Hi IndianSummer48 and Chris Schomber,
I believe I am one of the "miracles" when it comes to getting SSD. I applied in May 2009, filled out a tremendous amount of different packets, went through 3 SSA appointments (doctor, lab, and mental testing) and was totally taken by suprise to find out that I had been approved in December 2009! It has to be a miracle becuase I still had about 4 more packets that I hadn't returned yet. At one MS Support Group Meeting there was a representative from the SSA to speak. She couldn't even answer questions honestly because there were so many people who obviously had been denied from the start and were very frustrated. There was even one gentleman who was wheelchair-bound, obvious physical impairments, and he had been fighting for 5 years. He got to the Federal level and was finally approved then.
One thing is that if you are currently working and you earn over $900.00 per month you will be automatically DISQUALIFIED due to your income. So, first step is to make sure you are not exceeding a gross income of $900.00 per month. Secondly, when you complete your first application (which I would suggest doing online) you really need to pay careful attention to their questions and how you answer them. Some of their questions to me were repetitive in a "tricky" manner. They will ask you questions that are going to be hard to answer! Like myself they wanted to know how long I could walk (I didn't know, I only knew that within a few movements I would be hugging the wall or meeting the floor!) The best thing to do is to be very maticulous in your answers. Let them know that you can't cook, wash clothes, dust furniture, clean a toilet, sweep the floor, etc. You really need to think "How does my MS affect my ability to do these ordinary things?" Does your pain limit your activity or is it spasticity, numbness, fatigue....how fatigued do you get? what makes you fatigued? If you answer that shopping makes you very tired....well there's a problem with your answer then. But, if you answer that you can no longer shop, even for groceries, anymore due to your fatigue, pain, numbness, memory & cognitive issues, weakness, etc.... that's what they are looking for.
Another thing is to think ahead...they are going to ask you on your initial application for a person's name and address/phone information that would have knowledge of your current condition. This one was really tough for me b/c I knew that by putting my HB would be bias, but I couldn't list another relative who didn't live near me either. Plus, you need to be able to discuss the documents that your designated person completes and how they answer questions so your paperwork will be in line with theirs.
The SSA scheduled me to have a "physical exam" by one of their hired dr's. Make sure someone accompanies you to this appointment to show that you need help in every aspect (driving, remembering things, physical help, etc.) The office where I went didn't even have a wheelchair accessible entry!!! Nor was the dwelling wheelchair accessible!!! They are going to ask you questions that are very intrusive, "How long does it take you to use the bathroom and how many times a day do you go" and even if you can wash your own hair, bathe yourself, cook, OH and definitely if your ability to do your PERSONAL FINANCES (home budget) has been affected or not. I told them "HE** yea, our credit was ruined b/c of me and can't do it anymore" which was the honest truth. The doctor himself probably won't listen to you very well. PLUS they are going to watch your every move......even documenting whether or not you were able to pick up your purse without problem.
I know this b/c I had completed the second part of my appointment letter for the results to be sent to my treating dr. When I read what the SSA's dr wrote I was furious! He stated that I could work an 8 hour job sitting in my chair with reasonable breaks, occasionally lifting or carrying up to 25lbs, but would have problems handling small objects and standing. He didn't note the problems I have with my bladder and bowel functions, or fatigue, or pain.......He even did his own exam that wasn't even close to a neurological exam, b/c he wasn't even a neurologist!
But, when they scheduled the appointment for my "mental exam" which really means an IQ test, be prepared to feel like an idiot afterwards. They will give you math problems to complete, timed, and to draw images from another paper. Then they take the paper with the drawings away from you and tell you to draw all the images you remember. Repeating numbers forwards and backwards. Putting blocks together to make an image, timed of course, asking you who the president is, then asking you for the definition of a list of words, etc.... All I have to say is that when I wheeled out of that test I felt like the dumbest person and was extremely embarrassed. If anyone is with you they will also pull them aside privately and ask them questions about you, even a child as they did this to my son.
My whole point is to be very detailed, don't show up as a whiz kid or with good memory, make sure you are having a "BAD" day. If you know what triggers mini-flares.....instigate it so you will show just how you really are on your BAD days. Oh and one more important thing.....definitely list every diagnosis you have...even if it is b/c of your MS...list it! Example: Multiple Sclerosis, Chronic Fatigue, Chronic Pain, Depression.....and so forth. Look at every category under the SSA's website for Adult Listing of Impairments - you may find that you have other diagnosis' listed on their site and you need to make sure you list them along with MS.
If you are rejected after your first application, GET AN ATTORNEY to file your appeal. Generally if you get to the point of an attorney you should get resolvement within 6 months. Personally, I would hire a local attorney who specializes in SSD and not one from a TV commercial that's nationwide. Also, keep a copy of everything you send, date everything from mailings to phone calls. You need to keep your own journal about SSA. I'd also recommend obtaining a copy of all of your medical records before applying to give you an opportunity to get an corrections needed before SSA gets your records. Plus, call and inquire on the status of your application. For some reason it was told to our MS group that this was something SSA took note of in a positive way.
I don't know if SSA is structured the same in your state but in my state the decision is actually made by a Disability Adjudicator at the Department of Labor. Which reminds me of another important aspect. When you complete the packet about your previous work.....make sure you detail the areas of the job that would be now impossible or painful, etc. to do now. Especially reaching, grabbing, squatting, kneeling, etc....those are very important details that they will use to determine whether or not you could do a different sedimentary job which would disqualify you for SSD.
I'm sorry for such a long post but I'm just trying to help as much as I can based on my experiences. If you are approved for SSD, they don't tell you that if you have children or a spouse that you need to file a separate application, in order for your family to also recieve benefits based on your work credits. If you are approved for SSD, then your children under 18 will automatically be approved to receive up to 50% of your benefit each month and is also retroactive to your determined date of disability. If you look at your yearly statement SSA mails out it is 99.9% accurate as to what your benefits will be. Just keep in mind that family benefits do not include you (meaning your monthly benefits). So if you are told that you are awarded $1,000.00 per month SSD, then each child (up to three children or two children and one spouse) is also eligible to get $500.00 per month each on top of your monthly SSD payment. You will need to speak with a bookkeeper/tax adviser because they only take out Medicare taxes automatically. You have to request and submit a form for them to take out Federal taxe. SSA will not take out State taxes.
If I can be of any help to anyone please do not hesitate to ask me anything. I believe whole-heartedly that SSA denies over 90% of the truely needy Americans who have paid in their SSA taxes and that they are stone-walled on purpose.
Pray, Believe, and Recieve, not in our timeframe or our way, but In His Time and His Way!
Pray without ceasing. In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. 1 Thessalonians 4:17,18
Just started Copaxone 06/2009
Monthly IV Solumedrol since 03/2009
Diagnosed RRMS October 2008
ACDF C6/C7 May 2008
ACDF C5/C6 May 2005