.SSI is through the state and they do go by household income,but....Social Security only goes by what is your medical problem and if you are disabled.When we work we pay into Social Security,but SSI is the states money and that is why they go by household income.Don't know if you already knew this.If not call your nearest Social Security Office-they can tell you if you can apply.If you can't work due to your pain it is worth checking it out.If you worked and paid into the system then go for it.I wish I could ease your pain somehow-if I helped a little bit then I feel good.I have suffered in pain for years and have learned a lot over time.It is a struggle and I hope you get all the help you need.Take care Lana56
  8. ryamarie

    ryamarie New Member

    Hi Kim. I am new to this board and I noticed that you are messed up from a surgery. I am also messed up from a surgery and I am having a very hard time dealing with it. I contracted breast cancer April of 1999. I had a mascetomy with reconstruction surgery latisimus dorsi muscle is what the reconstruction surgery is called. They take your back muscle and tunel it under your arm to creat a breast. They still had to put an implant in. After the surgery I told the doctor I felt like a twisted pretzel, it was awful, my whole body felt as if it was twisted. "he said that was normal and as time went on it would go away". My right side of my body is the side they did the surgery on, that side was not normal after the surgery,and it is still not normal, my right side of my stomach all around the whole right side of my back was numb, but yet I had a deep pain in my back, the pain got worse as time went on you could touch my back and I could not feel it being touched but yet I was in severe pain deep inside my back where they cut and took the muscle. The doctor started to freak out when my husband and I went in an explained how I was feeling, he said my stomach being numb had nothing to do with the surgery and the pain in my back was not from the surgery he would not give me any pain pills and told me I needed to see a psyciatrist. I said to him I am in pain! I don't need to see a psychiatrist. I ended up at a Pain management place they tried intercoastal nerve blocks, steroid injections, gangilon dorsi root blocks, botox shots and other procedures. Some of the procedures would work for a couple of months then ware off, some of them made me worse. He also had me on nuronitin, diladua, I took the diladu for about 6 months I did not like it, he gave me oxy I could not take that, I told him I didn't want to be on narcotics he said unfortunatly that I have nerve damage and I will be a chronic pain person the rest of my life that I would have to be on a narcotic we would have to find one that works for me. We tried a pain patch I don't remember the name of it but that made me so sick. Anyway I am now on methodone 10mg 3x day they also have me on Lorcet as a breakthrough and zanaflex so I can sleep I am also taking welbutrin as I am so depressed about being a chronic pain person. I am having a very difficult time excepting it. It is not fair the surgeon is off living a good life, no pain, can sleep and do everything meanwhile I can't do anything anymore the pain has changed my whole life it's been 5-yrs now. I was working up till this February I finaly gave in the doctors put me on short term disabilty. I was out of work more than I was in work. ( short term disability is up Aug. 25th I don't know what I will do when thats over they know at work that I am in sever pain and can't do much and miss alot of time I don't think they will take me back)I have had alot of medical problems since that suregery, my mouth is alway dry my teeth need alot of work done to them I have had about 8-root canals and still need more I never had any problems with my teeth befor this surgery, my stomach gets these extreme pains out of no where I can be sleeping and the pain is so bad it's like labor pains I had all kinds of test they could not find anything wrong. my right side of my stomach will just suck in all of the sudden, it's weird. My hair is falling out, now my neck is in pain, and my right wrist and ankle are in pain. my periods started to come every two weeks then they would not come for a couple of months I went to my gynocologist she said maybe I am going into perimenapause but I can not take hormones since I had cancer. I keep having things happening to me that I never had before this surgery. I use to be a healthy person, I was always energetic at work I had all kinds of energy I would go to the gym on my lunch break I would come home and walk the dog I was alway out doing something I was never the type to just sit in the house. Well I'm no longer that person I use to be. I never feel up to doing anything, the pain just drains all my energy. I don't understand what is happining to me since this surgery. I have no energy, I can't do much of anything anymore due to the pain people don't understand how bad pain is they think because you look ok on the outside that you can still do everything like you use to. It sucks. I know where your coming from kim. You are the first person I met that is messed up from a surgery and the MRI and other test show nothing. I feel so alone,, I have no friends any more I can no longer do what they are doing. Any info would be greatly appreciated. I want off the narcotics. I have got off them before a couple of times but the pain is so extreme I had to start taking them again I could not handle the pain with out them. I hate being on drugs. I keep searching and hoping I can find a cure.
    Please if anyone knows anything about this kind of a messed up surgery and if there is a fix for it please, please let me know.
  9. moxiepup

    moxiepup New Member

    Hi I'm soooooo sorry you are in so much pain, it just isn't fair your right. I have FM/CF Raynaud's Syndrome, 2 bulging thoracic discs, and failed back surgery.

    I'm usually on the FM board, before I came here I use to go to the American Pain Foundation site, it's excellent for resources, just google it, and it will come up..

    Actually I still go there sometime, they have many people such as yourself, they have RN's & Drs., SS lawyers and just diff people to help with your questions.

    I would seriously try them and see what they have to say.

    Take care....gail
  10. totiredtocry

    totiredtocry New Member

    Dear Kim, I totally know where you are coming from about the pain. It has a way of taking over your life and making your world very small. I have severe FM plus have had 2 very serious back surguries. Without meds I could not have the life I have. It is a personel choice but if you are concerned about what others think because of the meds I would rethink coming off if they are helping. If they are not then there is no reason to take them. I have taken myself off of several pain meds much stronger than what you are on and was fine. Sometimes with things like you are going through we build it up so much in our mind that it makes it much more difficult. God Bless and I hope all goes well
  11. JLH

    JLH New Member

    First of all, I see that you are new here. I just wanted to tell you that this message board will be TERMINATED on 2/1/05 and will no longer be up and running; however, the CFS and Fibromyalgia Board will remain open.

