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

Submitted by Chris on Tue, 03/02/2021 - 14:41

Are you struggling to make ends meet? Are you asking yourself if you should file for unemployment or Social Security disability 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. There are resources available for you to help you stay afloat and earn income while waiting for disability approval. Here are some tips to help you get through while waiting for Social Security disability.

Tip #1: Work While Waiting For Social Security Approval

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 2021, SGA is set at $1,310 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.

elderly man with cane

Tip #2: Apply for Other Types of Support While Waiting For Disability

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.


Can I Get Unemployment Benefits and Social Security Disability?

NO. 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.

Blog comments

Charlotte Myers (not verified)

In reply to by Arlene Emery (not verified)

I have been waiting for SSDI
Since Sept 2015 and 2 of my State Sentors step in and got my hearing expedited which should have taken place last fall, but since the lawyers didn't have it together I am in the process of loosing everything and I had to have emergency surgery for cancer. So the best I can tell you is that try contacting your state Sentors and ask them to contact your social security administration because of the way you apply and the wait you are experiencing and ask them to advocate for you.

Sat, 03/31/2018 - 18:04 Permalink
Teresa (not verified)

In reply to by Arlene Emery (not verified)

I am so sorry this is happening to you and so many others including myself. Car about to be re-poed cannot pay light or gas bills i struggling to pay the rent so I am not homeless.While i was waiting i took a job that was not easy for me to do I had no choice and at my hearing i pray the understand how are we suppose to live? They let me go after about a year I was messing up the work. I was offfered another job but i am not able to stay on the phones all day because of my depression.I am out on short term disability and have a hearing i may. I can only hope for the best. I am looking for something part time anything to help me. it's so said thirty years of working and paying taxes you cannot get help when you need it.

Wed, 04/04/2018 - 12:49 Permalink

In reply to by Teresa (not verified)

Hi Teresa,

I am sure there are a lot of local job boards in your area that has part time work listed. Wishing you nothing but the best.

Wed, 04/04/2018 - 15:48 Permalink
leala (not verified)

Long story short version
Finally got my hearing with judge. I didn't have an attorney by choice. The judge asked me four times before we started if I wanted to reschedule so I could get an attorney.. I said no each time. I'm thinking I can tell her better about my everything than an attorney. She said ok and we proceded. I thought it went great. So a month goes by and finally I get an unfavorable decision. I cried for about an hour. Now I must find a lawyer. Most lawyers don't want the case at this point. Time is running out. I can not go much longer. I wrote the govenor president first lady and the vice president. I think SS should make it mandatory that applicants get legal representation
Thanks no I got to get busy less than 50 days to find help.

Tue, 12/29/2015 - 12:32 Permalink
Terri (not verified)

In reply to by leala (not verified)

Its too late to get a lawyer, unless you are still young enough to file but you have to start all over again. Once the judge denies you all you can do is read his letter and do as it suggests...send in NEW info that is relative to your health issues. We are going thru the same thing...sent in more info but havent heard yet. Im sure we will be denied. Its so unfair. They dont seem to want to help. And we all deserve it...its our money!!!! So disgusted

Sun, 08/07/2016 - 01:16 Permalink

In reply to by Terri (not verified)

Hi Terri,
You may not need to re-apply if you get a lawyer, all you need to do is start working with one!
If you've been denied, it may be a good idea to speak with a disability advocate or attorney, as they can help you through the process of appeals. If you fill out the form to the left or go here:
We can have one reach out to you.

Mon, 08/08/2016 - 10:17 Permalink
Paul (not verified)

In reply to by leala (not verified)

Lela, the problem is that the government has tied up the system with the use of attorneys and by not using facts from a physician, It's a sad world we live in and i am going thru the same process as you and i totally sympathise with your predicament. I myself went ahead and hired an attorney but have not even had a hearing date set, so even if i am approved up to 6,000 is going to his fees, I hope your case is resolved quickly and to your benefit, Please contact your local congress man/woman office they might be able to get your process expedited.

