As you deal with symptoms, misdiagnoses, a final diagnosis, and resultant changes in lifestyle, work can become difficult and even impossible. In this situation, your alternatives may be unclear. What are your options? And when do you apply for disability benefits?
What are my options?
Social Security Disability Insurance: SSDI is payment to you from the investment you’ve made in paying Social Security taxes out of your income over your lifetime.
Supplemental Security Income: SSI is a program for people who have not worked long enough to qualify for SSDI. Instead of looking at how much you’ve paid into Social Security over your working history, the SSI application values your assets, including income. If your assets (excluding your house, one car, household goods, and personal effects) are less than their monetary cap, you qualify for SSI.
State disability insurance program: If you are a resident of California, New York, New Jersey, Rhode Island, or Hawaii, you could be eligible for your state’s disability insurance. Utah does not have a state disability program, but it does supplement SSI recipients who are working.
Utah’s Division of Services for People with Disabilities: The DSPD provides many services for eligible Utah residents, including help with daily chores, employment and financial management, transportation, home services, etc. Unfortunately, services are not available immediately. And because the waiting list prioritizes applicants with the most critical needs, you may not receive timely help, depending on your circumstance.
Work Ability: This is another tool that shares a plethora of other resources to help you manage your work life around your disability. Although your disability changes your lifestyle, it doesn’t have to diminish your feelings of professional success.
When can I apply for benefits? When am I truly “disabled”?
You don’t have to wait for work to become completely impossible to apply for benefits from the Social Security Administration. If you have 1) been out of work or expect to be out of work for at least one year and 2) have not been or will not be earning more than $1,070 per month, then you are eligible to apply for SSDI and SSI.
Since it takes anywhere from a few months to over a year for a claim to be approved, apply as soon as you become disabled. However, the definition of “disabled” varies. The SSA uses a rigorous 5-step process to determine your disability. If your claim is initially denied, keep trying, especially if you expect your condition to worsen and can submit further evidence of your worsening condition.
Also realize that if you have a private long-term disability insurance policy, the policy might require you to apply for Social Security disability benefits within a certain time frame. Look over your policy to know what your time frame might be.
You can also use the SSA’s benefits screening tool to see if you are eligible for benefits in your situation right now. Although all these tools can be explored online, don’t forget to make calls and go in person to talk to real people about your questions. Arm yourself with knowledge and fight for the benefits you deserve. You can make the rough road of recovery a little smoother when you are willing to work with people.
Top photo courtesy of: sacks08
Bottom photo courtesy of: Nomadic Lass