Applying first time for SS disability

downsouthJuly 28, 2004

Next week I will be applying for disability for the first time. My neurologist told me I was at the "end of my rope" as far as getting better and that I would in fact gradually get worse. We are barely making it on DH's salary and it would help so much. I read on the internet that you have to work 5 out of the last 10 years. I have worked 9 out of the last 10 years, but only one of those years was full time. Does anyone know if working part time matters?

If anyone has applied and can offer any advice, I would be so thankful. Should I send in my doctor records with my application? Would this save time?


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I am quite certain that part-time counts, but all of the answers to your questions can be found on-line. See the link below.

You can also begin the process on-line. I am guessing you don't have a condition that automatically qualifies, so it will take DDS some time to process your case.

Here is a link that might be useful: SS disability work requirements

    Bookmark   July 29, 2004 at 11:34AM
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I have degenerative disc disease, as well as arthritis in my neck, and I was told that this is one of the conditions that does automatically qualify a person, but I am not sure. Gandbb, would you know if degenerative disc disease automatically qualfies me? I have 4 sisters who have this same problem so I guess my bad health is inherited.

    Bookmark   July 29, 2004 at 9:04PM
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I don't think that degnerative disc disease will automatically qualify you for disability, but there are few conditions that do. Most people on disability have had to prove their case from their medical records and other evidence. You will be asked to do a daily activities report. They will want to know if you clean your own house, do your own grocery shopping, drive etc. It is important to have good medical records, particularly if you have hard evidence like x-rays, cat scans and MRIs. If you don't have current medical records, the SSA will pay for a medical exam, but they won't pay for expensive tests. IF you are not working, then there is really nothing to lose by making your application. If you quit a job that you need to have on the assumption that you will qualify, that is another matter. You should also know that there is a 5 month waiting period for benefits to begin. YOu are supposed to spend down your savings for that period of time. I think it all depends on your doctor and his willingness to go to bat for you and the clear evidence he can provide based on hard evidence. You should know too that most people who hang in there with their appeals are usually successful.

    Bookmark   July 30, 2004 at 11:19AM
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I do have current medical records, MRI's/x-rays and am still currently being treated. I quit my job in May because I just could not do it anymore. My wonderful husband has taken over a lot of the daily chores that used to be so easy for me to do. I have been reading about how to apply from the site you sent me. I have to gather some information before I can start the process like last year's earned income, birth certificate, etc. It will probably take me all day to figure all this out.

    Bookmark   July 30, 2004 at 12:48PM
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It certainly sounds to me as though you will qualify. Hang in there, it isn't that bad, just kind of slow. Good luck!

    Bookmark   July 30, 2004 at 4:23PM
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Pooh Bear

I applied for mine several years back.
They deny you the first time automatically.
Then you start the appeals process.
Mine went all the way thru a hearing in front of a judge.
It was finally granted, but only SSI for me.

You have 5 years to file since you last worked.
Your disability must have started sometime in that 5 years.
The judge ruled that my disability started after the 5 year limit,
so I now only get SSI benifits.
The maximum for disability is 700 and some odd dollars per month.
The maximum for SSI is 521 dollars per month.
You will get denied the first time you file.
I got a lawyer to take care of mine.
Yes you can do it without a lawyer, but I still feel as tho I wouldn't have gotten except for the lawyer.
Lawyers are allowed to charge you a Maximum of 25 percent of your back pay.
After your case is decided, SS will send you a letter telling you how much your lawyer can charge you.
Be patient. It takes a long time to hear anything about this.
I filed mine is February 2002. My final decision was given sometime late last summer. I got my first check for October 2003.
I didn't have to wait long after my decision to start getting money.

SSI is based on household income. They will revue the household expenses and assets, and any other money that is coming into the household, and base your check amount on that. My wife is allowed to make roughly $600 per month before they reduce my check any. This is only for SSI. If I had gotten regular diability her income or our bills wouldn't have mattered.

I got denyed thru the first few appeals. It is very hard to get disability for a physical problem. If you can sit at a desk and work, or even sit at a cash register and work, then you are employable and don't need disability. So they deny you.

There is a discussion about this going on over at the Accessible Gardening forum.
The link is below.

Pooh Bear

Here is a link that might be useful: Disability denied because gardening a hobby?