Fri, 12/09/2016 - 15:15 Permalink
Jeff Davis (not verified)

Since January 1 2016 the waiting time at Moreno Valley has changed 3 times as far as wait time for a hearing 15 months then 16 months and recently 17 months.
I'm pass 17 months soon to be 18 months and no word or any hope of a hearing. Exhausted by the delays of government bureaucracy! I'm soon to be homeless no income nothing left after 3 years total of dealing with a broken system !!! Social security is not a hand out !

Wed, 04/06/2016 - 01:51 Permalink
bren (not verified)

In reply to by Jeff Davis (not verified)

The last letter I received said the appeal process can now take up to 480 days...I myself can't do this another year, I have nothing left to sell and have borrowed so much people are prolly rejecting my calls on purpose!

Fri, 10/07/2016 - 20:14 Permalink
Jeff Davis (not verified)

Even having an attorney does not speed up the process been waiting 18 months now the office just increased its waiting time to 17 months. I'm still pass that so I expect to see another increase soon. Currently above the national avg for waiting period .
It's changed 3 times since January! 15 then 16 then 17 months

Wed, 04/06/2016 - 01:58 Permalink
Tom Nelson, Sa… (not verified)

In reply to by Jeff Davis (not verified)

Jeff, you're absolutely right!
My lawyer is considered the best in the City and even County.
Doesn't speed it up a bit!
Since my Grandfather's time, the entire Social Security system has been

Mon, 07/04/2016 - 14:33 Permalink
Thomas watkins (not verified)

I was approved back in 2012/for SSI rite after I was approved I had to turn myself in on a legal matter and was incarcerated for four years,my condition has gotten a lot worse and I've had a heart attack and had a pacaker implant along with several other disorders, last month SSA denied my claim and I had to appeal this is so not rite because I'm in bad shape.,nor am I getting the proper medical attention wht can I do to get some financial assistance to helpe while I await being approved?

Tue, 08/30/2016 - 17:49 Permalink

In reply to by Thomas watkins (not verified)

Hi Thomas,
It would depend on the state that you live in, but you may be able to get assistance. It may be a good idea to contact the office that handles social services in your state for some more info about your options.

Wed, 08/31/2016 - 10:17 Permalink
Devine (not verified)

In reply to by Thomas watkins (not verified)

I did a year and I just got approved and my money's at Ssi money center calculating my back pay but 3 months while I was in jail a person I new collect my checks not reporting her but there taking that three months I got while in jail so how long will it take to calculate the back pay and take what they won't out I've been flying a sign asking for help I've lived outside in cold rain snowing pushing a basket with my belongings and IV owned and cops harasse me all the time been to jail over flying a sign so please help how much longer were do we get our daily Exspenses untell then it's not right IV been raped as a child by four adult men 6-13 yrs old human trafficked at 23 and now this awful life style homeless winters that my boyfriend and I got more PTSD from the struggle and the unbelievable things we witnessed and abuse but other ppl trying to shoot us run us over jump us guys in cars follow us trying to stalk me Evan with him there threatening to hurt him telling me and him for me I better go with them thank god he helped me get away running me away into stores holding them off so I could be ahead of him but thank god he has protected me now but it's not fair it's my money and it's not fair to hold it from me and I go through Evan more because of the one thing to help me because I'm disabled 100% is causing more and more PTSD and this is the short version

Fri, 02/17/2017 - 05:26 Permalink

In reply to by Devine (not verified)

Hi there,
I'm sorry to hear all that! You may want to contact the office that handles housing in your area, if you get in touch with your local SSA office they may be able to point you in the right direction.

Fri, 02/17/2017 - 10:30 Permalink
thomas oiler (not verified)

if everyone would start calling their congressmen and senators and have their friends and family call also maybe we can get change the people need to start standing up we put them in office and we can take them out

Sat, 09/10/2016 - 10:09 Permalink
bren (not verified)

This month makes 2 years I have been fighting for my social security disability, I have ms (multiple sclerosis) and a brain aneurysm, I also have been diagnosed with severe anxiety disorder, major depression, ptsd, and I have lost my pariphial vision and have short term memory loss. Also have paralysis on the right side of my face. I have seen dr after dr, went in front of the judge in may, and after 4 months he said I could work as a telemarketer (we don't have jobs of that sort here). My husband passed away April 7 and since then I have literally had no source of income, I have sold about everything I owned just to have electric and water, I have no extras like cable, or wifi or anything. I have a lifeline phone and am at a friends on their wifi right now. I don't know how they expect a person to make it while they take their time to make a far as gov't assistance, my kids are all grown so I'm not eligible I do draw snap benefits but that's it. If they don't make a decision soon I will be living under a rock somewhere