    I am so sorry to hear about all the complications with your surgery. I had gallbladder surgery about 15 years ago--the "old fasioned" type with the large incision. My stomach area where the incision is numb--the surgeon said that was because of all the nerve endings he had to cut through. However, I have no pain as a result of that surgery.

    I know you said you could not take a lot of antidepressants; however, ask your doctor if he has any samples of Cymbalta. It is a great new antidepressant out and it works on nerve pain as well as muscle and joint pain. It has been approved for diabetes to use and to help with their neuropathy (nerve) pain. I am a diabetic and I changed to it and it has worked wonders for me. I got samples from the doc first and could tell within the first week that it helped.

    Also, have you tried Neurotin for your nerve pain? It also does wonders -- it's not a narcotic either. It's not even a pain pill, it's actually for seizures, but was proven to help on neuropathy pain.

    Also check out the website TamethePain -- you can do a Google search for it to find the full address. I think it's part of the WebMD site. Jerry Lewis, the comedian, was just on The View television show talking about it. He had a severe back injury that kept him in pain for 20 years. It's some little device like a pacemaker that is implanted by your spine (I think) and he claims to have not suffered one minute of pain since he had this done. (I had a pacemaker put in, and it's no big deal.)

    As someone else mentioned, if someone told you that you were not eligible for Social Security disability because your husband earned too much money, they were talking about SSI, and not SSDI.

    SSI is the Soc. Sec.'s program for the disabled low income and low income and is partially funded by the State govt. SSDI is for those people who have worked enough to earn 40 work credits. It has nothing to do with income level of you and/or your spouse. (I had to take early retirement at age 48 due to my health and receive a small pension, and I also now receive SSDI because I am unable to work until the normal retirement age. My husband is still employed full time.)

    I will copy some info about applying for SSDI and make it another reply to this post -- I'll have to get out of this post to find it and copy it, etc.

    Call your local Soc. Sec. office and talk with them.

    Also, contact an attorney who specializes in disability cases and make an appointment to see him ... only if it's free. They don't charge a fee until they win your Soc. Sec. disability for you, then they take 25% of your backpay, or something like that.

    I also think you should contact an out-of-town attorney ... some who do not know the local doctors ... and ask their opinion. Check the internet or phone book for some names, and get those who specialize in medical malpractice, and write them a detailed letter spelling everything in your whole "story" and ask them if they could help you and would consider taking your case on the basis that they get ___% of any money you collect. You could also include in what you are asking for enough to pay for your medical bills to get the type of pain relief that Jerry Lewis had done in the "TamethePain" article.

    I really feel for you because I am in pain every day, but not the same type that you are in. But it is still depressing. I have major heart problems, asthma, obstructive sleep apnea where I sleep with a CPAP machine and oxygen, severe painful arthritis all over my body, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, systemic Lupus, diabetes, and major back problems--severe spinal stenosis, pinched nerves, herniated disks, buldging disks, degenerating disks, and severe cervical spondylosis.

    I think you need to explore more into your treatment for pain relief as well as how to fix your problem--the someone said, go to a larger city to a teaching hospital where they have a lot of interns and residents on staff to explore and find out what your problem is (I have a daughter who is a second-year resident in a large city teaching hospital!)

    I also think you should sue, and if you decide not to, at least write the American Medical Association or Bar (or whatever it's called) and inform them in detail of each doctor you have been to (your surgeon, etc.) and what happened. They may only get a slap on the wrist, if this is the first time, or if they have many blemishes on their record(s), they will get disciplinary action or the license revoked (hardly ever done!) (We had a local doctor who was reported for alcoholism and drug addiction and he had his license temp. suspended for 3 months while he attended a rehab program--but look at what damage he probably did mistreating patients' illnesses during that time.)

    As you progress, come over to the CFS & FMS Board (still under ImmuneSupport.com's site) and let us know how your pain is. Post a message to our attn so we will make sure and read it!

    Good luck .... and hope you find something to help ease your pain.

    jlh

    P.S. When you write long posts, it makes it much easier on the eyes of those reading it if you break it up in small paragraphs. I tried to do that, even though some of my paragraphs ended up longer than they should have been for easy reading. Just a suggestion![This Message was Edited on 01/22/2005]
  12. JLH

    JLH New Member

    IF YOU ARE PLANNING ON FILING FOR SOCIAL SECURITY DISABILITY INSURANCE (SSDI), READ THE FOLLOWING:

    Note:
    I am on SSDI (disability), but not for fibro alone. I have major heart problems, diabetes, severe arthritis, sleep apnea, fibro and cfs, a bad back with severe spinal stenosis, pinched nerves, degenerating disks, buldging disks, herniated disks, asthma, and a host of other ailments.

    In November of last year, I posted some info on the fibro board regarding applying for SSDI. Here is is below ... it will be helpful for you to read if you are considering applying for disability.

    I think you have to be disabled and off work for one year before you qualify. You could always go ahead and sign up now anyway, but it is rare to get it on the first application. It ususally takes 2 or 3 appeals and ends up being 2-3 years before you end up being approved.

    ****************

    This is a long read, but I think you will find that it is worth it! It is very informative and will be helpful if you are considering filing for Social Security Disability here in the U.S.

    It was published in this month's "Arthritis Today" magazine and therefore, most references to the disability being filed for is arthritis.


    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

    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

    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 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.

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