How I Navigated the Social Security Disability Process
I’m on Social Security disability insurance (SSDI). Okay I said it, and, I’m also very thankful for it. I might sound somewhat perplexed, because it’s all new to me and isn’t what I had expected to deal with in life. Yet, I am realistic and understand that “things happen” to all people.
You hear about the horrifying, multi-year process involved when applying for SSDI benefits. These stories are in the media and everywhere, but I didn’t have to pay close attention, because I never expected I’d need SSDI.
I’ve always strategically planned for the unexpected. I’m a former corporate vice president of operations and international business leader of more than 30 years’ experience. My husband and I, together, had a significant income, owned a home in a country club, guard-gated community in Southern California, and were extensive travelers, etc. Then, the season changed – unexpectedly.
In 2012, I started to show medical symptoms from an old auto accident that had caused a brain injury. I had difficulty walking, memory loss, etc. My neurosurgeon explained what was occurring, and that major brain surgery was required for me to continue living. My first brain surgery was performed in July 2012; my second brain surgery in September 2012; and between 2012 and 2014, I underwent five brain/skull surgeries. My husband became my full-time caregiver, and our financial safety net was all compromised due to my health.
With that said, it was time to apply for SSDI. Friends recommended that I hire an attorney, but I went directly to www.ssa.gov and read the disability application requirements, and felt strongly that I could do it on my own via the website. I wasn’t in the best mental state to tackle an extensive application (I was in between brain shunt implant surgeries), but, was determined to apply for SSDI to help exercise my brain. When I got to the site, I found the SSA disability determination website amazingly user-friendly! I was able to, independently, apply online with the easy step-by-step instructions. When my mind needed to rest, I was able to save my information and, the next day, continue from where I left off. I did everything online — not once having to step foot in a field office to complete my application; and I received my disability benefits in four months!
What a decision to make! I always said that if I could work through the disability determination process successfully on my own, I’d publicly share my story to assist others. I continue to fulfill that promise every day, and as it turns out, I’m not an anomaly. The risk of disability is larger than we think: A 20-year-old worker has a 1-in-4 chance of needing disability benefits before reaching full retirement age! So, after 30 years in the workforce and contributing to the Federal Insurance Compensation Act (FICA), I sure am glad my disability insurance was there for me in my time of need.
Honestly, I get tired of hearing the negative stories about SSDI. It’s time for everyone to hear a good truthful story about the Social Security disability determination process and how it works in favor of claimants and truly serves the public.