Disability Questions...

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Regular Member

Date Joined Jan 2011
Total Posts : 374
   Posted 2/8/2011 3:10 PM (GMT -6)   
I feel dumb even talking about this, and dumb for even considering it on one hand. I feel like a failure and I'm really unsure of what my next step should be.

On the 30th of December, last year, I started to have severe back pain. I called off work one day because of it and basically ended up losing my job over it. Now I can hardly do anything on my own, even things I like. I found out I have degenerative disc disease, bulging discs, and a lumbar herniation that is pressing against a root nerve. I go for a consultation with a orthopedic surgeon on the 16th, and I am being told that surgery is really my only option at this point. I'm on medication for the pain, but it makes me loopy and doesn't really help much beyond taking the very edge off.

My question is this...how do I know when/if I should apply for disability?

I feel dumb considering this 'option', but the fact is that I can't work. I lost my job because of this, and even if I didn't I couldn't go back to my job in my current state. Should I wait and speak with the surgeon, or should I go ahead and apply? The reason I am so torn up over this is because I hear such varying results from spine surgery. Some people are 100%, other take forever to recover and have pain for life. If I can't work, I should apply ASAP because of how long and drawn out the application and appeal process is. I feel dumb even thinking about not being able to work...but if I really can't do it, what other choice do I really have?

What does anyone think on here? Do you think applying for disability is a wise choice, or should I wait and see what the surgeon says? And if I just keep waiting, what if I end up having the surgery and still having issues...by that time I could have already applied and everything. Ugh, this is such a miserable thing to have to think about. Anyone else have similar problems?


New Member

Date Joined Jan 2011
Total Posts : 14
   Posted 2/8/2011 3:49 PM (GMT -6)   
There's no shame in being disabled and unable to work. Apply for SSD. But, get a lawyer. You have a better chance in SSD's eyes if you have a reputable disability lawyer. Expect to be rejected on the initial application. Don't be surprised if your appeal is denied. The third and last stage is a SSD hearing. Lawyers don't get money from you. The government pays the lawyers when you are awarded your disability. And, the government pays you retroactive to your initial filing date. You get it in one lump sum. 1/3 of this sum automatically goes to your lawyer. Most who apply for SSD go to a hearing. The reason is a certain % of those who apply initially, don't file an appeal, a certain % whose appeals are denied don't follow through to the hearing. It's a system SSD uses to reduce the number of people receiving benefits. I was told this by a person on the inside of the workings of SSD. Another reason for a lawyer, is SSD, for those with back injuries and knee injuries, are perceived to be scamming the government. Finally, keep a pain journal every minute of every day. Where your pain is, how severe your pain is, when you take your pain meds including the dosage, the time, and their effectiveness in relieving/reducing your pain... or not. Note in your journal how pain meds affect you ie. how they limit your activities. And, how your pain limits your activities. Note your depression and anything and everything concerning the disruption of your life minute by minute. Keep this log current and detailed until the end of the hearing. Make copies of all of your applications and your journal. Don't just hand them over w/o keeping copies for yourself. I hope this helps.
Let me know how it goes for you. turn

"The race is not always to the swift, but to those who keep on running."

Post Edited (ServiceDogGal/raggs) : 2/8/2011 1:56:33 PM (GMT-7)

Veteran Member

Date Joined Jul 2008
Total Posts : 2317
   Posted 2/8/2011 4:42 PM (GMT -6)   
Mr K-
I'm assuming you live in the US. If so, maybe try to contact someone in the legal profession (bar association, courthouse lawyer, legal aid clinic, law dept. at a university in your state) about whether you may have been wrongfully terminated.
If the injury occurred due to your work, you may have a claim against your employer & you also may be able to get your job back if you recover within 12 weeks.
Also, if you worked 1250+ hours in the past 12 months with your former employer and they have at least 50 employees, you should have been permitted to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid time off -- even if it wasn't scheduled in advance. You may be able to get your job back if that's the case & you would still have the remainder of the 12 weeks to recover.

