Information on the process of applying for disability; links and resources for those who are interested in doing this.


Postby JigsawAnalogy on Thu Nov 06, 2008 11:31 am

I just wanted to share my experience with applying for SSI (Supplemental Security Income).

Late this spring, I finally accepted that I'm not going to be "better" in the near future. At that point, it had been more than two years since I last worked, and the combination of DID/MPD, plus depression, and my physical health problems (fibromyalgia) had made it challenging for me just to get through the day at home, let alone figure out how to work outside the house.

But I felt guilty, since it was hard for me to believe that I couldn't just make myself get better faster, and not ask for help. This turns out to have been a bad decision on my part, because had I applied even six months earlier, I would have still been eligible for Social Security Disability, which pays based on your prior income, and I would have gotten more money. So my first piece of advice to people who are finding it difficult to work while coping with DID/MPD, or another disability, is to apply as soon as you are unable to work. The worst that will happen is that you will be denied the first time, and then have to appeal.

So. I did apply, in June of 2008. The first part of the process was filling out a two page form, with information about what I do during the day, and how long it's been since I last worked. Things like that.

Then I had my intake interview. In my case, because I was doing particularly badly at that point, we did the interview over the phone, and my partner did most of the talking. They ask pretty much the same questions that are on the form.

They then ask for a release of information so they can speak to the people who are treating me--my therapist, my medical doctor, and anyone else. I gave that, and I know they contacted my therapist. They will also want to talk to someone who knows you, but isn't treating your disability, so it might help if you have a friend who can talk about what it is like for you on a day to day basis.

Then they sent a much longer form, asking about things in much more detail: do you cook your own meals? If not, how do you get food? What do you do during the day? What could you do before your disability that you can no longer do? Things like that. They also want a detailed work history, showing what jobs you had, and asking for the reasons you left those jobs.

I was very detailed in my answers. Also, because it was handwritten, I just went ahead and let whichever part felt like writing do so, although we did keep an eye on spelling.

About a month or two after I sent that in, they wanted me to come in to be checked out by their doctor and psychologist. I was pretty nervous about this, but as it turned out, it was about three hours of sitting around waiting, with a ten minute talk with the psychologist and five minutes with the doctor. They didn't give any indication at that meeting of what the outcome was. This, I think, is normal.

Then I got a letter at the end of October saying that they needed more information about my resources and things like that, as well as proof that I no longer have a joint bank account with my partner. This seemed like a good sign, since the person who talked to us in the initial phone interview said that I wouldn't need my name off the joint account unless they approved me.

I went in this Tuesday (Nov. 4) and had to wait for about 2 1/2 hours at the Social Security office. I saw the person there for about fifteen minutes. He said I was approved, but would need to come back again to bring my lease (proving what I am responsible for in terms of rent). So I had to go back, and wait another two hours.

Tip: they may not mention it in the letter they send you for the appointment, but it's a good idea to bring things like your lease, several months' worth of utility bills, your checkbook (so they can set up direct deposit), a bank statement (to prove what resources you have) and any other financial documents you may have. If you don't, you're likely to have to go back again, and wait through all of the lines again.

Basically, the process was far easier than I had been led to believe. The forms were rather difficult to fill out (which was rather frustrating for me, since I had helped other people fill them out in the past, and they hadn't been so challenging for me!) I only had to actually go into an office twice. Both times, there was a lot of waiting, despite having been given specific appointment times. Don't plan on doing anything else for more than a few hours after your appointment time, because you are likely to be spending a lot of time waiting to actually be seen.

Several people had suggested I find a lawyer that works with Social Security claims, but as it turns out, I didn't need one. This was good, because it means that I get all of the back payments (lawyers for Social Security claims generally have their payment come as a percentage of the back pay you would have received).

So my major piece of advice is go ahead and apply. It's possible that you'll even be approved the first time around. And if you are not approved, but appeal, and then are approved, your back payments go back to when you first applied, so it's in your best interests to do so sooner rather than later.

Here's the page with information on SSI.

And here's the page with information on Social Security Disability.
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Postby Battle_Weary on Sat Nov 08, 2008 12:45 am

We were also approved the first time about the same amount of time as you. We had been told it would take at least 6 months for our first denial to come, get a lawyer, be prepared for major frustrations and difficulty...blah, blah. None of that turned out to be true for us either.
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