I think my mom needs to go out on disability, how do I help her do it?
March 22, 2019 6:09 PM   Subscribe

My mother has several longstanding medical conditions - scoliosis and dystonia, which is a neurological disorder. She is frequently in pain throughout the day and just going to work is becoming difficult - I think its time for her to step away from the working world and go on disability. The problem is I have no experience navigating through all this stuff and neither does she. More info inside.

Things are getting to the point with my mother's health where if she could go out in the next few months that would be great, I'm not sure how much more stamina she has left. But as I mentioned, I don't know a lot about the disability bureaucracy. My mom hasn't been able to help me either (or herself), because when she talks to HR she just gets confused. I feel like I probably shouldn't call her job and say "Hey, my mom wants to go on disability so I need you to give me some information".

From what she has told me her job provides short-term disability at 50% pay until long term kicks in, which would be 70%. I can cover the income gap for her during the short term period. Long-term she would be able to make it at that level with some lifestyle changes.

Is this how the process goes? What happens after that? I kinda feel like we are jumping into the breach here.

Some relevant details:

-We are in the state of North Carolina, U.S.
-Mom's medial conditions have been documented for over 20 years, there is a long paper trail
-Her doctors are willing to sign off on disability paperwork from what they have said.
-Mom has been talking to a spinal surgeon who says she is eligible for spinal-corrective surgery, which is a whole other thing that makes me nervous, but I feel like it helps to make our case.
-Mom is 58, has been at her company now for about 15 years.

If anyone has some experience guiding a parent through this process and has any advice, I'd love to hear it. Thank you!
posted by ajax287 to Law & Government (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You can get a lawyer to help with a Social Security claim, and The National Organization of Social Security Claimants' Representatives (NOSSCR) offers a lawyer referral service at 1-800-431-2804 and an overview of the Social Security process. Attorney fees in Social Security cases are contingency fee arrangements, if free legal help is not available.

For disability insurance through the employer, you could consult with an attorney whose practice that includes employment law.
posted by Little Dawn at 6:26 PM on March 22, 2019 [1 favorite]

MeMail me please.
posted by bile and syntax at 6:31 PM on March 22, 2019

Get a lawyer. Interview many, select one. IAAL, IANYL, I am not a disability lawyer, but I did a pro-bono case in social-security disability law, and I believe the system is set up to avoid paying. (That's how I would set up such a system!) Disability lawyers know how to work the system -- what to do, what not to do. A legitimately-disabled person may eventually succeed in getting support, but having somebody who knows what the roadblocks look like, and how to avoid them, is important to getting support sooner rather than later.
posted by spacewrench at 7:01 PM on March 22, 2019

Yes, get a lawyer. I am aware of regs that prevent people of your mother's age (in other words, younger than 65) from accessing Medicare for 2 years following the start of disability, but I am not sure of all the details. Also be aware that most larger employers force disabled people to move off of their company-issued private health insurance and onto Medicare after the initial 2 year period. You want to be prepared and you and your mom should know what to expect.
posted by citygirl at 7:25 PM on March 22, 2019

Agree with everyone above about getting a lawyer but want to add one thing. By going to work despite her problems she is "demonstrating" that she doesn't need disability. That's what those looking to deny her claim will argue.
posted by Obscure Reference at 7:39 AM on March 23, 2019

I went on employer-provided disability, solely based on my doctor's letter to the disability insurance company. My employer was not informed of the nature of the disability. Way easier than Soc. Sec. disability. Your Mom should not have any conversation or correspondence with them; it should go through someone like a lawyer, because they will try to terminate coverage. 1st step, help from a doctor who agrees that she should not be working. It was my doc who persuaded me to go on disability.

My brother has dystonia, your Mom has my sympathy, and she deserves to be not working and getting care. My brother works very part-time, at least in part to be social, and is on Soc. Sec. disability, which did require some help from a lawyer. There are complicated regulations, get a well-qualified lawyer.
posted by theora55 at 10:41 AM on March 23, 2019 [1 favorite]

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