Friday, July 16, 2004

Interesting Sjogren's/disability meeting.... 

Went to my local Sjogren's support group meeting tonight. The topic was filing for disability, and the speaker was a local disability lawyer. Learned a few things.

One is that my state no longer requires the reconsideration phase! This is awesome because if you are turned down on your initial application, you go straight to requesting a hearing if you want to continue. This cuts MONTHS out of the process!

Also, it appears the average processing time for the initial application and the hearing in my state has shortened since I helped my mom apply seven years ago. This is a huge relief. Applications are being processed in as little as 90 days, the wait time for a hearing is about six months, and the time from hearing to award notice (when approved) averages four months. That's a little over a year all told, about half as long as it used to take.

Bad news: my age would likely work against me. I'm only 40. The lawyer said that someone over 55 with the same illness would be more likely to approved than someone who should be at the peak of their career age-wise. I was the youngest person at the meeting tonight....most were closer to retirement age. Sjogren's mostly hits women over 50. I guess I can see that Social Security would be more likely to accept someone that they would have to pay fewer years.

The lawyer said that while something like fibro, Sjogren's or celiac disease may not in and of itself be considered disabling, having all three at once (or some other combo of ailments) might be sufficient to fit the definition of disability, depending on the severity of symptoms.

The lawyer also said that people with invisible chronic illness are less likely to be approved at the application phase because at that point they are looking for concrete test results such as bloodwork, MRIs, biopsies, etc. Pain and fatigue cannot be measured that way and so aren't considered. At the hearing level, though, the judge will be placing more weight on doctor's written testimony, so if your doc says your pain and fatigue are disabling, the judge must consider it.

I'm glad I went.

Gotta go pick up my hubby from work.

Pain level: 7
Fatigue level: 7

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