Two of the main questions that is emailed to me by chronically ill people are:
1. “How do you win Social Security Disability?”
2. “How can you afford to live while waiting to be approved for Social Security Disability?”
To answer the first question, there is no cut and dry answer to winning a Social Security Disability case. The best advice I can give is to just not give up. Most cases are denied on the first go round because they know that a lot of people will just give up. I think also by pursuing your case, you prove how sick you really are and that you do need it.
In the state I live, there is no reconsideration stage. Right after the first step is denied, it automatically goes to an Administrative Law Judge hearing. It is scary, but just be yourself. If you have to get up and move around because you can’t sit that long, do so. Be honest. Answer the judge’s questions to the best of your ability. There are still judges that do not believe that CFS, FM, & IC are real diseases. Hopefully you won’t get one of those!
You will most likely be asked what your daily routine is. Because of the nature of our illnesses, our daily routines change constantly. But you will want to tell the judge what your routine is like on your worst days.
Keep a diary. I kept a journal for a long time charting how many times I went to the bathroom a day, listed any activities I did and how I felt after them – anything and everything I was feeling went into a diary.
Make sure you have a good doctor that specializes in CFS or whatever your illness is. I found that by going to the F & F Centers, they were running tests that family doctors don’t run and they actually did a test that proved that I was disabled. They told me it is not something that you can fake. It was like a stress test on a bicycle and it tests oxygen, energy, etc.
2. You can not file for SSDI until you have been out of work for at least 6 months I believe. There are people out there who really should not be working and who are continuing to push their bodies to the ground simply because they feel they cannot afford to be off of work. It’s hard – I won’t lie. But what is more important? Your health or money? You have to learn to cut corners a lot and really think about every single purchase:
Do I need this?
Can I live without it?
I would ask myself those two questions. If I could live without it, then I didn’t buy it. Cut back on all of your household expenses to the bare essentials. It is amazing the amount of money that people and families spend just on eating out. If you eat out a lot, you will be amazed at how much money you can save by eating at home. Cut back on cable, electric, cell phone, house phone, trash, etc.
Can you go in with another family member and divide the trash bill? If you have a cell phone and a house phone cut back to one phone or like we did, take the long distance off of your house phone and use your cell phone for those calls. Do you have extras on your cable? If so, cut back to the basics. Can you refinance anything to a lower interest rate? There are many things you can do to help get you through until your disability goes through. You just have to be creative.