When Should I Apply For Disability Benefits?

If you believe you qualify for disability benefits, you should file your application as soon as your disability keeps you from going to work. This shows that you are suffering financial hardship due to your disability. Delaying a claim alerts the Social Security Administration that you may not be so disabled that you are unable to work, or that you are earning over the threshold for substantial gainful activity.

Best Time to Apply For Disability Benefits

Being incapable of substantial gainful employment is one of the first criteria for eligibility for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits, so when you are below this level you should start your claim for disability benefits.

If it is determined that the amount of work you are doing  does not amount to substantial gainful activity (SGA), you will have passed the first phase of the SSA's 5-step assessment process and your medical records will be considered at the next phase of the process.

In 2024, the amount that you are permitted to earn is $1,550 for non-blind disabled SSDI or SSI applicants, and $2,590 for blind SSDI applicants but this SGA limit is not applicable to blind SSI applicants. If you are gaining more than that amount each month, the SSA may find that you do not qualify for benefits. When making a decision deciding on whether you are doing SGA, the SSA does not include any income you get from non-work sources like investments, interest and gifts.

Why Should You File a Claim Right Away

Up to 70% of disability claims are denied so to help ensure your claim won’t be denied you should file your claim it as soon as possible. Once your application is in the claims process can take a long time until you receive a decision. Often this can take up to 6 months.

If the claim is denied and it goes through the appeals process it may be a very long time until you receive a decision. By this time you are likely to be experiencing severe financial distress so to help avoid this happening you should file your claim as soon as you believe you are eligible.

If you are unable to work, there is no reason to wait until your condition gets to the point it is severe. If your first application is denied but your medical state worsens by the time your appeal’s hearing is scheduled, you will be able to submit any new evidence concerning your deteriorating condition. This is typically the case for medical conditions that normally worsen over time.

In some cases when you may not be impaired long term by your medical condition, it is suggested by disability lawyers that you wait for 6 months before filing your application for disability benefits. This avoids getting a denial and having to file an appeal but if you win a claim after that you might be able to get your benefits backdated to the date when you first became disabled by your medical condition.

Free Case Evaluation

If you are unsure when to apply for disability benefits, a lawyer may be able to help you. Complete the Free Case Evaluation to get in touch with a lawyer that can help you file a claim.

Additional Resources

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