The Disability Process: A marathon, not a sprint
I’ve made this speech countless times over my 11 years of practice. It’s a tough statement to make but it is generally the first step in the process of helping my clients understand the long process they face.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t help. Applying for disability benefits is not part of anyone’s life plan. No one goes through life thinking that at some point they will be unable to work. No one goes through life thinking they will need to apply for food stamps, or go to free clinics, or live from house to house. No one goes through life thinking they will need to receive disability benefits in order to survive.
When people come to me, they are usually at the lowest point of their existence. They haven’t worked. They have had to survive in ways they never imagined. They don’t feel good about having to apply (Most people think they are asking for handouts).
My responsibility is to help people understand what it means by “it is a marathon, not a sprint.”:
1) Don’t rely on a favorable decision. Keep on fighting to survive.
Some people are so convinced that they will receive benefits that they go through every day looking for the favorable decision. Don’t torture yourself. If you get a favorable decision, great. Let the decision be a surprise, not an expectation.
2) Understand that you must prove your case AND survive
These two things are tough! I mean, REALLY tough. You are not only working so you are trying to figure out to eat, stay clothed, and find some place to stay but also get medical treatment (with no insurance). Focus your energy on these things.
3) Don’t compare your case to anyone else
Sometimes, when people speak with their peers, they can’t understand why someone else got benefits instead of them. Most times, they are upset because the person believes the OTHER person is not as bad as them. Again, don’t torture yourself. The simple truth is you have no way of knowing why that person was approved instead of you. Focus on your case and not others.
The disability process is long process. If you’re applying for benefits, it’s the only process that is available. Brace yourself for the long haul and don’t go through the process alone.