[Member Discussions and Questions] How Did You Get Started on Disability Application for Rheumatoid Arthritis?

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January 14, 2013

One member wants to know how you got started on the application for disability? Did you quit your jobs first and hope you would get approved or is it better to stay on until you’ve been approved? Also, how do you know when it is time to apply?

Thanks in advance for your help in answering her questions! (((pain-free internet hugs)))

What our members have said so far:

Jennifer – You have to have your doctors back you up and say your disable if not its very hard to get approved

Alanna – I tried working for a year after diagnosis. When I began having more bad days than good days, I went out on temporary disability again. I continue to chase remission but am also looking toward the future.. For me it all depends on good days versus bad days.

Kathleen – if your working they won’t approve you..I am not sure in the states but up here in Canada it’s a horrible took me almost a year to get approved and it wasn’t till I went to the local MLA’s office that I finally got it..(Member of Parliament)

Kathy – I was working at the time and filled out my app on line heard back from them within 2 weeks and was approved right off the bat which surprised me. I knew I couldn’t work any longer as I just wanted to stay in bed all day it was hard for me to sit still for any amount of time once I heard back from them I started staying at home plus the company was going bankrupt so it came at a good time!!

Julie – I had taken off work on disability. I had to have my union reps help because work disability was giving me problems and work was angling to give me problems. When the rep saw my hands she insisted that we apply online for SSDI right away. So I actually started the process before I lost my job. I eventually did loose my job, but while I was going through that, the process was already started. I am one of the few fortunate ones that was approved on the first try. It took several months.

Alanna – You can not apply in the states if you are working, you need to be on disability or not working at all.

Lisa – Kathleen, where in Canada are you? I am in Ontario. Still working but don’t know how much longer I can do it

Jennifer – I would speak to your doctors first and tell them you want to apply for SSI and what they think,because sometimes doctors don’t agree and SSI sometimes send you to their own doctors

Suzanne – I quit my job on Friday (gave notice of course.) then applied with Allsup on Monday. You won’t get approved in U.S. if you are still working, useless you are just applying for supplemental income, not permanent disability. I knew it was just time, had a few surgeries coming up and i knew i would be off for those. You just know in your heart.

Alanna – my pcp told me they have a new head of social security so you have a 50/50 chance of approval on first application, which is much better than it used to be. You do need to have support from your doctors to get the approval. They need to send narratives and medical records. It is better if you can get a lawyer or advocate to file for you.

Carmela – I applied online while already out of work. 2 months later they called me and said they couldn’t read my doctors reports well so they would either send me to their doc or have one call my doc. They ended up having their doc call my doc for a full report and 1 month later I was approved. I believe it is soooooo important to have your doc on your side and ready to go to bat for you.

Bonnie – I had no choice but to quit my job first…practically paralyzed for almost 2 months….I resigned from my job and never went back…it takes a lot of faith AND guts to do it that way…I applied for disability and with in 2 months was approved by Social Security and after the 5 month waiting period I got my first disability check.

Laura – I got approved back in 1994 & was collecting unemployment at the time and got approved but it did not kick in until 5 months after unemployment ran out.

Theresa – I had stopped working shortly after my dx, I didn’t work for four years, my doctors kept telling me to apply. I finally did last summer, online..I was approved in about 45 days! I didn’t expect it to go so fast….they sent me a lengthy application to fill out…

Toni – I had to quit my job first. No way could I continue….

Sarah – U can get full dla and work full time ! I personally think the work keeps me going ! But we all dif tbh ! Don’t rush into quit work as can get support to help aid u do the job plz look plenty helpful web sites NRAS being one of these find u right path to go ! All the best x

Rhoda – I would like that’s in this as well I haven’t worked in ten years and may have to go back. Not sure I can. Some days are OK but most just stink. Everybody has told me I cant get any disability because I haven’t worked.. please if you have information that can help me please inbox me..

Karen – Have a talk with your doctor and take it from there… i think you have to quite work … I did when I filed in 1993.. but it has changed so much over the years

Cherie – I waited until it really hurt too bad to get up. Got denied twice and personally found a huge stack of paper evidence belonging to some middle and MAN in the middle of my Social Security Office file. hmmmm

Elviera – took sick days from work, then unemployment, then quit job & took early retirement. Then applied. Took a while.

Trish – Quit working when you can no longer work and you have your doctor’s word to back you up!

Tanya – I quit after i was declared disabled. I was denied twice before i got it. I couldn’t afford to not work. make sure you get a lawyer, it helps. good luck!