Assuming you don't qualify for FMLA or worker's comp, are you able to perform any sort of work at least 35 hours/week without substantial additional training? If so, pay a visit to your local unemployment office ASAP to see if you can file a claim for unemployment benefits. If you are able to do a desk job, but just couldn't do heavy lifting, then you should still be able to get UI & that is almost always WAY faster than disability. You cannot claim UI for any days when you are completely unable to work (e.g., if you have surgery that day or would have had to call in sick), but as long as you are willing and able to do something & don't have to complete a degree or apprenticeship program or whatnot in order to do it, you should be able to file for benefits. You were terminated, seemingly without cause. Missing one day of work due to an injury should not count as "cause" -- but double check that with UI. If you qualify, you'll start getting benefits shortly after you file. You lose benefits each week that goes by without you claiming them, so the sooner you file, the better.

If you are totally unable to perform any type of work, then yes, file for SSDI. Raggs gave you some good advice: hire a lawyer. They should give you an initial consult for free & can explain when/if to file. I will say that if you have been diagnosed with depression or anxiety or something like that, those diagnoses seem to get approved WAY faster than debilitating injuries/pain.

Re: your pain, have you met with a board-certified Pain Management Specialist? Everyone's different & I'm not even a doctor or anything, but I do have something similar & my PM treats it with an epidural every few months. I just had one yesterday & already am feeling 75% better. Maybe it's not an option for you, but just wanted to mention it in case there's a way for you to avoid surgery. Surgery's been an option for me for over 2 years now, but between a "turtle shell" back brace that the neurosurgeon prescribed me & epidurals & a bunch of other treatments, most of the time I'm in good shape.

Regular Member

Date Joined Jan 2011
Total Posts : 374
   Posted 2/8/2011 5:45 PM (GMT -6)   
Thanks so much for your response. I know i shouldn't feel this way, and if someone else asked me the same question I would tell them that they have absolutely nothing to be ashamed of. However, I'm often hypocritical in that I don't take my own advice. :P

It's just is so intimidating and seems so difficult.

I think the journal idea is very helpful, and I think I'll start it right away. Not like I have too much else to do anyhow. :P

Thanks alot.

Regular Member

Date Joined Jan 2011
Total Posts : 374
   Posted 2/8/2011 5:55 PM (GMT -6)   
Also, in response to what you said Frances,

Thanks for your reply too. I doubt I actually worked over 1250 hours with my employer because I only worked weekends due to going to school during the week.

Also, the problem I have with even trying to apply for a 'desk job' (aside from the fact that It's hard to get one, seeing as how I have no qualifications) is that I'm actually have lots of problems sitting. Most of the time I'm reclining or lying down, I guess because sitting must aggravate whatever is being irritated/pinched in my back. So I don't even get on my PC any more because I can't sit up in the computer chair long enough, and for that reason I also am hardly able to drive myself anywhere...even when off my medication.

I haven't seen a pain specialist yet, but perhaps I should. Right now I'm just on hydrocodone, which only helps a very little bit and makes me loopy and tired. So I can't drive or anything when I take it, and since I take it every six hours that means I'm pretty much either in severe pain or too loopy to drive or really do much of anything.

I just felt that maybe I should wait until I KNOW this is going to last for a long time, but the catch is that the longer I wait the less and less money I have to take care of myself. I'm lucky I live with my father, or else I'd be in very dire straits indeed. So I'm grateful for that, even if it means money is a little thin for him, which bothers me. But yeah, thanks so much everyone.

If I do apply I'll get a lawyer.

I also don't really understand the difference between SSDI and SSI, which also kind of confuses me. I sorta wish people would help with the actual application, in addition to advocating once you actually have applied already. I had applied in the past when I was younger, citing mental problems but was denied. It took so long that by the time it was denied I felt that it was rightly decided and I indeed could work, so I never followed through with an appeal. I'm glad on one hand that I did do that, but it also makes me nervous about filing again due to this.

Veteran Member

Date Joined Jul 2008
Total Posts : 2317
   Posted 2/8/2011 7:10 PM (GMT -6)   
Mr K-
Sorry I don't have any more advice to offer about the SSDI process.

