What If My Disabling Condition Isn’t In the Blue Book?

conversation between two people, one in a wheelchair

What Does Social Security Consider a Disabling Condition? Disabling conditions as defined by the Social Security Administration are physical or psychological conditions severe enough to prevent a person from working and earning “gainful income” for at least one year. The SSA determines whether a health problem is disabling and warranting benefits by reviewing a claimant’s application, physician’s reports, results of laboratory tests and imaging scans. The Social Security disability review board also looks at a claimant’s past work history to ascertain if the claimant could perform other types of work. What If My Condition is not Listed in Disability Blue … Read More

Can you pass this Social Security Quiz?

woman studying

Do you plan to retire someday? Then you should really understand how Social Security works—not Social Security Disability, which we talk about a lot in this space, but the regular old Social Security for retired people. Turns out, there’s more to it than just retiring and then getting paid. You have to do the right things at the right times, or you might only receive a fraction of the amount you’re expecting. Here’s a helpful quiz from MassMutual, and insurance and investment company, about the basics of Social Security. After you answer each question, the quiz tells you how many … Read More

“Well Enough”: How We Talk About Our Health

man with his head in his hands

Having a chronic health issue or disability often means having good days and bad days. Depending on your own situation, you may outwardly look healthy to other people, even if you don’t feel well at all. It’s easy to get into the habit of saying you’re fine when people ask, whether you are or not, rather than admitting you don’t feel well at all. Admitting you don’t feel well turns the conversation to your health, rather than whatever you were going to talk about. The challenge here is that by denying how badly you feel, you’re implicitly telling yourself that … Read More

The Administrative Burden of Being Unwell

stack of binders

Nobody talks about this part. The doctors don’t seem to be aware of it, your boss and coworkers certainly don’t get it, and you may not be able to delegate much of it to a trusted family member. It’s the administrative of being unwell. When you need a test or a treatment or a specialist, does your insurance cover it? You have to call, sit on hold, and ask. You might need a prior authorization you didn’t know about. Does your medication come from a specialty pharmacy? You’ll have to talk to your insurance company to get the contact info … Read More

Diets and Chronic Disease

garden fresh salad

Diets are an especially fraught subject for people with chronic diseases. Some doctors give their patients complicated and restrictive dietary guidelines to help control their conditions or symptoms, but other doctors give dietary advice so vague as to be completely unhelpful: “limit your sugar intake” (to what? How much?) or “eat healthy” (what on Earth does that actually mean? Only 2 cheeseburgers per week? Veganism?). In addition, when you have a chronic disease, everyone you meet has a story to volunteer about their second cousin or someone they went to high school with who had the same chronic disease you … Read More

Resolving to Slow Down in 2018

cozy reading spot next to a window

The holidays are over, and we’re staring down the barrel of winter and new year’s resolutions that will make us happier and make our lives better. It’s tempting to commit to doing more things, like exercising and cooking healthier meals. But could we be happier if we did less, rather than more? The Danish experience may indicate we could. Scandinavian countries, as dark and cold as they are in the winter, are always at the top of happiness surveys. So what can they teach us? The Danish concept of hygge (“hue-gah“) may be a useful way to help us reorient … Read More

New Normals

workers having a discussion

Having a disability or chronic health issue you weren’t born with means adjusting to “new normals.” This “adjustment” might just be a nicer way to say grief. We identify with our expectations of our bodies and our minds, whether it’s what our bodies can do, or how they look, or how it feels to just be able to think clearly without your mind wandering or getting exhausted. What am I, who am I, if I can’t walk easily or drive normally or can’t follow a conversation the way I used to? What our new normals are depends, of course, on … Read More

Are Social Security Disability Benefits Available for Diabetes?

person doing a blood sugar level check

Is it possible to get Social Security disability payments for diabetes? Maybe. Some people with diabetes are successful in their disability claims, but it can be challenging. There is no listing for diabetes in the Social Security Administration’s Blue Book, which is SSA’s manual for what a claimant has to show in order for an administrative law judge to award disability benefits. People who are disabled by diabetes have to qualify for disability benefits under another listing. Two Types of Diabetes There are two recognized types of diabetes—type 1 diabetes, which is a chronic autoimmune disease where a person’s pancreas … Read More

What is Coronary Heart Disease?

medical model of the heart

Heart conditions can prevent you from completing work duties and maintaining gainful employment, so some patients are eligible for Social Security disability benefits. Certain heart conditions, such as coronary artery disease, arrhythmias, heart transplants or congestive heart failure, qualify you for automatic disability benefits, but there are also benefits for medical-vocational allowance, which is granted according to the details of the case. What are the Social Security Listings for Coronary Heart Disease? The Social Security listings related to cardiac conditions are located in Section 4.00 under the Cardiovascular System. These listings can be quite complex, so it’s important to consult … Read More

