Newbie needs help with applying for disability!

Discussion in 'Fibromyalgia Main Forum' started by TiffanyL, Aug 28, 2003.

  1. TiffanyL

    TiffanyL New Member

    Hi, I'm Tiff. I have fibromyalgia, lupus, Sjogren's disease, thyroid disease, etc. I am a teacher and have been unwell all summer. I tried to go back to work this week, but was unable to continue working as planned and hoped. I am applying through disability that I qualify through the Public Employee Retirement System as well as social security. Any tips and help would be greatly appreciated. I am kind of at a loss here and am learning as I go. Thanks!
    Tiff
  2. missvickielynn

    missvickielynn New Member

    ........trying to navigate the Social Security System is so very hard, and when you are sick, in pain, with killer fatigue and brain fog........it is even more difficult. The system is designed to wear you out, so you will give up.

    The SSDI system is the only disability system I have dealt with, so I don't have personal knowledge other that for SSDI. I applied in August last year; I did not get my "green form" (which is the initial "Disability Report")finished until the end of October. They sent me to "their" doctors for both medical and psychological evaluation....which is almost always done. However, I was surprised that, in my case, this was done during the initial stage.

    I was denied in Feb. this year, and filed for reconsideration. Again, it took me the entire 60 days to get all the additional paperwork done for the recon. (That is one of the reasons you need to keep copies of everything, cause you do a whole lot of answering the same questions over and over.)

    Amazingly, I was approved at the reconsideration level in July. I just got my first monthly benefit and back pay last week. I still can hardly believe it happened at this stage, and I am still afraid that I will get some letter saying "oops, we made a mistake.......you are not really approved." I have still not really been able to "exhale" yet....but I know I will soon.

    Nearly everyone will tell you to get a good disability attorney, which is good advice. I did not have one, due to various roadblocks to finding one. It would have probably taken some of the stress of the paperwork off me......but, I was approved without one.....and even with what I went through in the process......I am glad that I don't have to pay out 25% of my back benefits to an attorney!!

    But the process nearly killed me......and I came within a hair's breadth of losing EVERYTHING I own (which is very little indeed). I even ended up in the hospital, ironically, during the very week that my case was being reviewed in Baltimore. So they never even saw my "new" medical evidence!

    If you have any kind of support system (family, friends, support group), see if you can get someone to help you fill out the paperwork. Even better if you know someone who has been through the system themselves.

    When I filled out my recon papers, my wonderful and ONLY friend I have left, came over and spent several hours helping me. She not only helped me to condense and organize my thoughts into statements that were concise, and yet didn't leave anything out.....but she even did the writing for me, due to the fact that my hand cramps up after about 5 minutes of writing by hand. Having her help was such a blessing.

    There is a Yahoo group called Disinissues that is devoted to helping people going through various kinds of disability claims, and the focus is on people with "our" kinds of illnesses. I wish I had discovered it when I was first trying to fill out my initial claim for SSDI (the Demon Green Form!!) Just do a web search, and sign up for the group. You can learn so much just from reading the posts, but of course, you can also post specific questions. I STRONGLY urge you to check into that group.

    You can do a search here on this site, too, and get lots of advice from other people's experience. Also, click on the Disability tab at the top right of the page, and there are lots of articles by an attorney who specializes in handling SSDI cases for "people like us" with these DDs.

    Keep copies of every single thing you send in, or receive, during the process. Some people say to send everything by certified or registered mail, with return receipt, which is probably a good idea. I did not do this, but it is really a good protection for you, if you are up to dealing with going to the post office to send certified mail.

    Just remember to really "tell it like it is".....don't make things up, don't exaggerate....but don't minimize, either. Base all your answers on the way you feel during your worst flares, and explain in detail exactly how your symptoms limit your ability to function. Never assume that by saying you have, for example, "frequent, unpredictable attacks of diarrhea" that they are going to "understand" what that means when it comes to trying to hold a job, or even function in daily living. Give specific examples of how your illness interferes with living and working.

    It is also really valuable if you can get affidavits from people who knew you when you were not so ill, and who have witnessed your decline. When I got out of the hospital, I had gotten affidavits from my friend, and from the former personnel manager at my last job. I fully ecpected to have to use them when filing for an ALJ hearing, if my recon had been denied. As it turned out, I was approved and did not have to use them........but......I WILL probably have to use them when it comes time for review of my case in 3 years, along with new medical evidence that they never saw.

