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What to do when you finally start receiving Social Security disability benefits

I had a client once who flipped his car and severely damaged his left arm and incurred brain trauma. He was a pretty young guy, so it was not so much the arm impairment that got him his disability benefits, but the fact that his brain was processing information much slower than before the wreck, and he needed some time to recover.

Glad to say, SSA recognized this and awarded him benefits.

This young man had always worked 60 plus hours a week. That was the norm for him. And, when work came to an abrupt stop that night, he found he didn't know what to do with himself. The fact that he had to stay home everyday was more agonizing that his injuries. In fact, the stress of not working was very debilitating for him. He worried a lot and came to me for advise a number of times.

Here's what I told him.

It's okay not to work at that time. I explained that SSA would review his case in three years and make a determination as to whether to continue or cease benefits. I further told him that three years would pass rather quickly and he needed to do something for himself to prepare for that day when he would have to go back to work.

The average time spent on disability is 3 to 6 years. Usually, there is an initial review at the three year mark, and if approved, benefits are extended for another 3 years. The duration of benefits varies tremendously, but you get the point.

What I explained to be client is that first, he could no longer do the work he was doing when he was injured. He was a heavy machine operator in the oil fields, and since his left arm would never be the same, it was very unlikely he could do that again.

So, what was he to do?

He did the right thing. He didn't want to go to college, but he went through a training program for something different to prepare himself. During his three years on disability, he stayed in the training program and was certified in that field by the time his benefits stopped.

Not everyone can do something like this, but you should all prepare for your benefits stopping at some point. If you're not ready, the complete stoppage of all monthly income could be incredibly devastating. You have to be ready. Training yourself to do something different and perhaps better when you have the time to do so, may be the best decision you made in a very long time.

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