I Need Help Filing For Disability Benefits

Jul 16 2016 - 11:30pm

Dear Larry, I am currently 58 and will be 59 in 2 months in 2016. I have worked as a RN FT for 15 years and then only sporadically for a few years (I was in graduate school) then I had a child with some severe medical problems (landing him in the ICU twice and he later became lead poisoned and has ADHD so his problems throughout his childhood had limited me to PT work). I became disabled and unable to work in 2010; had terrible symptoms of severe spinal stenosis (cervical and lumbar) as well as SI joint dysfunction but wasn't officially diagnosed (my doctors had only used the diagnosis of "lumbago) for 3 years (when I was finally approved for medical assistance and got an MRI) when I was told to get to surgery immediately. I filed for SSDI with an attorney and was denied. I was to go before an administrative judge but was running late (by about 10 minutes) due to traffic and so called the attorney (whom I'd never met- the office switched around attorneys and assistants so often that it was difficult to know who was actually representing me). He told me not to bother parking as the judge dismissed the case because I was late. I later learned that the judge wouldn't see the attorney (apparently to even tell him that I was parking) as he was not the attorney of record and so then dismissed the case. The law office filed an appeal but the original decision of the judge was upheld but I don't know why. A legal assistant just called me and said they did all that could be done and I never heard from them again. I re-applied within a year and have a different law office representing me but they have not mentioned re-opening the former case (I didn't know that could be done until this evening). They have also said that because I haven't worked since 2010- (and that I worked PT prior to that for some years because of my son's difficulties) that they (Soc Sec) were only looking at a limited amount of time on which to base my benefit should I be granted SSDI at this juncture. I was denied this time as well because Soc Sec said that I can do sedentary work. I have a date to go before an administrative judge once again just after I turn 59. It doesn't appear to me that I qualify because I am not using a walker. I use a cane frequently but I just limit where I go- avoiding anywhere that I may not be able to sit down- due to severe pain in my legs and weakness. The very nature of the disease process indicates a poor prognosis as it worsens with time (and age). My pain level (and I've been denied pain medication beyond gabapentin and ibuprofen because of practitioners' fear of the DEA with our "war on drugs") is severe and has been for 6 years. It prevents me from leaving my home frequently or completing simple tasks such as even making dinner quite often. My son and I have been surviving on child support alone for the last 6 years but he will turn 18 in March and will no longer receive it. I am panicking a bit because if I don't receive SSDI- I have no idea what I'm going to do. My savings have been completely depleted as it was necessary to supplement the child support. My attorney has told me not to pursue any work while I'm waiting to hear about the outcome of this filing. I have said that I could manage probably 2 hours a day on some days but no more than that because sitting for longer limits me. I would be most grateful for your advice on how to proceed.
I am also wondering why my previous filing wasn't re-opened. Wouldn't that help me with a higher benefit rate (if I am approved this time)?
Thank you ever so much! Tamara

Dear Tamara,

I feel terrible about your situation. I would seek to collect food stamps and welfare benefits and SSI, for yourself, if you are eligible. I would also contact all my members of Congress and explain the situation. They may be able to help. Best of luck. Our country should not be treating people in your situation this way.

My best, Larry