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Transitioning from high salary to disability

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    Transitioning from high salary to disability

    My long existing spinal problem finally resulted in a surgery and six months on medical leave last year.
    In November, I returned to work.
    However, I've not been able to maintain professional standards of work due to pain, lack of sleep (as much as 30 hours of lost sleep per week), and medication making it difficult to focus.
    I'm starting to be aware of my limitations. I'm on a performance improvement plan and have at least three weeks with no improvement.
    I'm thinking I probably need to go on disability. But, how do I make that transition? If I just quit work, I won't know if I'll be awarded disability. I may well get fired. All I know is that continuing to work is affecting my health.
    I have three ruptured disks. Before the surgery, I had acute S1 radiculopathy (which I suspect I still have as the pain still runs down my leg, just not as bad as pre-surgery). I had stenosis before the surgery, I don't know if I still got it. The surgeon said that my nerves around my S1 nerve root looked like chicken salad. My work is stationary, but, as I said, I have difficulty focusing. My pain is in different places (a tomato sized spot next to my S1 disc, running down my leg on the S1 nerve, and the buttock). I walk very slowly, particularly on my bad days. My left leg is about an inch smaller around than my right leg. I have significant weakness in my left leg compared to my right leg. The S1 injury is is in my left leg.
    How should I take this step (transitioning on to disability) while reducing my financial risk?

    Is it possible to work part time? In the past, when I've been working & had bad bouts of pain, I was accommodated by changing my schedule.


      That is a tough question. Recurring health problems resulted in my having to apply for early medical retirement from the Educational Retirement Boatd and Social Security Disability [SSDI] simultaneously. In order to keep my medical coverage while I was awaiting for both determinations I went out on the Family Medical Leave Act. No income came in, but I was allowed to pay for continueing health coverage. It took approximately 5-6 months to get approval for each benefit. Then there is the following 24 month waiting period for Medicare.

      Figure out how to keep your medical coverage at all costs.

      jgrant27 has some good advice: identify appropriate accomodations, ..

      Get as much medical documentation as possible. Doctor reports, X-ray's, MRI's, PT evaluations, Pain management clinic reports.

      Maybe consider buyng a scooter off of craigslist to reduce the pain of walking.


        Do you have private disability insurance either from your work or that you have purchased on your own? If so, get the paper work from that company and from Social Security, and start gathering all the documentation regarding what has caused your disability. Usually with private disability insurance, you need to qualify for disability under Social Security and then your private insurance will follow and payments by the private disability insurance will be off set by Social Security Disability.

        Talk with your human resources department and run through the scenario of needing to file for disability.

        Many communities have ombudsman programs to help you through the maze of filing disability claims. Often times, it makes good sense to consult a disability attorney to guide you through the process without setbacks.

        It can be a long journey to final determination of disability, and you need to stay on top of all the parties who will be involved in providing and processing information.

        All the best,


          IAlthough I was successful at getting SSDI my first time through without a hitch, it still took about 6 months to get approved, which is also about average I guess. However I also did a lot of internet browsing looking for someone to help if I did happen to get denied, and I found accompany named Assurian that does help with getting ssdi and just based on what I've read I would recommend them if you want to get help with obtaining your ssdi.


            Some of your main concerns were just quitting work or getting fired then applying for disability. Those will not effect your SSDI application as it is based entirely on their standards. If/when you apply make certain to compete all paperwork they mail to you and fax back quickly as that will speed up your process. Some of the paperwork may seem like duplication from the information you gave over the phone/internet in your original application, however they are necessary. I know people who have gone from 6 figures to SSDI, it is a big change obviously. But, people do get by. With some time to recup and heal, you may be able to go back to work in the future Contact your local disability rights organization and see if they have an SSDI advocate who can assist with the application process.
            Disclaimer: Answers, suggestions, and/or comments do not constitute medical advice expressed or implied. Please consult your attending physician for medical advise and treatment. In the event of a medical emergency please call 911.