The Ultimate Guide: Financial Help While Waiting for Your SSDI Appeal
You’ve probably heard that most SSDI applications are initially denied. And, you may have been told that you shouldn’t worry, because a lot of those claims that are initially denied are approved later in the appeal process. But, what if you live alone or were the primary breadwinner for your family? Sometimes, even when someone else is bringing in some money, it’s not enough to keep all the balls in the air.
Understandably, one of the first questions many people ask when they hear that it may take a year or two (or even more) to get Social Security disability benefits is “How am I supposed to get by?”
There’s no one-size-fits-all solution, but here are some avenues to explore to help you keep the bills paid and provide for yourself and any dependents while your SSDI claim is working its way through the appeal process.
Check to See Whether You Have Other Disability Benefits Available During Your Appeal Process
The three most common sources of disability benefits outside those offered by the federal government through Social Security or the Veterans Administration are:
- Private short-term or long-term disability insurance that you purchased directly
- Private short-term or long-term disability insurance offered through your employer
- Disability benefits offered through your state
Of course, you’ll know if you purchased a disability insurance policy. But, a surprising number of people aren’t fully familiar with their employee benefits, particularly if the coverage is provided for all employees and not something the employee had to opt into and pay for. In a handful of U.S. states, employers are required to provide some sort of disability coverage, or an employee has the option of choosing coverage through the employer or the state. If you are still employed or were recently forced to leave work due to your medical condition, make sure to look into whether there are any benefits available through your employer.
Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is Probably Not the Answer WHILE WAITING FOR YOUR APPEAL PROCESS
Since SSI is need-based, some people ask whether they can pursue those benefits while waiting for SSDI appeal to be approved. That’s generally not a winning strategy–and isn’t worth pursuing for most people–because need isn’t the only eligibility requirement for SSI. The applicant must be 65 or older, blind, or disabled.
That means the determination process for SSI is just as involved. The initial determination will likely take three to five months, just like an SSDI determination. And, like SSDI, SSI has a low initial approval rate. If the issue is that you need money soon to tide you over while you await a decision and then move through the appeal process, trying for SSI isn’t likely to solve that problem.
State-Based Cash Benefits and Assistance
Your options for state-based assistance will vary depending on the state you live in and your family circumstances. For example, in many states there are benefits available to people with minor children in the home that are not available to single adults or those living in adult-only households.
Working your way through the web of different programs and qualifications can be a challenge. Every state’s government is structured a bit differently, and the name of the agency that handles a particular issue may vary from state to state. One good starting point is the federal listing of state social services agencies and programs. If you’re having trouble finding the information you’re looking for or would just prefer to get some help from a human, consider calling 211.
Key Benefits Programs
If you have minor children in the home and limited or no other income, you may qualify for TANF–Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. The TANF program is federally funded but is administered by the states and each state has its own rules and benefit calculations.
Only about half of U.S. states offer cash assistance to adults in need if they don’t have minor children in the house. If this program is offered in your state, it may be called General Assistance. Like TANF, eligibility, and benefit amounts may vary from state to state.
Local Governmental Programs
Many cities, townships, counties, and other local governmental entities offer some type of assistance to residents. The nature of the programs and eligibility may differ significantly from place to place and may include assistance such as:
- Help paying utility bills
- A one-time cash grant
- Rent assistance
Your local 211 may be able to tell you about available programs, or you may have to work the phone a bit to find them.
In addition to the local assistance mentioned above, there are many energy-specific assistance programs. One of the best-known and most widely available is LIHEAP–Low Income Home Energy Assistance. But, LIHEAP isn’t the only option. One thing many people don’t realize is that some utility providers administer their own assistance programs. If you’re having trouble paying your utilities, ask your provider if they have any assistance available, or can refer you to an agency that may help.
Food and Nutrition Programs
The main program for helping people facing financial difficulties with food in the United States is SNAP–Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Like TANF, SNAP is funded by the federal government but administered by the states. Here, too, that means the rules and dollar values vary somewhat from state to state. SNAP is the updated, digital version of what many of us still think of as “food stamps,” and consists of a debit card that can be used only to purchase food.
The federal government also funds some additional nutrition assistance programs.
Local food pantries can be a real help when money is tight, too. Most are open only for limited hours and may have restrictions about how frequently you can visit, so make sure to find out more about your local options before you hop in the car. This nationwide database can be a great starting point.
If you lost your medical insurance because you were no longer able to work, it may be challenging to get the care you need. Once you’re approved for SSDI, you’ll enter a 24-month waiting period and then become eligible for Medicare. But, you’ll undoubtedly need medical care both leading up to approval and during that 24-month period.
Each state administers its Medicaid program separately, but fortunately, you don’t have to go chasing around looking for the right state agency to contact. You can apply for Medicaid in your state through the Marketplace website at HealthCare.Gov. If you don’t quite qualify for Medicaid but have limited income, you may be able to purchase heavily subsidized medical insurance.
You’ll also want to keep in mind that many hospitals and clinics associated with hospitals have their own need-based assistance programs. Don’t be afraid to ask. Those programs exist to help people in tough circumstances like yours.
Learn How a Disability Benefits Advocate Can Help During The Appeal Process
These resources can help you keep the rent or mortgage paid, keep food on the table and get the medical care you need while waiting for SSDI appeal to be approved. But, the ultimate goal is to get your benefits as quickly as possible. Working with an experienced disability benefits advocate from the beginning can increase the chances of your appeal being approved. To learn more, contact us here or call (800) 800-3332.