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Listen to a unique voice about applying for disability benefits

The combination of skills and experience in Julie Whitehead is unique. She’s not only a writer with a disabling condition, but she’s also a former Social Security Administration employee who decided whether or not claims for SSD benefits were valid or not.

Whitehead recently wrote a column in which she shared her experience – and her advice – in applying for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits.

She notes that she worked for Social Security for seven years, writing: “I was intimately familiar with a process I was now going to have to access for myself.” She left the job to become a freelance writer – a line of work she pursued until bipolar disorder “derailed (her) career.”

Whitehead points out that Social Security examines your employment and income record to determine if you worked long enough and earned enough to qualify for SSD/SSDI benefits. They will also collect medical information from doctors, hospitals, mental health professionals and other caregivers and treatment facilities.

She also makes the point that, depending on circumstances, some claimants can be allowed “to do medium, light or sedentary work and still receive benefits.”

Whitehead urges people to “be as specific and honest as possible about your symptoms.” The Social Security office requires some applicants to go in for further testing by doctors to determine the extent of physical or mental impairments.

Perhaps her most important advice is this: “If denied, do not get discouraged.” Many who apply for SSDI are initially denied, but are granted benefits after they appeal the decision with the help of an attorney experienced in benefits appeals. “Be persistent in pursuing your claim,” she writes.

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