SSDI & Lupus: A Personal Story
Claiming Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits can be a difficult and complex process. This is the story of one person’s journey to approval, with True Help providing expert assistance along the way.
By: Julie Allsup
Wendell, North Carolina – At first glance, Tabbatha Wiggins appeared unbreakable.
A tireless worker, she persevered long after many others would have surrendered. She possessed a potent blend of work ethic, reliability and compassion that allowed her to manage three jobs with no complaints. For Ms. Wiggins, her jobs were more valuable than the paycheck they provided. Each day at work brought her true fulfillment, a reason to keep moving forward.
Unable to have children of her own, work was an outlet through which she satisfied her maternal instincts. In fact, two of the three jobs involved working with children. Her job at the children’s gym allowed for playful interaction along with the caretaking.
At her second job, she worked as a youth counselor where she established bonds and meaningful connections.
“I just love kids,” she gushed.
“I loved working with those kids, and they loved me too,” Ms. Wiggins recalled. “We would go on hikes in the woods that would really wear me out!”
Her third job, however, was her breaking point.
“It was a manufacturing job where we built computer data systems,” Ms. Wiggins said. “There was a lot of tedious work with our hands. We’d build 8-foot systems and had to push around heavy equipment all day. My fingers would get cold and sore. I was constantly tired. It started taking its toll on my body.”
As her health declined, Ms. Wiggins found it increasingly difficult to complete work tasks. Frequent medical check-ups and hospital stays were demanding her time and trying her patience.
“I was only 40 years old; I could do this,” Ms. Wiggins recalled thinking. “But I was always getting sick because I was doing too much. I didn’t know my limits.”
Diagnosed with lupus and hypertension in 2004, Ms. Wiggins continued to work until working was no longer an option.
Characterized by fatigue, problems with the nervous system, and joint and muscle pain, lupus can greatly impair one’s quality of life. Because its symptoms aren’t always visible, many of its victims suffer in silence.
She knew it was time to file for North Carolina Social Security Disability.
Then, in 2009, her brother told her about Allsup.
Nearly 66 percent of initial SSDI applications are denied nationwide, as are nearly 88 percent of first appeals. Founded in 1984, Allsup—which boasts a 98 percent success rate—has helped more than 190,000 people receive the SSDI benefits they paid for while working. Allsup employs more than 800 professionals who deliver specialized services supporting people with disabilities and seniors so they may lead lives that are as financially secure and healthy as possible.
“I looked up Allsup online as soon as my brother told me about them,” Ms. Wiggins said. “I saw that I could fill out an eligibility form on their website, which I didn’t expect. They called me back the very next day.”
Once Allsup accepted her case, they went to work on her behalf.
“Initially, I didn’t get my hopes up too high,” Ms. Wiggins confessed. “I had been denied so many times in the past, it was discouraging. I had been told that my condition wasn’t serious enough. With lupus, you may not look sick, but you are. I thought no one knew my pain but me.”
Two-thirds of cases are denied at the initial level. So, when Ms. Wiggins case met, once again, the same discouraging fate, she remained hopeful.
Allsup continued to navigate the bureaucratic maze. Then, in January 2012, they received news.
“I found out my case was going to appear before a judge,” Ms. Wiggins recalled. “Allsup told me my representative would be at the hearing the next morning, and sure enough he was.”
Even then, however, Ms. Wiggins had doubts.
“I worried the judge would take one look at me and think, ‘That lady doesn’t have a cane. She doesn’t have a walker. She isn’t sick. She’s only 43.'”
When she appeared before the judge, she broke down in tears.
Her tears of frustration were short-lived. Within seven days after the hearing, Ms. Wiggins received a letter in the mail.
“I looked at it and couldn’t believe it!” she exclaimed. “I think I read it two or three times. I called Allsup to make sure the news was true, and they assured me that it was. I had been awarded. I was just amazed!”
Although challenges still arise, life for Ms. Wiggins has been more manageable. She recently moved into a new apartment, where her sister often stops by to help out.
When it comes to Allsup, Ms. Wiggins insists the wait was worth it.
“I just love Allsup!” she exclaimed. “They just took my hand and led me through this process. There really is a light at the end of the tunnel.”