    Bookmark   August 2, 2004 at 1:12AM
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It is not true that disability claims are automatically denied the first time. As I recall, about 30% are denied. It sounds to me like downsouth has a good case and I wouldn't be at all surprised if it doesn't go quite smoothly given that she has physical proof of her disability. I know that DDS can be hard to deal with, but would you rather they just shoveled your tax money out the door to anyone who asked for it? OF course I wish it worked better, but every claim, no matter how slight, has to be considered and that creates a tremendous workload. People are free to apply again and again. For many people there is no cost at all. DDS will pay for their medical examination. Did you know that there are social workers whose job it is to walk the streets to try and find out if the homeless and indigent should be on disability? DDS programs are managed by the states, but under the supervision of the federal government. Qaulity control is really important. A DDS worker is dinged just as hard for incorrectly denying someone as incorrectly approving someone. Most of them work really, really long hours. There are more cases than people to handle them, but you don't get tax rebates without cutting programs and personnel. This is a ballot box issue - not a case of an agency gone wrong - just an agency without enough money to carry on its obligations in a timely fashion.

    Bookmark   August 3, 2004 at 12:14PM
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My sister's SSI was approved the first time, not long after she filed. Good luck on yours.

    Bookmark   August 4, 2004 at 12:22AM
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As a healthcare provider, I have from time to time recommended that someone seek disability benefits. So far, every one of my patients has been awarded benefits the first time they applied.

When a patient of mine applies, the Disability Determination Bureau sends me a letter requesting information about the person's health, ability to function, etc. There is often a wait for applicants to hear back, but my opinion is that the wait has more to do with us healthcare providers being slow to get our records ready (e.g. due to the turnaround time for getting transcription back, getting proper releases, etc.) than the SSDI personnel being slow. But that's just my experience here in Iowa. Could be different with others.

    Bookmark   August 5, 2004 at 9:58PM
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The turnaround time from medical personnel certainly makes a difference on how fast things are processed, but most agencies are really short on staff, partly because the burn out rate is high. You have probably heard of "steal a cop" programs where jurisdictions try to lure away trained policemen, well it happens with disability adjudicators too. States have been known to put together brochures extolling the beauty of their state to lure away experienced DDS personnel

    Bookmark   August 6, 2004 at 11:46AM
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Poohbear, why did you get SSI and not disability? What is the difference? If you get disability, do you get the full amount you would have been entitled to at retirement age? It's getting harder and harder every month to pay the bills and we have no money left to do anything. It sure would be a blessing if I could get approved.

I have sent off to get my Social Security statement and that takes 4 weeks. Don't I need that before I can apply, as I was going to apply online? I quit my job in May. Is that going to hurt me working up until then, even though it was only part time? I just couldn't do the work anymore.

I read on the internet that I need to let my doctor know I will be applying for disability. Do I need to send him a letter?

    Bookmark   August 7, 2004 at 12:41AM
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Disability almost always pays better than SSI, and your household income has to be exceedingly low to qualify for SSI whereas household income is not taken into account for disability. Disability is an entitlement program like regular social security. SSI is a welfare program based on need, not on anything else. Disability normally pays better than social security and so even recently retired people will apply for and get disability so long as they are under 65. Once you are 65, you will switch to social security, but your payment will remain the same - almost always more than you would otherwise get.

I don't see how not quitting until May will hurt you. AS I said previously, you lose 5 months anyway and they will count back to that time.

It seems to me to be a good idea to let your doctor know you are applying. That way he can have your records at hand when the DDS sends for copies. You might also want to ask him if he is going to support you on this. A letter from your doctor is worth a lot, though not as much as the MRI will.

Lots of people apply for SSI and disability at the same time. That way, if they are turned down for one, they will be automatically switched to the other. You will be considered for disability first because it pays better. AS I recall, you said your husband is working. IF he makes much over minimum wage then you are unlikely to qualify for SSI - but give it a shot. It doesn't cost extra. I really do think though that you will qualify for disability.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2004 at 2:01AM
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Gandbb, what would I do without you and your very helpful advice. You are so knowledgeable on this subject. The most recent MRI I had was to see if I was having a stroke (because of the numbness in my face). The MRI of my spine was probably done back in 1997 so they will probably want a newer one done. I did have a cervical x-ray this spring and a bone density test on my spine and hips last week (that was to check for osteoporosis by my orthopedic).

