This is the story of Pam and John; she in her early 50’s and John is 62. Pam is a college professor. John taught at a local community college until diagnosed with Parkinson’s in March 2008, then Lewy Body Dementia in April.


Tuesday, July 22, 2008

social security disability

Yesterday was actually a productive day. I invited a new colleague to supper and my son got home from Mexico in the evening, so I stayed busy until bedtime.

I want to summarize what I have learned so far about Social Security Disability, because I had trouble finding the information when I needed it.

The biggest mistake we made is that John didn't apply for Social Security right away. He was advised to wait until his disability retirement from his job had a chance to go through. That was a mistake because John is 62 and so eligible for retirement benefits. Disability benefits are based on the date you become disabled, but retirement benefits start with the month after you file. So if John had filed in May he could have received benefits starting with June (received in July) instead of August (received in September). And our kids would have received benefits for those two months as well (under 18 or 18 and not yet finished high school).

John filed for disability at the same time he filed for retirement. He gets retirement right away, and if he is approved for disability, he will then get a check for the difference. The person who took the application said that we should hear whether the disability application is approved in about 4 months. I know that most people are turned down and have to appeal, but the person who we talked to first said that it isn't as hard to get disability when you are close to retirement age so we might be lucky.

The disability form for Social Security was actually simpler than the one for John's job as a state employee. We listed the diagnoses as Parkinson's and Dementia with Lewy Bodies. The person taking John's application was very happy with the list of medications we brought on a separate sheet (which I had prepared for doctors) including not only amount and frequency but also which doctor prescribed and for what problem. I brought the Lewy Body Dementia brochure from the LBD Association and that was also well received--the person taking the application said that would save the people evaluating the claim some research.

I had been advised that filing online could be faster, but we liked going to the office. We did not experience long waits and the person taking the application helped us understand the options and what would happen when. He had actually taken a course from John about about 15 years ago and remembered him. John was having a good day, which I'm not sure was too the good, but I did point out that one of the characteristics of Lewy Body Dementia is that the impairment is variable. The person taking the application didn't ask questions about John's health, just about our financial situation. He had access to an amazing data base in which he could even look up John's military service (they boost the income credit for years in the military).

All the people we dealth with were friendly and seemed to be trying to be helpful, which was quite different from what I had expected.

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