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Should i apply for disability, and how do i do it?


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I havent worked since 2008 (apart from a volunteer gig that lasted a couple months when i was manic), and while we've made it work as a single income family, it would be nice to have a bit of help financially.

My NP asked me if i was on disability, and it made me think. Until earlier this year i was ineligible due to being a legal alien, but i got my citizenship in April and now im eligible.

So is it worth doing? And do i do it online, or do i have to go somewhere to fill out the forms?

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There are two kinds of disability in the USA--SSDI and SSI. If you haven't worked since 2008, it is unlikely you have enough recent work credits to qualify for SSDI, which is an insurance program one pays into during his/her working years, but your work credits "expire" and thus your "insurance" will not cover you unless you can prove your disability began while you were still "insured" (assuming you were ever fully insured) way back in the past (very difficult and usually impossible in most cases to prove remote onset except in rare circumstances, and I'm also not sure how it works with you having been a legal alien in the past).

There's also SSI which does not require recent work credits and it has the same medical requirements as SSDI, but there are strict financial criteria you have to meet for SSI and if your husband is working and/or you and he have any savings over $3,000 in a checking account, IRA, or other resources (aside from one car and one house you live in), it's unlikely you would qualify for SSI. But it never hurts to apply online and find out. For SSI, you should apply right away because you can only be paid SSI benefits (if eligible) the month after application and going forward. There are no retroactive benefits for SSI.

Basically, apply online. It will ask you all the important questions like when your disability began, when you stopped working, and so forth. With SSI you used to be able to start the app online but you would have to complete the application in person. But I think now you can do the whole thing online, but not sure. Generally, unless you know for sure you don't qualify for SSI, it's recommended to apply for both SSDI and SSI. You can receive both concurrently by the way if your SSDI benefit is low enough or some people receive SSI during the 5-month waiting period for SSDI. The first thing your local office will do in the case of an SSDI app you've filed online is to determine whether you have enough recent work credits now or in the past (if alleging a remote onset date). They'll let you know if you do or don't qualify non-medically for SSDI before they transfer your case for medical development.

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I should add that deeming income from a spouse is kind of complicated (this only matters for SSI) and I don't know a lot about the topic. I think it depends how much your spouse makes as to how much SSI you might even qualify for but even qualifying for a little SSI can be good if you need health insurance for yourself because SSI comes with medicaid  coverage (for you). However, if you have more than $3,000 in savings, checking accounts, IRAs, etc., you won't qualify non-medically for SSI at all. Also, if you have more than one car, they will attribute a value to the 2nd car and it will count as part of your "resources", which can't exceed $3,000 for a couple.

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  • 4 weeks later...

I recommend trying.  I am on SSI, and it helps so much.  I was a graduate student researcher and teaching assistant and my university didn't pay into the social security system, so I didn't have enough work credits for SSDI even though I always worked.  Not fair.  But I am on SSI now.  

I recommend the website disabilitysecrets.com for helpful information on applying for disability.  It really really helped my husband and I figure out how to apply.  The best piece of advice I have for applying is that when you're filling out the paperwork, fill it out as if it is your worst day.  Normally we (or at least I) try to downplay our symptoms and make it seem not as bad.  Don't do that for disability paperwork.  Instead think about your worst times.  It is depressing and difficult to do this, but will help your case progress much better.  

Also, lawyers are soooooooo worth it!  You don't pay them up front, they take a chunk of your backpay at the end.  My husband did mine for me, and then his (he now has a physical disability), but it was so much work.  A lawyer is worth it to handle all the paperwork and deadlines for you.

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Folks are correct that you may not be eligible for SSDI, but you can create an account and then check your potential benefits here: https://secure.ssa.gov/RIR/CatsView.action

If you are eligible:

First, think hard and make a list of EVERYTHING that affects your ability to work. Even if it's just a little arthritis in your toe. An application should include everything. You will need to document all of it though, or have doctors who can. I think including my physical ailments was a major factor in my having my claim approved right away.

The second thing you want to do is find a lawyer who specializes in disability law. You'll have your list of conditions you made. You should be able to get a consultation with a good lawyer quite easily. No legit disability lawyer will charge you upfront, as others mentioned. Anyways, you should be able to get some pointers from one or more of these attorneys for free. If you're denied and shouldn't have been, that's when you'd work with an attorney officially.