I think I need to write my company a letter and request my earnings for this year, as I have no idea what I made. I will also write my doctor a letter and let him know I will be applying for disability as soon as I get my SS statement. How do I ask if my doctor is going to support my disability claim? Do I just point blank ask that in my letter to him or should I just say I hope you are going to support me in my claim for disability? I'm not good at wording a letter like this, I have never written a doctor before.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2004 at 4:41PM
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Pooh Bear

I got only SSI because the judge ruled that my disability started more than 5 years after I quit working.
I quit working in 1996. The judge ruled that my disability didn't start until 2002. So it was ruled that my disability had started more than 5 years after I last had a job. This 5 year limit made me inelegible for disability benifits. But I was still elegible for SSI.
SSI is based on household income. So Cindy can only make a certain amount before my SSI check is reduced. SSI is a maximum of $521 per month. If Cindy makes over $600 in a month, then that amount is reduced for us. The $600 amount is derived from a formula that takes into account household expenses such as rent, utilities, child support, etc. They base each month's check on what household income was last year. Or what it is projected to be. And we have to periodically send in Cindy's paycheck stubs. If they estimate a month high, and Cindy's actual income is lower, they will make it up. This month, based on last years income, I only get a little over $300. But Cindy will still make under $600. So sometime in the next few months they will send us the difference between this month's check and $521.

You SSI and disability checks are retroactive. The payments will be for the period of time from the day your disability started. So if it takes 2 years to go thru the process of applying, you will get the payments for all that time back to when you became disabled. If you get approved you will get a really big backpay check at the beginning. This will be the back pay. They split mine into two checks. If you used a lawyer to help with your claim, he can only charge up to 25% of the backpay. You will get a letter from SS telling you how much he can charge you.

I was told it is very hard to get approved for a physical disability.
The questions for them is "is there any job you can do".
They consider if you can sit at a desk and work then you can get a job.

The standard was even higher for when I applied to have my student loans discharged because of disability. They told me unless you are comatose you can forget it. I was denied and I am going to see what other options I have.

Pooh Bear

    Bookmark   August 8, 2004 at 12:37AM
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Pooh Bear

I forgot.
You don't need your SS statement to apply.
I went to the local SS office and applied.
If you ask, someone there will help you fill out the papers.
And they pulled up my statement right there.
The only thing they asked me about is was it all correct.

And yes, apply for SSI at the same time. Every little bit helps.

Also, in addition to the 25% my lawyer got, he was also allowed to pass on to me the fees that the doctors offices charged for sending records. One doctors office charged me $75. Most others were $25. So be prepared for this.

Pooh Bear

    Bookmark   August 8, 2004 at 12:47AM
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I was going to apply online so I won't feel rushed at the local office, and I can take my time filling out the form to make sure I provide them with all the answers they need. Also, if I don't have an answer, I can pick up the phone and call my doctor's office.

If I'm denied the first time, how long do you have to wait to apply again?

Pooh Bear, when I tried to open up your link above regarding "gardening as a hobby", I got a recipe for spider spray. I can understand why a claim would be denied if gardening was a hobby. Gardening is very strenuous work. Try pulling up a few weeds with your hand and see what that does to your back.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2004 at 12:37PM
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Pooh Bear

You don't apply again, you appeal. Immediately.
You have to apply and be denied before a lawyer will even talk to you.
And if you get approved the first time, you don't need a lawyer.

I wasn't rushed at all when I applied. It would be a good idea to have looked over the form and know the answers. All the person is really doing is writing down the answers you give them. And they can explain the questions if you need it.

The link I posted is on the Accessible Gardening forum.

Pooh Bear

Here is a link that might be useful: Disability denied because gardening a hobby

    Bookmark   August 9, 2004 at 12:12AM
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IF you don't apply on-line, the best place for making your application depends on which state you live in - so call ahead if you decide to do that. Appealing a decision that goes against you involves several steps and you don't need an attorney at the beginning. The first will just be a review by another adjudicator. If you fail there, then you can take it up the line to an administrative judge. For that you should probably get an attorney who specializes in disability claims. They are nearly always successful. Persistance counts.

I am still very hopeful that you won't need to appeal. Be careful but honest in filling out your daily activities report. Saying that you garden without explaining that you only putter in a pot for a couple of minutes a week would get you denied. Your husband will likely also be asked to fill out a daily activities report for you. You will be asked about driving, cooking, grocery shopping - all the usual stuff. The assumption is that if you can manage your home by yourself, you can also work. It is also true that the standard of "can she work" won't be based just on what you did before, but on what you could be doing now. With you back condition, I don't imagine that you can sit or stand for any length of time. Your age will also be considered. DDS won't usually ask someone to retrain who is getting close to retirement age particularly if it is a move from manual labor to skilled labor. There are a lot of variables involved.

I was probably incorrect to say that you should ask your doctor if he is going to support you. Just let him know that DDS will be asking for your records and if he has any questions, his office should get in touch with you. That way he should feel obligated to let you know if he doesn't think his records will support your claim.

    Bookmark   August 9, 2004 at 11:35AM
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