Obtaining disability benefits for a mental condition in the United States is a humiliating ordeal. I expected the ordeal part. The humiliation was a surprise.
The first step is the application. It can be done online, but it is intense. It took me 3 days. It took a LOT of tears. It took a panic attack. I became so discouraged that I took to my bed for a day.
The hardest part was explaining why my mental state is so deteriorated that I need disability. This is stuff that I barely wanted to acknowledge, let alone explain.
Four months later I received my rejection. My therapist had told me that it was normal to be rejected. She said that generally, an attorney is necessary to get an approval for benefits. And even then, it’s difficult.
So, I found an attorney willing to take my case on contingency (he doesn’t get paid unless I do). But, I had been so depressed about my rejection that I procrastinated doing anything about it until two weeks before the appeal deadline. And the attorney couldn’t see me for four weeks. So I had to file the appeal myself. Which meant doing the entire application over again. But, now, I had to give another reason why I felt that I deserved disability. After all, they had denied me for the many reasons I had already given. I needed a new one. So, I got my therapist to help me and I listed all the reasons that I couldn’t work from my therapist’s point of view.
My meeting with the attorney was an eye opener. The good thing about an attorney working on contingency, is that the attorney won’t take a case he doesn’t think he can win. But his explanation of the way the disability process works for mental disability was daunting.
First, the majority of people who apply for disability based on mental issues are denied. Records from therapists who are not MDs are not considered, even though the therapist sees the applicant much more often than the actual psychiatrist. The application is then evaluated by a psychiatrist who never sees the applicant, never talks to the applicant, knows nothing about the applicant.
Second, an appeal is almost always denied. Again, the psychiatrist at Social Security doesn’t speak to the applicant. It’s a different psychiatrist from the one who evaluated the original application, but it’s the exact same issues. Waiting for this decision, which is almost always a denial, takes another 4-6 months.
So, now, the typical applicant has 8-10 months invested in applying and appealing the Social Security Administration for disability benefits. On top of that, you’re not even eligible until you’ve been out of work for 5 months, so the time involved is more like 13-15 months.
I am currently waiting for the appeal decision. I received a copy of a letter that my attorney sent to Social Security, sending the results of the psychological testing I underwent.
You may have read the other day about the psychological testing I went through. The result of that testing is depressing for me as it indicates that I am severely mentally disabled. I am not likely to ever be able to hold down any sort of gainful employment. On top of that, I am unlikely to ever recover to any sort of “normal” for any appreciable length of time.
But, as far as my disability application to Social Security, it has been pointed out that this is exactly what I need that report to say in order to get my benefits.
If I am denied, which my attorney says is likely, I will have to appeal again to be seen in front of a judge. It will take another 12 months or so to get a court date and several months for the judge’s decision to come down. Of course, then it depends on the judge you get. There is no real criteria for mental disability. Just the opinion of the people who are involved. There is a judge in my area who approves only 5% of the applications he hears.
So, if I have to go to court, I will have invested approximately 2 1/2 years in the process.
I have laid myself bare in front of the federal government and begged for something that I have proven I need. Not want. I do not want this. I NEED this. I would LOVE to be able to go get a job. My fondest wish is to go out into the world and do something useful and get paid for it. It’s all I’ve ever done and it’s all I want to do now. But, I can’t. And they are forcing me to prove I am unfit over and over and over again. I am humiliated.
And, if I am ultimately successful, I will receive an amount of money each month that would put me deeply below the poverty line. I will be ok because I have a husband who works. This will help us not live paycheck to paycheck and be able to start saving. But, a single person trying to do this…I don’t know how it would be possible.
My mind screams at me to do something to fix this broken system. But, I wouldn’t know where to even start.
So, I’m going to start here, with all of you. I’m going to share my stories. My triumphs, my humiliations, my fears and my hopes.
Maybe, if we all shout loud enough, someone will start to listen.
Peace and love Y’all