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Take advantage of all resources when researching, planning for disability

When you enter the world of disability benefits, it's easy to become confused. The variety of agencies, bureaus and offices; the forms, paperwork, and regulations: together, everything can seem like a maze.

We have a wealth of resources available at this site, plus our blogs often link to useful, informative external sites.

Glossary more useful than one might think

A sometimes overlooked resource is our glossary, where you can find often used terms, perform a glossary search, or browse by alpha-sorted topics. When researching disabilities, symptom or benefits, it's pretty common to encounter unknown or confusing terms. If that happens, the glossary is a good first place to start because it's not limited to simple definitions--you can also learn about related items or processes.

SSA rules the benefits world

For anyone needing information on any program or benefits overseen by the Social Security Administration, the obvious starting place is the SSA's homepage, which has many useful links, such as: Apply for benefits Apply for Medicare Estimate your retirement benefits Get help with your situation

Strict criteria

However, there are also more specific, targeted pages. Here's the SSA's main disability page, including this intro copy:
The Social Security and Supplemental Security Income disability programs are the largest of several Federal programs that provide assistance to people with disabilities. [Although] these two programs are different in many ways, both are administered by the Social Security Administration and only individuals who have a disability and meet medical criteria may qualify for benefits under either program. Social Security Disability Insurance pays benefits to you and certain members of your family if you are "insured," meaning that you worked long enough and paid Social Security taxes. Supplemental Security Income pays benefits based on financial need. When you apply for either program, we will collect medical and other information from you and make a decision about whether or not you meet Social Security's definition of disability. Use the Benefits Eligibility Screening Tool to find out which programs may be able to pay you benefits.

Everyone needs to consider the possibility of disability

The main SSDI page contains this important insight (emphasis added): "Disability is a subject you may read about in the newspaper, but not think of as something that might actually happen to you. But your chances of becoming disabled are probably greater than you realize. "Studies show that a 20-year-old worker has a 3-in-10 chance of becoming disabled before reaching retirement age. "[Although] we spend a great deal of time working to succeed in our jobs and careers, few of us think about ensuring that we have a safety net to fall back on should we become disabled . . . ."Another helpful site is that of the CDA, the Council for Disability Awareness. Its "Chances of Disability" page mirrors the language on the SSDI page:
You, disabled? What are your chances? Higher than you probably think. You can ignore the problem, but it's hard to ignore the facts:
  • Almost one-third of Americans entering the work force today (3 in 10) will become disabled before they retire.
  • Freak accidents are NOT usually the culprit. Back injuries, cancer, heart disease and other illnesses cause the majority of long-term absences.
Are you prepared if it happens to you? Probably not. If you're like most Americans, you don't have disability insurance. Or enough emergency savings to last 2½ years. Yes, that’s the duration of the average long-term disability.

Statistically speaking, disability planning makes sense

The site also has some interesting statistics on this page:

Disability statistics

It happens more often than you'd imagine:
  • Almost one-third of Americans entering the work force today (3 in 10) will become disabled before they retire.
  • Over 51 million Americans - 18% of the population - classify themselves as fully or partially disabled.
  • 8 million disabled wage earners, over 5% of U.S. workers, were receiving Social Security Disability (SSDI) benefits at the conclusion of June, 2010.
  • In June of 2010, there were nearly 2.5 million disabled workers in their 20s, 30s, and 40s receiving SSDI benefits.

Chances of becoming disabled:

The following statistics come from CDA’s PDQ disability risk calculator:
  • A typical female, age 35, 5’4", 125 pounds, non-smoker, who works mostly an office job, with some outdoor physical responsibilities, and who leads a healthy lifestyle has the following risks:
    • A 24% chance of becoming disabled for 3 months or longer during her working career;
      • with a 38% chance that the disability would last 5 years or longer,
      • and with the average disability for someone like her lasting 82 months.
    • If this same person used tobacco and weighed 160 pounds, the risk would increase to a 41% chance of becoming disabled for 3 months or longer.
  • A typical male, age 35, 5’10", 170 pounds, non-smoker, who works an office job, with some outdoor physical responsibilities, and who leads a healthy lifestyle has the following risks:
    • A 21% chance of becoming disabled for 3 months or longer during his working career;
      • with a 38% chance that the disability would last 5 years or longer,
      • and with the average disability for someone like him lasting 82 months.
    • If this same person used tobacco and weighed 210 pounds, the risk would increase a 45% chance of becoming disabled for 3 months or longer.
It's really never too early to plan for the future. That includes retirement planning as well as at least considering what we would do in the event of even a short-term disability.