If you read anything in regards to being prepared financially, the first thing a smart investor will tell you is to make sure you have at least six months of reserves just in case anything catastrophic happens.
However, in reality, for most, this is an impossible task. For the most part, those who have to file for Social Security disability have worked at a job where their body gives out after so many years of hard physical labor. The reality again, is that most of these jobs do not pay enough to have six months in reserve. Add a family and a mortgage to that, and there is usually very little left over after each paycheck.
So, let's assume there are not six months in reserves and like any other American, the bills will pile up fast and high if any member of the family stops working or loses his or her job.
But, what can you do to prepare to file for Social Security disability if you can no longer work? Because, it is likely to take more than six months before you will be approved for benefits. If you're in the majority of Americans who need to file for Social Security disability, the process can last for at least two years or more.
Here's a few ideas to at least help you prepare:
1. As soon as you know you have a physical or mental impairment that keeps you from working full-time, file as soon as possible.
Don't wait for the five-month short-term disability time to pass, and certainly do not wait a year to satisfy the one-year requirement for approval. If the Social Security Administration believes your condition is likely to last for twelve months or more, then you can avoid the one year waiting requirement. In addition to this helping you get further down the disability road faster, your medical records will be up to date. One of the hallmarks of winning any Social Security disability case is having good medical records. That is why you should file as soon as you realize you are not able to work any longer.
2. Get your doctor involved.
Let your doctor know you are going to file for Social Security disability. Most doctors are aware of the requirements to be found disabled or are at least familiar with them. And, any good doctor will detail your impairments as much as possible in your medical records to help facilitate an approval. If your doctor is against you filing for disability or seems disinterested, go find another doctor. A bad doctor can sink your case faster than just about anything. The Social Security Administration really cares to know what your own doctor or doctors think about your condition. There have been many times I have reviewed medical records to see a doctor stating he or she thinks his or her patient is over exaggerating their condition. If you have a doctor like this, it will hurt your case if you continue to stay with them.
3. Let your family or close friends know you are coming to a point where you can no longer work.
It is the reality of the situation that if you stop working, there will no longer be income. If you don't have those financial reserves discussed above, then you may have to face the reality of having to sell your home or move out of your apartment and live with friends or other family members. I see this happen every day. Many clients are without income for such a long period of time that they have to move in with friends or family. If this is likely your scenario, then make arrangements now instead of waiting till the last minute. Also, if you do have a little savings, contributing to your friend's or family's income while living with them will make your savings go that much further. They will appreciate a couple of hundred dollars each month towards food or utilities while you live with them. You're less of a burden, and if your case drags on, they are less likely to ask you to leave.
4. Consider filing for bankruptcy.
No one wants to do it. But if you cannot work, you may want to consider bankruptcy as a way of avoiding all your bills. This may be an unavoidable way in which to survive financially until you can be approved for benefits and get your life going again. It just may be the reset you need until you receive benefits. Don't do Chapter 13 unless you have a large amount of assets to protect. If you don't have assets or money in reserve, file Chapter 7. Get it over with and move on.
5. Change your mindset, and realize this may take a very long time.
I don't have many conflicts with my clients. The ones I do conflict with, believe that by hiring an attorney to help them win their Social Security disability case, magically transports them to the front of the line and gets them approved right away. This could not be further from the truth. Here's the reality: An attorney will only be able to stand in line with you while you wait for an approval. He or she will help you complete your Work History and Function Reports, and will be the contact-point for your case manager. Only if you have to attend a hearing, will an attorney become an asset for you. He or she will properly prepare your case to present it to the Administrative Law Judge. The one good thing about hiring an attorney from the beginning, is that if you do have to attend a hearing, you have been together for at least two years. He or she will then be more familiar with your case and can present it better at the time of your hearing.
So, when I say change your mindset, this is what I really mean: Realize that many people are filing at the same time for the same benefits you're seeking. There are only limited government resources to handle such a large volume of cases. You will have to stand in line many times and wait for a response on your case. If your condition continues to get worse or you have many hospitalizations while waiting for a decision, it is also very likely your case manager will continue to place your case on hold until he or she can receive those records and update your case. If you are denied, you will have to hurry up and wait some more. The longer your case goes on, the more you will be required to wait. If your case is scheduled for a hearing, the average wait time is now over 600 days to speak to a judge.
Understanding this is potentially a very long process can do wonders for your mind. Many people find their brain works against them while they are sitting at home and not able to work. It is very difficult to be at home knowing the rest of the world is working. You are going to have to be able to handle this mentally. Becoming upset isn't going to make your case go any faster. In fact, your anxiety levels will oftentimes make your condition worse. Therefore, just try and prepare mentally for filing for disability. It could be the very most important thing you could do for yourself.
We help claimants throughout Texas and California fighting for their Social Security disability benefits. If you need help, always feel free to call our office: (888) 780-9125.