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Initial Applications - Social Security Disability and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

If you have just started your application, now is the very best time when you can make the very biggest difference for your case. Applying for disability is a big mental shift for many people. Be good to yourself and try to remember you are doing something to improve your life and take to care of yourself.

The biggest mistake I see people make is waiting too long. People wait too long to apply, and then when they do apply they wait too long before making their disability application their first priority. I have met many people in crisis who regret not doing more to take their application seriously at the beginning. I always wish I could go back in time.

Sadly, I am not a time traveler, but happily, you don't have to be. If you are putting in a new application now, you are at the perfect time to get everything the way you want it right from the start. This is really the best and easiest time to make a difference.

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How To Create a Great Application
  • Most people don't make any extra effort with their initial applications, so anything at all you can do here will set your application apart.
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How and Where to Get Started

  • To start out, you will need to fill out some basic forms with your contact information and contact information for your doctors. You can do this online or through the mail or by visiting your local office. Social Security website with how and where to apply.
  • SSI and SSDI are two separate programs, but they have the same application. If you don't know what you are eligible for, don't worry, just apply for both. They will figure it out for you.
  • On the form, there will be a box to check about SSI. If you are poor or may become poor, always check this box. The rules are too complex to explain and everyone gets them wrong, so please just take my word for it.
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Find Out If You are Eligible


Many people don't apply for disability because they get scared off. This is almost always a mistake. Many people start out by calling Social Security, or visiting the local office, or going online, or talking to a friend, and they wind up thinking: "Never mind! I'm not eligible to apply." This is almost never true. If you are saying one of these thing to yourself, think again. There is a very good chance you are wrong:
  • "I can't apply because I haven't been sick for twelve months"
  • "I can't apply because my work credits expired"
  • "I can't apply because I have too much money"
  • "I can't apply because I haven't worked in a long time"
  • "I can't apply because I am not in a wheelchair"
  • "I can't apply because everyone with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome gets turned down"
  • "I can't apply because I don't have tests which prove I have CFS"
  • "I can't apply because my employer doesn't believe I am sick"
  • "I can't apply because I know someone much sicker than me who got denied"
  • "I can't apply because I applied in the past and got turned down."
If anyone ever tells you something that makes you think that you cannot apply, should not apply, or will not be approved, do not listen. If that person is a Social Security employee, then really don't listen. Keep researching and find out more for yourself.

SSI and SSDI are two separate programs and most people are eligible for at least one of these programs. I have only met a handful of people who were truly not eligible at all. The only people I have met in this situation are people who have not worked for long time, plus they are married, plus their spouse makes good income. Feel free to message me if you want help sorting this out.

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When To Quit Your Job (And When Not To)
  • If you are still working now, check to see if your employer has a Short Term Disability and Long Term Disability policy.
  • If yes, do not quit your job. File for short and longterm disability while you are still employed. Take sick leave or unpaid medical leave or FMLA while your application is being processed, so you are still technically an employee. You can file a Social Security disability application at the same time.
  • If no, the decision about quitting your job is up to you. Only you know how sick you are, what you are capable of, and what you need to get by. As long as you earn less than $1,130 per month you are eligible to apply for Social security disability... However, if you are working at all, it may be significantly more difficult to get approved.
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What Happens When You List a "Contact Person"

  • If you listed a "contact person" on your application, Social Security may write or call that person and ask them questions about you, your life, and your activities. This is called a Third Party Form. If they receive a phone call, they may request the written form instead.
  • It is important that your contact person knows all of your limitations well and is prepared to describe your limitations in every answer. Your contact person should describe things he or she has personally witnessed. For example, if your contact person is asked "Does this person do laundry, cleaning and housework?" and answers "Yes" this may cause Social Security to think you can work as a housecleaner. It is better if they say, "Yes, but...." then describe any assistance they have given you or any limitations they have seen you have when trying to do housework.
  • If your contact person does not know your daily life well, they can leave questions blank or say "I don't know" or simply decline to answer questions. It is much better to give no answer then to say something which is inaccurate and may hurt your case.
  • A contact person is not required. If you do not have a contact person, or if your contact person does not return their form, nothing bad happens.
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The Best Way to Fill Out Adult Function Forms

  • I have seen many people get very nervous or excited when they see this form because they think this is their "big chance" to prove they are disabled. Not true. Your medical records are what proves you are disabled. What you write here will not help very much, and will probably not help at all. This form is mostly used to screen people out. Just be brief, be clear, be honest and don't write anything that hurts your case.
  • When filling out the Adult Function Form, if you mention any kind of activity at all ALWAYS include a description of how you are limited or how your symptoms make this activity hard for you. Include both physical limits and mental problems such as memory, focus and concentration. You can also include how side effects from medications make this activity difficult. Also, for every activity always include if anyone assists you in any way. More tips for this form.
  • If you have children, be careful with the childcare question. Remember they are asking if you take care of children, they are not asking if you care about your children. They are not asking if you love your children. They are asking if you can handle a job as a nanny or daycare worker. Make sure to mention any limitations you have with childcare because of your illness, and also any assistance you need.
  • Don't get trapped in a corner by their questions. If they ask a yes or no question, you don't have to answer "yes" or "no". You can write "sometimes" or "depends" or "varies" or "see below".
  • Never say never and never say always. Say "sometimes" or "when my symptoms are bad." Most people with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome have symptoms that vary by the hour or by the day. Don't write always unless it is truly always.
  • Although this does not happen often, Social Security may contact you to ask the Function Form questions over the phone instead of filling out the form. Personally, I would find this kind of phone call to be hell. If you have difficulty answering questions on the phone, you can request to be sent the questions in writing instead. If your health or mental health symptoms make it difficult to answer phone questions, you can make this request based on your health.
  • At the end of the day, this form doesn't matter that much. What matters is your medical records. Focus all your attention on creating great medical records and you will be set.

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Notes on Unemployment

  • If you file for Unemployment, it may be more difficult to get approved for disability. It is still possible, just more difficult.
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Do You Need a Lawyer?

  • Some people hire lawyers or representatives at this stage, and some people wait until a hearing appeal. The choice is yours.
  • Lawyers often do not do very much to improve a case at the initial application stage, but if you are not well enough to collect and submit your own medical records, a lawyer is a good idea. Also, if you run into any problems or difficulties with your case, a lawyer may be able to help.
  • You can hire a lawyer or you can hire a "non-lawyer representative." They are equally good. They will not charge you anything unless you win.
  • If you get turned away by lawyers right now, do not worry. It is much easier to find a lawyer later on if you appeal.
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Seven Ways To Speed Up The Application Decision


Initial application decisions usually take 4-6 months. However, it is sometimes possible to get a decision in one or two months.
  1. Contact Your Congressperson
  2. File For Presumptive Disability
  3. Request Dire Need
  4. Terminal illness
  5. Military service
  6. Public safety
  7. Compassionate allowance
If you do not have great medical records, a fast decision won't help you. If I were in this situation, I would let the decision be slow and use my time to create great medical records.


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