As if it weren’t enough to be constrained by physical limitations; now Lyme was limiting my life’s activities because I no longer had an income and hence the freedom to spend money on things I needed, never mind the occasional impulse purchase.
For many Lyme disease sufferers who can’t work, SSDI can provide relief from one of the major burdens of Lyme disease; financial hardship. Following are some tips for obtaining SSDI, and how to keep it once it has been granted to you.
Also, you wil need a physician (and that means someone who is an MD) willing to diagnose you with a malady other than Lyme disease. By itself, Lyme is considered insufficient proof of your inability to work. Depression and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, however, are accepted as valid diagnoses and since most Lyme disease sufferers also have these symptoms, many choose to cite one or both as the primary causes of incapacitation. Other dysfunctions caused by Lyme may also be acceptable, but the aforementioned are the two that I am aware of.
Now, for the unfortunate part of this whole process. The first time you file for SSDI, you will be denied. Most likely. But don’t despair, if you file for an appeal once you are rejected, if you find a good lawyer to represent you, and are able to get the support of an MD, then you are likely to win the second time around.
I filed for SSDI two months after I became ill, even though at that time I didn’t know that I had Lyme disease and was sure I’d be healed within a few months. I filed because I had nothing to lose and figured I was better off being safe rather than sorry, as the well-beaten adage goes. I’m glad I did, because I spent the next three years draining my bank accounts, just so that I could pay for my basic living and medical expenses. Had I not pursued SSDI, I might have had to stop my treatments and remain dependent upon the charity of others in order to survive. While I don’t like resorting to SSDI for my daily crumbs, I often remind myself that my benefits were well-earned and the result of money that I contributed to the SSA during my working years. It isn’t charity; it’s money I gave to the government and which I now need. It’s my rainy day dough.
Finally, if you are fortunate enough to be a recipient of SSDI, keep in mind that you will be awarded a nine month trial work period after you receive your benefits. This trial work period allows you to work and earn as much income as you wish for up to nine months, if, at any time after you receive SSDI, you decide you are well enough to work again. After that nine month period, any income you receive will be deducted from your montly benefits. So if you receive $1,000 per month, for instance, and earn $500 a month from part-time work, then your benefits will be reduced by $500 each month. This can be a significant disadvantage if you find that your benefits don’t cover all of your living expenses (which is most often the case), but you want and are able to work part-time to supplement your income. In this regard, I feel that the SSDI program has failed, because it discourages you from pursuing work until you are able to work full-time again, which is detrimental not only to you but also to the economy. It also encourages underground, or illegal employment, for those who need additional income in order to survive (what soul in the United States can live off of $1,000 per month)? so that you don’t lose the benefits you have been given.