Despite my severe symptoms, due to great financial distress, I have been unable to continue my treatment the past several months. In addition to the heavy stress of my finances and illness, I've been experiencing hardship in other areas of my life and didnt know how much more I could handle.
I had applied for SSDI/SSI several months ago and due to everything I've heard about the process, I was expecting to be denied. Although I felt too weak and overwhelmed to follow through the appeals process, I was already looking for a good lawyer and preparing for the worst.
Well, finally things are starting to look up as yesterday I recieved word that my SSI application was approved FIRST TIME round!!! This is so rare, especially since I didnt have a lawyer. Finally my tears are happy ones!!! I was approved on the basis of neurolgical Lyme Disease, encephalopathy, chronic head and neck pain, cognitive difficulties, etc..
Those of you who know me know how badly I needed this assistance! Thank you to those who have helped me through some very rough times lately.
I see lots of posts on here about Disability, so I thought my post would possibly offer some hope to others in a similar situation.
I wish I knew the specifics as to why my application was approved and similar ones denied. The system is very unfair. Maybe it's random, I dont know. But I will share some things that I did that may have been helpful to my case.
1. First, with help from others, I researched as much as possible about the process so that I had a better understanding of what I'm dealing with. Here are some sites I found very helpful:
Yahoo group - Disinissues
Scott Davis articles
other links that I found helpful:
2. I paid special attention to the wording of what SSA considers to be the definition of "Disabled".
3. On the application, rather than focusing on the diagnosis, I went into great detail about what I cannot do and WHY. My answers certainly went beyond the tiny space they provide and I attached extra pages, with answers like:
"I cannot stand in one place longer than 4 minutes because...
I cannot sit at a computer for longer than 20 minutes at a time b/c...
I cannot walk around stores because..."
4. In explaining my symptoms and limitations, I focused on the FREQUENCY, DURATION, and SEVERITY and was completely honest about everything.
5. Even if they are not your main issues, if you have any psychological symptoms, include them in your application. I was told that it's sometimes easier to be approved for mental impairments than physical. Providing both could possibly give them an extra avenue
to approve you on.
6. When I initially filed, I had previously gathered all my medical records and I brought copies of ALL of it in to my first interview. My file was HUGE. I also had an excel spreadsheet of all the drs I had seen since getting ill, treatments recieved, etc. (I am blessed with an amazing boyfriend who was willing to do all this for me!) The people at Social Security were amazed and very thankful as it made their work easier. This pushed my folder to the top and got things moving much quicker.
7. Don't assume that our doctors are very knowledgeable about the process and know what to do. There is a good article by Scott Davis (I think?) about this. Our drs have so many patients and cant possibly
remember every detail about each of us, so I wrote a letter to my doctor reminding him about my symptoms, my financial situation, and about how Lyme has altered my life. However, I made it short enough so that I
would be sure he'd actually read it.
I politely asked him to write a letter to SSA, proving to them that I meet their definition of "disabled". I attached a copy of the SSA definition of disability and a list of things that should be included
in the letter. I took most of this info off here: http://www.ssa.gov/disability/professionals/cfs-pub063.htm
I also included a sample letter that would help guide him and roughly based it off the info I found here as well as other places:
Thankfully, my dr did write a good letter, which I truly believe was a HUGE help in my case. As long as your dr doesnt have major ego issues, I found that giving them all that info really helped - its rare when a dr will take the time to do this themselves, so we need to be our own advocates.
8. As they often do, the DDS sent me to one of their own doctors. Some people say to put on an act during these, but I believe they can probably see through that and I always like to keep everything honest. Without a
show, apparently my cognitive difficulties still showed on the tests and his report must have said that as it was one of the factors they used to determine my case.
9. I kept on top of my drs to send in the info that was requested of them. I also kept in frequent contact with my Disability Examiner at the DDS (not in an annoying, pestering way though) and helped him gather all he needed. When I wasnt feeling well enough to make even a simple call, my boyfriend would call and inquire for me.
10. Due to my neurological symptoms, I obviously could not possibly have done all this by myself and I made sure to let them know that. It also took me months to complete the application and I let them know
that too. If they asked for something from me and I felt I couldnt do it in time, I would contact my Disability Examiner and request extra time and tell him WHY I needed it.
This all I can think of for now! I just echoed a lot of what I found on the
sites I listed...but they really did help. Maybe all my effort isnt what got me approved...maybe I was just lucky, I dont know. But I hope this helps someone else.
Now I can finally take a deeeeeep breath and RELAX! (and finally get back on some treatment!!!) wooooohooooo!!!!!
Let me know if I can be of further help to anyone.
peace & wellness to you all
[This message has been edited by SunRa (edited 13 May 2005).]