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Social Security and Disability


By Former MoneyWise Staffer, Kelly Griese

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

This week, I’m continuing to learn about financial issues related to disabilities, and as with my previous post, I’m attempting to share this information with all of you in a simple, easy-to-understand way. This is no small feat. Navigating this large and complex subject takes time, applying for these benefits takes time, and as I often tell folks who attend my presentations: time is money. When you need financial assistance, you need it ASAP.

Compassionate Allowances

Enter the Compassionate Allowances program from the Social Security Administration (SSA), which seeks to expedite the process by quickly identifying severe medical conditions and diseases that meet Social Security’s standards for disability benefits. (My last blog post discussed both Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income.)

Just last month, Social Security added five new Compassionate Allowances conditions. The list currently includes 242 conditions, including certain cancers, adult brain disorders, and a number of rare disorders that affect children. The list of conditions that qualify continues to grow, and you can even submit a condition for consideration.

The purpose of the Compassionate Allowance program is to reduce the waiting time to reach a disability determination, which is necessary for you to start receiving benefits. Regardless of your condition, there is a waiting period between when you apply for benefits and when you begin receiving them.

How Long Does It Take?

There are numerous factors that determine how long it takes to begin receiving disability benefits.  SSA breaks it down in their Frequently Asked Questions, but big factors include the nature of your disability and how long it takes to get medical evidence of your disability. All that said, if you are eligible to receive disability benefits, there is a five-month waiting period. SSA will pay your first benefit for the sixth full month after the date they find out your disability began. That means if your disability began today, September 9, 2020, your first benefit would be paid for the month of March, 2021.

How Much Will You Receive? 

To figure out how much you will receive, SSA recommends you start by creating a My Social Security account. It’s pretty easy to create an account. I just did it myself online, and it only took a few minutes and some basic information, such as my driver’s license number and a few pieces of information from my last W-2. Creating a My Social Security account allows you to access your statement online. It will provide you with your estimated benefits and earnings record. It also has a retirement calculator to help you make the most of your earning years. You can even use the site to request a replacement Social Security card. But what’s important for the purposes of this blog post is the Social Security Statement. You can download a PDF of this document once you’ve created a My Social Security account. The statement tells you if you have earned enough credits to qualify for disability benefits and what your payment would be right now if you became disabled. I’ll go ahead and use myself as an example. I’m currently eligible to receive $1,937 per month if I were to become disabled.

How to Apply

Before I explain how to apply for Social Security disability benefits, I recommend you check out SSA’s Disability Starter Kit. It includes a fact sheet with answers to common questions about disability benefits, a checklist of all the documents and information you will need to provide to SSA, and a worksheet to help you gather and organize everything. There are adult and child versions of this starter kit, and it’s available in English and Spanish. SSA also offers free interpreter service if English is not your primary language.

Now back to applying for disability benefits. Remember, as I said before, there’s a waiting period for receiving disability benefits, so you should apply as soon as you become disabled.  You can apply online, or you can apply by calling 1-800-772-1213. SSA stresses that you should not delay applying for benefits if you don’t have all the necessary documents. They will help you get these documents.

You are going to need to provide Social Security with a LOT of information when applying for disability benefits. This will take time, and you may want to ask for help. A friend or family member is allowed to apply on your behalf, and SSA will then follow-up with you to sign necessary documents. Additionally, there are numerous social service workers, disability advocates, and organizations who can assist you in this process.

More Information

SSA has published a lot of information on the subject of disability. I recommend bookmarking this link to a search of the word “disability” on their publications page.

Blog topics:  Budgeting, Archive