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How can I stay afloat while waiting for Social Security benefits?

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 2019, SGA is set at $1,220 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.

Comments

I have been without income since 2013. DDS found me severely disabled but then it got caught in an internal audit process which leaves you with no time frames they have to meet (I have a CAL Dx) which should have taken 3 weeks. Its been six months, I have no family, tapped out any friends I had, done as many bottle redemption as my body will tolerate, and in one of the new england states, running out of oil, 190$ in one month for food, I'm going to lose my car, probably my house. How can they put citizens who have paid their whole life into the system (I'm 54) I'm at risk of death at this point. Someone should make all the employees work for six months with no pay. Maybe they would understand the fear this invokes, and stop treating me like a vagrant (I was in medicine for 20 years). I'm not sure I'm going to live to see the end of this process. They are so vindictive I was told if I hadn't used the bottle money for gas to drive to their office because you can't get anyone on the phone I could have had hot water! She didn't understand they use two different kinds of fuel. If anyone has any ideas please let me know

i have been approved but have to wait 6 months for disability payments to start....not til feb 2017.....have new symptoms of high blood sugar, feet very swollen and turning purple (no circulation and could lose my feet) No back payments now....so what is a person supposed to do? And now we have a hurricane bad one, coming our way, with no money to see doctor or buy supplies to try to make it through this disaster

Hi Marie,
You may be able to contact the SSA and have them expedite your claim due to your emergency situation. It may be a good idea to contact them at your local SSA office.

Hi i been denied i have disc leaning on my nervwe qon my which i get pain all the time i get numb ness in my left foot i use a cane to help walking now both my legs are getting affected by a pinch nerve in my lumbar region i am so emotionally distress and found out i have ptsd and manic depression and still noone knows what is going i have problems with my brain i also falling behind in my bills i been waiting ten months waiting for a hearing so imy councilor help me to write to the congressman and senator to expedite

Hi my name is Titshaun I'm legally blind in my right eye and I have limited sight in my left eye I suffer with diabetes high blood pressure anxiety and depression I have migraine headaches and mild degenerate muscle decay in my right hip and leg I applied for disability in June I went to see the disability doctor I also let disability know when I spoke to them that I still work and I can't quit until a decision is made I can't afford to be homeless I have no where to go I've been on my own since 14 it's hard because I am being told that my case is still pending what can I do

Hi There,

I am so sorry to hear that. If approved you may be able to get expedited payments. Wishing you nothing but the best.

I hear ya, I was crushed in the passenger seat of my friends car as we pulled out of church. A lady was driving one of those huge, giant 'mud trucks' AND texting. She rolled right onto me, crushing me. Jaws of life used to get me out. Tried physical therapy, injections, electro theraoy, chiropractor, etc etc You name it, I tried it...Finally, only option was surgery and sadly that didn't go well. Been YEARS waiting on disability. Almost four now!! Lost my job, car, motorcycle, home, and life. Worked for Government, served helping my community, paid my taxes, did everything I was raised to do the right way. Now, I am struggling beyond words, often choosing food OR water, varies monthly. My children have gone without holidays and birthdays and honestly am at my wits end. Sad doesn't even describe. Why is it so wrong to want MY money I paid into the system when I need it the most? Thinking of giving up, Truly have nothing left to have repossessed or to pawn for day to day living. God help us all: I feel like I am victimized over & over for an injury not caused by me. Life is just awful.

Hi Cathy,

I am truly sorry to hear that. Things can get better though, please stay strong and hang in there.

Wishing you nothing but the best,
Eric

I'm sorry to hear about the struggle you are going through. Have you spoken to social services? They have many programs that may be helpful. Food pantries through your church or township are also available and emergency housing. My advice to you is follow the path the lord put you on he will show you the way. Trust in him even when you don't understand. God Bless

Hi Valerie,
Thanks for sharing! It's true, community programs such as food banks can be a boon in hard times.

I am so sorry for your circumstances. I am the same boat. I'm a widow, 58 struggling with bills etc...I was injured at work and waiting for a decision from SSD and no income. It's scary!