Carmela – Rhoda I believe you had to have worked sometime in the last six years leading to your disability.

Angela – Who lives in Ca. and has gotten approved. They didn’t approve me the first time because they said my husbands income over qualified us… Has anyone gone through the same thing I have?

Kathy – I was working but it was a little part time job and my boss was also a good friend he paid me cash so that is how I applied while I was working have been on disability now for 4 years and hate that I can’t work anymore

Annie – Go to your congressional representative. They have case workers that help with ssi. Makes all the difference

Lisa – Until I was too disabled to work, then I applied that week. My pride wouldn’t let me before that. First time I applied I was approved and I did it all on my own. Went to each medical office and got full copies of my medical records, typed a long letter of why I needed to be on disability, and took my sister along with me on the day of the interview at the SSA.

Widow – I have multiple disabilities. I was approved before being diagnosed with RA. But to answer your question, I stopped working due to the disability, then applied. I was denied all the way up until I saw a judge who then approved me. I lived off welfare and food stamps. Which did not cover much. I lived way below poverty for over 2 years.

Michelle -I’m in the UK, and basically you get naff all! And I haven’t just got RA, I have a whole list of health problems, related to the immune system.

Denice -You cannot be working or able to work full time making over a certain amount of money a month and apply for disability. They consider anything over $1000 or whatever they consider gainful income for that year or they’ll say you can support yourself. I was Community Leader of the disability board on iVillage until they merged that board with another so feel free to message me any questions.

Nathan -apply get a disability lawyer , log everything….the SSDI denies everyone to start with just as insurance companies. Remember it is a process and access to a government program.

Cathy – i got mine took 19 months and if your working they wont let ya have it i lived on food stamps lost all i had but back pay got it all back good luck

Janet – I was denied because I was a school district employee and in Texas, schools have their own pension plan and don’t pay into Social Security at all.

Colleen -Took me a long time. Almost 3 years. When I got into my hearing the judge was outraged that I was jerked around. All he did was look at my hands and I was approved.

Terri – Make sure you fill everything out carefully on the application. Do not skip anything. Go see every doc who will back up your disability claim and have them write a letter to that effect. Keep copies of everything, and I mean everything. I was not turned down the first time I sent the documents in and was surprised as everyone said that it usually happens. Good luck and take your time. Befriend a nice person at your local social security office as they can be very helpful!

Colleen -And I worked the whole time but stayed within the criteria they give as far as working while on disability

Raeanna – I am not working and applied about 3 months ago. Still waiting on decision. Crossing my fingers.

June – Quit first…couldn’t work anymore! Approved the first application. Be very thorough with documentation like Terri above advises. I could have quit sooner, though.

Cheryl -I applied after I was off work 6 months and it was very apparent I would not be able to return to work. Fill out every part of the application, get letters from every Dr you’ve seen and keep copies of any correspondence. Pull out old W2s if you need to, to prove income. When I applied the social security office sent me a printout of all my reported payments… I had paid in the max amount for 7 years in a row and they had to verify…. that’s where W2’s came in. I was turned down the first time, but had a hearing less than six months from the initial rejection and was approved then.

Denise – how do you go about beginning the process? I have been thinking about this as I am not working right now but because 3 years ago when my first child was born I quit my job, not from my RA. But now my RA has progressed rapidly and I don’t think I could ever work again…whats the first step to applying for disability?

Pennie – I have been on SSDI for 3 yrs now. I was approved on my first application. I worked as a Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor for the State of AZ for 12 yrs. I had an advantage of working with my clients as they applied for SSDI. Here are some suggestions.
1. You can NOT be working when you apply.
2. You must have a well documented diagnosis
3. Choose the doc to fill out your application very carefully, they must be in agreement with you that you can no longer work.
4. An attorney working on your behalf is best. You won’t have to pay anything unless you are approved, so you have nothing to lose. If you can find an attorney with a medical background that is best. My attorney was a doctor in the military.
5. Once you’re approved and you feel that you could go back to work you could work part time and still maintain benefits. You want to try and earn less than $800/month. SSDI will take away $1 for every $2 you earn. You will actually end up making more money if you’re capable of working a little.
Please feel free to inbox me if you have any questions. Best of Luck!!!

Donna – Instead of getting an attorney, I recommend using the services of Allsup. Their employees have worked in the Soc. Sec. system and know how to get claims approved. They claim to have a 98% approval rating if you start your claim through them. They got me approved after I had been denied. The judge approved my claim “on the record” meaning I did not have to appear before her.

