Social Security Disability, Finances, and Waiting on a Decision
An article published in the Coloradoan offers some advice on what to do if you become disabled and unable to work. The article starts off by asking how do you help your finances and handle your health insurance needs. The author states that first an individual should apply for COBRA and, secondly, the individual should apply for social security disability.
I won't get into the rest of the article or go anywhere near the COBRA topic other than to say, historically, COBRA seems to have been beyond the reach of most disabled workers due to its extreme cost (though, from what I understand, there is currently a "temporary" federal subsidy in place to make COBRA acquisition possible for a large percentage of would-be applicants who, otherwise, could not afford it).
What I would like to state is that, yes, if you become disabled and unable to work at what the social security administration refers to as the substantial gainful activity level, you should immediately file for disability.
But...having said that, no one should file for disability and operate under the assumption (and make decisions based on that assumption) that they will get their benefits started anytime soon.
The SSD and SSI disability process can be unnervingly slow. Many applicants for social security disability and SSI disability may get an answer on their disability application within three or months...but many will not receive an answer until half a year has gone by. And some will find that it takes even longer to receive word on their claim (sometimes scenarios involve a combined wait for medical records, a series of consultative examinations, possibly missed and rescheduled consultative exam appointments, and, sometimes, depending on a medical event (e.g. stroke) or a medical procedure (e.g. eye surgery), a deferred evaluation period of, say, three months).
Most applicants will get an answer on their claim within a few short months. And roughly a third will get the best answer possible, an approval. However, the majority will not be approved at the initial claim level and will instead be denied for disability.
If they choose to file appeals (and it is amazing how many individuals choose not to do this, but, instead, give up on their claim or, unknowingly, waste valuable time by choosing to file a brand new claim versus filing a productive appeal), the time expenditure required before receiving disability benefits could potentially take an additional 2 years or longer. This includes the time needed to file a request for reconsideration, the time needed to file a request for a hearing, the time needed to wait for the scheduling of a disability hearing, the time it takes to receive a decision following the holding of a hearing, and the time required for an approved claimant to be put into pay status.
All of this, of course, assumes that a claimant who was denied on an initial claim filed their appeals in a timely manner up to and including the request for a disability hearing...and was approved at the hearing. Which isn't always the case.
The point of this post? If you're disabled and unable to work, file for disability immediately. However, do not coordinate your financial planning on the assumption that you will receive disability benefits anytime soon. Rosy scenarios in the SSA disability arena are typically not fulfilled. Though, it can be said, that the majority of applicants who persevere and follow the appeals process will end up being approved for benefits, including ongoing monthly benefits and past due benefits (aka back pay).
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