As for the pain meds, definitely try to see a board-cert PM. I had a VERY hard time with drowsiness for months after I first started on pain meds. Often you develop a tolerance to the side effects over time (sometimes without developing a tolerance to the benefits of the medicine). Provigil helped with everything but the driving -- & I had a VERY detail oriented job. I also worked on staying better hydrated (dehydration causes drowsiness) and special breathing exercises.
Another thing that might help -- assuming you have insurance -- is Radio Frequency Nerve Ablation (or it's opposite, cryoablation). Lasts much longer than an epidural, usually. +'s are: short, outpatient, few side effects, couple weeks to get full benefit, cheaper than back surgery in short run; -'s are: only lasts 12-18 months usually before it needs repeating, more expensive than back surgery in long run unless you're lucky like me & it lasts for several years per RF. Usually PM's do RF's, sometimes NS's will.

I hope you get things sorted out as quickly as possible. So frustrating that SSDI seems so hard for legit patients to get & so easy for "gamers" to win. Wish it weren't so.

Retired Mom
Veteran Member

Date Joined Feb 2010
Total Posts : 1753
   Posted 2/8/2011 7:36 PM (GMT -6)   
Hi and welcome to HW!

Please don't feel like you are wrong to apply for SSD. An attorney will be your best resource, but please look for one with a very good reputation. As around in your community and I'm sure people will talk. This is how I found mine and she was wonderful. There are so many factors that determine whether or not you are awarded ssd and there is no way to know in advance.

I would try some serious medical intervention before I gave in to surgery (in hind sight) unless there are no other options. That's just my opinion, but then again I don't do too well with surgery and mine was a failure. Some people do wonderfully. I also use the RFA procedure now and it helps me tremendously. I still have to take the meds, but life is livable with the RFA and meds. Without them is horrible.

If you are ready to file for ssd, just go online and look at the ssd site. It's pretty easy to do online, but you need to have some medical documentation to support your claims. As far as the 1/3 for the attorney goes, that's up to $6000.00 total right now. I just won mine so I'm up to date as recently as a few months ago.

I wish you all the best!
Failed fusion L5-S1, Pituatary damage, HGH Def, Fibro, Bladder surgery failure, Nissen Failure, GERD, OCPD, GAD, MDD, CTS (Bilateral Surgery completed), CFS, TMJ, Migraines, Vit D, A, Magnesium deficiency, Pre-glaucomic (sp?), HBP, Idiopatic Reactive Hypoglycemia, Edema, too many Drug/Food allergies, sensitivites, and current meds to list.

artist guy
Veteran Member

Date Joined Jan 2010
Total Posts : 1373
   Posted 2/8/2011 8:19 PM (GMT -6)   

hey, I'm from crohns forum, but I saw the thread on disab. if I were you, I would apply for state disab. SDI. SSDI is way different than ssi. ssdi is ssd. sdi is state disab. where ssdi is government. I applied for ssdi in march of 10, but first I went onto sdi, this you have to do thru your dr. sdi pays max of 12 months, but you can get some money coming in before you get approved. You will be denied first time, unless you lou gerhigs or you are blind. i was denied because i can walk and move my arms freely, i was approved after they got narrative report from my gi. i was approved in 8 months. yes you should make copies of everything, they look for inconsistency in your answers. mine were the same everytime. Yes people look at me kinda weird, because I can walk and move my  arms freely, I used binder and binder, the largest disab. lawyer in U.S. ssd looks at your filing differently when you have lawyer, they know your init for the long haul. good luck. sorry if I interupted your thread



Forum Moderator

Date Joined Feb 2003
Total Posts : 16423
   Posted 2/8/2011 9:09 PM (GMT -6)   
Mister many of us have had to file for SSD and it was tough at first but here is how I look at it. I have worked since I was 14 yrs old paying into the system. No, I had not planned on having to apply early but ended up doing so. Regardless I would have applied for this money sooner or later.

The difference between SSD and SSI is to be qualified for SSI you can have very little if any type of income and both are based on disability too. It is really controlled and has lots of stipulations. The SSA office has a very easy website to navigate around and you really should check it out. I would urge you to contact the SSA and inquire about your earning requirements to see if you qualify for SSD. You have to have paid in 8 earnings quarters to be eligible for SSD. If you have not met the earnings quarter requirements you may qualify for SSI. Most attys do not want to get involved with a SSD claim unless the person has been denied the first time around. Also when applying they will check to see if you qualify for SSI.

