We won’t sugarcoat it. Applying for disability benefits through SSDI and SSI can be a process that takes anywhere from 3 months to over 2 years. The disability application and appeal processes are time-consuming and complicated. It’s important to set your expectations accordingly and to have a plan for the wait.
It’s no surprise that our top recommendation is to always work with a qualified disability lawyer instead of going it alone. Data shows that working with a disability lawyer improves your chances of winning and can expedite the process.
But, no matter if you’re working with a disability lawyer or not, you’ll still need a plan for surviving financially while waiting for SSDI or SSI. Let’s review some of your options.
Option #1: Work (Carefully!) While You Wait
Take this advice with a big grain of salt and please read the below carefully. Disability is reserved for individuals who cannot work for an extended period of time. Therefore, it follows that if you can work, you may not qualify for disability.
But it is possible to work and also file for disability benefits so long as you do not violate the programs’ financial eligibility thresholds.
- With Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), you cannot earn more than what is considered “substantial gainful activity” or SGA. For 2020, SGA is set at $1,260 per month.
- With Supplemental Security Income (SSI), you cannot have significant income or other assets, as this is a need-based program. Only certain income and assets count toward eligibility and the calculation of countable income and assets is complex.
Said more simply, any income from employment is likely to put your eligibility for SSI at risk. But, income from employment may or may not affect your SSDI eligibility. Contact your disability lawyer before starting work so you can understand how working may affect your eligibility.
Option #2: Apply for Other Types of Support
There are a number of local, state, and federal support programs in North Carolina. These include:
- Food and Nutrition Services (Food Stamps) – Available through the Division of Social Services
- Medicaid – Provided through the Division of Health Benefits
There may be additional programs that interest you. Your local family social services office or Department of Social Services is the place to start. A social worker with one of these agencies will assist you in completing applications for any programs available to you.
Option #3: Find Other Sources of Support or Financial Assistance
Keep in mind that you may have other sources of financial assistance you can tap into while you wait for benefits.
- If you own a home, you may be able to refinance or take out a home equity loan.
- If you have friends or family who are willing and able to help, consider accepting their assistance.
- You may be able to borrow against or cash out a 401k or life insurance plan.
- There may be local charities which provide assistance.
On our website, you can find a list of resources available to individuals living in or around Winston-Salem. Simply scroll down to the bottom of the page.
In addition to the above, there are a few additional items to keep in mind.
You may notice that we didn’t list unemployment benefits in the above even though they are a source of income for people who find themselves without work. But to clarify, unemployment benefits people who expect to be able to work at some point in the future. Disability benefits people who anticipate being unable to work for a year or longer.
Even an application for unemployment may cause you to be denied disability benefits. Or you may have to pay back any unemployment payments you receive if you are approved for disability. All in all, it’s a good idea to avoid unemployment.
And finally, although disability timelines are largely outside of your control, using a disability attorney can make the process of applying and appealing run more smoothly. Given the challenges associated with supporting yourself as you wait for benefits, we always recommend you work with a professional.
If you’re looking for a good disability lawyer in Winston-Salem, Mount Airy, Greensboro, Charlotte, Salisbury, Lexington or surrounding areas, contact us today.