Zaufyshan – Be Strong, don’t think of it as a disability!

Gail – i quit after being diagnosed i was really bad tho , i applied on line by my self and sent the letter from my rheumy along with lab results and was approved with in 4 months … i know i was one of a few ppl that happens to it took getting an attorney to get my hubby approved and he was in stage 4 renal failure . not everyone gets an award letter the first time . good luck

Debra – If you’re working you aren’t considered disabled. I quit and then filed. I was approved in 2 months. Jump through all of the hoops and its smooth sailing. At least it was for me. Good luck!

Kelly – I’m so relieved to see so many people on disability, all I ever seem to read about are people who are still working and I think ‘how the hell do they do it?’. And I just feel like more of a failure for somehow not doing more to make my body work right.

Debra – Don’t get an attorney unless you’re denied. This was the advice I got from an SSI/SSDI attorney.

Terry – I’m on long term disability from work right now and I think I can be on it for 2 yrs and then I have to apply for government disability and my work will top it up if I get approved. I’m hoping I don’t have any difficulties but that’s usually never the case with RA. Going without income for any length of time is always very stressful and stress is the last thing we need having RA!

Debi – I applied after I quit my job. I was really bad. I applied at the SS office. My Rhuematologist was NOT helpful. It took me 7 yrs to get it. Thank God my husband was working and had insurance. I had to get an atty. Then the atty takes their cut. The process was a joke when they sent me to “their” “Dr.” he never even pressed on the points around your joints. He asked me how many cats I had? Went to two hearings. It was horrid. So, start early. I hope you have better success and faster than me. I worked for 35 yrs paying into SS and it fries me that the “crooks” get it and the ones that need it don’t. Sorry, off my soap box now. Just be prepared that there is a lot of paper work to do and stay strong. You deserve to get it. Sending you hugs and prayers.

Latausha – I went on FMLA I had to stop working after 8 yrs my job was paying Me I applied for Disability n Nov 2010 and they approved Me thank GOD on April 2011

Mary – I was on unemployment (my job had been off shored) and was having severe difficulties getting a flare under control, and my RA doc said that it was time to apply, since I was barely ambulatory. When I was first diagnosed in 2004, I was on short-term disability from my job and my same RA doc asked me to file for disability then, but backed me in my decision to go through OT and go back to work.

Liz – 1994 my Dr gave me disability forms to fill out; was in denial and continued to work for another year. During that year it became harder to work so I applied and was never denied. Have lots of Dr backup and you’ll be approved. I know things have changed since I applied, but hope this helps. Best of luck and God bless you.

Angela – How many of you live in CA that got approved quickly..

Mary -RA isn’t on the “blue book list of diagnoses” that get approved on the first round. Unless you have another diagnosis that goes hand-in-hand with your RA, you get approved on your first appeal.

Laurie -in CA and still waiting, applied on 11/27 for temporary disability while we see if the enbrel works. luckily my supplemental from work will kick in this week (please god!) even after a 30 day waiting period, it’s faster than cali!

Tammy – I quite working working 4 months ago and just now filling out the paperwork. I am trying to substitute a couple days a week, but not more than that b/c fatigue is a factor.

Jasmine – I live in CA too and to apply and never got a response, I want to apply again.

Heather -my rheumy won’t even help me with getting a disabled parking permit – how can i expect him to help me with applying for ssdi?

Debi – I was on medical leave & filed on line.

Stacy -They will not approve you while you are still working

Denise – I am finally leaving my job almost 6 yrs post ra diagnosis and now also with fibromyalgia. The doc i work for is also my family doc, has been since i was 14. When i told him it was time for me to go, he was 150 percent supportive. He is going to do all he can to help me out and was surprised and grateful that i had worked for him for so long. I have a rummy too, but i don’t know if he will be much help. I’ve always done everything they have told me to do and even though my rummy admitted to my doc that i am failing on my current ra treatment according to my labs…he says i am only 43 and should still be able to work. WTF does that have any thing to do with it. So i’m very scared to see how this will turn out. My last day of work is Jan 31st so we will see what happens. Please pray for me and my family. Thank you.

