How I Navigated the Social Security Disability Process

October 19, 2015 • By

Reading Time: 2 Minutes

Last Updated: October 19, 2015

screen shot of the faces and facts of disability page

I’m on Social Security disability insurance (SSDI). Okay I said it, and, I’m also very thankful for it. I might sound somewhat perplexed, because it’s all new to me and isn’t what I had expected to deal with in life. Yet, I am realistic and understand that “things happen” to all people.

You hear about the horrifying, multi-year process involved when applying for SSDI benefits. These stories are in the media and everywhere, but I didn’t have to pay close attention, because I never expected I’d need SSDI.

I’ve always strategically planned for the unexpected. I’m a former corporate vice president of operations and international business leader of more than 30 years’ experience. My husband and I, together, had a significant income, owned a home in a country club, guard-gated community in Southern California, and were extensive travelers, etc. Then, the season changed – unexpectedly.

In 2012, I started to show medical symptoms from an old auto accident that had caused a brain injury. I had difficulty walking, memory loss, etc. My neurosurgeon explained what was occurring, and that major brain surgery was required for me to continue living. My first brain surgery was performed in July 2012; my second brain surgery in September 2012; and between 2012 and 2014, I underwent five brain/skull surgeries. My husband became my full-time caregiver, and our financial safety net was all compromised due to my health.

With that said, it was time to apply for SSDI. Friends recommended that I hire an attorney, but I went directly to www.ssa.gov and read the disability application requirements, and felt strongly that I could do it on my own via the website. I wasn’t in the best mental state to tackle an extensive application (I was in between brain shunt implant surgeries), but, was determined to apply for SSDI to help exercise my brain. When I got to the site, I found the SSA disability determination website amazingly user-friendly! I was able to, independently, apply online with the easy step-by-step instructions.  When my mind needed to rest, I was able to save my information and, the next day, continue from where I left off.  I did everything online — not once having to step foot in a field office to complete my application; and I received my disability benefits in four months!

What a decision to make! I always said that if I could work through the disability determination process successfully on my own, I’d publicly share my story to assist others.  I continue to fulfill that promise every day, and as it turns out, I’m not an anomaly.  The risk of disability is larger than we think: A 20-year-old worker has a 1-in-4 chance of needing disability benefits before reaching full retirement age!  So, after 30 years in the workforce and contributing to the Federal Insurance Compensation Act (FICA), I sure am glad my disability insurance was there for me in my time of need.

Honestly, I get tired of hearing the negative stories about SSDI. It’s time for everyone to hear a good truthful story about the Social Security disability determination process and how it works in favor of claimants and truly serves the public.

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About the Author

Jarita (J.D.) Davis, Social Security Disability Insurance Beneficiary and published author and blogger

Jarita (J.D.) Davis, Social Security Disability Insurance Beneficiary and published author and blogger


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  3. Jocelyn T.

    Thank you for your inspiration. I was afraid of tackling this disability but now I am confident after reading your story.

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  5. musicyo

    medical but they had it all!!!! This was an eye opening experience I went through for over a year! There has to be a way to make this quicker, and less mentally agonizing! And also to root out these people who live off the system, never working a day and receiving all the benefits, money, and food that the hard working people are paying for!

