Writing by Jamesia
Art by Robin Mead
Jamesia is disabled and often homebound. She uses what little energy she has to help others. Recently, she did an amazing job helping her friend Mallow get approved for disability (in two months!) and also get Medicaid and a personal care aide.
Jamesia has many wonderful ideas for how a friend or family member can help someone through the disability process.
If someone you care about is struggling, and you want to help, but don’t know how to help, please read Jamesia’s story.
If you are applying for disability (or thinking about applying) and know someone who wants to help but doesn’t know how to help, please share Jamesia’s story with them.
I have found that some people need help every step of the way. Explaining to them how to apply for help won’t work. They may need to have somebody go to the doctor appointments with them and they may also need somebody to make sure that papers are organized and deadline are met.
There was a lady I knew in 2012 who had been trying to get disability for more than ten years. She had applied multiple times, but could not follow through. She could not do things like giving Social Security a form with her signature, so they could not get her medical records. She kept missing deadlines and getting denied. I helped her apply again and now she is finally approved.
Some of the people that I’ve helped have problems with their medical records because they have mental conditions that really prevent them from communicating very well to their doctors. As disabled people, we can get used to our own limitations and don’t think to bring them up to a doctor.
So, I go to some doctor’s appointments and speak up for them. I make sure sure that the doctor knows what’s really going on and documents it in the medical notes.
Mallow Applies for Disability
My friend Mallow was just approved. Mallow’s approval was very quick (two months). I think a combination of things all played a factor. Here’s everything we did:
🌷 Before applying, I went with Mallow to an appointment with the Nurse Practitioner. I told her that I was going to help Mallow apply for disability. I asked if she agrees that Mallow was unable to work according to the Social Security criteria, and the nurse said, “yes.” I asked if she would support us in the process if needed, and she agreed.
🌷 I had a big learning curve. I read about Mallow’s primary illness and learned as much as I could.
🌷 I also talked to Mallow and asked her what symptoms she was having and what tasks she was having trouble doing. I made a note of these things so we could include them on forms and bring them up during doctor visits.
🌷 On April 30th, we called Social Security, notified them of intent to file for disability, and set up the telephone interview for May 15.
🌷 Next we went back to the Nurse Practitioner and brought her an RFC form to fill out. I had already asked the Nurse for her support, so we knew she was willing to help.
🌷 They gave me a 10-day extension (twice) while we filled out the paperwork. I kept notes on Mallow’s struggles and wrote out specific instances and included those on my third-party form.
🌷 At the end of June, I submitted my Third-Party Report.
🌷 Then we sent both the Adult Function Form and the RFC forn. We sent them together so everything would get to her file and nothing got lost or separated.
🌷 I called on July 16 and that is when I was told she had already been approved. It did seem fast!
Talking to Doctors
Before a doctor’s appointment, I will talk to the person and make a note of the symptoms and impairments and then bring those up during the office visit. Sometimes symptoms get overlooked because the person does not even realize it is a symptom until you ask about it.
At Mallow’s doctor’s appointments, I told the doctors we needed them to make good notes of her symptoms and how they affect her daily living, and I brought up the points from my notes about her symptoms and impairments.
Disabled individuals often get used to their own limitations and don’t think to bring them up to a doctor. They don’t realize how badly these things actually affect them in their lives.
Using the Blue Book
Social Security has a listing of impairments called the “Blue Book.” I used the Blue Book to do research and to learn what Social Security was looking for. How to Use the Blue Book
The Blue Book does not apply to all Social Security cases, but in Mallow’s case it was a big help. Jamesia and Mallow Use the Social Security Blue Book
At first I felt pretty overwhelmed trying to help her, because of taking on so much: the disability application, applying for Medicaid, applying for housing, going to doctor appointments, keeping track of medication side effects, and symptom changes.
I had to get two extensions in order to meet the deadlines for Social Security, but most everything else fell into place and I worked on things when I could.
Yes, this is hard… I can’t go to all of the appointments. Much of the research I do is from bed. It’s pretty hard when it comes time to fill it out all those forms. I spend hours and hours on them and I have to spread it over days.
Extra Good News
In addition to getting approved for Social Security disability, Mallow also got approved through the state for a personal care assistant 15 hours per week. She chose her mom as her personal care assistant, so this also ended up helping her mom who was unemployed. That was a nice added bonus.
My next person to help is a sweet and humble lady that has been unable to work for several years. We will probably have some big challenges because she doesn’t like to open up with the doctors and she avoids any perceived conflict with them.
When a doctor would write her a prescription that she didn’t want to take, rather than declining the medication and discussing other options, she would just switch to a new doctor. This means getting medical records from a substantial number of doctors, and unfortunately, fairly short histories with most of them.
(Oh, no!) Wish us luck?
Jamesia’s sweet, humble friend was approved in 22 days.