Erin, With your bibliography of illness and meds Im surprised you have been knocked back once let alone 4 times!
I live in Australia and I was not aware that I could apply for a Disability pension (as we call it here). I applied for a part DP as I can still sort of manage a few days work. I was granted this after my GP and GI filled in the appropriate forms without even having to see one of their Drs, as they classify Crohns Disease as having met their criteria (I also have AS). Our DP is income tested (Im not sure if US is) and I dont receive any extra money, but do receive discounted meds and some utility bills, it all helps in the long run. I was prepared to fight for the DP and had armed myself with every test and documentation of my illnesses, I think the list of tests and notes you have would be more than suffice - and the Attorney.
Im sorry Im not much help but I am gobsmacked that you have been knocked back that many times.
I will keep an eye out for you to post in December for some good news.
I doubt that your age per se has much to do with your pervious denials.
Savanna thanks for the long description of your SSDI process. I am at the Judge level (3rd level in my state) and awaiting a decision for an "Award of Record". My attorney filed for that due to the long distance to travel (over 75 mi) for a hearing. If the Judge prefers to see me SS must pay for the trip.
I sent in a long letter to the Judge describing in detail each and every moment of my day prior to RA and after RA about 5 pages long. I also did a physical function chart as well.
With RA usually our hands are crippling and you are correct, I know of no employment where our hands are not needed. The burden to prove our inability to be gainfully employed is on us.
Today I have a Dr appt. to update the SS Physical Function form as now it is about a year old and things are worse.
I hope you feel better soon. I really don't have anything else to say beyond what was already said. I was denied twice and stopped applying for now. I was sent to a specialist who was supposed to help, test, and confirm diagnosis and he chose NOT to. I was too sick and tired to push it at the time.
You list a lot of options, and personally, I say it can't hurt (your case, not your joint! ) to do most of your list....keep as many records as you are physically able and have everything ready to go. Start now getting things organized so you don't kill yourself trying to do it closer to the trial date. Some of that information will be good to review and have fresh in your head at the trial, even if it's not something you'll bring to the trial as 'proof' of what you're going through.
One thing I did notice on my 2nd denial, and I'm not sure how to make sure this doesn't happen - it looked like they didn't even get some information they were supposed to (possibly used claim #1 info?) and they screwed up entering in my information in their system. The response as to why they were denying me didn't make sense at all!