Fri, 10/07/2016 - 20:10 Permalink
Young Applicant (not verified)

I have endometriosis, IC & pelvic floor dysfunction. I am in constant pain. I applied in June of last yr and was denied due to age and education. I lost my job becasuse I could not perform due to procedures, surgeries and flare-ups and although I had reduced my hours to part-time and had FMLA, they let me go. I retained an attorney and he filed an appeal in August of 2015. I have gone through every dime that I have and have tapped out friends and family. I applied for state assistance and was told that they did not agree with my doctor so they said I can work or do the work search program. If I could work, I would. There is no amount of social security or cash assistance that can surpass what I can earn working. I don't know what else to do. I live in MI. I would appreciate any suggestions.

Thu, 11/10/2016 - 10:21 Permalink
Arlene Baker (not verified)

In reply to by Bryan

I have an atty and have had since filing, they are about worthless and I am willing to allow them their 25% to leave me alone. I have had over 30 surgeries since 1993 when l had a spontaneous rupture with spleen, went to ER and they handed me a #30 bottle 10/325 percocet and told me I had pluracy. That 30 bottle did not see daylight and I had never taken pain meds. I took all of them and still the pain was so bad I thought about suicide but at 18 and alreayd being diagnosed I had no idea they could be wrong. I was at a hospital 1x to ahve my kid...well that was a Wednesday...I walked to busstop on Friday and almost died on that bus but got back to ER and they gave me nothing but let me lay there for 12 hrs when they took me to a room and stuck a pin in my side, blood started to gush out and all I hear was a bright cheery voice say.."Arlene, did you know you had a ruptured spleen"? The only reply I could muster was..."did you know if I had a knife Id stab you.." I was finally given pain meds. Since then I have had at least 15 surgies to help with hernias. I have mesh then repair then more then repairs and each time every single one..cut breast to naval and stapled 28x then mesh tore again they decide lets try gortex a rain coat type tears one side out snaps and wraps around intestine cuts off bowels...another emergency surgery. I had gall stones then gall bladder removal (yes open surgery) then thanksgiving 2014 rush to hospital gall bladder surgery turns mrsa 102 fever back in hsptl ..pneumonia 6x one year with no spleen, feb 2015 go to er to get a boil lanced on bottom left buttock..I am feeling awful and my side is hurting...they say yep we are gonna lance it, clean it and you'll be home safe in couple hrs. great..lets do it but my side hurts ..last thing I remember until waking up seeing my husband standing with 7 or 8 surgeons his eyes swollen red and scarey...I have a man who introduced himself to me as a surgeon and that I am very very sick..I dont have much time to live he needs to run this past me and we need to go ..he says i have a soft tissue eating infection, its very close to the heart if it gets tthat far I willl die but at that same time he is scared hes too late..he will do his best but he is thinking worse...he says a prayer and I hear amen and bam a needle in my neck and out I go..4 days later waking in icu...begging to die because of pain, htey set me up with a wound vac in my vaginal area since they cut all the tissue out in leg pit removed half labia and 57 days 9 surgeris later I am released and called the lucky one...since apr of 2015 I have been in and out of er and hosp more times than I can count. I have diabetis melitus, I have neurpathey so bad in my feet i begged to have them cut off, I cant walk..I cry all day, I am on 240 mgs of oxycontin a day...I am blind in left eye but can see out of right so I was I am facing imminent eviction for hte holiday season cause broke and cant pay and ssi says...have a happy holiday..bite me. OH and I did mention my atty is worthless begged her to ask to have my case bumped buy since I am not going ot die in 3 mos nope cant do..I have acquaintances who cried when doing their dishes and they are on full disability...this is the most piss poor country when it comes to helping citizens but the govt pockets are not missing a meal or a mansion.

