Dealing with Disability

Thursday, July 5, 2007

By: Bill Beamer

Reprinted from FMOnline


In 2003, I retired from the Commonwealth of Virginia after 30 years of employment in the field of Social Services. Fortunately, I was able to work to full retirement. I had been plagued for many years with the varied problems of FM/CFIDS and related conditions, undiagnosed until just a few years ago. Once I received a diagnosis from a rheumatologist, my employer—based on medical recommendations—did accommodate my working schedule and travel requirements to the extent possible, which allowed me to conclude my tenure with the State.

Now, those are the brief facts of my professional life. I could write volumes on all the emotions—grief, anger, guilt, hopelessness, feelings of being misunderstood by friends and coworkers, you name it—that I experienced before retiring. I didn’t want to retire. I wanted to keep working. I held a good-paying and significant position in State Government, and I didn’t want to give that up. Especially difficult for me was the fact that I am a middle-aged male, who has always accomplished most of his goals, but who was now finding himself able to do less and less, instead of more and more, like in the “old days.” The fact that I “made it” to retirement did offer some consolation, but my income was cut in half.

My goal, post retirement, had been to continue working part-time. But with much additional frustration and guilt—and dropping that false macho self- image—I had to finally acknowledge that I could not work. I could not predict from day to day whether I could even get out of bed, and no one was going to hire me under those conditions.

One evening I was perusing an issue of the National Fibromyalgia Association online newsletter (I don’t remember which issue). I read an article on disability and links to agencies, etc. As a former employee of social services, I had been the helper, not the “helped.” I had fought notions of disability for myself—call it pride of the male, or whatever. But I knew I had to do something. And from my experience in working with government laws and regulations—disability not being among them—I knew I needed professional assistance. I saw a referral link to a company, ALLSUP, INC. in Illinois. I called them and with their outstanding assistance, was approved for disability in just several months after application!

My experience as a social worker, administrator, licensing specialist, policy writer and my work with Allsup taught me some very basic things that I think helped me get disability through Social Security:

  1. My official diagnosis of FM and related arthritis conditions came from a rheumatologist. I visited this specialist based on a recommendation and referral from my family practice doctor, who said I should see a specialist in this area.

  2. I had “doctor/provider shopped,” finding those who were knowledgeable of FM/CFIDS.
  3. Each of my providers (MD, DO, neuropsychologist for biofeedback therapy, and massage therapist) documented my medical history and treatment in “operational” terms. For example they didn’t say, “Patient can walk without stopping for a while.” They wrote “Patient can walk for 50 feet, with support of cane, and must rest for a minimum of 3 minutes before resuming walking.”

  4. I had a long and documented medical history. In this regard, I was able to demonstrate that my illness was not just a “passing thing.”
  5. I have tried to follow, as closely as possible, the agreed upon treatment plans with each medical provider, and this was documented for Social Security, as were any changes to the plans. The net result: following treatment regimens keeps me “functioning,” but could not rehabilitate me for even part-time gainful employment.

  6. Most important, as mentioned above, was working with ALLSUP, INC—the most professional business with which I have dealt in my career. Having taught classes in customer relations, I can say without exaggeration, that they could “write a book” on effective customer services.

Several variables have saved my life: faith in God, a loving and understanding wife and family, our affectionate cats, my passionate interests in art and music, and an excellent array of medical providers. All of these literally enable me to deal with each new challenging day!

Born in 1947, Bill Beamer is retired from the Commonwealth of Virginia, State Department of Social Services. He and his wife, parents of a grown daughter, live with their three cats. Creating art and music are his passionate hobbies and part of his therapy.