I'm not understanding how they set hearing date for disability, I was granted a date then received a letter of cancellation, told administration judge issue, date was set for Sept 6th 2017,I've waited for a month and just received a new date set for March of 2018,I don't get it what changed so drastically that I have to wait for another 6 months to finish the case,thought they took in order of applications so what did they do take a 6 month resess, come on people what are they waiting for the stress and anxiety along with depression to drive me to suicide to make their case load smaller, I wish I could work, I was the guy that was always at work sick or not,hell I worked for a year on meds for back pain not knowing that my spine was fractured to the point where I had a falling out with my boss,when I became unemployed is when I found out back was broken so wife talked me into surgery before I found new employment and surgery was a mistake because it damaged more nerves and now I deal with pain from center of back right down to my tows ,can I do any in my situation to speed up hearing date

Hi Tim,
The SSA may set dates for hearings based both on urgency, the availability of judges, and other factors.

Cathy,
I hope this reaches you sooner than later. If you had car ins. of your own at the time of the accident you can sue them. Little known fact that your ins. company doesn't give up all that easy is that they have about 25k sitting there for you in case of a situation such as this pops up. You can have a lawyer do it for you, but they will take the customary 33 percent. Or, I believe, you can walk in and get it yourself. Please check into it and be prepared for a fight. Like all of our great institutions of this country, they love taking our money but become a little resistant to coughing it up when the time comes to cover their end of the bargain. Seems like a trend from the Government to the ins. companies. I think a common drug dealer has better business ethics and is more trustworthy than this whole system. I wish you all the luck and keep up the fight.

Hi Cathy, I am so sorry to hear what has happened to you. My thoughts and prayers are with you. Have you hired a personal injury attorney, if not I advise you to get one before the statue of limitations run out. They can go after the persons' auto insurance who hit you. Please keep us posted and God Bless You.

Cathy try and hang in there, i am in current situation, have disc problems, surgery made it worse, it's been 4 years without money, worked in soda business 24 years straight, I'm about to lose my house in September due to back taxes, very suicidal as of late, I never dreamed that this can happen to people in America who paid into Social security for over 20 years, someone has to step in and stop these atrocities, an alj who has no background in medicine, in my case she admitted she never even read my reports, not to mention I waited 2 full years for my hearing, to have people losing evythng they own is just ashame. If I end up homeless I just can't see me continuing on, what do I tell my grandchildren, all I want Is what I paid into it for 24 years, good luck Cathy I hope you live a long happy life

Hi Rob,

Thank you for sharing those kind words.

Wishing you nothing but the best,
Eric

Wow, I am sorry to hear your situation, mine hasn't got to that point yet as I have my house on the market, can't work, no money, staying with my sister, came here from 400 miles away to take a job only to lose it 6 weeks later, lost 2 of my 4 cats, my life is upside down too, thank GOD I have no children ...only my 2 cats.... Pray to GOD and trust him 101% and see what he does for you...I know my day will come too, this too shall pass. I will pray for you and your family...

So sorry to hear about your situation Cathy. You've been given some good advice, but some of it isn't 100% accurate. I was in an accident back in 2013 that left me with lower back issues, so I'm VERY familiar with the whole process. Firstly, at this point the deadline for filing a personal injury suit has definitely passed, so unfortunately in that regard to my knowledge there's nothing you can do, but I recommend calling some personal injury attorneys just to be sure. Secondly, as far as insurance is concerned, your insurance would give you a difficult time in covering anything since you were in a freind's car at the time. Your friend's insurance is who you should get in contact with, as insurance coverages have amounts for passenger coverage. Had you been in your vehicle, that would be entirely different, it would have been a no-fault claim provided that evidence indicated that the person who hit would was entirely at fault. However, no-fault works on a state by state basis so if that were the case, your insurance company may not even provide no fault coverage.