Jenny – I filed in person at the SS office because I had questions about when to indicate the “start” of my disability. I was diagnosed in 2008 and did OK with Humira and MTX… within the last year I had to go off both and just go on Remicade. Now I’m on Actemra and my CRP levels have been up. Nodules are back on my elbow and my other symptoms seem to be increasing… so I asked my Rheum for his opinion, he agreed I’m at the point to apply. I haven’t worked FT since 2006 then PT and finally temp work after that, I haven’t worked at all since last year. For me, it’s largely the fatigue and being sick all the time… see my regular doc every 3 months and my Rheum almost as often. I applied October 2012, got the denial letter of course and now I’m hooking up with an atty. My atty’s caseworker said it could take up to 12-13 months for a hearing. Good luck to you! Make sure all your medical records are up to date, and all your doctors are on board.

Tricia – I don’t know what Mary talking about… A book? I have RA and was approved on first try. I would think if you’re working it would be hard to prove u CANT work. Which is the whole point

Sarah -Anybody claiming disability in the UK??

Aimee – Getting SSDI … The criteria are not etched in stone. Age, number and types of diagnoses, treatments tried and failed, attempts to work tried and failed … All of this factors into the decision. If you do not treat with specialists for your diagnoses, chances r greater that you will be denied. A 50 year old with debilitating RA, under treatment with a specialist with proven progression of illness despite treatment is much more likely to be approved quickly … Versus a 30 year old who still can work, drive, and has only been treating for a year … That’s a definite denial. SSA is put to prove that u can do something, anything to support yourself, so the burden of proving that u cannot work does fall on you, your diagnoses (more than one, generally) and your physicians’ well-documented evidence of the same.

Andrea – You’ve probably heard this but lawyer lawyer lawyer is the most important thing. You need to stop work first and you don’t need a lawyer unless you are denied and have a hearing but do not go to the hearing without a lawyer. If you get denied (I did the first time because judge said I wasn’t credible) you lose all the past time for reimbursement and the clock starts over. I had LTD insurance and I fired that lawyer and hired another but it’s so critical. Suggestion though do not reduce hours because if you do go on SSDI it is based on current salary so you lose money. If you can’t work the regular schedule then it’s time to consider it. Of course with out ltd it’s so much harder. Good luck

Cheryl – I applied online after being knocked flat on my behind w/2 ruptured achille tendons. It took 3-4 months, I truly wish I didn’t qualify but it was a life saver for me.

Mona – It’s my understanding you have to be unable to work(unemployed) for a minimum of two years before your application will be approved. This has been true for myself and several others that I know. Good Luck!! FYI: I’m in Tennessee. Also SSI and Disability are not the same. Different criteria for each.

Julie – Hi…been thru the whole process and finally won..but not the simplest thing to accomplish. Doing this from my phone cuz yes it’s pneumonia..but send me a message so i dont forget & i’ll let u know what went thru etc. more than happy to help anyone thru this…just harder on a 6″ screen haha. Hugs! Actually 5 mos out if work to apply..then 2 yrs after aprvd for medicare

Ann – I did not have enough credits and was told that my husband disability check was to high to get ssi. ¬†We can not pay all the bills.I don’t have insurance and applied again for medicaid in NC.This has been going on since 2001.My husband came disable in 2004.I have RA and husband has brain tumor.

Jennifer – I live in CA, took me 2 years. I was told you couldn’t even apply til you have been off work a min of 6 months. If you apply while you are working it is a guaranteed denial.

Annie – Really, call your congress person and make an appointment with their district caseworker who handles social security.m they know the right way to get it filed and the congressional oversight helps put a bit of pressure on.

Chailine – I really wish a lot of responses mentioned the state they applied and were granted SSDI-it does make a difference. I was in FL, and at my hearing (after 2 yrs and 2 denials) I overheard the bailiff and my attorney discussing how FL disability cases had sky-rocketed and judges were coming from California. This was in 2010. I had lived w/o state assistance except food stamps(I only wanted Medicaid in hopes I could address my RA and go back to work) and w/o any income-and was still denied Disability. I was informed that the state would pay for any pregnancy…..(ironic, they knew I had no income and was applying for disability and yet, go on, have a kid-we’ll pay for THAT). BTW-my lawyer was damn near useless-he never made my case in the hearing, stuttering and looking very confused. I had to speak up telling the judge how much pain I lived in, how difficult the simplest tasks became major efforts. In my approval paperwork the judge noted that my family dr’s notes and consistency in diagnosis were what showed her my disability.

Bernadine – My doctor told me cannot apply while you are still working. I was only making $20 a week at best and still suffering, so I quit and 2 weeks later applied with the help of an attorney. Still waiting for approval.

