Disability benefits can keep you afloat when an impairment prevents you from working to support yourself and your family. The average wait for a decision on eligibility is between three and four months, but some applicants wait significantly longer. Getting by in the mean time often means seeking out other forms of support.
There are a number of public assistance programs for which you may qualify during your wait for a disability decision. And with some of these programs, you may continue to receive extra help, even once you begin getting disability payments from the Social Security Administration (SSA).
State Temporary Disability
Some states offer temporary disability benefits that help carry you through until you receive a decision on SSDI and/or SSI. Start by contacting the local or state office of social services. Every state has one. In some places, this agency is called the Department of Family and Social Services.
In other locations, it may be the Department of Health and Welfare, the Department of Health and Human Services, or the Department of Family and Social Services. No matter the name though, most states provide local offices in each county or township.
Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP)
You may qualify for SNAP or food stamps while waiting for disability approval. SNAP benefits often remain in affect even after you begin getting monthly disability payments too. A social worker at your local or state department of social services can assist you in applying. Many states also offer online application for SNAP.
Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
TANF is another state-administered assistance program that offers a monthly cash benefit to families that meet financial-need eligibility rules. TANF application may be offered online in your home state, or you can get help with applying from your local social services office.
Other Assistance Programs
Based on your family make-up, financial situation, and other factors, you may qualify for other types of assistance. For example, families with extreme financial-need often meet the guidelines for emergency rent or utility payment assistance. These kinds of programs are usually administered at the city, township, or county level, but the staff at your local social services office can point you in the right direction.
Insurance Coverage and Discounted Medical Care
You may qualify for Medicaid or state health insurance, since these programs have financial-need measurements for eligibility. Many clinics offer services on a sliding scale for patients who meet income thresholds and for those without insurance too. Your regular doctor’s office may have a “need-based” sliding scale as well, so be sure to talk to the staff there about your disability application and your financial concerns. Your doctor can also help you find discount prescriptions and may provide you samples to help cut your costs.
A Word on Unemployment Benefits
Unemployment and disability benefits don’t mix. This is because a disability application is based on the idea that your impairment stops you from working, while unemployment benefits are only available if you are activity seeking a new job. In other words, you cannot get approved for disability if you are on unemployment and vice versa.
Getting Help with Your Social Security Disability Claim
A disability advocate or attorney that understands the eligibility rules and review processes can potentially increase your chances of approval. If your application stalls out during the review stage, a call from an advocate or attorney can usually get things moving again too. Not to mention the assistance an advocate or lawyer can provide if you’re initially denied benefits. He or she can help gather evidence, file an appeal, and represent you before the administrative law judge that reviews your claim.