The disability application and review processes are time consuming. If you’ve been denied benefits and can't work then the wait can be even longer, as you will need to file an appeal. Making ends meet while you wait for a decision can be challenging. Here are some tips to help you get through.
Tip #1: Work While Waiting
It is possible to work and also file for disability benefits, though this is a tricky matter. Any work you do must not be the type or volume that will disqualify you for benefits. Additionally, the Social Security Administration (SSA) has two types of disability benefits for which you may apply. Each program has its own financial eligibility thresholds.
- With Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), you cannot earn more than what is considered “substantial gainful activity” or SGA. For 2020, SGA is set at $1,260 per month.
- With Supplemental Security Income (SSI), you cannot have significant income or other assets, as this is a need-based program. Only certain income and assets count toward eligibility and the calculation of countable income and assets is complex.
Any income from employment is likely to put your eligibility for SSI at risk, but income from employment may or may not affect SSDI eligibility. A disability advocate or attorney can help you understand how working in particular kinds of jobs or a certain number of hours may affect your eligibility.
Tip #2: Apply for Other Types of Support
While you wait for disability benefits to be approved, consider seeking assistance through other local, state, and federal support programs. These may include:
- Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP)
- Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
- Short term or temporary disability benefits are also available in a few states, including California, Hawaii, New Jersey, New York, and Rhode Island.
Your home state may have additional programs for which you may qualify. The local family social services office or Department of Social Services is the place to start. A social worker with one of these agencies will be able to assist you in completing applications for any programs available to you.
Tip #3: Find Other Sources of Support or Financial Assistance
Keep in mind that you may have other sources of financial assistance you can tap into while you wait for benefits.
- If you own a home, you may be able to refinance or take out a home equity loan.
- If you have friends or family who are willing and able to help, consider accepting their assistance.
- You may be able to borrow against or cash out a 401k or life insurance plan.
These types of measures may seem extreme, but your financial circumstance may make it necessary for you to take aggressive steps to ensure you’re able to get by while you wait for disability benefits.
BEWARE: Unemployment Benefits and Social Security Disability
Unemployment benefits are a source of income for any people who find themselves without work, but these benefits are often not a practical solution for people awaiting a disability determination from the SSA. This is because Unemployment is a program for people who expect to be able to work at some point in the near future. Disability benefits on the other hand are designed for people who anticipate being unable to work for a year or longer.
These programs fundamentally contract one another, so even an application for Unemployment may cause you to be denied disability benefits. In addition, if you are eventually approved for disability benefits and your recently received Unemployment benefits, then you may end up having to pay back any Unemployment payments you received.
Speeding up the Disability Application and Review Processes
To a certain extent, the time it takes to get a decision on your disability claim is out of your hands. However, having a disability attorney on your side can make the process of applying and appealing run more smoothly. He or she can help you build a stronger and clearer claim for benefits too, which in turn can lead to a faster approval.