Disability!

Dear Annie: Please tell “Ready to Die” that she can get disability payments because she has a mental health disorder. The problem is that people tell the disability examiners how badly they feel. But that is not the examiner’s job to assess. They want to know how dysfunctional your daily life is.

I am writing to offer suggestions to her and others who suffer from mental health issues but do not know how to secure disability benefits.

For instance, let’s take depression and how she might answer questions posed by the examiner: Can you drive yourself to the doctor? No, I can’t drive. Do you keep your house clean? Yes, but it takes me two weeks to vacuum the floor. The dishes pile up until they smell, so I only use paper plates and plastic silverware. Do you go grocery shopping? No, but a neighbor picks up what I need. I don’t eat much.

Here are some examples of how she might address manic phases: Can you drive? Sometimes, but I speed and can’t concentrate on safety. Do you clean your house? Yes, but I stay awake for three days and then fall back into lethargy. Do you dress yourself? Yes, but I throw on anything that’s on the floor. Sometimes, people laugh at me for how I’m dressed.

People with mental illness need someone to practice with them before they are examined. They are focused on their suffering, for good reason.

Find an experienced disability lawyer. They can often help you to prepare for an examiner’s interview. Some attorneys might be sleazy, but there are also some fine, dedicated lawyers. Your case will move forward much more quickly, even if that feels like a long time. Remember that when you do get Social Security Disability Insurance, they will pay from the date of the application, not the date of approval.

Get a case manager or someone to help you through this process. Any psychiatric records are helpful. Do not say you drink, or whatever, to medicate. The way you should frame it is to explain that you have an addiction problem.

So many individuals fail to get the benefits they are entitled to because not even most therapists or psychiatrists understand how this system works. — Ph.D.

Dear Ph.D.: I always love when professionals reach out with advice, including the next letter about finding a psychiatrist and an attorney.

Dear Annie: This is about the unfortunate individual with severe treatment-resistant depression, who will definitely qualify for total and permanent disability.

She should see a competent psychiatrist ASAP, and they will help her with the most modern effective management of depression.

In addition, they will be able to write appropriate letters to the Social Security Administration and other agencies so that she will receive total permanent medical disability, which she richly deserves. — Right to an Attorney

Dear Right: Thank you for sharing your advice. Let’s hope it helps all readers who are suffering from depression and who have, so far, not been able to secure disability payments. (c) Annie Lane @ Creators.com

This is the most idiotic of Annie Lane’s advice columns that I’ve ever read.

The problem is that people tell the disability examiners how badly they feel. But that is not the examiner’s job to assess. They want to know how dysfunctional your daily life is.

There’s nothing wrong with telling the examiner that you feel miserable all the time. What are they going to do, hold it against you? Yes, they need more info, but that’s why they ask you questions.

For instance, let’s take depression and how she might answer questions posed by the examiner: Can you drive yourself to the doctor? No, I can’t drive.

Well, what other answer would someone give but a factual and accurate one? Like this would happen?:

Examiner: Can you drive yourself to the doctor when you’re ill?  

Disabled applicant: I’d rather talk about how I feel all day. 

That’s not even logical. The person would give a straightforward answer. But they needn’t be prepped, because if their answer were incoherent, that would work in their favor:

Examiner: Can you drive yourself to the doctor when you’re ill? 

Disabled applicant: I enjoy painting the floor with grape marmalade. 

Score! You’re disabled. Let’s not prep that person into giving a “normal” answer.

People with mental illness need someone to practice with them before they are examined. They are focused on their suffering, for good reason.

You’ve got to be kidding me. Anyone knows how to answer straightforward questions. Come on. Also, as a disabled person myself, I’m not focused on my suffering. I try to focus on productivity (I’ve been editing my memoir for the past three days around the clock) and gratitude. Way to diss mentally ill people.

(I do believe, though, that my mental illness is less about suffering and more about struggling to interact, and that sort of thing. I’m generally a very happy person… except for when I’m not.)

Find an experienced disability lawyer. They can often help you to prepare for an examiner’s interview.

That sounds unethical. All you need to do is know how to answer questions!

Some attorneys might be sleazy!

Who is this letter writer calling sleazy? Both of my parents are/were ethical lawyers who looked out for their clients (in my dad’s case) or put good research into writing opinions for a judge (in my mom’s case). This letter writer is a total scumbag! How dare they!

Your case will move forward much more quickly [with a lawyer’s help], even if that feels like a long time.

Okay. I never had a disability lawyer myself. My dad, who I live with, didn’t help in any official legal capacity because he doesn’t practice disability law. (He’s a discrimination lawyer.) I applied in late August, and in early December of that year, I was deemed disabled.

Get a case manager or someone to help you through this process.

Nothing wrong with that, but if you go to the social security administration’s website, it’s fairly straightforward.

Any psychiatric records are helpful.

Right… which is why the paperwork asks for your doctor’s contact info, as well as the contact info of other doctors (psychiatrists, specialists, etc.), therapists, counselors, and even your employers. “Hmm… I’m mentally ill, and they want to contact all my doctors. Should I give them the name of my psychiatrist?” said no one ever.

Do not say you drink, or whatever, to medicate. The way you should frame it is to explain that you have an addiction problem.

What the hell, if you drink, you drink. That’s idiotic. “Application rejected! You drink to medicate!”

So many individuals fail to get the benefits they are entitled to because not even most therapists or psychiatrists understand how this system works. — Ph.D.

And yet I, with my BA in psychology (and no higher degrees), seem to have a sound grasp on it. And then from the second letter writer:

[A competent psychiatrist] will be able to write appropriate letters to the Social Security Administration and other agencies so that she will receive total permanent medical disability, which she richly deserves.

I can’t disagree. But if you can’t afford or don’t have a psychiatrist, the government will arrange for you to be evaluated by a psychiatrist free of charge, for purposes of disability determination. So this is all beyond idiotic. I know that applying for disability might induce anxious thoughts of red tape and confusion, but it’s an easy-to-understand process, and it’s all spelled out in the application.

(Or at least, that was my experience back in 2007. I know that everyone’s experience is different, and in a lot of ways, it was pure hell, but I can only speak to my own experiences.)

Further, the brief interview where you meet with an employee of the social security administration is just the stepping stone to applying. My memory of that meeting is hazy at best, but she asked questions, and I answered them. It wasn’t rocket science.

The heart of your application is your doctors’ records, your therapist’s records, and commentary from your recent employers, who are in a position to know whether you can work.

Annie Lane is up to her old tricks. She let those letter writers write her column for her today! AAUGH! So super lame.

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