When Should I Apply for Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits?
Whenever I’m asked this question, I say, if you have a medical condition that is severe enough to prevent you from working and earning over $1,000 a month and is expected to keep you from working for a period of at least 12 continuous months, then you should apply right away.
You Must be Insured for Benefits
It is important to know that the definition of disability for Social Security is different than for many other disability programs. To qualify you must have paid Social Security payroll taxes over a certain period of time in order to be considered insured. The amount of time required varies depending on your age. If you have stopped working and paying Social Security taxes, you must prove that your disability began before the insured status ran out. Social Security only pays for permanent and total disability. They do not pay for temporary or partial disability.
However, if you are currently insured and you do have a disabling condition that is preventing you from working, you do not have to wait until you have been disabled for 12 months before you apply. It means rather, that not only should your condition be severe enough to keep you from working, it should be expected to remain disabling as opposed to conditions such as sprained ankle or a simple fracture, which would be expected to heal in a matter of weeks or a few months.
The Process is a Long One
The reason you should apply for benefits as soon as possible is because the Social Security disability application process takes a long time. Of course there are those individuals who are so severely impaired that their applications are approved almost immediately but for most people it may take up to 120 days on average and the majority of these applications are denied!
If your case is denied the first time around and you choose to appeal the decision, you will usually file for reconsideration although there are some states in which the next step is to request a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge. If you live in a state which has the reconsideration process and you are denied again, you will then request a hearing.
Either way, the entire SSA Disability applications process can easily take up to a year or more. So beginning the process as soon as your condition keeps you from working and is expected to continue to keep you out of the work force for an extended period of time (12 continuous months) is a good idea.
The only exception to this rule would be if you are receiving workers compensation. If you are on worker’s compensation and are considering applying for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits it is advisable to seek the counsel of a worker’s comp attorney or expert in the field to discuss the particulars of your situation before taking any action.
My best advice is, don’t wait to apply for disability benefits and get professional advocacy representation to guide you through the lengthy application process.