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How You Can Survive While Waiting On A Disability Decision

Published on May 17th, 2024

To most people, survival might sound like a stretch when it comes to applying for Social Security disability benefits. Given the strict work and financial requirements for Social Security Disability Insurance applicants, survival otherwise sounds like a fitting term.

During the months that you’re waiting for an approval or denial from a social security administration, you still need to worry about housing, healthcare, food, and transportation costs. As disability attorneys, we have witnessed those applying for benefits in stressful situations during this waiting period. That’s why we’ve created this guide that can help you physically and emotionally get through this challenging time.

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How Long Do First-Time Applicants Wait For A Decision?

First-time applicants for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) can expect to wait anywhere from three to five months for an initial decision. This timeline varies based on the complexity of the case and the caseload of the Social Security Administration (SSA), who is handling your claim. However, it is not uncommon for some applicants to wait even longer before receiving a response.

How Long Is Your Average Disability Hearing Decision Wait Time?

If your initial application is denied and you need to request a hearing, the waiting time can be substantially longer. The average wait time for a hearing decision is typically between 12 and 18 months. This delay can be even longer in certain jurisdictions where the backlog of cases is significant.

What Lifestyle Factors Can Affect Your Disability Application?

While waiting for a decision on your disability application, there are certain lifestyle factors that can impact your eligibility. It’s important to be mindful of these elements to ensure your application remains strong:

  • Income Streams – The Social Security Administration looks at your income when determining eligibility. If you earn more than a certain amount per month, it could disqualify you from receiving benefits. This includes income from part-time work, freelance gigs, or self-employment.
  • Money Spent On Housing – The amount of money you spend on housing can impact your financial situation and potentially affect your application. If you have high rent or mortgage payments, you may want to consider moving to a more affordable location while waiting for a decision.
  • Gifts & Financial Help From Friends & Family – Receiving gifts or financial assistance from friends and family can affect your eligibility. The Social Security Administration might count such help as unearned income, which could reduce or disqualify you from benefits.
  • Health Insurance Status – Your health insurance status and medical care access can influence your application. Ensure you are maintaining regular medical appointments and treatments, as this demonstrates the ongoing nature of your disability.
  • Living Arrangements – Your living arrangements, such as whether you live alone or with others, can impact your financial situation and eligibility. Living with a spouse or partner who earns a significant income may affect your application.

What To Do For Income While Waiting For A Disability Application Decision

During the waiting period, it is crucial to have some form of income to cover basic necessities like housing and food. Here are some subtle, legal ways to earn money without disqualifying yourself from benefits:

  • Temporary or Part-Time Work – You can engage in some part-time or temporary work, provided you earn below the Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) limit set by the Social Security Administration. This amount changes annually, so it’s important to stay informed about the current threshold. According to the Social Security Administration’s recent guidelines in 2024, the SGA limit for individuals who are not blind is $1,550 per month. Individuals who are blind cannot earn more than $2,590 per month.
  • Freelancing or Gig Work – Engaging in freelancing or gig work allows you to control your income. Again, you should be mindful of the freelance or gig work you choose to do and ensure it doesn’t show that you’re able to work full-time with your disability. You must also make sure your earnings stay within the allowable limits listed above. Keep accurate records of your income and expenses to accurately report your earnings to the IRS and SSA.
  • Selling Unused Items – Selling unused items from your home or garage can be a great way to earn some extra cash without affecting your disability application. This income is generally considered non-taxable and does not count against your benefits.
  • Subletting or Renting a Room – If you own a home or have extra space, consider subletting or renting out a room. This can provide a steady income stream while waiting for a decision, as long as it does not put you over the income limit.
  • Applying for Other Benefits – Look into other assistance programs, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Medicaid, or local charitable organizations. These benefits can help cover basic needs without impacting your disability application.

Utilizing all or even some of these factors can ease the financial burdens you face as you wait for the final decision on your SSDI or SSI application. If you have any hesitations or questions about what you can and cannot do for assistance during this waiting period, then a disability lawyer can help.

Not only will this attorney likely know what you can do after you’ve applied for SSDI or SSI benefits. The key is to find a local attorney who has the connections, experience, and knowledge of different disability programs and related programs that can help you while you wait for a decision.

Schedule Your Free Case Consultation With Miller Disability Law, PC

Let’s make the disability application process as painless and seamless as possible. Instead of stressing over every detail in your application, Miller Disability Law, PC can do all the hard work for you.

Our attorneys have successfully fought for numerous disability cases over the last few decades.

Contact our team now to schedule your free case consultation.

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