Jessica – @Nathan, they absolutely DON’T deny EVERYONE the first time – that’s completely inaccurate. Myself, along with MANY MANY people in this thread were approved the first time around. People need to stop spreading the falsehood that EVERYONE is denied the first time because it’s not even close to being the case and takes hope away from others unnecessarily. Good grief. And in my view, the reason my approval went so easily is because my first step was to GO TO MY RHEUMY and tell him what I needed. Both he and my primary care doctor wrote wonderful and detailed letters on my behalf explaining why I couldn’t work anymore and the progression of the disease. Your doctors being on your side is probably your biggest positive point, that and detailed medical records. You fill out the online application, my advice, once you have the letters and records from your doctors. You want everything to go in AT ONCE. One last thing for Chailine, I am in PA. No lawyer, approved first time.

Karen – I can’t even get my Dr to approve for me to get a handicap sticker for my car……

Armstrong – I was approved first time. I applied on my own at local Social Security office in HOUSTON, TEXAS. It took maybe 2 months.

Joy – Besides having a diagnosis, they need to look at your function abilities. Ra may not be on the list from social security, but if you look at lupus and the other factors it can fall into that range. I live in ga and have been fighting social security for 4 and half years. I am going to federal court with my attorney. my mistake was not having a attorney at my hearing. I retained one after the hearing. Always get an attorney, it is easier getting approved at the hearing.

Diane – Karen, me either! What is the big deal? I told him I could use a temp one and instead he injected my knees with cortisone. Thanks Doc.

Eva – I applied when I ended up in the hospital and I knew I could not longer get my butt to work any longer. I was at the end of the road. I was in so much pain and fatigue. When I got home from the hospital I called the 800 number to social security and got an appointment in my local SS office. I had a lot of forms to fill out. After they rejected me the first time I hired a SSD Attorney. They get no fee unless you win your case. It took me 2 1/2 years to get before a Social Security Disability Federal Judge and he granted me my SSD with back pay and Medicare benefits. I lived on 6 months of short term disability insurance from work and then a retirement check from my job after I officially retired. It was not much money to live on. It’s rough. I live in a huge city, so the waiting is long. If you live in a small city or town, I believe you have a better chance at being awarded SS benefits. Consult a SSD attorney for more info. p.s. Social security wants people to be discouraged from getting the benefits that are due to them. If you are really so sick you cannot work any longer, don’t give up.

Paula – It is quite important to not work throughout the approval process, unfortunately. In fact, I believe it’s a requirement/caveat to filing, at least in TX. As for knowing when it’s time….you just know.

Kristy – After working for the federal govt for 20 years handling ss cases I can guarantee you they don’t automatically deny everyone the first time.

Julie – I know that is true, but it is so hard to decide when you are ready. I just don’t want to admit my limitations….

Megan – You’ll definitely need to quit, other wise SS won’t likely think you are disabled. Be meticulous with the forms and make sure your doctors are on board with this as well. The first time I applied, I was turned down. After that, I sought as much help from doctors and a psychiatrist as I could. The psychiatrist really helped, especially since a lot of my disability was due to job stress. I’d been on temporary disability before that had been recommended by my doctor, so that helped as well. Stick to your guns and be patient. You might have to use an attorney, I’ve known some who have, but it made all of the difference in the world. Good luck and hope this works out well for you.

Cheryl – i started on short term disability, then long term. after that i was able to apply for ss benefits

Sarah – I live in Illinois. I applied for SSDI in March and got approved in August of the same year. I think what they are looking for are work credits, documented illnesses and treatments, and the backing of all your doctors. Even then, it’s not a sure thing. RA sucks.
Jamie – I been denie so many time and I give up on it they turn me down over 12 times Go ahead is long is ur doc back u up u should get it

Debbie – get a lawyer…I fought like crazy was denied 2 xs finally got a lawyer and the judge looked at me and my record first thing he said what are you even doing here you should never have been denied in the first place i won instantly…you have to fight for whats yours..and 9 out of 10 times you can not go it alone…it took me 3 years!!! but I stuck with it…

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The above is a discussion created by a member and with member generated responses from our Facebook community ( put into a format so that the discussion can be archived for future answers needed by others in a searchable format while keeping member anonymity. Member provided information, statements and opinions do not reflect on or all individuals with Autoimmune Arthritis. We encourage all members to seek professional medical advice for any specific questions and concerns as this does not substitute competent medical care.

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