    I know you will get lots of advice from others who have been through the different disability systems. And just do lots of research on the subject, here, on Disinissues, and on the Web in general.

    I apologize that my post is so long..........that is a "thing" about me!!! But I do care, and I am only trying to give you the advice that I could have used when I first started! If you have any specific questions of me, feel free to ask, and I will do my best to reply, stamina permitting!

    I wish you the best of luck with this difficult process!

    Vickie
  3. Dara

    Dara New Member

    Oregon. I stopped working in Nov. of 2001 and I also am a member of PERS. Since you are planning on applying for disability through PERS that must mean that you have at least ten years of service in?? I applied for SSD and private disability, which was purchased through work as part of our benefits package.

    I have to agree with everything that Vickie told you. I filed for disability in Feb of 2002 and received my approval in April of 2003. I did not have to go before the ALJ because I requested that the ALJ reconsider my case based on the medical evidence with no hearing. I was totally shocked when the ALJ agreed to look at it and approved it.

    I hope that the disability insurance isn't through UNUM. Even after SSD approved my disability UNUM still is fighting it, I have now turned it over to a different attorney. Actually, I should re-phrase that, UNUM is for my life insurance waiver of premium and that is what they are fighting, the disability was through American General and they approved it one week before SSD approved it.

    Do you feel that your illness was related to work at all? I worked in the administration office that was full of mold. After working there for one year I started getting sick all the time. I had FM before I moved from a school to the admin and I was fine. But, the building where I transferred to was full of mold. So bad that they evacuated the employees after they had it tested, after I took my leave of absence.

    Does your contract allow you to take a leave of absence instead of just quitting? I took a leave because I was hoping that by being off for a year I would start feeling better, but it never happened.

    I'm really curious to know which district you worked at. But I understand why you wouldn't want to post it on here. I have written lots of posts about disability and what I did so if you are interested you can do a search under my name and read them.

    I did have an attorney and even though I felt he was rather useless there were some things he did for me that I would not have been able to do. As far as the 25% goes, the attorney gets 25% of your back pay (retroactive), so if you win your case early in the game he won't get as much. Also, there is a limit as to how much he can get, I think its 4,000 or 5,000 approximately, or 25%, whichever is less.

    Good luck to you and I hope to read your posts letting us know how you're doing on this.

    Dara

  4. TiffanyL

    TiffanyL New Member

    Thanks guys for the help. I feel very overwhelmed right now. I am on leave right now and will not break with the district until I have too. The school that I work in is very old and full of dust and mold. I had to buy air purifiers for my room to help reduce the number of sinus infections I have had. I wound up having 2 sinus surgeries as well as tubes put in my ears. Ouch. If you have any more advice let me know. I sure appreciate all the help.
    Tiff
  5. dorothy

    dorothy New Member

    I worked at a college here in town and had to stop in October of 2002. I picked up the papers from the SS office and filled a little out at a time. Blue pen, black pen, it was written in both. Whichever I had closest at the time when I felt I could answer a few more questions. They actually look at your ability or lack there of, in filling out the papers. It is overwelming, but push through. I finished the papers and turned them in at the end of November. I continued to see my doctors and was going under several differnt types of test.... Sleep, nerve conduction etc. This was all added to the huge collection of records I already accumulated over the past several years from this disease. And that is the KEY. Medical history.... If you don't have your medical records get them. I handed in my application with a book of records including the printout from the pharmacy for the past few years indicating all the medication I was on or had been on at any given time. I have FM, asthma, hypothyroid, and now depression and anxiety, have been in several accidents, TMJ, along with all the other things that go along with this mess. Anyway, I was approved the first time. I got my approval and recieved my first check in May 2003. I couldn't believe it, but thought how could they not approve me with the records I had. I wish you luck, and don't give up. The main thing is history, make sure you have good documentation, and a prescription list a mile long. If you are in constant pain you should have some kind of studies, testing, and medication list.

    Wish you well
    Dorothy
  6. Shirl

    Shirl New Member

    Hi Tiff, welcome to the board. I think we already met on the Worship Board??

    Can't help with the Disibility, but wanted to welcome you anyway.

    Shalom, Shirl