11.28.2010

The Joys of Bureacracy and Confusion

So after agonizing over it and talking about it and thinking about it and, and, and...  I've finally started the application process for Social Security Disability (hereafter SSDI). 
Some of you may be wondering why the hell I've done this now as I got a job in August.  While the job is nice, it is also exhausting to me.  I cannot work it full time.  I can't even work two days in a row without serious repercussions like needing to spend most of the next day or two in bed.  And this is not a difficult job.  At all.  My mental health has taken a distinct turn for the worse (not to crisis levels yet, but treading uncomfortably close) and I think it not unreasonable to suppose that some of it is because I can't quite cope with the "stress" of working.  While I can, and possibly will, adjust meds to see if there's an improvement, I have noticed that the weeks when I'm not scheduled so frequently I seem  to be less inclined to anxiety/depression crap.

Thus, I've had another wake-up call in terms of my limits.  I am not, by the Social Security Administration's guidelines "gainfully employed."  I'm not sure how much longer I can remain even sub-gainfully employed.  I've already had to ask to be excused filling-in for certain shifts because they are seriously detrimental to my health.  Anyway, I hope to keep working at least a shift or two a week for as long as possible.  But I also recognize that I don't know how long that will be. And as I've said before, I have to plan based on how I feel *now* not how I *might* feel in the future.  The way I feel now is that working just 16 hours a week at a sedentary, uncomplicated, quiet job is nearly overwhelming.  Ideally, in the future, I might be able to take advantage of the Ticket to Work program or successfully work from home in some way, or be healthy enough to work a 40 hour week.  Or hit the lottery.  Or something.  But now, not so much.

The initial step in the process was calling up Social Security and trying to fix my income statements for a few years when, for some reason, they have me as having received no income.  While I was never making a hell of a lot of money (because I had been in school full-time between the ages of 5 and 27), I *was* making some.  And paying taxes on it.  Dammit.  Anyway, they were very nice and helpful and hopefully that's fixed.

SSDI is in part based on work credits.  For every x amount of $ you make you get a credit.  I cannot, despite valiant effort, figure out if I have enough credits.  Some calculators say yes, others say no, there are weird exceptions to the rules based on age.  Buhhh.  Also, I resent the term "work credits" - I was "working" my ass off, I just wasn't getting paid for a lot of it.

So, I started my application.  Teh confused.  I haz it.  I think that may be the first test of disability.  If you are capable of filling everything out on your own correctly you clearly are not disabled.  So, I've let it sit for the past few days and started looking for assistance. 

The first agency (Allsup) would not take my case because I'm working, even though it's usually under 20 hours per week and my monthly income is well under the SSA cut-off.  If I quit my job they would review my case.  So, hell with that.

An old friend who happens to be a lawyer saw me moaning about the above on Twitter or Facebook or somewhere and sent me some helpful links.  So, I've been researching law firms.  I already have one scheduled to call me (tomorrow, hopefully) to discuss details, etc.
Here's the things I plan to ask about.  If anyone has helpful suggestions, they'll be well appreciated.
  • Fees - by law they're supposed to only be able to claim a certain % of the back-pay or a set $ amount and only if they win.  No win, no money.  I want to be sure they know this or else I will run away.
  • What about the work credit situation?
  • Should I continue the application I started on-line?  If so, precisely what information should I include and how?
  • How much and what am I expected to do?
  • What is their success rate?
  • If they won't take my case can they refer me to someone who might be able to?
  • If they won't take my case is it because they know it won't succeed or is it just because it will be too challenging?

4 comments:

justthreadtwiddling said...

The more completely 'you' fill out the application the better. I had heard all the horror stories about how long it took to get SSDI, so I went to a local attorney who specialized in disability. For me that turned into a nightmare. The attorney fees are supposed to be paid out of your claim directly to the lawyer. In my case SS 'forgot' and paid all the back funds (typically 1 year's worth) to me. They didn't tell me the lawyer hadn't been paid. I used the funds to pay medical bills not covered by our health ins. and to get a $700 car that I could drive for more than 30 min. Anyway, by the time the lawyer came knocking on my door I didn't have enough to pay him. So we are making payments!
The SSDI came thru on the first application. The lawyer did file papers as well, but I don't know if they were used in the decision-making process. I had funds deposited in my bank account BEFORE I received any acceptance documentation from SS so I was very confused. I don't know if my age played a part, or the definitive MS dx.

Shoveling Ferret said...

Whoa - good on the approval, bad on the payment screw up.
My Dad was also approved on first application for arthritis - but I think age and easy to see test results/x-rays, etc. helped there.

I'm stuck with a lot of weird, amorphous crap and I'm young, both of which have me wanting help. Will definitely remember to make sure the help got paid if I'm successful. What a mess!

Our Heroine said...

I have some info, hopefully it's helpful:

Any lawyer/firm that deals with SSDI will know the payment rules. If they don't take your case it's almost certainly because it's time consuming, not a reflection on your likelihood of being approved. Since you qualify and all that.

As for credits, the lawyer should be able to tell you whether you have enough. That's probably the first step, before they take the case.

About the application: fill it out for your worst days, not your best or average. SSA puts a lot of stock in activities of daily living, such as cooking, cleaning, showering, dressing, shopping, paying bills. Anything you have trouble with, or can't do, counts big time. Also being able to drive, getting to medical appointments, lifting things are important.

Good luck!

Alwen said...

Government forms are pretty horrible! Blech!