I’ve been fighting to get SSDI for over 2 years. Everyone who has ever had any experience with the process knows how impossible it is. It is very hard, challenging both mentally and emotionally, and very stressful.

I had to apply under the terms of my long term disability plan, so I was going to go all the way no matter what. I knew I had to. I don’t like attorneys (not even by a stretch of the imagination) and really wanted to avoid them, so I did not retain an attorney until about 6 weeks prior to the hearing. I had been denied twice by the disability determination services and did basically everything on my own. I had no problem with it because I am a bit of a control nut.

I had talked to countless law firms about my case and no one wanted to help me. That was really frustrating too. Here I was with 2 solid years of medical history and two assessments outlining my very severe issues, yet I couldn’t find an attorney who would help me. I felt I was sure to lose. When an attorney accepted I was thrilled, and ended up hating him.

Anyway, enough rambling. I already blogged about what an a*hole my attorney is (pardon me, but I hate him) and vented about that, so now we have my hearing:

My dad came down from out of town because he knew I was an absolute mess. I have a severe fear of strangers, so imagine how I felt about a room of strangers accompanied by an attorney I hate? Yeah, it was bad. Anyway, with my dad there I did okay. I felt sick, got my Starbucks coffee, took my ativan, and marched in there like I had brass balls.

Yeah, until I got into the room with strangers.

I was sitting there and the Administrative Law Judge was nice, and I mean like way beyond any realm of nice I’ve ever experienced. It was almost creepy. He was very kind and soft spoken, and did a very good job explaining the process. I tried hard not to look around, I just looked at the ALJ and the table, that was about it.

After the basic questions he asked me why I quit working and BAM! I lost it. I started crying and tried so hard to keep myself together and it felt impossible. I was barely able to say “a major psychotic episode” and started thinking “oh dear, please don’t ask about it.”

As the questions went on it got harder and harder to answer. Then he started asking me about being a mom, and how I am able to care for the kids. It is such a delicate subject for me that I had to ask for a moment as I started to weep. He gave me a minute to pull myself together, and the vocational specialist handed me a box of tissues. When I looked around I noticed the long, somber faces. Everyone’s eyes were sad, and full of sympathy.

I knew then, I can do this. I finished answering the questions and then it was my attorneys turn. Once I realized that the ones in that room were in fact not against me, I was able to answer the questions. It wasn’t easy, but I didn’t have to excuse myself to go find my sanity.

As the attorney was wrapping up the mental health portion and moved to my many physical problems the ALJ says “Counsel, you can stop here, I’ve heard enough” and my heart just about fell right out of my chest. All this, for him to just kick me out for a weak case.

He looked straight at me and tells me how he takes his time reviewing each case prior to the hearing. How he had given a large amount of time and attention to the details of my case, and that he already knew what his decision was when he had walked into the room. He explained how he likes to bring people in to see them, meet them, and talk to them a little bit so that he can put a real person behind the file.

Then he said the words that have changed my life.

“I don’t do this often at all, but I am making a bench decision here, fully favorable. I hope that can bring you some peace” and I just completely lost it. I started crying uncontrollably, thanking him over and over again.

There was no vocational expert involved, my attorney was done. He didn’t have to go back and forth, there was no badgering and no questioning.

I actually won. So now I will start receiving SSDI along with Medicare, which will allow me to get the therapy I desperately need. Our current co-pays are pretty high, so just making it to my p-doc, my diabetes doc, and all my meds nearly breaks us. This will help me pay for some of these very high (almost $400/mo) expenses. That was another major stress relief right there.

The process was terribly long, stressful and unrelenting. However, now it is over and I can move forward. I can get the therapy I need, pay for all my meds, and put this entire process behind me.

I’m stoked!

Judge photo available from Shutterstock.