Advice from the About Bipolar Disorder Forum Community members about applying for disability and tackling those sometimes bewildering government forms that have to be filled out as part of your application.
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Applying for Disabilityfrom Jerry
Though some lawyers may say it doesn't matter, it does matter that one get a good social security specialist, ask around for a local one (don't accept advertising as the truth), find people who have used local attorneys, check NAMI or other mental health organisations.
If you write well, have good back-up from your psychiatrist and therapist (having both really help, serve to corroborate one another), and maybe a psych hospitalization or two under your belt, you may be able to do it yourself with no legal fees. When I was looking and started applying, the best attorney for disability issues in my area said he only took the cases once they had gone through the local review process. Many states and/or local agencies perform the first and second level reviews for SS Administration. If, on first pass, the state agency approves, you are in ... short delay, no fees. The second pass by the state is called a "review," not appeal. Again, if its ok'd here, just a bit more time and no attorney fees. One warning, some states have a several month period between the first review and the second on your request. It may help if you can get a hold of the person who does the second review, it probably can't be done the first time around since these things tend to be randomly assigned at the last moment.
If you have a spouse or significant other living with you and having to put up with your rants and bad ways (we have them, so 'fess up), be sure she/he includes what I will call a "sob" letter about how the illness affects you, your ability to work, how you fail to function in social and community life, how your illness has impacted your relationship with parents, siblings, her/him, and children, if any. Include the family pet if it now makes a wide circle around you on its way to the food bowl (kidding, but many reviewers are pet lovers and can be swayed).
Bad news, all this work will not help many applicants for social security disability and may not help but a very few going for SSI. For some reason, Social Security Disability Insurance is protected by the states as though it was their own money, coming direct from the state treasury. I haven't looked into the matter and maybe someone is more informed, do the states get funds for keeping the lid on SSDI payments? I mean, for over 25 years I contributed at close to the maximum from my paycheck to Social Security. I doubt that my starting to draw my disability at 48 will ever give back to me even 75 % of my contributions. But, then, I'm messing with the actuaries. Its all based upon us starting to draw, on the average, at age 65, so I'm cheating by 17 years.
My own story is brief. I got my disability without having to appeal to the SSA. My application went to the second level review at the South Carolina office in Greenville, SC. As I was about to move back to Texas, I called and found out who was reviewing my case, spoke to her, and found she had not started the review. It was near her deadline for doing so, but she wanted me to reapply in Texas ... a good way to close one of her cases. Convinced her not to and strongly suggested she read all supporting material, especially the letter my wife wrote. Apparently, that made an impression, I got my award three months later, along with an $11,000 check and without attorney fees. The money helped us buy our home ... equally great because home price in the Houston market were 75% and less than in Greenville so we were able to find a much larger home for the same amount we had been paying in rent.
Page 2 - Filling Out the Forms