In 2017, there were over 2.1 million applications for disability. It’s something that is incredibly common but, yet it is an incredibly difficult process to go through. The Disability process is something that I am currently in the midst of with my father and without learning the ins-and-outs of the program, we would be completely lost.
Imagine faithfully working from the time you were a teenager until the age of 60 and you find out you have congestive heart failure and you have a very weak heart. Imagine finding out you can no longer work and must have limited activity and you are normally a very active person. Imagine losing all sources of income and having no savings… then find out that the disability process can take 6-12 months to be found disabled and to begin receiving benefits.
Prepare for the Future
The first step you should take in this situation is to speak to the medical professionals that you or your loved one is receiving care from. Talk about expectations and don’t be afraid to bring up disability if you feel your loved one needs to be on it. If your loved one has a serious condition, their doctor will help make the decision to pursue disability. As I said before, it is not an easy process. Having full support from a respected medical professional is an important factor in the process. You will be asked to sign medical releases for all documents pertaining to your case. The more detailed information from your doctor and the more understanding your doctor is to your case, the better. The Doctor’s expectations are a critical part of the entire process.
Be prepared for a denial for disability. There’s a chance that it will happen. Don’t be discouraged – you can always appeal your case. It’s a very common occurrence.
Make sure to stay on top of it. If your loved one can’t keep up with paperwork, phone calls, or medical appointments – step in and make it easier. Time is of the essence while going through the disability application because it can take up to a year to be found disabled.
With that being said, once the application is approved, your loved one will potentially receive back benefits depending on the date that they find the applicant to be considered disabled.
Seek Help for A Tight Budget
If there are no savings and no sources of income while waiting on a disability decision, help is still available. Your local state agency is a great resource for people in these situations. Programs such as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) are worth an application because they can help with the necessity of food and help relieve the heavy burden of living expenses.
If your loved one has outstanding or ongoing medical bills through the hospital and they have lost their insurance or has no insurance, they can apply for financial assistance. In some cases, even if you do have insurance, they will still offer some type of financial aid. It’s definitely worth asking about. Also, if the hospital feels the patient may be eligible, they may have an application for Medicaid filled out to help with medical coverage.
The applicant’s local Commissioner of Revenue office may be able to help with real estate tax relief after disability has been determined. It’s important to line this up ahead of time if you can to make the transition smoother.
Seeking help from local food banks, churches, or senior assistance programs is also a great start to relieving financial stress.
Help With Living Expenses
Call the electric company and ask to speak to the energy assistance department. There are programs out there that provide LED light bulbs and will add insulation into the home free of charge. They also will most likely have a budget program that will set a monthly rate to help with heating and cooling spikes within the summer and winter months. Your state department most likely has a fuel and energy program that can help ease the heating and cooling bills.
If the applicant has a different source of heat than electric, reach out to that company and ask about their own energy assistance or budget program.
If they are over the age of 62, there is a program called Internet Essentials that provides high-speed internet for a low monthly rate of $9.95 + tax a month. There are also no additional fees such as modem and router fees so it makes for a great option for those that meet the age requirement.
But, what if your loved one isn’t over the age of 62? They won’t qualify for the Internet Essentials program but you can contact their service provider, explain their situation and may find some success in lowering their overall monthly bill.
As for unsecured debt such as credit card bills, first find out if they pay monthly fees for insurance. If they have insurance on their credit cards or loans, they can submit information pertaining to their health and may get their debts forgiven.
If there’s no insurance program on the cards or loans, you can call the credit companies and ask to speak to the hardship department. If that doesn’t get you anywhere, and honestly I do not have any personal luck calling the companies directly – contact a non-profit debt-management service. They will negotiate your terms of agreement such as interest charges and monthly charges for you at no cost.
Be prepared to help. Once you get your loved ones bills and monthly expenses reduced it’ll be easier to help where needed. It will make living more comfortable, especially during the waiting period for the disability determination. Reducing financial stress on is not only helpful for their living situation but also for their overall health.