This article was originally written by in 2004 by Bryan who was successful in navigating the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) bureaucracy and getting Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits. Like too many of the mentally interesting he’s dropped off the map, and I haven’t been able to send him any royalty checks for a few years. While not much has changed since he wrote this eight years ago, some things are significantly different - such as applying online for SSDI now being the preferred method to the point of almost being required, so it’s unclear if Bryan’s suggestion of applying for SSDI in person is still the best way to go or not. I’ll keep it updated if I’m aware of any additional changes in eligibility or the application procedures. When the article was first published I added notes from my own experience in applying for and receiving SSDI benefits, and what I know about the experiences of people who have applied for and received either SSDI or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) disability benefits. Anything I contributed, other than dealing with defunct websites, those ever-so-clever titles, and assorted bits of editing, will be indicated in italics and another typeface.
There are a lot more of those notes now, reflecting what changes there have been in the ten years since we each applied for disability. One thing that hasn’t changed: it’s just as difficult to get your benefits when you have a mental illness, or any other invisible disability like fibromyalgia, Chron’s, epilepsy, or anything else that must be all in your head1 because it can’t be seen without expensive medical equipment. If then. Thanks to the success of Crazy Meds I’m no longer receiving SSDI benefits, and, depending on how well my meds are working, makes me anywhere from somewhat happy to far less depressed than I would otherwise be. While there is no way in hell I could hold down a real job, Crazy Meds allows me to earn a living in a way compatible with being batshit crazy. I’d rather be sane and washing dishes or bagging groceries 60 hours a week than crazy and getting SSDI.
At some point I would like to add a section about the Ticket to Work program, that is supposed to help you transition back to a job if you think you’re well enough to work again. I supposedly have gone through this, but the process is so random-seeming, and the the documentation I’ve received from the SSA has been contradictory, so I honestly have no idea how it works. The main problem seems to be that the SSA is still in the mid-20th century when it comes to how people make money. Making money on the Internet via advertising revenue is akin to telling them I have some guy in my basement with a sewing machine converting rags and scrap paper into bona fide currency.
In case you don’t already know, here are the main differences between SSDI & SSI:
SSDI - What you get if you had one or more steady jobs for long enough to pay enough money into Social Security to get anything back. Comes with Medicare after two years. Usually pays more than SSI.
SSI - What you get if you’ve never been able to work, or work all that much, because you’ve been too crazy (or otherwise disabled) too often. Comes with Medicaid, often as soon as you apply. Pays shit - approximately $700 a month2.
There is a lot of overlap in applying for SSDI & SSI, especially when you’re mentally ill, but the focus of this article is on SSDI. Why? Because it’s what we went through. Besides, you’re reading it on the Internet. People applying for SSI usually don’t have much in the way of Internet access outside of a library. Not only that, the Social Security Administration (SSA) still requires people to apply for SSI in person.
This article is not about how to scam the system in order to get a crazy check. There are far easier ways to make more money than trying to rip off the government for $700 a month and what passes for health insurance in the form of Medicaid. While the incidence of disability fraud is greater than that of voter fraud, the numbers are given are greatly overstated. My guess as to why this is the case is the usual bigotry involving the mentally interesting combined with a conflation of workers’ compensation fraud which, while a problem, is probably exaggerated as well. While I have met people who have wanted to live a carefree life on an SSI stipend, I’ve yet to come across anyone with an invisible disability serious enough to be disabled who preferred to qualify for SSI/SSDI over being able to hold down a real job.
- Part 1: Resources and Eligibility. Resources: because it’s easier and makes more to start where most articles end. Eligibility: there’s no point in applying if it’s obvious you won’t qualify.
- Part 2: Getting Your Medical Records Together. As if getting anything together is going to be easy for the mentally interesting. At least this is something useful for other aspects of your life as well.
- Part 3: The Actual Application Process. It’s a good thing you have Internet access, because the SSA wants everyone to apply for SSDI online.
- Part 4: The Interview & Consultative Examination. How crazy or otherwise impaired your doctor thinks you are isn’t particularly important. What matters is how crazy someone who probably isn’t a doctor and does nothing but talk to people unable to hold down a job for all sorts of reasons thinks you are.
- Part 5: What to do if You’re Denied. The appeals process. This is when you usually talk to a lawyer or non-attorney advocate. If you’re applying for SSI, most lawyers and non-attorney advocates won’t talk to you until at least the second, and with lawyers it’s more often the third time you appeal.
If you have any questions about SSDI/SSI or similar issues, there’s a part of the Crazy Meds forum devoted to insurance, drug prices, applying for disability, etc. Medication Costs, Insurance, Disability & Assorted Issues - It Costs How Much? with the topic Q & A On The SSDI Approval Process.
2 Someone please, please tell me I'm wrong and SSI pays more than it did eight years ago. I'm hallucinating, or managing to find only cached versions of websites when looking up info on SSI, or something like that.