Sun, 11/20/2016 - 09:45 Permalink
Arlene Baker (not verified)

In reply to by Bryan

continued and forgot to mention, I was in er 37 or 38 times since jan 2016 more then 1/3 was admitted for 5 or more days. I was diagnosed with syncope, encephalopahty and akathesia, I have adhd and a ruptured or back issues, and broke my neck as a teen..I think I am gonna cry over dirty dishes.

Sun, 11/20/2016 - 09:47 Permalink

In reply to by Arlene Baker (not verified)

Hi Arlene,
I'm sorry to hear about all this! If you feel that you need to change your lawyer, you may be able to do so, and your lawyer is legally obligated to hand over your case to a new one if you so choose.

Tue, 11/22/2016 - 11:28 Permalink
Lisa (not verified)

In reply to by Young Applicant (not verified)

I have migraines, IC, PFD and a host of other illnesses as well. I had a great job, had to take a lesser job with less hrs then went to working part time then working from home and then had to quite because I am unable to work. I'm in pain 24 /7. I've had many surgeries. The doctors can do nothing else for me. I've been waiting for disability for 2 yrs. now my husband is leaving me. I owe more on my house than it's worth. I guess all I have is a homeless shelter. I've paid into social security for 35 years. It's a shame. I have no one.

Mon, 03/13/2017 - 19:20 Permalink
Kris (not verified)

Oh how my heart goes out to all! This process is not only difficult, but so very long to get through. My journey started in 1991 after several on the job injuries. I only knew how I felt and no one had any answers for me. It did calm some over time, then in 1998I was involved in a serious car accident. That really threw my life in a different direction. I was a single mom and had no choice but to work to support us and I did, for 16 years! In September of 2014 I then applied for disability. I have fibromyalgia, bipolar depression, anxiety!/panic attacks, afibrillation, sleep apnea, shingles twice now, chronic fatigue, chronic pain, migraines, chronic headaches, prediabetic, and now I have to look into a hip and knee issue! That is just a highlight of things!! I have had a lawyer from the get go because I can no longer handle the mental part of all this. I have reached out for help, I do get food assistance but was denied cash help. Go figure! I have no money left, I lost my apartment and sold off many things that I was finally proud to own. I am blessed to have my mom's help with expenses, but she is on social security and has limited income. I've had two denials now. They reapplied for me in April and I was told 3 months for a hearing.....then oh no, it will be another 3 months...and now, well Columbus Ohio is backed up anywhere up to 5 months!! I told my lawyers that I am officially broken!!! If ever there was a time I would say the hell with this, it is now and I would go back to work!! BUT I can no longer work! I just don't get it. I told someone that I have a full time job, me! So when people ask if I am working, I will have that for an answer. Too bad I can't get paid for taking care of me. It is the hardest job I've ever had! Keep the faith and stay strong my friends!

Sat, 11/19/2016 - 01:49 Permalink

In reply to by Kris (not verified)

Hi Kris,
Thank you for sharing your story! It's true, it may take some time and be difficult, but it's important to stay strong!

Tue, 11/22/2016 - 11:23 Permalink
Lance H (not verified)

I was injured and couldn't work beginning in Nov. 2012. I immediately filed for disability and hired Binder. After 18 months I had to go back to work because my money ran out. The lawyer changed my claim to a closed period. I had one hearing which I was denied. We appealed and that time they rolled and gave me a closed period settlement almost 3 years after I filed. I'm currently 58 and I have a decent job but I'm having much more difficulty again working. It takes all I can muster to get through a 40 hr week. My family doctor has said he would fully support me in a claim. Binder is no longer accepting any clients (?) so I don't know who to call (Dallas). I have heard that due to my advancing age it should be easier to qualify. I've also hear that once you are 60 there are different rules to qualify. Can anyone here give me a little general advice.

Fri, 11/25/2016 - 21:44 Permalink

In reply to by Lance H (not verified)

Hi Lance,
Binder & Binder filed for bankruptcy. You can always fill out our contact form on the left-hand side of the page and get connected to a new attorney in your area.