SSA Hearing Backlog Tops 1 Million While Obamacare Ad Budget Slashed, Though Insurance Still Available

insurance meeting

The Trump Administration has cut the advertising budget for the Affordable Care Act (ACA), or Obamacare, open enrollment period this fall by 90 percent. The remaining $10 million will be spent not on TV ads, but the focus will be on radio and digital ads. Funding for navigators, the people who help enrollees through the process of finding insurance, is also being cut, by 41 percent. The navigator groups will receive $37 million. The open enrollment period itself is being cut in half. Last year, the window to sign up for 2017 insurance was from Nov. 1, 2016 through Jan. … Read More

Medicaid Expansion’s Major Impact in New Mexico

Nurse entering in medical information

New Mexico is one of the 32 states that took advantage of the Medicaid expansion provision in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (ACA), which has brought New Mexico’s Medicaid rolls up to more than 900,000 New Mexicans, making up more than 43% of the state’s residents. Before the Medicaid expansion took effect, New Mexico’s Medicaid program only covered people who were disabled, blind, or aged; and pregnant women, parents, and children up to certain income levels. Low-income adults without children were not eligible for Medicaid, no matter how little money they made. The Medicaid expansion has … Read More

How Men Experience Depression

man hunched over at dining room table

Depression is a common illness that affects both men and women, but women are more likely to seek treatment for it. Depression in men often goes undiagnosed, and manifests with different symptoms that men and the people around them may not recognize as depression. There are three common types of depression: Major depression, which is a period of severe symptoms that interfere with a person’s ability to work, sleep, eat, and enjoy or participate in other aspects of life; Dysthymic disorder/dysthymia, which involves less severe symptoms than major depression, but experienced for a longer duration, 2 years or longer; Minor … Read More

How Does the SSA Look at Fibromyalgia?

woman with fibromyalgia

If you have fibromyalgia, and your symptoms keep you from being able to work, you may want to apply for Social Security Disability benefits. We’re going to break down SSR 12-2p: Titles II and XVI: Evaluation of Fibromyalgia, a policy interpretation ruling the Social Security Administration (SSA) published in 2012, which finally laid out a decisionmaking process for SSA judges to determine whether someone’s fibromyalgia is a Medically Determinable Impairment (MDI) and make determinations about awarding disability benefits. The first important thing to understand is that the SSA judge has to find that you have an MDI, which means they … Read More

Fibromyalgia—Beginning to Take Your Life Back

man with fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia is a disease, or a syndrome, depending on what sources you’re reading, that affects the muscles and the peripheral nerves, causing frequently debilitating pain, along with sleep disturbances, fatigue, cognitive “fog,” and other symptoms. At least four times as many women have fibromyalgia as men. Anywhere between 6 and 12 million Americans have fibromyalgia, depending on what you read—at any rate, it seems clear that fibromyalgia is the second most common rheumatoid condition after arthritis. I spent some time researching fibromyalgia online, looking for a mechanical explanation of how it works. Is it an autoimmune thing, where the immune … Read More

Is Your Doctor Ignoring Your Pain?

Have you left an appointment with your doctor with the feeling that he or she hadn’t been listening to you when you complained of pain? If you’re a woman, that feeling may not be all in your head. Unfortunately, studies show that doctors of both genders have a tendency to ignore or minimize women’s pain. This makes the process of diagnosis and effective pain treatment more difficult and time-consuming for women. In 2001, the Journal of Law, Medicine, & Ethics published an important study on this topic–“The Girl Who Cried Pain: A Bias Against Women in the Treatment of Pain,” which laid … Read More

What should you do if your disability application is denied?

Many deserving people who file an application for social security disability benefits are initially denied. There are two types of denials. The first is a “technical denial”. When someone is technically denied it is usually because they have not worked long enough to qualify for benefits or they are presently working. The second type is a “medical denial”. When someone is medically denied it is typically because the SSA evaluator does not feel that their medical conditions, age, level of education, and past relevant work meet the disability criteria. All in all, only 22% of applications are initially approved. Based on … Read More

Five Tips for Completing a Social Security Disability Application without an Attorney

two people working on laptops

Every claim for social security disability begins with an application. The application is one of the most important components of a successful disability claim for a few reasons. First, it the SSA claims examiner their initial impressions of your case and we all know the importance of first impressions. Second, the SSA claims examiners will use the information contained in the application to investigate your case and obtain the medical information necessary to determine the merits of your claim. Third, if your case goes to hearing, the administrative law judge will consider the statements contained in the application along with … Read More