SSDI: Don’t be Deterred
ICA National Patient Support Advocate, Jareena Sommer, and Disability Lawyer and Author, Douglas Smith, Esq offer advice about getting over common hurdles that IC patients sometimes don’t sail over successfully.
Don’t Delay Applying for SSDI
In most cases, you have to have worked for 5 years out of the last 10 to qualify, so don’t just let the matter drop if you are supported at home.
Show that You Are Disabled with IC
Now, that would seem like a no-brainer, but it’s a common mistake, said Mr. Smith. Doctors tend to document their diagnoses thoroughly but seldom include enough details about your functional problems for Social Security to tell whether you can do a job on a sustained and regular basis. Your doctor needs to show your functional impairments. The checklist for doctors on functional impairment in the Guide to Effective Medical Reports and the worksheets in the Disability Workbook should help when your doctor takes advantage of the information you provide in them.
But sometimes, that’s not enough. Your doctor doesn’t track your day-to-day experience, but you can. Ask your doctor to include your and your family’s reports about how your life is affected in your medical records. The doctor can include reports that he or she finds credible with the records that go to Social Security. The medical reports need to make it crystal clear why you can’t just get some treatments and go back to work as a dependable, productive worker.
Better yet, keep a health-related diary that shows how you’re affected and when. For example, you can note your inability to leave the house because of frequency, your forgetfulness and inability to concentrate brought on by fatigue from nocturia that interrupts your sleep, the numerous sick days you’ve had to take from work, or your inability to sit or stand or walk for any length of time because of the pain.
You may be able to put the diary into your doctor’s records, or you may be able to submit it directly to Social Security. “Even if you don’t submit the diary, you can use it to structure what you say,” said Mr. Smith. “When the examiner matches that up with the medical records, he or she can see what happened to you between appointments or correlate what happened to you with your doctor visits. Then, your situation becomes more real to the disability examiner.” Of course, with Social Security switching to an electronic system, it’s a good idea to keep that diary on a computer so you can print it in a form suitable for their scanners or submit it in electronic form.
Put Medical Reports, Physical & Mental Limitations in Your SSDI Application
The wait for reconsideration and appeals can be very long. Even getting an initial decision can take an average of three months. But the average time between filing an appeal and getting a judgment from an administrative law judge can be considerably more than a year. Jareena’s case took six years! You don’t want to wait that long—and you probably won’t if you are thorough right off the bat and support your claim with medical reports and more that show you can’t meet the physical and mental demands of a job.
Make Sure Your Doctor Supports Your SSDI Application
“You are never going to win if you don’t have a medical person backing you up. It’s crucial. Your claim won’t get anywhere if your doctor thinks you can work,” said Jareena. Sadly, she’s tried to help people whose cases were further along but then fell flat because the doctor said the patient could do some kind of job or the doctor just didn’t want to do the paperwork. What can you do? Use the worksheets from the Disability Workbook to show the doctor what is happening in your life. Better yet, make sure at the beginning of your relationship with a doctor that he or she will note the effects of your illness on your ability to function so your disability will be clear if you become unable to work.
Some doctors have faith that their treatment can make you better so that you’ll be able to work in the future, and that’s a noble goal. But what’s important is that you can’t work now. Social Security periodically reviews your case to see if you’ve recovered enough to go back to work. And if you can, that’s great. It would surely be better than disability payments that barely meet rockbottom living expenses, if that. But IC is a chronic disease, and recovering enough to work is unlikely when the disease is bad enough to keep you from working.
Keep Your SSDI Appeal Going
“A lot of people who get denied just say, ‘Forget it. I can’t deal with this. It’s too much stress. It’s too much aggravation.’” said Jareena. But if you stop and then apply again later, you won’t get payments for that lapsed time, she explained. You have to keep the appeal going in order to receive the retroactive money. Just letting it drop can mean a loss of thousands of dollars.
Don’t Give Up on SSDI – Muster the Energy to Appeal
“It’s so important to muster the energy to apply and appeal. And you need support,” urged Jareena. “If you can’t get the application filled out, have somebody help you or have somebody to take you to your appointments. Don’t say, ‘I’m too sick to go to the appointment with my lawyer.’ You have to do it. This is your life.”
Revised Wednesday, August 12th, 2015