what to do while waiting on ssd approval

Knowing what to do while waiting on SSD approval can help your claim go smoothly. If you file a claim for Social Security disability benefits, and you are waiting on approval, you must follow steps to protect your benefits and reduce financial hardships. Steps to take include seeing your doctor for continuing medical care, working if possible, applying for other types of financial support, and seeking critical status if appropriate.

Applying for Social Security Disability

Social Security disability claims are handled through the Social Security Administration (SSA), an agency that is part of the federal government. Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) programs provide financial assistance to people who meet basic requirements for disability. SSDI benefits are provided to individuals with qualifying conditions who have earned work credits and paid taxes on earned income. SSI benefits are provided to adults and children who meet SSA requirements for a qualifying disability, have insufficient work credits, and have limited income and resources.

When you apply for Social Security Disability benefits, you must go through a basic application process and wait for the approval of benefits. If you apply for SSDI benefits, you’re required to serve a five-month waiting period that begins on the date of your disability. If your claim is approved, your first benefit payment begins at the beginning of the sixth month. Disability claims base benefit payments on the “onset date”, the date you became unable to work due to a medical condition that qualifies as a disability.

Things to Do While Waiting on SSD Approval

Unfortunately, SSA denies up to 60% of disability claims. When claims do get approved, the claimant can end up waiting months before receiving any benefits. Making ends meet while waiting for disability benefits can create financial hardships for individuals who need their benefits to pay for household expenses and basic needs. Knowing what to do while waiting on SSD approval can help you protect your benefits and prevent financial hardships.

Continue to See Your Doctor for Medical Care

When you’re waiting on approval for disability benefits, it’s important to see your doctor for regular checkups and treatments. Medical records are critical to the approval of disability claims. The Social Security Administration relies heavily on medical records which contain doctors’ notes, diagnoses, prognoses, medical treatments and tests, and prescribed medications.

Medical records provide critical insight into the limitations that a disabling condition causes. In most cases, claimants filing for disability are required to see a licensed physician or specialist who’s on a list of participating SSA medical professionals. Medical records can be easily accessed by SSA at any time to review information. Without clear, convincing evidence of a medical condition created over the course of the period of disability, a claimant stands little chance of seeing his or her case approved.

During doctor visits, it’s important to relay accurate information about your medical condition. Many claimants often underreport or play down symptoms to help maintain a positive mental attitude. Doing this can result in medical records that don’t accurately reflect medical conditions and disabilities. It can also result in a denied disability claim due to a condition that doesn’t meet SSA guidelines for an approved disability.

Followup on Your Disability Claim

During the Social Security disability process, follow up on your disability claim and check your disability claim status on a regular basis. You can contact SSA by letter, email, or phone to check on the status of your claim. If you create an online account with Social Security, you can track information on your claim. When reviewing your claim and status, ensure that all medical records and requested information are in your case file.

Make Sure Your Contact Information is Up-to-Date

If you’re waiting on disability approval, make certain your contact information is correct and up-to-date. If any changes are made to your mailing address, email address, or phone number is given to SSA, update those changes as quickly as possible with SSA officials. Information on disability claims is always time sensitive. A fast way to lose a disability case is to ignore time-sensitive communications from the SSA.

Continue Working If Possible

Working during the disability application process will not necessarily result in a denial of your claim, but you should be aware of SSA guidelines related to income received. SSA considers Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) as earnings that surpass a specified monthly amount. This means the SSA requires your earnings to be below a certain monthly amount to be considered as not engaging in work.

However, this is not the only thing that the SSA looks at. For instance, if you earn less than the SGA, but you are working 35-40 hours per week, you will likely not be considered disabled by SSA during this time period. To protect your claim approval and benefits, observe the SGA limit and consider working less than 20 hours per week.

Can I Work While Waiting on SSD Approval?

You are permitted to work while waiting for disability approval, however, the work you participate in must not disqualify you for benefits. The requirements for SSDI and SSI disability benefits are different. If you apply for SSDI, you are not allowed to earn more than what’s considered “substantial gainful activity” (SGA). The SGA for 2022 is set at $1,350 per month. If you apply for SSI, a need-based program, you can’t have significant income or other assets. Any employment income is likely to put your SSI eligibility at risk. SSI and SSDI benefits increases are planned for 2022.

If your income exceeds SGA caps, you are not allowed to collect Social Security disability benefits, unless you are taking part in one of Social Security’s “work incentives.” Work incentives are trial periods and programs aimed at helping SSDI recipients transition back into the workforce without sacrificing their benefits. Some SSA work incentives are also available to recipients of Supplemental Security Income (SSI). SSA’s “Ticket to Work Program” offers job training and other services to people on SSDI and SSI, and also temporarily waives the SGA earnings limits during participation. If you get a job through the Ticket to Work Program, disability benefits will stop. However, if you have to stop working due to a worsening medical condition, your disability benefits will resume.

If you receive SSDI benefits, you are allowed a trial period of up to nine months to test your work abilities. You are permitted to spread this nine-month trial period out over five years. During your trial period, you are allowed to earn money and still keep your social security disability, regardless of your earnings.

What Other Types of Financial Support Can I Use While Waiting on SSD Approval?

Disability claims are complicated, and there are no easy ways to speed up the approval process. However, knowing what to do while waiting on SSD approval will help you with support and financial problems. While you are waiting on SSD approval, you may need to consider other types of financial support to help make ends meet.

Apply for Other Types of Support

While waiting for disability approval, consider applying for support through other federal, state, and local programs. These include:

  • Department of Social Services
  • Short-term or Temporary Disability Benefits
  • Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP)
  • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)

Illinois does not provide state short-term disability benefits to address medical conditions associated with non-occupational accidents and illnesses. Workers in Illinois are required to purchase private insurance coverage to protect their income from temporary losses – before the need arises. If you live in Illinois, a Chicago disability lawyer can provide information on short-term disability benefits and what to do while waiting on SSD approval.

Look for Other Sources of Financial Assistance

If your disability prevents working while waiting for disability approval, look for other sources of financial assistance you can tap into for cash flow. These may include:

  • Refinancing your existing home loan
  • Taking out a home equity loan or line of credit, if you’re a homeowner
  • Borrowing against a 401k
  • Borrowing against a life insurance policy
  • Borrowing money from family and friends

Seek Critical Status

Approval for disability claims and benefits is typically slow unless you seek critical status. SSA allows six types of cases with special processing that significantly speeds up claim approvals. These special cases include the following:

  • Compassionate Allowances (CAL)
  • Dire Need (DRND)
  • Military Casualty/Wounded Warrior (MC/WW)
  • Potentially Violent Cases
  • Terminal Illness (TERI)
  • Veteran 100 Percent Permanent and Total

If any of these categories pertain to your circumstances, you may receive special processing that reduces your waiting time for disability approval. You may also be able to collect a lump sum settlement. If you suffer severe financial hardships that result in eviction notices, foreclosure notices, or utility shut-off notices, you may qualify under Dire Need for special disability processing.

Special processing is not granted in every case. If you seek special processing, SSA will require supportive evidence and information to make sure you qualify.