  6. Petr

    Good artical ! I also never expected having to go on disability. I was in between jobs, moving to another state and a new job. I was loading my car to move my things to an apartment, I had a box on my shoulder going through the garage and tripped on an extension cord and fell on a lawn mower, directly hitting my spine, at the time I thought it was nothing, a lot of pain, and never had any problem with my back, even know I had a very physical job working on boats for the last 38 year’s. I finished loading my car, I was in hurting but I just brushed it of. I drove 2 hours to my appartment, I unloaded a box, now my pain was of the scale, so i laid down on the floor thinking I would feel better in the morning, well a night turned into 7 days. I could not move , called 911.
    I had shattered a vertebrae. They operated and was in a hard plastic vest fo 6 months. I attempted to work in a parts room, after 1 month of being in pain I was let go, which I understood, I could no perform my job.
    I also applied for sad, I found that the process was relatively straight forward. The part that I was struggling with was I was running out of money, the whole process took about 4 moths, which in this period I looked for help, I went and called churches, friends, charities, etc.
    I had a charity that bright me food they filled my fridge, also I had a better and help group played 3 months rent. When all this ran out
    I got help to put my things in storage and moved into my car, now the year before I made $70,000.. I had used up my 401k money , having to split it and pay taxes and penalties. So I lived in my car for another six months, until I saw any money from ssd, I was devastated, I finally got my $ and bought a trailer.
    My complaint was the time I had to wait for MY ss, this was a very depressing and demeaning time, I had read stories about people that went from living a good life to on the street, it never crossed my mind it would happen to me!
    So the process was easy to apply, my complaint is the time a had to wait for MY money, I had payed into SS !
    I saw people living better than me and never had a job in their life, never payed a cent into ss, taxes, or medical but they had it all!!!! This was an eye opening experience I went through for over a year! There has to be a way to make this quicker, and less mentally agonizing! And also to root out these people who live off the system, never working a day and receiving all the benefits, money, and food that the hard working people are paying for!

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  8. A

    Great for you but so many people wait years on end. My husband has waited and still waiting for over 10 years now with no income. The system is horrible

  9. Rose

    Well to whomever said that whoever is complaining is just trying to buck the system. Well that is so not true. I live in Mississippi I have worked my entire life sometimes two jobs. Then when I was on down time because I worked turnarounds in the plants. 12 hr day 7 days a week till the turnaround was over then in a few months I would go again. So in my down time I watched my best friends mother who was 90 years old because they had her in a home for elderly she wanted to be home so I said I will sit with her. Well she needed to get up to use the port a potty and the therapist had a belt around her waist area I was holding on to and she took a few steps and both of her legs went out I held her with all my strength so she didn’t hit the Tarazal tile and when I laid her down my back popped really loud. I thought I was going to die. I had to go to hospital xrays and all. I blew two disks out I have a bulging disk in back and my fusion that I had in my neck the disk underneath is deteriorating. I have degenerative disk disease, spondolyosis , lumbar nerve root disorder, arthritis in lumbar spine, narrowing of spinal canal, severe bilateral facet anthropy, forminal stenosis, I have diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure (3) pills a day, ADHD, Anxiety disorder, panic attacks, I broke my ankle and hand by going into my house my back the pain shot down back then both legs to the heal of my foot I have plates and screws in both. I had both eyes operated on cataracts at 55 years old. Then laser surgery after. My spine specialist wrote a letter stating I am totally disabled. I need surgery on my back they want to put a cage in there. I just don’t understand how I worked my entire life and I get hurt helping someone and my world stopped I can’t do anything. I wear a back brace I hurt constantly my neck shoots pains to fingertips they go numb. I’m in severe pain all day every day and I can’t get any help. I cannot work I cannot stand or sit for periods of time I can’t drive i would be in bed for three days just riding in car. I know there are people that are fake and do use the system. All the systems. But I am the real deal and I got denied twice already. I don’t understand. I have mri xrays doctors notes. I believe totally that because I have an education I’m being discriminated by that. People with no education they just give it to them I know I see it. But since I have a college degree they think that I can be trained to do another job. This is so unbelievable I worked all my life put myself through school with two kids single mother. I get hurt and they say go find a different job! Wow I feel like I am being discriminated on. I can barely walk with the brace I can’t walk without it. Pain constantly what is really going on with this social security disability? I had 5x the work credits to apply. Somebody please help me and guide me I’m so tired of being sick and tired of hurting. I checked the social security disabilities book that shows you the disabilities people have and they get it!! It’s frustrating and aggravating I been hurt since 2016. I have an attorney but they say Mississippi is the hardest state to get disability. If somebody is disabled they are disabled it shouldn’t matter what state you live in. I know for sure if I lived in Louisiana I would get it. This is discrimination on an educated person that is disabled.

    • Gwendolyn R.

      Hi I feel your pain I’m going through the same thing. Worked all my life was born with a disability. They offered me disability and I declined wanted to work saved them 38 years of paying me disability and when I finally applied in 2011 have had 3 hearings my doctor wrote and letter that I was totally disable and they said I can do the same work I was doing before I retired. I had the same judge for 2 of my hearing. My lawyer that I had at first dropped me.

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