After a loved one has a diagnosis that will be lifelong, applying for disability is one of the next steps. Social Security-Disability (SSDI or SSI, depending on individual circumstances) not only provides a small source of income, but also provides Medicaid as health insurance.
Having Medicaid opens a multitude of services available to the disabled person, from transportation to day programs to in-home care, among others. There are tricks and tips, though, for applying for disability.
Do your research
Before visiting the Social Security Administration office near you, visit their website. Make sure that the diagnosis you have is covered under the disabilities the Administration recognizes. Some aren’t—especially if it is something that will eventually go away. Find your local administration office, and call to make an appointment – this will save a great deal of time at the office itself.
First and foremost, go to the Social Security office prepared with the documentation needed: birth certificate, Social Security card, identification card (ID or drivers’ license), and any and all evaluations. The evaluation results could be medical, educational, or psychological. Make sure all of them are the original documents that can be copied by Social Security staff. There are some instances where one can apply online without leaving their home--check the website to see if you qualify.
The evaluations or medical records should be signed by a doctor or therapist, with their addresses and phone numbers readily available.
On the day of application, go in prepared with all the documents in a manila-type file folder or envelope. If you are prepared, the application process is a great deal faster and no one —you or the worker—get irritated. If you are applying on behalf of someone, make sure you bring that person along. Do not apply for someone without that person there, even if it’s a child with autism who is having a terrible day. It’s much more difficult to say “no” to a person than a name on a piece of paper.
Also, if you do bring the child for whom you’re applying, try to bring another adult who can take the child outside or to the restroom.
Understanding that getting denied the first time you apply is not the end, nor is it abnormal. Appeal the decision, and if necessary, hire an attorney who specializes in Social Security disability cases. However, one of the most popular reasons a disability case is denied is because someone is trying to get disability who does not qualify as disabled. Another reason is that the appropriate paperwork was not submitted.
For example, let’s say that Mary and Jane both have migraines. Both have missed work because of them, and both apply for disability. Mary takes over-the-counter meds and fights through. Jane goes to a neurologist, is put on prescription medication, saves all her receipts, and has her work document days absent due to illness. Jane has her migraines documented whereas Mary does not. Mary gets denied disability but Jane is approved.
If Mary sees a doctor for her migraines, saves OTC and prescription medication receipts, and had her work document her absences, she could possibly win an appeal. It would be extremely difficult to win an appeal based on non-documented doctor visits, hospital stays, or work absences.
Applying for a chronic condition
If a child is born with a chronic, life-long condition that will affect his livelihood or ability to work for the rest of his life, applying for disability is an appropriate avenue which, along with Medicaid, opens doors for that child for therapies, housing, transportation, and other services.
To apply for a child with a chronic condition, first look up the condition on the Social Security website to ensure it’s one of the disabilities recognized by the government. Secondly, if it is recognized, call your child’s primary care doctor for a complete physical, and any specialists the child sees. Tell the doctors you’re trying to gain disability for the child, and that you will need copies of the medical records.
Children public schools’ exceptional childrens’ programs have Individualized Educational Plans to document educational strengths and weaknesses, as well as show need for therapies. Homeschooling parents need to document and portfolio their child’s work, and it would not hurt at all to keep a running journal on your laptop about your child’s progress (or lack) in homeschool. Make sure each entry is dated.
If the child receives in-home or outside therapies, even if you pay out of pocket, each therapy should document and write an evidentiary letter about the child. Documenting is key when trying to receive disability.
Applying for a child before she is 18 years old is extremely important. When a disabled child turns 18, they are no longer bound by income restrictions from her parents. However, it is important you gain all medical records that show the disability started before she turned 18, as this indicates a life-long issue.
Have your child evaluated by a psychologist who is trained in performing Social Security psych evals, and take the original copy of the evaluation results with you when you apply. Also, take the person for whom you’re applying, even if he is having a bad day. Sometimes, a bad day indicates disability more than pristine behavior.
You will want to open a checking account for the child with your name on it as well. Take routing and account numbers with you to the application appointment, and a copy of the balance sheet for the checking account, noting that it should have only enough money in it that was used to open the account. The person’s disability payments will be direct deposited into this account.
