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Disability Dialogue-- Deciding When to Apply & Coming to Terms with Disability

Last week, we introduced our new blog series—Disability Dialogue. For this series of posts, we spoke to a group of Social Security Disability recipients about their experience with the application process. We thought that these interviews would provide you with realistic expectations, improve your experience, and potentially prepare you to submit your own application for disability benefits.

During our first interview—which you can read here—the claimant expressed frustration with the Social Security Administration and the doctor’s they appointed to examine him. Today’s interview, however, touches upon more personal challenges. Take a look!

Disability Dialogue—A Look into the Social Security Disability Application Process

Today we’ll be speaking with a woman who was approved for benefits with a Compassionate Allowance condition. Overall, it took her about 6 weeks to be approved—though she had to wait the standard 6 months to receive her first check. Here is what she told us—her answers in italics.

  1. What was your overall experience like applying for benefits?

    The experience working with SSA was good. Using the website and making a few calls to the office was easy. They were very friendly toward me. My application was in process during the recent government shutdown, so it may have taken a while longer than I had anticipated.

  2. What were the biggest challenges you faced throughout the process?

    The biggest challenge for me was having to acknowledge that I am disabled. Realizing that I did not have the same energy for work as before and coming to terms with that took me a year. By the time I was ok with my disability I wished that I had started the process sooner. One can always say no to the benefits. This delay is costly in terms of income and future insurance costs such as being eligible for Medicare one full year later. (As long as I stay alive)

  3. What advice do you have for those who are thinking about filing for disability?

    So my advice is apply as soon as you are eligible and then come to terms with being disabled, not the other way around.

Our Thoughts

During this interview, we encountered a topic that isn’t often addressed when discussing Social Security Disability. Generally, we stick to the technicalities of disability benefits, but this disability recipient brought up a good point.

Not all of the challenges that you face will be physical, some will be emotional. It can be very difficult to make the transition from working full time to being unable to work at all. And, as this applicant experienced, it can be difficult to accept.

As soon as you become unable to work you should consider applying for Social Security Disability benefits—especially if you have a condition that is expected to last a full year or longer. This could potentially shorten your wait for benefits and can be useful when determining the amount of back pay you are entitled to.

As for coping with a disability, each person’s experience is different. What might help one person come to terms with an illness or injury may not be the same as what helps another person. If you are disabled, we’d love to know more about the emotional journey you went through or are going through. If you are comfortable sharing this information, please let us know what helped you cope with a disability in the comment section below.


I am currently awaiting a decision on my disability claim. I waited longer than I should have before applying because I didn't want to accept the fact that I am disabled. I have wrestled with feeling worthless because because I am no longer able to do things that once seemed effortless. The process has been an emotional and financial strain. I am sure many people are facing similar circumstances.

Accepting I am disabled and will never make a 6 figure income again has been and is still heartbreaking.

In February of 2004, the company I had worked at for 13 years put me on mandatory disability due to my mental state. Unable to accept being disabled, I sought employment elsewhere and was "let go" after 7 months. That didn't stop me, I kept trying to work. I went from one company to another only to be "let go" or "fired" within a couple months at best.

In March of 2009, I decided to file for disability expecting to be denied. That didn't happen. I was approved immediately, no hassle, no lawyer, just close friends and family.

It wasn't until I read the approval letter detailing my true mental conditions, Major Depression Disorder, Panic Disorder, PTSD, Bipolar, Dissociative Disorder, ADHD, etc. Reading that is when it hit me...I was or more accurate, AM disabled and incapable of holding down a job.

Devastated, I tried to kill myself because for me being disabled and not able to work meant I was useless and nothing more than a burden to my parents whom I live with and a burden to society.

The worst things about being disabled: having to live with my parents, feeling alone and wishing I was dead, I'm not going to kill myself, but I would willingly trade positions with someone who died while being a contributor to society. Hearing comments like I'm a freeloader and why don't I get job! It's humiliating.

On a more positive note: I wish I knew what benefits I'm entitled to. It seems like people on disability should have the same discounts that senior citizens get. I'd like to have a mentor, sponsor, who would talk to me and give me resources I'm eligible for. There are so many things I don't understand, like how it's calculated, why don't I get SSI, but my friend does and we both had similar incomes.