Recently on our disability forum a user asked, “The unthinkable has happened. I was severely injured in a construction accident and will not be able to walk again. I hate to say it, but I have not saved much money, I do not have an emergency fund, and I do not have disability insurance through my employer. What do I need to know about SSDI offered through the federal government? What are my options?”
Workers are far more likely to become disabled and unable to work at some point in their lives than they are to die a premature death. Unfortunately, however, while many workers have prepared for death by purchasing large life-insurance policies, they’ve given little thought to what might happen if they are injured or suffer a debilitating illness.
The good news is that many workers may qualify for disability insurance offered through the federal government called Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). Before you apply for SSDI benefits, there are five things you should know.
What do I need to know about SSDI benefits?
- Most workers will be denied SSDI benefits the first time they apply.
Although your condition sounds severe and you might automatically qualify for SSDI benefits, many claimants do not. In fact, many claimants must apply and appeal their claim multiple times. Some claimants will never win benefits.
- There is a five-month waiting period to qualify for SSDI benefits.
SSDI benefits is intended as a long-term disability program. For this reason, it is not offered for any condition which is expected to last for less than 12 continuous months. There is also a five-month waiting period to qualify for any condition, even those which are severe.
- If you do not qualify for SSDI benefits you might qualify for Supplemental Security Income (SSI).
Not all disabled workers will qualify for SSDI benefits. In fact, not only does your condition have to be severe, long-term, and not allow you to work or earn too much money, you also must have sufficient work credits, which means you have worked and paid taxes to the federal government.
Workers who do not have work credits, however, may be able to apply for Supplemental Security Income. While the Social Security Administration will use the same criteria for both programs to make a disability determination, claimants who have not worked may receive SSI benefits if their income and resource level meets the qualifying limits.
What do you do if you’re not sure about your options? There is not only a plethora of information online on various websites, the SSA is also available to answer questions.
4. You should apply for disability as soon as possible.
Although there is a 5 month waiting period for SSDI, the disability application process can take months. It’s best to apply as soon as you have a diagnosis and know that your condition will last 12 months.
- Don’t be afraid to hire a disability lawyer.
It’s hard to believe that you might need a lawyer to get the benefits you deserve, but hiring a disability lawyer can improve your chances of winning benefits at every step in the disability process.