When you are injured and cannot work, the expenses begin to pile up fast. It is easy to find yourself so overwhelmed by bills that you end up panicking and making your financial situation, and your health, worse. So, the best thing that you can do once you are physically able to, is to contact an attorney or other advocate that has experience with the disability system.
Seek Help Right Away Because Getting Benefits Takes Time
One of the main reasons why it is important to contact an attorney as soon as you can, is to get the ball rolling on obtaining financial support for yourself.
An experienced attorney is going to be able to determine right away whether you should consider filing a personal injury lawsuit, or file for workers’ compensation.
An attorney that is familiar with the Social Security system is also going to be able to advise you on whether you have the option to retire and start collecting benefits, or whether you should apply for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits or Social Security Income (SSI) benefits.
Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) is similar to retirement benefits in that it is based on an individual’s work record. A benefit determination considers the applicant’s age at the time he or she became disabled and the corollary amount of time worked. Generally, duration of work ranges from 1.5 years for individuals who become disabled prior to the age of 28, to 9.5 years for those who 60 or older.
In order to qualify, the disability must be due to a medical condition that is expected to last at least for one year and/or result in death. In particular, the Social Security Administration (SSA) will seek to determine whether the disability limits an individual’s ability to perform the work he or she did before, or any other type of work.
Once the SSA determines you are eligible for benefits, there is a five month waiting period before your benefits can kick in. So, if your disability began on January 1st, your benefits would kick in on June 1, but you wouldn’t receive your first check on July 1.
However, it often takes the SSA longer than 5 months to process SSDI applications, so they typically owe back payments once a claim is approved.
If your financial needs are much greater than the aid you are eligible for, you may also be able to apply for Social Security Income (SSI).
Supplemental Security Income is designed for individuals who are disabled, blind or over 65 and is based on need. In order to be eligible, the applicant’s income and resources must fall below a certain threshold, but these benefits are available regardless of whether the individual paid into the Social Security System.
Once the SSA determines you are eligible for SSI benefits, there is no wait period. However, just like with SSDI claims, there is no automatic approval process. The approval process can often take months, so if and when you are approved, the SSA will pay you back payments from the time you became eligible for benefits.