Posted 06 January 2012 - 01:05 PM
I'm afraid I have to echo Craig's sentiments. The SSDI is not for the faint of heart; it's a long, frustrating process, almost impossible for an ill person to handle alone, and takes so long to be approved that most anyone without resources such as long term disability insurance, or a hefty savings account, would be bankrupt before they see any SSDI check!
Before I applied, I researched SSDI thoroughly as to requirements, the documentation I would need, had the backing of 3 of my doctors (primary, rheumatologist and pulmonologist), had numerous testing results, xrays, multiple surgeries, evidence of 35% decline in lung function, joint deterioration in several joints, nerve conduction studies showing deficits in my hands even after carpal tunnel surgery, diastolic dysfunction as evidenced on ECHO (stiffening of the heart); months of physical therapy over the past 5 years, with only minimal improvement in range of motion of hands/wrists, hips, shoulders; vocal cord tightening as evidenced on laryngoscopic video; manometry evidence of "absent" motility of both esophagus and rectum/anus....I could go on and on... my lawyer said my medical file was by far the most voluminous and thorough documentation he had ever seen.
I applied in August 2010, was promptly denied in October 2010. I appealed with a lawyer, and waited until December 2011, when I was granted a hearing before a judge. A few months before this hearing, I was examined by two of the Social Security doctors - a demeaning and humiliating experience to say the least - I was assumed to be a liar, and treated like one, from the moment I stepped into any SSDI office. Their doctors had not one scrap of my medical file nor history of illnesses (which by then had spanned more than 10 years), saying they were only there to assess my functional abilities. Both doctors had to help me up from the floor, after they requested that I squat ( my knees gave out and I couldn't get back up), yet both their reports stated their exams were essentially normal, except for only minimal restrction of motion in only my left shoulder! (If they had even bothered to look at one xray of my shoulder, they would have seen from it that I couldn't possibly have near normal range of motion - there is so much bone destruction, I have been advised by my orthopaedic surgeon I need a total joint replacement).
At my hearing last month, even the judge readily admitted it was clear that I was not able to perform my nursing job of 17 years, but asked why I thought I couldn't do a desk job. I described the best I could about the debilitating and chronic fatigue and pain (that we are all too familiar with), how some days I can't even get out of bed...As we left the hearing, my lawyer told me the decision could go either way, that he'd seen a case when the judge had denied an applicant, saying he could always get a job as a department store greeter even in a wheelchair!
Maybe the judge was in a good mood that day, or had some Holiday spirit, because I got my approval letter a month later, but it still irks me, as I'm sure you can tell!
My advice? Get an experienced disability lawyer, and be as financially and emotionally prepared as you can be for a lengthy process. Make sure you've discussed your inability to continue to work with your doctors and make sure they document it in your record.
And know through it all that you have a lot of support from us all!