Walk me through the disability process? (U.S.)

November 6, 2017 2:56 PM   Subscribe

It’s become apparent that I will not be able to work any time in the near future. How do I apply for disability? What things affect it? Who can I ask for help? I'm confused about my age related to the rules. Any tips or other things to think about?


Utah based.
27 years old, married.
No kids. 

My husband makes enough for us both, save some, but I cannot work.

(If something were to happen to him I would be screwed. I want my own financial security to pay down my student loans.) 

We have joint bank accounts and I manage money for bills through “my” account.

I am on my husband’s health insurance.

I left my job in April 2015. (Thinking I would figure out what was wrong, fix it, and work again. HA!) 

I should have enough credits from working?? I did over 1.5 years full-time and many part time jobs since I was 17.
I went to college until 2012 when I graduated.

I have a side hobby, that this year MIGHT break even, but likely not turn a profit this year. It may make a few hundred dollars next year. 

My illness is indefinite. It may get better, it may not. 

Most confusing:

I’ve been dealing with illness for probably 7 or so years.
But I didn’t officially resign from my job until just after I turned 25. (I submitted my resignation 11 days after I turned 25.) 

What would be when my illness started? How does that affect my earned credits?
I’m sort of on the cusp of the before 24/after 24 breakdown. Or do I have enough credits regardless of that? (I'm now 27) 
I was severely sick the entire time I worked from 2013 until I left my job in 2015. (And before.)


What information do we need?

What do I need from my doctor?

What age then was my disability?
Should I get an official copy of my birth certificate or is it okay to send the one I have on hand? (I think I have one?)

Who do we talk to (locally?) to help?

How can I be sure everything is in order before submitting?

Future problem:

What if I were to get off disability, work again, then need to leave work again. Can I reapply later on? 

Any other tips or things we should be aware of?

Thank you all so much. You can also feel free to DM me if wish.
posted by SockWombat to Law & Government (12 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I'm no expert on eligibility for disability, but I can tell you that this web page seems to be authoritative and clear and addresses many of your questions. I hope it's helpful to you.
posted by reren at 3:11 PM on November 6, 2017

Your past earnings have no bearing on your eligibility for some disability payments - there are people on SSI from birth. SSDI is only available if you've paid into it enough:
If you become disabled in the quarter you turned age 27, then you would need three years of work out of the six-year period ending with the quarter you became disabled.
Expect to be turned down and need to appeal. (I haven't gone through the process, but several friends have.) When you finally do get approved, expect it to say that you don't get any money because your husband makes too much - but you'll have the official gov't disability label to use when necessary (taxes, applying for housing, etc.).

You get eligibility for payments based on current resources; I believe you remain "disabled" by gov't standards even if you're employed. You may need regular confirmations that you're still disabled, if you can take on a job; however, disabilities are understood not to vanish just because one particular job can work with them.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 3:19 PM on November 6, 2017

going by the experiences of friends:

- you should know that many, many claims (more than half, i believe) are denied the first time. this may be a long and involved process, and you may be turned down more than once, even if you have evidence of disability.

- you can try an initial application without a lawyer, but having a lawyer for the initial application can be helpful. if you are denied the first time, you will probably need a lawyer to help you with the appeals process.

- there is a contingency fee program for social security attorneys -- they only get paid if you are approved, and their fees are capped at a set amount; you reimburse them after your claim is approved.

- if you haven't already spoken to your doctor about this, i would start there. granted, doctors aren't lawyers or SSDI specialists, but your doctor may have assisted other patients with your condition, before, particularly if you're seeing a specialist for your condition.
posted by halation at 3:22 PM on November 6, 2017 [2 favorites]

If your student loans are with the federal government, you might be eligible to have them discharged if you will be disabled for at least 60 months.
posted by FencingGal at 3:26 PM on November 6, 2017

Clarification I should have stated that I am specifically looking at SSDI. (Not SSI)
Everything I have read states that a spouses income only affects SSI (supplemental) NOT SSDI. This page for example.
posted by SockWombat at 3:52 PM on November 6, 2017

Also, with the student loan discharge, since I left my job over 2.5 years ago, then that means it should be expected that my illness/disability last for at about another 2.5 years, correct? I can't see myself becoming able bodied enough in that time.
posted by SockWombat at 3:57 PM on November 6, 2017

You should get a lawyer to even contemplate this.
posted by JayRwv at 4:09 PM on November 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

My wife and I are in a similar situation with her chronic health conditions. We started the application process a couple years ago and after several rejections (that we expected) we're waiting for a hearing. The lawyers we talked to wouldn't get involved until we had already been rejected and needed to file an appeal.

If you don't already, start getting copies of all your medical records. You'll need to provide info on what tests and treatments you've had done. Also, if you have your own copies, you can provide those with your application rather than waiting for them to contact your doctors to get copies.

And depending on what your health condition is, prepare to be frustrated. If it's not one of their list of qualifying conditions, you'll get rejected and will have to appeal (and then get rejected again).
posted by bajema at 4:17 PM on November 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

Are there support groups in your area for others with your condition? Disability lawyers are not all the same. getting one who comes highly recommended should be your goal. it took Mrs. Megafly 3 years and two hearings with the judge to get approved. The only silver lining is that in some cases, you can claim disability back to the "Day of Onset" Your lawyer can explain more about that. In some cases, you can only claim one year past the date you apply for disability so the sooner you apply, the sooner you can get things moving.
posted by Megafly at 4:57 PM on November 6, 2017

Does your doctor's office have a social worker? If so, ask to meet with them. They should be able to help guide you.
posted by Waiting for Pierce Inverarity at 5:01 PM on November 6, 2017

Hi there. I successfully applied for SSDI last year and was approved on my first application. I have a particular condition that is typically approved and doctors who are familiar with the disability process, which is helpful. Inform your doctor that you plan to apply so they can expect to be contacted.

I strongly, strongly recommend applying online through ssa.gov. The process begins with a checklist of everything you need. The instructions are straightforward and you can save your progress. You provide your doctor contact information and ssa reps will contact them for your records.

The online application was a much less stressful experience than trying to do this in the local ssa office. It seemed to be more efficient as well.

You may also have a nonprofit disability advocacy center nearby. My local one offers free support throughout the application process. I didn't have to use it, but it was nice to know it was available just in case.

Additionally, you can go back to
work after disability, and if you prove too sick to continue, you can return to disability. There's a million rules regarding that and I'm just starting to explore the possibility of work someday.
posted by mochapickle at 5:50 PM on November 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

If you create an SSA account, the benefits page should tell you whether the SSA thinks you've earned enough credits for SSDI. (It should also be reported in your yearly SSA statement.)

For student loan discharge, while you can get it for a disability expected to last five continuous years, your official "disability date" (unless your disability is military service-related) is the date that the servicer gets your TPD application + documentation. Only the amount owed at disability date gets forgiven. This means that the earlier you apply, the better, since payments made while disabled but before the "disability date" will not be refunded, even if theoretically, had you applied earlier, they would not have had to have been made.

Note also that, at least under current regulations, loans discharged for TPD are treated as taxable income for the year of discharge.
posted by praemunire at 9:14 PM on November 6, 2017

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