In today’s episode, Logan Crumrine, a Crohn’s Warrior for nearly 30 years, joins me for an open and honest conversation about the disability process. Logan shares his experience of filing for disability due to Crohn’s Disease, shedding light on the entire process and answering many questions submitted by our listeners.
Logan’s IBD journey began 30 years ago as a teenager. But, after his initial flare and diagnosis, he went almost 20 years without a flare up and stayed in remission. Eight years ago, however, things changed and it was the start of an ongoing flare that eventually led him to file for and receive disability. You can hear Logan’s full story in episode 29 or listen directly here (update: Logan was declared to be in clinical remission this past June 🙌).
In 2012, Logan’s Crohn’s Disease had progressed so quickly, he had to quit work and in 2013 he and his wife began the journey of filing for disability. The first step: going to the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) website to file (https://www.ssa.gov/benefits/disability/). Then, as Logan describes it, you wait. This is probably the mentally toughest part of the process as the wait is not short. It took five months for Logan to receive a decision after filing, which turned out to be a rejection letter. Unable to work and describing himself as barely existing by this point, Logan’s thought was, “how sick do I need to be?”
The next step, after receiving the initial rejection, was to file an appeal with the SSA. But, unfortunately for Logan, the appeal resulted in another rejection letter that came almost six months later. Looking back on his journey with the perspective of having gone through it, Logan shared that he didn’t handle the waiting and stress very well, especially after having spent the previous 20 years in remission. He was hit with depression and his wife and sons, in addition to faith, helped him get through. If he had to go through it again, he said, and for anyone else facing the same situation, he shared that he would seek counseling at the onset to have a connection point and to better understand what he was experiencing.
The final step in seeking disability, for Logan, was to appeal to an administrative law judge. Logan explains that with the SSA, you basically have two chances to receive disability: the initial filing and the appeal. After that, you have to appear before an administrative law judge; this is the final course of action to continue in the process after receiving both rejections from the SSA. This is when Logan chose to hire a lawyer to help him through the process of appearing before a judge.
The first few months after hiring a lawyer was focused on data collection, including medical records, work history, and character information. It was a process that Logan described as invasive! Finally, once all the information was collected, it went into a case file that was given to the judge. And once again, there was a lot waiting before receiving a hearing date to appear in front of the judge at the federal courthouse.
On the day of the hearing, there were two people in the room with Logan: the judge and a vocational expert. In a disability case, after hearing all the testimony and evidence, the judge relies upon the vocational expert to simply state yes or no as to whether the person (Logan, in this case) is capable of holding a job, for any amount of time, in the American economy. For Logan, the answer was no. While it was the answer he sought, he also described what a punch in the gut it was to face the reality that this expert, in front of the judge, was declaring that he was not capable of holding any job in the condition he was in.
After the hearing, in 2015, there was one more round of waiting before receiving the official ruling. The letter came for Logan about two months later and he was declared disabled, back dated to the time of his initial filing in 2013.
Logan was gracious to share his own journey in this process and as we dive deeper in the actual interview, Logan answers a variety of questions including:
- Should I get a lawyer to help with this process?
- Which doctor should fill out my disability form?
- Can you be on unemployment while waiting for disability?
- Do you have to have had multiple surgeries?
- When on disability, do you/can you still work and earn some kind income?
Today, Logan is working on building up his health and strength while he is in remission. He focuses on helping around the house and on his two sons, especially with school work during this time of COVID. He and his wife focus on making sure and reminding themselves that every day matters and nothing is taken for granted.
If you have any questions you’d like Logan to answer about the disability process that we didn’t cover here, or any IBD questions in general, he’s willing and eager to share his knowledge. You can send him a direct message and follow him on Instagram at @thecrohniedad.
In closing the interview, Logan reminds everyone that “even though you have a chronic illness, the chronic illness is not you.”