Third - on the application, don't just write Bipolar Disorder, also use the phrases "Affective Disorder," "Mood Disorder," "Major Depression," and/or "Refractory Depression." My understanding, at least five years ago, was that "Affective Disorder" was a sort of buzz phrase.

Fourth - make sure you write down the date you really did become disabled, not some more recent date.

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6 hours ago, DoctorV said:

Also, lawyers are soooooooo worth it!  

I'm a semi-retired lawyer and that is one thing I'd like to do here locally, i.e., get much more knowledgeable about this area of law to help local MI people navigate the whole realm of what benefits are available

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I was fortunate enough to have been approved for SSDI, only waiting two months for a decision.  I was told by the folks at SSA that it would take 4-6 months, so I was very happy to be approved in such a short time.

I applied for SSDI through the Social Security Administration in person.  There are a few situations where one can't apply online.  In my case it was because I'm divorced.  The SSA folks were very helpful and friendly.  I made an appointment and did not have to wait long.

After you file the application you will be sent a function report and employment report for completion.  These look a bit daunting.  Completing the paperwork with your worst symptoms in mind is a great idea: someone on CB suggested that to me when I was applying, and I think it really helped me get approved so quickly.  My understanding is that 40% of SSI/SSDI applications are initially denied.

My former pdoc suggested that I hire a law firm to help me through the process.  I called the law firm he recommended as well as many others when I was working on my function report.  Not one was willing to help me at that stage.  It seems attorneys' interest in my geographical area apparently only begins when a person's SSDI application is denied and an appeal needs to be filed.

I would encourage you to do all the application work by yourself (with help from the SSA if needed) and wait to hire an attorney if you've been denied.  I believe that attorneys' fees are up to 25% of your retroactive payments.

I see that this thread is a month old, so the point may be moot, but if you'd like I could scan my application and send it to you via CB messaging in case it would be helpful to you.  If so, please let me know.

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About 1/3 of disability applicants are approved at initial application. The other 2/3 are not. IMO, best to wait until you've been denied at initial and reconsideration to hire a lawyer. Most of the them won't take you anyway until you've been denied as shells already mentioned. There's not much for a lawyer to do during the initial application and reconsideration stages. You have to fill out all of the paperwork yourself in your own words and lawyers aren't always reliable about making sure all of your medical records are sent in at these lower stages so you can't leave everything to them. My pdoc referred me to a lawyer once I got to the hearing stage. I was approved at the hearing stage.

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I was approved for SSDI at the reconsideration stage......I suppose different lawyers might vary in what they do, but a disability lawyer accepted my case at the reconsideration stage, and I was then fortunately approved without having to wait for a hearing.

I was told that disability lawyers won't take a case, unless they feel they have at least an 80-85% chance of winning.....That makes sense, because if they don't win a case, they don't get paid.

If a lawyer wins a disability case, they do get 25% of your backpay, or $6000, whichever is less........For some people, who have been trying for years to get approved, the backpay can really build up, but a lawyer can't get more than $6000, no matter how long it takes to get approved.

For SSI cases (in which the person hasn't worked in a long time, or doesn't have enough work credits), the medical requirements are the same as SSDI.............But for SSI, you also have to meet some non-medical standards....If you are single, you can't have more than $2000 in resources....If you own the home you live in, and one car, those won't count towards the resources.

Edited by CrazyRedhead
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I was denied the first time but my application was incomplete. For my appeal hearing I hired an advocate and they filled out all the paperwork and provided a lawyer for the hearing. I did not have to talk, the lawyer did all the talking and would ask me questions occasionally, In other words I did not speak unless spoken to first, at some point into the hearing the judge stopped the hearing and said "I have heard enough. I am ready to rule. You simply have too many disabilities to work. I certify you unfit to do any work, you are disabled". We had emphasised mental and physical illnesses and their effect on my attendance at work, which was poor. Hiring the advocate was the best thing I had done, I would of won on first try if I had. Advocates are paid just like lawyers, $6,000. They also had a service that helped me pick a Medicare provider by checking all my meds to see if they were covered and did the same for all my doctors. One provider clearly covered all my docs (4) and almost all my meds, I had to get one prior auth for a new diabetic med.

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