I'm very sorry for the terrible things that have happened to u I can't believe u been waiting so long if I get denied for a second time myself I'm not going any further without a lawyer which I've already been acquiring lawyers with high payout ratios (they generally won't take U if they think U'll be told to hit the brick. I've been waiting a year unfortunately I didn't know how this process works and was denied in Dec 2016 it's then I decided that I needed to help myself and learn as best I could (I'm not the same person I was the day before September 1, Labor Day 2016) I'm on my 1st appeal having done so Jan 2017. I originally applied immediately after being released from the hospital almost 2wks after my accident. It was after being denied I learned that nearly everyone is denied on initial claims. And even if ur the select few who breeze rite threw. During appeal I got a call, 1st time anyone contacted me about my claim, yet she proceeded to ask me questions about a condition I'd had for years previous to my accident I had listed all of my conditions which were listed as order of importance as to why I can't return to work and although I had previously learned to function, work and pay taxes just like everyone else who earns a paycheck. The drastic holt my existence changed my personality I truly felt/feel like I'm a prisoner in my own head. But anyway she says "So when a SSD representative spoke with u before u were denied and u told him that this specific condition wasn't preventing u from being able to 'find gainful employment' do u think that's changed since u spoke with him" I didn't talk to anyone ever and I never would've said that specific condition was no problem!! It's a big problem I am physically disabled lucky to walk at all on top of my injuries and every other Dr visit (@every 2wks) He finds some other conditions that have taken over me I can't leave my house on my own and even with someone I try to get out of leaving n my Dr apt win out most of the time (I've rescheduled A LOT of apt's) I can't go to the ER without panicking n feeling like if I go I won't come back! Now for the most part I am able to see the problem n I can almost
See why some think I'm being crazy putting myself in higher danger possibly needing treatment to survive if ur going to the hospital it's cuz u already feel that ur life had a probability of being forever altered for whatever reason. I can't really go there's been numerous times I should have gone n feel like I've been lucky that way but luck doesn't last. The 1 maybe 2 times I had gone to the ER I went under complete distress n only after my boyfriend got my adult children involved n gave me no option thankfully I survived only to end up getting taken out by the SSD process!! They also conveniently leave out the 5mos waiting period for EVRYONE! At which time u receive $0 benefits if ur approved before the 5mos mark then ur payment will start the beginning of the month following ur 5th mos. And if ur part of over 2/3's % of claim applicants who go much further then that 5mos mark ur payment doesn't start to accumulate till the month following that. When/If ur approved u receive retro only up to the 6th month! They make it nearly impossible to get better in any way physical or mental if we are too busy trying not to loose everything we worked our butts off our hole lives for while people who have had $0 investment into SS and has no education (by their choice instead unable to get up that early for anything they quit school) and their approved ok lets tell our kids laziness pays I didn't bother with this program and yet I still received a letter from my denial basically saying I'm to educated to receive SSD!! Obviously I'm not smart enough to have prepared for such a life altering emergency not smart enough to have money put away for just this reason! Instead all of my bills go unpaid my credit I worked hard for goes down the crapper! We can't heal physically when our mental health fails n we're trying to stop the black hole sucking ur life inside it!! Don't they realize by allowing us to focus more on our conditions n healing them then maybe they will be able to return to some kind of employment at some point in life! I'm sry I tend to ramble but I can't believe u have waited for 4yrs!! I would've called a lawyer before 2yrs. I just can't understand why it's the people who grow up raised to work for what u want that nothing comes free. That's how I was raised why is it we get punished for our health issues!!! Agn I'm sry I'll say goodbye n good luck on your quest

I'm facing this same struggle I don't know where to turn my lawyer told me their are people living in the woods waiting for disability... apparently that's accepted for them I have an 8 year old limited family. And trying to fight this battle and make my son secure. Giving up is an option... but don't want to but might need to

I am in the same boat. Two spinal fusions that crippled me. Now I have a labral hip tear and glutitus medius tear and will need another surgery. I am a single mother of a nine year old son. My TDI ran out. I exhausted all funds from being on it four times in four years. I got denied twice and now waiting for my court date which my attorney is trying to push up and said that I am in dire need. I hope that I get it because it's pretty scary having a minor child and not knowing how your gonna keep a roof over their head.

I was doing research on waiting for disability and came across this posy. I know it's been awhile, but just wanted you to know that your story struck a chord and I am praying for you and your children. Hopefully y ou habe since received your benefits, and that God will continue to give y ou the strength to ensure. God speed!

I feel the same way. I have no money nothing. My mom has been very sick all my life. She had a disability case pending since 2003! They told her she had a 5% chance to live. I have MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS, MAJOR DEPRESSION, MAJOR ANXIETY. I lost so much weight so to not having food to eat. I was born in this country and have payed my taxes yet I have been denied food stamps, disability, Medicaid etc. I had a social worker from a supposed nonprofit clinic tell me while I was blind in one eye IM SORRY BUT THERE IS NOTHING I CAN DO TO HELP YOU. I can't work because I'm sick and I won't have a chance at my third time applying for disability but if I wait on disability which seems like next to never, I'll never survive. America is one messed up place!