Applying for disability is one of those necessary evils when one has a life-changing illness or injury. Doing your homework, documenting everything, and getting all the paperwork in order helps the application process tremendously.
(C) 2019 Terrie Bentley McKee All Rights Reserved
The last year my son was in high school, he was bullied mercilessly, which caused significant behavior issues with him. Autism is cruel enough--being bullied because of the autism is unacceptable.
After many tries to remedy the situation through IEP, teacher, and administration meetings, I finally pulled the "homebound" student card and taught Sam at home with academic resources from the school. He still graduated--and walked--with his class, but we were thrust into the world of homeschooling quite by accident.
My other son, Jacob, was still a student at the school, a year behind Sam. It was odd, at first, Jacob getting up and rushing out the door to meet the bus in the morning, leaving Sam at home with me. But, like many parents of children with autism and other special needs, I found out quickly what worked and what didn't. The thing about it was this: I was homeschooling one child while the other went to public school.
In that particular season, it was what we needed to do to meet the needs of both boys. It would not have been fair to Jacob, who was active in band, to pull him from public school because his brother had significant issues. Public school met Jacob's needs; it did not meet Sam's.
Throwing out the IEP
The IEP--Individualized Education Plan--was made to provide specialized public education to my son, who has learning disabilities. At home, though, he was getting one-on-one, highly individualized education. I found that a lot of his IEP was based in the behavioral issues and problems he would have with teachers and peers; about 60% of it was dedicated to academics.
I found that Sam was really, incredibly, mind-numbingly bored with "menu math" -- addition, subtraction, and a wee bit of multiplication based around restaurant menus, food prices, and grocery store circulars. He wanted something different. He wanted codes to break and exploration, so I introduced him to algebra. No more "Mary orders a pancake for $1.49 and an orange juice for 59 cents. How much change would she get if she paid with a $5?" -- no, he not only relished 2x=6 but he was thrilled by the adventure of what that x meant.
The truth is, every child can benefit from individualized education. If you are homeschooling one child and not the others, I would encourage you to do one of two things: be as proactive with your publically-schooled children, in their schools, with homework, with extra-curricular activities, as you are with your homeschooler, or homeschool all your kids. Public school now is not like public school 30, 20, or even 10 years ago. There's less education and more indoctrination. Just be aware, parents.
Homeschool and Homework
The biggest issues occurred we had when homeschooling one and not the others were when Jacob disembarked the bus at 3:45. Sam can be quite chatty when he's excited and nothing would get him more excited than his brother arriving home. Jacob had homework to do and his tenor sax to practice. Sam was technically finished with school long before Jacob (more on that in a second), so there was the problem of getting Sam to be quiet while Jacob worked on his homework.
I learned to keep reading or another subject back, and required Sam to read or do math facts --something! -- while Jacob was busy doing his homework. It brought in a semblance of normalcy to the new routine. The beauty of homeschool is it's not 8:30 a.m. - 3:00 p.m. It can be any time, so it can be when other kids are studying, too, to minimize distruptions.
Keeping to a tight schedule was fundamentally the most important thing with homeschooling Sam. Autism doesn't take kindly to a hither-and-yon schedule. I would have the same subjects in order, the same way, every single day. Spelling, math, a break. History, lunch. Science, a long break. Jacob would come home, and Sam would do his reading. I found that Sam got more done, retained more information, and was done before the afternoon bus pulled up, on most days. He was happier and was learning--without being bullied.
Some days, we had to pick Jacob up from school, and on those days, Sam went in with me, saw familiar people, talked with the assistant principal. He still participated in graduation preparations. We balanced his educational needs with Jacob's, and his desire to do neuro-typical things like graduation. We made it work.
Parents, you need to do what works for your family, and ultimately, it's your call whether or not to homeschool, to have your kids in public school, or private. The most important thing is to be present, and active, in your child's education.
(c) 2019 Terrie Bentley McKee All Rights Reserved
Terrie Bentley McKee is an author and speaker who homeschools her daughter. In the past, she also briefly homeschooled her son, who has autism.
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