Applying for disability benefits wasn’t easy, but I did

I will never forget the day I applied for Social Security disability insurance. I remember sitting down at my computer, ready to fill out the long request.

Growing up, I was taught to work hard for what I wanted and never to accept handouts. So, as I read the requirements, shame invaded my body. My cheeks were burning with embarrassment. Despite the effects of scleroderma, I was still able to use all of my work pieces. How can I possibly apply for disability?

Yet I had used up all of my sick days at work and now was using my vacation days not for fun, but for when I couldn’t get out of bed. Although I once bragged about being a reliable employee, I was no longer. My body seemed to hate me, and it let me know I was at its mercy.

Things are piling up

Every night, as I crawled into my bed, I felt exhausted every day. The exhaustion was deep, like no other, and my body was riddled with pain. Each day was a new adventure as I learned to keep going. My body wanted to give up, but I wanted it to continue. And it did, a bit.

But the laundry started to pile up – even more than usual, which means something. I wanted to do all my chores at work and chores around the house, but my body was telling me, “No, choose one or the other. Over time, I couldn’t even complete a task. My body had betrayed me.

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An unexpected recommendation

My employer was sympathetic, but he still had a business to run. After falling asleep several times in the office bathroom, I knew I was in trouble.

Who falls asleep with their head against the bathroom cubicle? This girl! It wasn’t my best time. While I had always had control of my body, it was clear now that I was no longer.

With a heavy heart and an uncertain future, I quit my job, wondering what would become of me. Without a title and without a job, what did I really have? Those days turned into weeks, and the weeks turned into months.

Then my doctor suggested that I apply for disability.

What?

Me, apply for disability? I don’t think so, kemosabe. I have this !

I actually didn’t have that (insert voice of Morgan Freeman).

The third time is a charm

I had been hesitant to apply for disability benefits. Looking at the Social Security Blue Book, I realized I had several diagnoses that would fall into different categories. Would each condition alone be enough for me to qualify? I did not know.

No, I couldn’t do it. I had worked most of my adult life and often had more than one job to support myself and my children. While working two jobs, I also went to college part-time and maintained a 4.0 GPA. I had a plan for my life, and being disabled was not one of them.

Sitting at the computer, I went through the disability claim checklist. Whoa, I would need some time to set everything in place. I’ve read that many people use a disability lawyer when they apply, but I chose not to because I didn’t want to pay a fee. I wiped the tears from my face and started clicking on my computer.

Several hours and a lot of clicks later, I submitted my application. I was sure to be approved. How could I not be? My condition was not going to improve. It lasts a lifetime and has no cure. And to add insult to injury, the diagnoses kept dropping.

After a few months, I received my letter in the mail. Refuse.

Are you kidding me? What does a girl have to do to be approved? So I applied again. Six months later, I was refused again.

I decided to give the process one last chance, even though I thought I would never get approved and wanted to throw in the towel. I received a notice for the third phase of the approval process: it was time for trial.

A hearing to discuss my case was held virtually due to COVID-19 restrictions, which meant no actual court appearance. It was in my favor, because I felt very bad that day. Also, I was not optimistic, as my request had already been denied twice.

Seven days later, I received a notice in the mail. With trembling hands, I tore the envelope from the judge’s office. Tears filled my eyes. I could not believe it. Thanks to all my hard work, I had finally been approved.

***

To note: Scleroderma News is strictly a disease news and information site. He does not provide any medical advice, diagnostic, Where processing. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnostic, Where processing. Always seek the advice of your doctor or other qualified healthcare professional with any questions you may have regarding a health problem. Never disregard the advice of a medical professional and do not delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Scleroderma News or its parent company, BioNews, and aim to spark discussion about issues related to scleroderma.

About Antoine L. Cassell

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