Unbelievable that someone else knows exactly how we feel no body cares the drug addicts get it right away while u fight to survive day to day do what u worked for my husband been fighting almost 20 years still fighting what to do

Hi there! You have kids so you can’t give up! Trust me I still struggle with feelings of hopelessness & helplessness. I wonder if you got any money from the car accident and if not, could you sue now since it’s been an on going process? TANF and food stamps are an option. It’s not anything to feel shame about. You paid into that as well!! You could look into local food banks or food pantries. They will give you free food. Rent out a room in your house. Look online for jobs you could possibly do from home. Depending on how limited you are, perhaps you could watch kids in your home. There are programs to help with the cost of medications. I’m not sure if that’s an issue. Go on your state’s gov website and look for social services. Call and ask about programs. It can be very hard because there are programs out there but I swear they make it impossible to find out about. My theory on disability is that they want to force ppl into being so desperate they go back to work, so they can deny them. It’s a system that in theory is designed to help those who cannot work but in reality they make it so hard. What’s crazy is I know ppl who are on disability and they could easily work. It’s very hard to know how they pick and choose.
I work with a pain management dr and part of their treatment is offering a therapist who specializes in helping ppl dealing with chronic pain. Please make it a priority to see someone to talk about how you are feeling. There are support groups as well. How you feel is normal but chronic pain/disability is isolating. You must have a strong support system! I have professionals, friends and family and I still have very low days.
I wish you all the best!! Remember this too shall pass. Eventually, you’ll look back on this time as a great time of growth. Keep on top of them. Maybe look into a disability advocate? Facebook probably has some sort of support group where you can connect with ppl. You may learn things these govt employees would never tell you.

Hi There,

Thank you so much for sharing those thoughtful words. Wishing you nothing but the best.

I have stage 3 Adenocarcinoma cancer and was turned down 3 times! My lawyer I have now is working on getting a date. I applied 1 year ago!!

HI Allison,
I'm sorry to hear about that! Generally the wait time for a disability hearing is on average 17 months.

Wait time is 17 months on average? Is it not different per State due to the fact that each State handle the Disability cases for the Feds? What are the timelines for each State or is it the timelines of our Fed Gvt time lines we wait on?

Hi James,

Every state has a different timeline, but on average it is around 17 months.

HI Allison,
I'm sorry to hear about that! Generally the wait time for a disability hearing is on average 17 months.

These story's are so sad. How cruel our system is. I thought I was alone in my battle with getting help. Like the stories before this one, I too have worked 40+ years serving the public as a Paramedic. Always glad to give out of my paycheck to a charitable cause. Always willing to give a little more of my time and energy to help someone in need. But all the years of thinking help would be there for me someday if I ever needed it, I was wrong. I'm fighting to keep from being in a wheelchair the rest of my life, which would be the beginning of the end for me. Because of my years of lifting I've had 5 out of 7 bones in my neck fused, a wire placed in the back of my neck to hold my neck straight, 3 surgeries in my back, got MRSA in my bloodstream after my last surgery, months of hardcore antibiotic therhapy via IV. Two major allergic reactions to the medication, one put me in ICU, the other caused me to have a seizure while driving, causing me to total my car, dislocated my hip, and unable to go back to work because now I need to get a hip replacement done. I held everything together up to this point. 3 years later, after all resources are depleted, been denied twice. Waiting on third decision to get back. In the time since I have been unable to work, I have been diagnosed with PTSD and Major depressive disorder. I know I will need more than a right hip replacement at this point. Both hip are breaking down and feel like bone on bone. I am deteriorating day by day. If and when the decision makers at the disability office, make their decision on if they decide what is a disability and what isn't, I hope I am still able to undergo a surgery. I pray for all of the needy people who have worked hard all their lives and find themselves in need.....I pray for relief for us all!!!

If a major storm hit call FEMA immediately n let them u r pending ssa r ssi disability/ they have a wide range of monetary help programs, also contact ur local rural development office for immediate assistance, if u r getting food stamps or snap benefits it helps expedite all federal departments where u have filed.

Hi Paul,
Thanks for sharing this! It's important to make sure people get taken care of in a disaster area.

My x called a state representative and he helped move it through quicker give it a try

Hi Joanne,

Thanks for sharing! A lot of people don't realize that getting your state representative can help get the ball rolling with your case.

-Eric

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