Mon, 11/28/2016 - 13:54 Permalink
Nikki J (not verified)

I cannot believe some of these stories I'm reading unbelievable. I have been waiting on a decision for my case I have a lawyer as well I have a bedside commode shower chair walker been in the hospital every month for almost a year judge has everything from my doctor hospitals nursing homes etc I have 5 children and I have absolutely nothing no furniture no beds nothing I went in a coma from a very violent marriage so I had to escape for me and my children safety I vomit everyday in pain everyday just yesterday just got out of the hospital now that I'm somewhere safe what are we going to do Jesus help us all what to do how long does it take to make a decision and you have all this proof

Tue, 12/13/2016 - 17:33 Permalink
Patrick Talburt (not verified)

I fell 9 feet in 2010, I went through a workers comp case had a lawyer that was not great and scrwed up on my case. But anyway I applied for SSDI against my lawyers advice in 2010 I was denied, I re-applied and was denied again, I re-applied with a Lawyer made it all the way to a hearing and got denied again, I am currently in an appeal it has been 19 months into the appeal process and I still haven't received a decision on My case, the last time I called my lawyer they told me, my case says still pending and it could be another 6 months before I get a decision! I have a couple questions though. 1. What do I do If I'm denied again? 2. If I do get awarded My SSDI how far back do they go on back payments?
This whole thing has been life changing and very stressful to say the least! I can not get any government help beyond food stapms because our children are over the age of 18, I've done extensive amounts of research on grants, financial help, government programs, ect. But to no avail! It's really upsetting that it is this hard to get approved for SSDI when your case is legitimate, and I know its because of con artists taking advantage of this system that it makes it this hard for us honest folks! But if I was strung out on drugs and had face tattoos I'd be in like Flynn! I have a decent pension but I cant even start that process until I receive my award letter from social security! No body plans for this stuff to happen to them, so you are pretty much screwed once the temporary disability or permanent disability checks run out, so try to save as much as you can! Eliminate as much debt and bills as you can! This Journey is Long and Hard! I am a truly lucky man because My Beautiful Wife has stuck by me through all of this, She has rolled with the punches and never complained about our financial situation and it has been extremely hard! Good Luck to all of you and Merry Christmas!

Sun, 12/25/2016 - 09:06 Permalink

In reply to by Patrick Talburt (not verified)

Hi Patrick,
1) If you're denied for benefits after the appeal process, your lawyer may be able to make an appeal for a Federal Court hearing.
2) SSDI back pay is paid out from the time of your Established Onset Date, or EOD.

Thu, 12/29/2016 - 14:29 Permalink
Jamee (not verified)

I've been on disability since October 2015 for an autoimmune disease. My short term disability ran out in October 2016, my husband has been out of work, we have no income, no assets, nothing. We fortunately are staying with family now, but not for long. I'm awaiting approval for permanent disability but heard it can take a long time for my condition. I just found out I'm 5 weeks pregnant. Without a dime to my name, can I get an attorney to speed up the process or are there programs in place to help me and my husband out while my disability benefits get approved? Being homeless, hungry, permanent disabled, and pregnant is too much for any person.

Fri, 12/30/2016 - 00:12 Permalink
Melanie (not verified)

I waited from March of 2015 to Nov.2016 to get a hearing date. I finally got my hearing in November. I heard yesterday, Jan.3 2017, I could Appeal the judge decision but it could take another 15 months for a decision on that. The attorney suggestion is try for SSI but not sure how long that could take. I'm not sure what to do?

Wed, 01/04/2017 - 07:03 Permalink
ivette (not verified)

Hi I've been unable to work for almost a year I've applied for sad and was denied twice, am I able to file for ssd until ssd is approved or denied?

Sun, 01/22/2017 - 16:10 Permalink
Joequetta (not verified)

I been receiving Social Security since I was 11 year old. I worked at three months last year and one month I make too much money they cut my check off and let me get six months or payment until they make a decision if I could keep my disability benefit. my six months run out this month they still haven't made a decision about if I could still receive my disability and now they telling me I got to wait on the state to make a decision and it can take up 6 more months. I have no any income and I have 2 little kids can anyone tell me what can I do

Fri, 01/27/2017 - 06:49 Permalink

In reply to by Joequetta (not verified)

Hi Joequetta,
You may be able to keep on working while receiving disability benefits, however it may be a good idea to contact the social security office and get specific information about your case and how you can ensure that you qualify.

Thu, 02/02/2017 - 15:57 Permalink

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