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Filing for Social Security Disability — Online!

Posted Dec 31 2010 11:20am

In the Federal Civil Service, we have this little Catch-22.  If you file for Disability Retirement from the government, you have to prove you’ve filed for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) before your retirement request can be approved by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM).  However, SSDI tends to cast a jaundiced eye on filings made by people who are still (technically) working.

But soft!  We have a FORM for that.  We call it the FEDMER.  “Federal Medical Evidence of Record”.

Ya fills it out after you go through the tedious online process of filing for SSDI.  Then you send it back to your HR office… and wait.  This proves that “I have filled for Social Security disability benefits, but I have not received a decision.  I will provide my Human Resource office with proof (e.g., copy of Social Security disability application receipt…)”

Done and done.

So now, I just wait for the NIH HR department to sift through the mountains of evidence and doctors’ reports I sent on December 1st and make a determination whether or not to approve my application.  THEN, they send it along to the OPM, and THEY sift through the mountains of evidence to see whether or not there is going to be some miraculous cure for Parkinson’s disease and I can suddenly go back to work… after a few months of that, they either approve or disapprove.  So, all the paperwork for that aspect of this thing has been filed.  At least, as far as I know.

Doing the SSDI online thing yesterday was time-consuming and tedious.  Now, this is just me.  I’m just using common sense here, the kind of common sense you don’t find in a Federal Standard Operating Procedures manual.  But if you’ve got a person clearly diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, his doctor CERTIFIES that diagnosis and says the patient is continuing to deteriorate, the doctor says that PD is not curable or reversible, therefore the patient will only CONTINUE to get worse… that seems like a pretty easy decision.  You grant disability insurance.

But we’re talking SSDI here, and they PROMISE to take about 120 days to come to a decision.

First, I had to fill out an Adult Disability Report.  You give all your personal info, your contact info, your spouse’s info, a list of conditions from which you suffer, the name of the doctors who have treated you for this, what the doctors you saw did for you, when they did it, how often they did it, the hospitals and/or clinics you’ve been to for this condition, when you went to them, how often you went to them, what they did to you while you were there, how often they did what they did to you while you were there, what sort of tests were ordered, how often were these tests done.  Then…

They want your work/education history.  Are you still working?  Have there been CHANGES in your work  activity because of your condition?  When did these changes occur?  How many jobs have you held in the last 15 years?  Tell us all about the last five… job title, type of business, start date, end date, hours per day, days per week and rate of pay.  What is the highest grade of school you completed?  When did you complete it?  Any special training, trade or vocational schools?  When and where?

Then you get a chance to add your own remarks that you think will help your case.  I added…

Parkinson’s disease is a progressive neurodegenerative disease.  It will only get worse, it will not get better.  After being diagnosed in 2000 at age 45, I have reached the point where I am no longer able to safely drive (I have surrendered my drivers license).  I fall easily as I suffer from postural instability.  I am unable to navigate through mass transit by myself.  I am unable to walk from my office to the locations I need to visit to perform my job.  My voice is showing signs of being affected by PD, I’ve developed a stutter.  My doctor says I am exhibiting signs of executive dysfunction, an early sign of Parkinson’s disease dementia.

Then, I hit the submit button.  That’s when the NEXT form popped up.  It was the actual Benefit Application.

Therein, I filled out much of the same information.  They wanted to know my wife’s name, SSN, when she was born, when we were married, what kind of marriage (clergy or public official), where it was done and what state.  Was I married before?  Did any of those marriages last 10 years or end in a spouse’s death?  Any kids who became disabled before age 22? Any unmarried kids under 18?  Any unmarried kids aged 18 or 19 still attending school below the college level?

We moved on to employers.  Where do I work now?  What’s the address? When did I start?  When did I quit?  Was I self-employed in 2009?  2010?  Will I be in 2011?  Have I ever worked outside the US?  Has my wife?  Do I agree with the earning history shown on my yearly Social Security statement?  Am I a corporate officer of my employer?  Am I RELATED to a corporate officer of my employer? Do I receive income from a Family Corporation or other closely held corporation?  Do I give them permission to contact my employers?

How much money did you make in 2009?  2010?  How much do you expect to make in 2011?

Ever have a job where Social Security Taxes were not deducted or withheld?  Has your wife worked for the Railroad 5 years or more?  (Not even “all de live-long day!”)

Where do we direct deposit your checks?  Have you recently applied for SSDI?  Did  you file under your own SSN?

What illness or disability is keeping you from work?  Is this injury or disability related to your work?  Are you now able to work?

Have you filed for worker’s comp or other public disability benefits?  Have you received money from your employer on or after the day you were no longer able to work?  How much?  Do you expect more money from your employer?  How much?

Do you have a parent of counts on you for half of his/her support?

Can we look at your medical info?

Then they also ask for remarks.

“I have filed for Social Security Disability, even though I continue to work for the Federal Government.  They require you to file for SSDI before they can approve your application for Federal Disability Retirement.  As I cannot afford to quit my job while waiting for a decision from OPM or SS, some modifications have been allowed that let me work from home.  But as Parkinson’s disease is a progressive neurological disorder, I continue to get worse to the point where even working from home is getting near impossible.  I ask the reviewers to keep that in mind… PD does not get better, it only gets worse.”

Then I hit the Submit button.

Now, I have to print out a W-2, poke it into the envelope, and drop it into the mail.

So, we’ll shoot this baby into the US Postal Service on Monday.

Then, I have one MORE decision to make…


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