The Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) claims process is complicated and frustrating—and navigating it can sometimes feel like trying to go upstream without a paddle.
That said, it’s important to stick with it. It can be scary to file a claim or have to appeal a denial, but remember that SSDI is insurance for you. You’ve worked, and you’ve paid into the system—which means you are entitled to benefits if you have a qualifying disability.
At Casper & Casper, we’re here to help you. Today, we’re sharing six tips to help make the SSDI process easier. And of course, if you still have questions after reading this post, feel free to give us a call.
#1 Figure out if you are eligible.
The first, most important question to answer as you begin the SSDI process is whether you are eligible for benefits.
It’s not enough to be injured or have an illness and not able to work. The Social Security Administration (SSA) has a number of conditions you need to meet in order to be eligible:
- You need to have a medically determinable qualifying disability—meaning an injury or illness that is diagnosed by your doctor and that is expected to last at least 12 months or will end in death.
- Your injury or illness must prevent you from working in your previous job and any job that would pay $1,170 per month.
- You haven’t reached retirement age.
- You must have worked long enough, and recently enough, in jobs covered by Social Security. (The SSA requires a certain number of work credits based on your age.)
#2 Get organized.
Filing for SSDI benefits requires a good amount of information, including information about you, your medical condition, and your job history. You’ll need to find and submit a lot of paperwork, such as the following:
- Birth certificate (or other proof of birth)
- Proof of U.S. citizenship
- W-2 forms or self-employment tax returns
- Medical records
- Pay stubs
To make the process easier, we recommend keeping things organized. You don’t want your claim to be delayed or denied because an important document wasn’t mailed or filled out properly.
#3 File your claim ASAP.
If you take one thing from this post, we hope it is this: do not wait to file your claim.
Even the Social Security Administration website urges you to file ASAP, even if you do not have all of your documents immediately on hand. (You can start the claims process and submit your documents as needed.)
The SSDI process takes time. In addition, getting approval from the SSA can take several months—and though you may qualify for back pay (payments for the time you waited for approval), the amount of back pay is based on the date you applied.
Waiting to file can only add to your stress and worsen your financial situation.
#4 Review your budget.
Being unable to work can put an enormous strain on your finances. That’s why it’s critical to review your budget and spending to ensure that you can make ends meet while waiting for benefits. Preparing yourself now can help you avoid losing your savings, 401(k), car, or even your home. You might find help from friends and family, or you might consider reaching out to community assistance organizations in your area.
It’s also worthwhile to adjust your expectations around SSDI benefits: since SSDI does not replace 100% of your previous income, you’ll likely have to change your spending habits to reflect your change in income.
#5 Keep up your health insurance.
If you’re having trouble affording it, you might think about dropping your health insurance. Unfortunately, doing this might jeopardize your claim: having medical evidence for your condition is vital, and a lack of records could lead to a denial.
Consider taking a look at your options, including COBRA, the Health Care Marketplace, and Medicaid.
If canceling your health insurance is your only option, look for low-cost or free health care clinics near you.
#6 Talk to an SSDI attorney.
Navigating the SSDI process alone can be overwhelming. It’s easy to miss something or make a paperwork mistake that negatively affects your claim. That’s why we recommend talking to an SSDI attorney in your area.
Having an experienced SSDI attorney helping you file your claim is beneficial for several reasons: it makes the whole process less stressful for you, and it makes it more likely your claim will be approved the first time. (The wait time for SSDI appeals is incredibly long, so you absolutely want your claim approved.)
Questions? Call Us
If you are thinking of filing for Social Security Disability benefits and have questions about the eligibility, filing, or other aspects of SSDI, call us today. We’re happy to answer your questions during a free consultation.