11 September 2009

Applying for SSDI

Yesterday I filed my application for Social Security disability benefits.

We had an appointment for 2:00 PM and, having put it off until the last possible minute, I spent the morning frantically filling out the Adult Disability and Work History Report online. I had already gathered the information I thought I'd need, and figured that entering it into the online form would go pretty quickly. For the most part, that was true.

The bits that hung me up with the parts where they want to know about my condition, and how that limits my ability to work. They allow 500 characters for each response. That makes me nuts. I know I have a tendency to run off at the pencil (you've noticed, you say?), but I can be concise when the occasion warrants. I was a tech writer for, I don't know, a really long time. It was my job to be clear, and get right to the point.

Begin digression: Long ago I had a job writing the text for museum exhibits -- you know, the stuff on those little cards and panels that nobody (except me) ever reads? For one exhibit, I had to describe the Civil War in 120 words. Now, it happens that I'm really interested in that period of history, and I've read a fair amount about it. That only made it worse.  120 words. I agonized over that text. By the time my boss finally threatened to rip it out of my hands, I had come up with 120 words that I thought did a pretty good job of conveying the essence of this conflict. (I'm sorry, I don't remember what I came up with, but I'm sure it was a masterpiece.) As I waited for my boss to be awed and humbled by my masterful use of the language under such stringent limitations, she told me they'd redesigned this section of the exhibit. There would only be room for 60 words. The lesson I took from this, boys and girls, is that you can always make it shorter. End digression.

Where was I?

So, OK, I describe my condition and its impact on my ability to work in 500 characters or less. If you need more space, they say you can continue in the Remarks section at the end of the report. Should I have done that, I wonder? Instead of cutting right to the chase, should I have gone on and on about every gory detail?

While I'm at it, I found the online report pretty darned user-hostile. Once you complete certain sections, they lock them and you can't go back. There's no way to print the entire form -- you have to print it one page at a time, as you work your way through it. Since I was in a hurry, having put it off to the last minute, I didn't do that. I figured I could go back to the form after I submitted it, but I don't see any way to do that. My bad.

So, are you still with me? (Whatever for? I mean, people, you need to get a life!) Anyway, after that, the appointment itself seemed anticlimactic.

We checked in at the touch-screen terminal, and our interview started pretty much on time. The waiting room was kind of tight to navigate in a power chair, which I found a little surprising considering the number of disabled people that must go through there, but I don't think I caused any permanent damage. The woman who took our claim was pleasant and businesslike. I had expected to have a chance during the interview to expand on the information I submitted in the online report, which was one of the reasons I figured it would be OK to limit my responses to some of those questions to 500 characters. That didn't happen. She just looked through the report for places where information was missing. That's when I started second-guessing my decision to be concise.

Anyway, it was less than a half-hour, start to finish. It goes by fast. I didn't do some of the things I meant to do. I'm not sure I got copies of everything. I feel really stupid that I don't even have a copy of the information I submitted to them, because, having submitted it online without printing each page, I can't go back to it. But it's done.

Now we wait.


  1. Zoom - Skip (my wife) applied for SSDI years and years ago (probably about 20). She had just stopped working, but she worked as a chef, so she had to stop much sooner than if she'd had a desk job. She didn't apply in person but did have to be seen by an MD as part of the process. She was approved quickly, no issues.

    I am hopeful it goes equally smoothly for you.

  2. I HAVE no life! hahahaha But seriously, ummm, I always advise against applying online--period. When I applied I also had MANY extra pages about what I could no longer do. My pages, just by the look of them, spoke volumes more---my handwriting was awful,my sentences terrbile, NOBODY would ever hire me. They SAW that and I had a copy of every paper I gave them. Next? If you are not denied, your references will be notified. I made sure people close to me were aware of all I could no longer do. Especially a co-worker. He had worked with me when MS had not yet disabled me, he saw the changes. I made sure he did. Their report will carry much weight. Make sure they are ready. Make sure they see you on your worst day. Good luck.

  3. I love your writing. Good luck on the SSDI.