Social Security Disability Benefits and Mental Illness. by Bryan & Jerod Poore is copyright © 2004, 2012
Author: Bryan & Jerod Poore. Date created: 11 September 2012 Last edited by: Jerod Poore on: April 06, 2013, at 10:12 AM
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Nobody on this site is a doctor, a therapist, or a pharmacist. We don’t portray them either here or on TV. Only doctors can diagnose and treat an illness. While it’s not as bad as it used to be, some doctors still get pissed off by patients who know too much about medications, so tread lightly when and where appropriate. Diagnosing yourself from a website is like defending yourself in court, you suddenly have a fool for a doctor. Don’t be a cyberchondriac, thinking you have every disease you see a website about, or that you’ll get every side effect from every medication1. Self-prescribing is as dangerous as buying meds from fraudulent online pharmacies that promise you medications without prescriptions.
All information on this site has been obtained through our personal experience and the experiences family, friends, what people have reported on various reputable sites all over teh intergoogles, the medications’ product information / summary of product characteristic (PI/SPC) sheets, and from sources that are referenced throughout the site. As such the information presented here is not intended as a substitute for real medical advice from your real doctor, just a compliment to it. You should never, ever, replace what a real doctor tells you with something from a website on the Internet. The farthest you should ever take it is getting a second opinion from another real doctor. Educate yourself - always read the PI/SPC sheet or patient information leaflet (PIL) that comes with your medications and never ever throw them away.
Crazy Meds is not responsible for the content of sites we provide links to. We like them, or they’re paid advertisements, or they’re something else we think you should read to help you make an informed decision about a particular med. Sometimes they’re more than one of those things. But what’s on those sites is their business, not ours.
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Crazy Meds is optimized for the browser you’re not using on the platform you wish you had. Between you and me, it all looks a lot cleaner using Safari or Chrome, although more than half of the visitors to this site use either Safari or Internet Explorer, so I’m doing my best to make things look nice for IE as well. I’m using Firefox and running Windows XP3. On a computer that sits on top of my desk. With a 23 inch monitor. Hey, at least you can make the text larger or smaller by clicking on the + or - buttons in the upper right hand corner. If you have Java enabled. Like 99% of the websites on the planet, Crazy Meds is hosted on domain running an open source operating system with a variety of open source applications, including the software used to display what you’ve been reading. As such Crazy Meds is not responsible for whatever weird shit your browser does or does not do when you read this site2.
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1 While there are plenty of books to help you with hypochondria, for some reason there’s not much in the way of websites. Then again, staying off of the Internet is a large part of curing/managing the disorder.
2 Have I mentioned how open source operating systems for commercial applications is one of the dumbest ideas in the history of dumb ideas?
[begin rant] I rent a dedicated server for Crazy Meds. It’s sitting on a rack somewhere in Southern California along with a bunch of other servers that other people have rented. The hardware is identical, but no two machines have exactly the same operating systems. I don’t even need to see what is on any of the others to know this. If somebody got their server at the exact same time, with the exact same features as I did, I’m confident that there would be noticeable differences in some aspects of the operating systems. So what does this mean? For one thing it means that no two computers in the same office of a single company have the same operating system, and the techs can spend hours figuring out what the fuck the problem could be based on that alone. It also means that application software like IP board that runs the forum here has to have so many fucking user-configurable bells and whistles that even when I read the manual I can’t find every setting, or every location that every flag needs to be set in order for a feature to run the way I want it to run. And in the real world it means you can get an MBA not only with an emphasis on resource planning, but with an emphasis on using SAP - a piece of software so complex there are now college programs on how to use it. You might think, “But don’t people learn how to use Photoshop or Adobe Illustrator in college?” Sure, in order to create stuff. And in a way you’re creating stuff with SAP. But do you get a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree with an emphasis on Photoshop?
Back in the Big Iron Age the operating systems were proprietary, and every computer that took up an entire room with a raised floor and HVAC system, and had less storage and processing power than an iPhone, had the same operating system as every other one, give or take a release level. But when a company bought application software like SAP, they also got the source code, which was usually documented and written in a way to make it easy to modify the hell out of it. Why? Because accounting principles may be the same the world over, and tax laws the same across each country and state, but no two companies have the same format for their reports, invoices, purchase orders and so forth. Standards existed and were universally ignored. If something went wrong it went wrong the same way for everyone, and was easy to track down. People didn’t need to take a college course to learn how to use a piece of software.
I’m not against the open source concept entirely. Back then all the programmers read the same magazines, so we all had the same homebrew utilities. We even had the forerunner to QR Code to scan the longer source code. Software vendors and computer manufacturers sponsored conventions so we could, among other things, swap recipes for such add-ons and utilities. While those things would make our lives easier, they had nothing to do with critical functions of the operating system. Unless badly implemented they would rarely cause key application software to crash and burn. Whereas today, with open source everything, who the hell knows what could be responsible some part of a system failing. [/end rant]