SSDI, what are my chances?

Discussion in 'Fibromyalgia Main Forum' started by spydergrl80, Aug 12, 2005.

  1. spydergrl80

    spydergrl80 New Member

    Diagnoses include....fibro, cfs, attention deficit disorder, severe clincal depression, degenrative disc disease, disc hernitation.
    I'm in need of some serious help! How do I go about applying?
  2. JLH

    JLH New Member

    I originally posted the following info on 11/09/04, which may be of interest to you:


    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 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.

    ****End of Article****


    Additional Info for Applying for SSDI from another old post 08/03/05 09:16 PM

    The following additional info is from another old post - not mine, but from Lisa:



    Hi all.

    I came across this website that offers tips on how to better ones chances of winning SS Disability. Also at the end is a list of FAQs - for answers you'll need to check out the website.

    Hope it helps.


    Social Security Disability cases based on Fibromyalgia alone are generally difficult to win, and are always easier to win if other impairments are involved.

    But having said that, it should be be noted that the outlook for such cases is starting to improve because more information is coming to light about the nature and causes of this illness.

    Regardless, however, of whether a claimant is applying for disability based solely on Fibromyalgia, or alleges several impairments, a case involving Fibromyalgia can be strengthened by understanding how Social Security Disability Examiners consider medical evidence. This was covered to some extent in the article preceding this one, but on this page the tips will be more specific.

    Tip 1 regarding Social Security Disability Fibromyalgia Cases

    If you allege Fibromyalgia when you apply for disability, make sure you have a diagnosis of this in your medical records. It's happened more than once that a doctor has mentioned to a patient that they "might have fibromyalgia" without actually diagnosing this condition in their medical chart.

    Tip 2 regarding Social Security Disability Fibromyalgia Cases

    If your primary doctor (i.e. family doctor or internist) diagnoses you with Fibromyalgia, try your very best to be referred to a specialist, such as an orthopedist or a rheumatologist (or a pain or chronic fatigue specialist), who can give you the same diagnosis. As we said earlier on the previous page, because so many doctors hand out the fibromyalgia label when they can't otherwise diagnose a patient's complaints, the value of this diagnosis is somewhat diluted. It can be significantly strengthened, however, and taken more seriously, if the same conclusion is reached by a physician who specializes in bone or tissue disorders, or disorders that involve complaints of pain and fatigue.

    Tip 3 regarding Social Security Disability Fibromyalgia Cases

    Although it may be impossible to do, try to avoid being diagnosed with Fibromyalgia by a mental health professional. Why? Because the simple truth is this: in the same way that family doctors mislabel their patients and overuse the Fibromyalgia diagnosis, so do psychiatrists. This is a regular occurrence, in fact, for patients who are being treated for depression.

    It should not be surprising to anyone, of course, that a person who experiences continuous pain and/or fatigue might also have to deal with depression as a result. Nevertheless, a Fibromyalgia diagnosis by a mental health practioner is usually interpreted by a Disability Examiner to mean this: that the disability claimant's symptoms and complaints are psychosomatic in nature. In other words, all in their head.

    Therefore, again, for the fibromyalgia sufferer who is trying to win disability benefits, it is always sound advice to seek a supporting diagnosis from a specialist.

    However, this becomes doubly more important for the claimant who is also receiving mental health treatment.

    Tip 4 regarding Social Security Disability Fibromyalgia Cases

    Find out what's in your medical records. The importance of this cannot be stressed enough. All Social Security Disability cases are decided chiefly on the basis of a claimant's records. This is true at the intial application level, reconsideration level, and at the Administrative Law Judge hearing level where a claimant is generally represented by an attorney, or non-attorney disabilty representative.

    Applying for disability without knowing what your records state about your condition is unwise, to say the least. And many claimants have been surprised to find that the doctor who claimed to support their case did not indicate the same level of support in his or her treatment notes.

    By getting copies of your medical records before you apply, you can get a rough idea of how your case looks and decide if you need to switch to a different physician, one who is more capable concerning your treatment and more willing to support your disability case.

