Did you know that one in eight American workers between the ages of 35 and 65 will have a disability lasting five years or longer? The average Social Security benefit is $1200 per month and the maximum benefit paid by Social Security is set for 2019 at $3,770 per month but that is significantly higher than the maximum benefits in the past. The maximum is regardless of a person's income even those in excess of $100,000 per year. 

   Another two statistics are that only about 30% of Social Security Disability claims that are approved automatically AND that some people have been waiting in excess of five years for court hearings to settle their claims. 

   While having employer plans for short term and long term disability plans can be of help in paying bills during the process of applying for and receiving Government disability the fine print on those policies are not always as helpful as people think. Many employer plans have waiting periods between short term and long term disability, mine was six months. And my plan required forms from my doctors to fill out at every appointment in order to keep the payments continuing with a maximum coverage of two years. The hassle was not worth the copays, gas and the time spent chasing forms around the city... at least in my case. My employer plan only paid the difference between my Social Security Disability income and what 50% of my work income plan paid, $85 a month in my situation. 

   These facts are not true for all situations as everyone's plans and situations will differ from mine but it is important to look into the plans more carefully BEFORE they are needed should you become one of that 12.5% of Americans in need of disability. This thread / discussion is also being raised to support the need for a solid emergency fund, maybe beyond the three to six months that the experts recommend.

   Any PH Community Members with additional statistics or experiences to share in this thread? Please comment so we can all learn from each other.

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Based on my experience, I recommend the following:

1)If still working, check to see if you have short- and long-term disability benefits. These are usually cheap and will help until you’re approved for SSDI.  There may be a waiting period before benefits become active, so check before going on medical leave (if possible). Also, make sure you have life insurance.  Many employer based plans do not have health requirements, but most private policies do even if they say they don’t.  Chronic illnesses may limit how much insurance you can get/afford.

2)Hire an attorney to help apply for benefits and apply as soon as possible. If approved, benefits will be paid retroactively. Attorney fees are limited and based on the amount of the award and can be deducted from your initial benefit payment.  The attorney can answer many of your questions along the way. Work with someone with lots of experience.

3)Keep excellent medical records. Ask your doctors to write down your care instructions including diagnosis and limitations at every appointment and keep copies of all labs/diagnostic tests. It’s hard to remember everything and you may not see the paperwork that the doctor’s office submits on your behalf (and it’s possible, you may need it later).

4)Find someone you trust to help.  Being sick or having other physical/mental limitations  can be overwhelming in itself, so it’s good to have someone you trust to help.

5)Apply for insurance through Healthcare.gov and compare to COBRA.  You may be able to find a comparable plan for a fraction of the costs.  If you remain on your employer policy, do not let your premiums lapse.  If approved and if still disabled, Medicare will help after two years but it’s not free (at least it isn’t in my case).  There are exceptions so it’s best to check with them directly.

6)Ask for financial assistance from doctors, pharmaceutical companies, hospitals, etc.  Many have programs that can help!

7)Simply your life.  Being sick is expensive.  It’s particularly expensive when your income has been substantially reduced.  Scale down and make changes to your budget as soon as possible including moving if necessary, especially if you are the primary provider for your family.  Don’t wait until you’re under water!

Again, this is all based on my personal experience, and might not be best for everyone.  Many of my recommendations are based on lessons learned the hard way.  I can’t go back and change the past, but maybe sharing this will help someone else who is going through it now or will be in the future.

 

From my personal experience and believe me it's been more than a little bit the nice thing about the government is that they always tell you the reason why. The reason for why they say yes and even more why they say no. They use code numbers and for the complete details you need to look them up, which is a real drag but necessary. Once you have read and understood the information all you have to do is make it happen. That's all I dare say.

As others have said gather up all your proofs, organize, (hurry up to wait), consult case history if you want it helped me, don't be afraid to ask 1k times if you don't get it, remember there's a huge difference in the written policy and spoken word, contact local state government for help especially around elections but above all else document document document. Every person you speak with in any way document the date, time of day, their agent sine or city they are in and what was said. l also put an end time but that was a me thing. Take your time and don't overwhelm yourself and make really sure that you've really thought about what your life will be like once you're approved. And I know you will be at some point.

Wishing you a life filled with love, peace, joy and harmony!

I have been on SSDI for almost ten years now and just turned 65.  It seemed like a battle to get approved for SSDI, but it turns out that my case was fairly easy, just time-consuming.  My best advice is to make sure that you are meticulous in filling out the paperwork and on top of your doctors' offices to get all of your records (make copies for yourself, too) to send to SS.  Keep a file folder and write on the inside of the jacket or on a separate piece of paper (or pad) that you keep in the folder the name and date and phone number of every single person that you talk to. 

Ironically, I worked as an independent contractor as a verbatim hearing recorder (court reporter) in the appeals hearings at Social Security.  The applicants or appellants there were most often with lawyers who didn't really know them from Jack Squat and were just going through the motions based on notes that some underling had written down in an office interview.  They were most often in appeals because their medical team had failed to submit needed information on time or at all.

You need to make sure that your doctors (including psychotherapists and psychologists) understand what your disabilities are and that they are clearly stated.  I was able to accomplish this myself, but I am a super-organized former librarian who has always been good at applications.  A lawyer is probably your best bet and will be paid only after you have received benefits and these will probably end up being back benefits for a couple of years.  You won't miss the money because it is money you never had.  Try to find an attorney who really listens to you and is handling you himself, listening to you, not assigning you to someone else.

If you end up in appeals, don't be shy.  Tell it like it is:  you had surgery and came out with an ostomy bag which sometimes detached and left you in the restroom cleaning up poop for an hour before you could go back to work.  I've heard that.  The judge heard that.  I have no idea what his ruling was, but it was clear, concise, and I know I would give that guy his due benefits.

Good luck.  Fight the good fight.  Stay positive.  Justice WILL prevail.

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