Buttercup got approved for disability in six months without a lawyer.
The Social Security caseworker said it was the best application she had ever seen!
Buttercup applied in person and these are the five things she did before she applied:
ONE: COLLECTED ALL MEDICAL RECORDS
My mom (who works in healthcare) recommended that I get all my medical charts starting when I first got sick. She heard that Social Security will only request one or two of your doctor’s charts and they might not get all the years. My mom was pretty adamant that you have to do the work for Social Security.
It took about a month to request and get everything. There were about 10-15 doctors that I requested my entire charts from. (Note: Get your full records, not just what you see online in patient portals)
When I applied, I showed up at my Social Security appointment with two boxes full of medical charts. The interviewer was impressed and said that they would never have collected all of these records if I had not brought them.
I brought all my medical records for the last 10 years — every single page!
TWO: COLLECTED WORK DOCUMENTS
There was a three-year time period between when I got sick and when I stopped working. I was also a full time graduate student during this time.
For three years, I continued to lower my hours until I was only working 4-8 hours per week. When I could not longer work 4-8 hours, I went on a three-month medical leave. I was unable to return to work and was then fired. I also had to drop out of graduate school after 2 years of extensions.
I collected and submitted to Social Security a paper trail of all my doctor’s letters, documentation of reasonable accommodations, family medical leave forms, copies of my extensions from graduate school, my withdrawal letter from school, and my separation letter sent to me by work, and all human resources documents.
THREE: COLLECTED LETTERS FROM DOCTORS
My primary doctors wrote letters stating that I could not work and the reasons why. I collected those letters and put them on top of my medical records.
FOUR: FILLED OUT THE ENTIRE APPLICATION & LISTED EVERYTHING
The Social Security woman said I had the most complete application she had ever seen. In addition to my doctors, I also wrote down the information for all the other doctors, acupuncturists, chiropractors, and physical therapists that I had gone to.
I also included every diagnosis and illness. For the first five years I was sick, I did not know I had Lyme, so most of my medical records showed Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Fibromyalgia, Chemical Sensitivities and loads of other complications and symptoms. I probably had 15-20 different diagnoses listed.
FIVE: TESTS & SPECIALISTS
In the years before I applied, I saw a pain specialist, orthopedic doctor, environmental medicine doctor, allergist, internal medicine doctor, neurologist, gastroenterologist, and a Lyme specialist.
I had about a box full of tests: Weekly blood tests to test liver/kidney function, CBC’s. MRI’s and X-rays of all my joints that hurt. I had a SPECT scan of my brain, a bunch of neurological tests, allergy tests, viral and bacterial tests, and IGENEX western blot. I was positive for HHV, c. Pneumonia, erlichiosis test, low T cells and Lyme Disease.
BUTTERCUP’S MEDICAL HISTORY
I was so sick I was basically dying. Everything I ate made me sick. Everything I basically breathed in made me sick I could no longer walk, drive, was having 5-6 asthma attacks a day and I had toxicity due to medications. I still can’t take most medications. I became allergic to everything. I lived in a safe room for 23 hours out of the day for over a year.
I had 3 doctors tell me and write in my file that I would most likely die if I tried to work. Two doctors told me I would never work again (I always hope to though!).
For the first five years, I did not know it was Lyme. It was all really Lyme. I had a lot of complications from various treatments. I also had a diagnosis of Chronic Fatigue, parasympathetic and autonomic nervous system disorders, Fibromyalgia, multiple chemical sensitivities, and I’m probably forgetting some. I had a lot!
BE LIKE BUTTERCUP
🌼 Ask for help
My mom copied all my records for me! She helped me put everything in chronological order and keep track of when certain symptoms started. She wrote it all out for me. She looked over all my forms after I filled them out. At first, my parents were adamant that I should not apply for disability, but they finally realized I wasn’t getting better and they have been super supportive.
🌼 Be your own advocate
You know your illness the best. Make sure you convey how hard life is. Really tell them how Lyme has affected your life.
🌼 Stay in treatment
Make sure you keep up with your doctors for follow up care. Switch doctors if you are not receiving the care you need. Even if you are approved, Do not stop going to your doctor. You will get reviewed and you need to show that you are receiving treatment and that your doctor states you are still unable to work.
🌼 Just one regret
I should not have I listened to everyone who said I’d never get approved. I listened and did not apply. If I had not listened to them, I would have gotten another year’s worth of backpay.
Six months after her interview at Social Security, Buttercup’s application got approved. She received 18 months of backpay. Social Security did not tell her which conditions she was approved for.