If you have chronic lyme and its associated neurological deficits, chances are you’ll find yourself disabled enough to be unemployed (and unemployable) at some point. When this happens, how do you survive?
One of the first things to do is to evaluate your situation in terms of the SSDI (Social Security Disability Insurance) requirements. Remember that to qualify for SSDI, you’ll need to be completely unable to work (ok, you can earn under $1000 per month, but that’s not much). AND your condition needs to be expected to continue for at least 12 months total, including any months that may have lapsed already.
Once of the best guides for determining eligibility and working through the process of filing for SSDI benefits is the Disability Workbook for Social Security Applicants. It’s written in plain English, and has plenty of worksheets for you to fill out in preparation for filing your claim and dealing with all of the required hearings.
Another great resource, believe it or not, is the Multiple Sclerosis Society. They have a section on Social Security Disability that walks people through the claims process from an MS standpoint, which has striking similarities to the typical neurological lyme symptoms and deficits. The MS Society’s worksheets are very clear about which disability sections may be applicable to MS (and lyme) patients, so it’s a good idea to review their resources as well.
Do you need a lawyer to file for disability? It depends… According to the Disability Workbook for Social Security Applicants, most people file on their own and even go through their first request for reconsideration without legal representation. However, the guidebook does recommend that you seek legal assistance if your claim is denied upon reconsideration.
Here’s what you must prove to qualify for SSDI:
- That you lack the ability to engage in any substantial gainful activity;
- by reason of one or more medically determinable physical or mental impairments;
- which can be expected to result in death; or has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months.
There’s a lot of paperwork involved in this process, and lawyer or no lawyer, the brunt of it will fall on you to prepare. The lawyer cannot put together the details of your health history, your list of symptoms that are causing your disability, copies of your medical records, letters from your doctors, and all the rest of the documentation that is required for a properly filed claim. The Disability Workbook for Social Security Applicants will walk you through gathering all of this documentation. If you’re a youth with disabilities, The 411 on Disability Disclosure (a free ebook) may help you to get started. A lawyer can, however, help to review all of this information to make sure that it’s complete and properly stated before you file your claim, or during the appeals process.