    Quick Links to Questions & Answers on

    For Social Security Disability, when is a person considered disabled?
    When should I apply for Social Security Disability
    How do I apply for Disability benefits through Social Security?
    After I apply, how is my Social Security Disability case decided?
    What kind of medical evidence is used to evaluate my Social Security case?
    How long will it take to get a decision on my Disability claim?
    If my Social Security Disability case is denied, what do I do?
    How do I appeal a Social Security denial for disability?
    How long does a Social Security appeal usually take?
    Will I have to file more than one claim for Disability?
    How do I survive financially while waiting on my case?
    Is there anyone who can assist me financially while I wait on my Disability appeal?
    Can I work and earn money while waiting on my Social Security case?
    Do I need a representative for my Social Security Disability case?
    How can a representative help me on my Disability case?
    How much does a disability representative charge for a Social Security case?
    What can I do on my own to help my Social Security Disability case?
    What is SSI and how is it different from Social Security Disability?
    If my Social Security case is won, what exactly do I get?
    How will I know if I have won my claim for Disability benefits?
    If I win my Disability case, how long will it take to get the money?
    If I am eligible for a back payment, will I get it all at one time?
    If my Disability case is won, how long will I receive disability benefits?
    If a judge denies my Social Securitycase, what do I do?
    How to - improve your chances for Social Security Disability
    How to - get updates on a Social Security claim for disability
    How to - get doctors to assist on your Social Security claim
    How to - react if your Social Security Disability case is denied
    How to - request the first appeal for a Social Security claim for Disability
    How to - plan ahead financially for a Disability claim with social security
    How to - update creditors regarding a Disability case
    How to - file a request for a Social Security Disability hearing
    How to - get updates on a Social Security Disability case
    How to - get a Social Security hearing scheduled faster
    How to - present before a judge at a Disability hearing

  3. JLH

    JLH New Member

    The Social Security Administration considers sooooo many things when you are applying for SSDI.

    I checked your bio, trying to find out about how old you were, but you have not filled it out yet.

    So ... first, I would suggest going to the SSA's website, I think it's and read about it.

    But, from what I have found out, I think it is more difficult to get disability is you are under 50. The younger you are, the harder it is to get it.

    You must have enough work credits from being employed to be eligible. If you don't have enough work credits for SSDI, if you have little income and little possessions, you can apply for SSI.

    They also take into consideration your formal education.

    Yes, you have a few diagnoses, but you have to prove to them that you will never be able to hold down any type of job. You can't sit long enough to do any work, you can't stand long enough to do any type of work, etc.

    Your doctors carry a lot of weight. Will your doctors support you if you apply? Their notes have to match what you say your illnesses are, etc.

    As far as how do you go about applying? You can call the SSA and apply by telephone, or go to your local office and pick up an application.

    The info that I supplied about will tell you a lot about SSDI.

    I hate it that you feel badly enough not to work. I know because I am in the same situation. I had to take an early retirement due to my health. I had worked for 30 years for the same large corporation, but at the age that I took early retirement, I could have worked for another 20 years, and I really wanted to, but I was just not able.

    Take care,

    BLUEROSE7 New Member

    Please see my post " For those of us Applying/Fighting for Disability". You can either click on my name and look for this post or type it in the search engine on the first page.

    Look over each topic thats posted...Alot of good info..

    Good Luck
  5. Mikie

    Mikie Moderator

    One's chances of obtaining SSD are only as good as the documentation of one's limitations. The SSD doesn't care so much about how many diagnoses one has but rather how one's illness(es) limit one's ability to work.

    There's no such thing as too much documentation from docs, loved ones, etc. A really great disability atty. is the best thing one can do, one with a very high win ratio, in the 90 percent range.

    Best of luck to you.

    Love, Mikie
  6. puppyfreak

    puppyfreak New Member

    It's standard to get denied twice and then need an attorney to appeal. The wait to see the judge can be 1-2 years or longer.
    So if you feel like you can't work, now is the time to start the process. And like Mikie said, keep ALL the documentation while you're waiting for your hearing.
    I just got approved last month - I have FMS and Autoimmune Vasculitis with Neuropathy in my feet and lower legs. I also have depression but that's been a long-term problem. I think what tipped the scales in my favor at the hearing was my worsening Carpal Tunnel [both hands but mostly the right which is my dominant hand].
    They could have found a job that I could sit down and do but since I can't use my hands reliably, I can't do computer or phone work or anything else that requires manual dexterity.

  7. Mikie

    Mikie Moderator

    I can't work because when fatigue sets in and I hit the wall, I have to lie down right away.

    Be prepared to deal with a lot of paperwork and delays unless you are one of the lucky ones who gets approved right away.

    Best of luck to you.

    Love, Mikie

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