I was diagnosed in March 2009 with RA, and on April 30th, 2009 went on Short Term Disability through my work's insurance for 26 weeks. At the end of 26 weeks, I still was unable to return to work, so work let me go (terminated me), and I applied for and (after 11 weeks of getting jerked around) finally received Long Term Disability, which is 60% of my base salary. I will be re-evaluated every 3-4 months, and the insurance is for a maximum of 24 months, at which point they will do another detailed re-evaluation and take it from there as to whether or not I'll receive additional benefits.
In the meantime, I applied for Food Stamps through the county and received them almost immediately. I'm in the process of applying for SSDI and SSI through Social Security. You have to be off work, or be expected to be off work for a year before applying, which applies to me since I've been off work since April 30 and my rheumatologist doesn't expect me to be able to work for at least another 6 months, if then.
It can take up to 2 years and even longer sometimes to win a Social Security claim even if your doctor says you are absolutely, positively, definitively disabled, so you have to start the process ASAP. I have heard of someone who received benefits after only 120 days, which is the minimum in Colorado. I think Social Security is pretty much the same from state to state since it's a Federal Program. Since I'm going to receive benefits from my previous employer's disability insurance company, I'm not getting an attorney for Social Security yet, but if I needed Social Security benefits sooner than later, I would definitely get an attorney Right Away to help me through the process. The attorney gets paid when you win your case and are awarded a lump sum, to be followed by monthly payments. They take a percentage of the lump sum.
It is my understanding that nearly everyone, with an attorney or not, has their claim routinely rejected the first time they apply. At that point, the next move is to file an appeal, not re-apply. I don't know why they reject nearly everyone, except that is probably cuts down on the amount of money Social Security has to pay out.
There are some helpful websites besides the Social Security sites that can help you make sense of the process. I look at it as jumping through hoops, and at some point I may have to do that, but for now, thank the Powers That Be, I'm ok. Hang in there, and never, never, never give up. Good luck.
Rheumatoid Arthritis, Chronic Pain, Chronic Major Depression, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Schizoaffective Disorder, Recovered Alcoholic w/15 years Continuous Sobriety