I was initially awarded benefits because of crohns disease and not CP. I did not hire an atty either. If you decide to hire an atty be sure they handle nothing but SSD claims only. Stay away from the tv guide attys that advertise on tv and brag about how wonderful they are and such, they are usually not worth shooting. Those guys are into volumes of clients and have no idea who their clients are, they are a number only. Stay with someone local in your area. I worked as a paralegal for over 20 yrs. Hire an atty on a contingency fee agreement only, do not pay one money up front. Atty cannot take one third of your past due benefits either. It is set out by SSA on what an atty can charge for his time on the work he has done on your file. SSA sets those rules not the atty. The atty files a fee petition and itemizes his work done on the claim. Considering the length of time it takes in the filing process I would not delay filing.

I do hope you will obtain a consultation with a neurosurgeon before agreeing to any surgery. Good luck.
Moderator Chronic Pain Forum

Regular Member

Date Joined Dec 2010
Total Posts : 213
   Posted 2/9/2011 7:54 AM (GMT -6)   
I am currently on disability and at first I was not going to apply. I had leukemia in 2004 and had chemo and a bone marrow transplant with only a 50% chance of surviving the transplant and a 30% chance of being cancer free for the rest of my life. My doctors told me to file. I was told on the phone that I would be approved because the type of cancer that I had was in their qualifications book as a terminal illness. I was approved in 2004 nearly immediately (got the approval letter within 2 months). I was on supplemental security income for a few months before the social security disability kicked in. Even if you are approved right away, it takes a 6 month waiting period to get benefits.

In 2007 they reviewed my case and did not even get any current doctors records for my conditions. This was all done without my knowledge. I just got a letter in the mail saying that I no longer qualified for benefits and that I could start working and making a gainful income. I appealed and decided to continue my benefits during the appeal process. No lawyer would touch me because I was still getting my benefits, they all wanted at least $1800 to even look at my claim. I went to a reconsideration hearing in 2009 with a person from social security disability and gave her a bunch of doctors records and in it my cancer doctor said that I had many complications from my BMT and that in his opinion I could not work. I don't even think she read the paperwork, 5 days later I got a denial in the mail. So I appealed that denial and continued my benefits. The next step is the judge advocate hearing. I finally have secured a lawyer (just within the last few days). Because my only income is my disability I qualify for free legal services through our state. Thankfully!!

The SSDI appeals and hearings process takes a long time. In 2010 (May), I got a letter from the judge advocate telling me they would be scheduling a hearing soon and if I wanted a lawyer now was the time to get one. Since that letter, I have not gotten anything other communications from SSDI. I am not sure exactly what their definition of "soon" is. LOL! But, the lawyer is on my side as is my cancer doctor, pain mgmt doctor and psychiatrist, so I am hoping in their review of my case that they will approve me without even the judge advocate hearing. I have heard this sometimes happens when the judge advocate reads your file and has a medical person consult.

All of this is just to tell you how long I have been fighting the SSA for my disability. I would apply as soon as possible if you feel that you cannot work and will not be able to for at least a year. Your doctors do have to be on board with this, if they aren't you will surely be denied. I also wouldn't bother getting a lawyer until you have to appeal a decision. Just my opinion.

DX pyoderma gangrenosum, Acute Myelogenous Leukemia, Bone Marrow Transplant, Chronic Pain syndrome, Chronic Kidney Disease Stage 3, Major Depressive Disorder, Radiculopathy, Bilateral Hip Pain, Insomnia,Left Groin Hernia, Bulging Disk in Lumbar Spine, Tear in Lumbar Spine, Tendonitis and Bursitis in both hips.

Regular Member

Date Joined Jan 2011
Total Posts : 374
   Posted 2/10/2011 1:07 PM (GMT -6)   
Wow, thanks everyone. I'm really moved by everyone's experiences in regards to this. I guess my main problem is just that I don't know how 'bad' my condition is, and if I have a good chance at recovering. I get such wildly different opinions and I am just left in the middle wondering which one is correct and who to listen to. Which is what leads me to keep saying 'well I'll see what the doctor says', only to keep coming home with no more idea of what to do than before.

I think one of the worst things is that every one of these different organizations and offices that one has to deal with don't have quite the same concept of time as everyone else--especially people in pain. It takes months and sometimes even years, but they aren't the ones who actually have to deal with this all day after day.

Thanks again, everyone. I'm still hoping to get a better idea of everything.
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