Don’t Let Disability Financially Debilitate You

by Kenneth Medford III

We touched on the topic of disability income in my article about various websites and programs to help you financially, but allow me to go a bit deeper. This article will take a bit of the stress off those who are already going through what is likely to be a very turbulent time. As someone who has had to leave jobs and even entire industries because of my health, I can understand how one’s pride may keep you from seeking out the assistance you need and deserve, so I hope that at least making these resources easier to find will alleviate some pressure. Without further ado, let’s get into it.

What Type of Disability Benefits Do You Qualify For?

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There are several paths that lead to assistance. Depending on what your particular situation is, you will have to decide which is a better fit. The unifying qualifier is total disability. As long as you meet the SSA’s (Social Security Administration) definition of disabled means:

  1. Are you working? (If you earn more than $1310/month, you won’t qualify)
  2. Is your condition severe? (Unless your condition keeps you from basic functionality – sitting, standing, remembering, etc – you won’t qualify)
  3. Is your condition found on the list of disabling conditions? (Your condition must be on this list)
  4. Can you do the work you previously did? 
  5. Can you do any other type of work?

Once you have that hashed out, you can choose your path.
*There are special situations that fall outside of the above question which you can find HERE.

SSDI (Social Security Disability Income)

This is what most people would consider “traditional” disability income. DisabilityGuide.com gives a nice, clear explanation of exactly what SSDI is:

“SSDI (Social Security Disability Insurance) is an entitlement program that you can access if you have worked before and paid into Social Security retirement benefits. The program allows you to access those benefits early because you have become disabled.”

Basically, you’re getting early access to money you’re entitled to because things went left. Since SSDI is paid for via payroll taxes, you will have to work for a number of years and pay into it through social security taxes (which you will automatically do through any traditional W-2 job). This will also apply to self-employment income. The official SSA website provides this breakdown:

“Social Security work credits are based on your total yearly wages or self-employment income. You can earn up to four credits each year.

The amount needed for a work credit changes from year to year. In 2021, for example, you earn one credit for each $1,470 in wages or self-employment income. When you’ve earned $5,880, you’ve earned your four credits for the year.

The number of work credits you need to qualify for disability benefits depends on your age when you become disabled. Generally, you need 40 credits, 20 of which were earned in the last 10 years ending with the year you become disabled.”

How much income will you receive from Social Security Disability Income?

At the beginning of 2019, Social Security paid an average monthly disability benefit of about $1,234. This is barely enough to keep a beneficiary above the 2018 poverty level ($12,140 annually). Meanwhile,  most income earners, regardless of income level, have spending commitments that consume 65-75% of normal cash flow.

As long as you’re working and file in a timely manner after becoming (by their definition) disabled, you’ll be in good shape to have your claim accepted. 

Finally, remember that SSDI is for those who are either permanently disabled or disabled for a minimum of one year. The SSA states “In general, we pay monthly benefits to people who are unable to work for a year or more because of a disability. Benefits usually continue until you are able to work again on a regular basis.”

SSI (Supplemental Security Income)

SSI is specifically for those with disabilities that lack enough years/income in the workforce to qualify for SSDI. Unlike SSDI, SSI is funded via general taxes and thus, according to Disability Guide, it can be more difficult to be accepted. Disability Guide provides other key differences for SSI including:

  • Based on financial need.
  • Awarded according to low income and low assets—does not deal with work history.
  • Can receive benefits instantly once approved.
  • No dependent benefits.
  • Must be blind, disabled, or 65 or older to qualify.

It should also be noted that since SSI is not dependent on work income, the benefits awarded can be quite variable depending on your financial situation. It can be a bit of a process applying, but the benefits start as soon as you’re accepted so make sure to dot every ‘i’ and cross every ‘t’.

How Do You Apply?

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The official SSA website provides detailed information on how to apply and what you will need during the process for both SSDI and SSI benefits. You actually have several options depending on what you feel the most comfortable with.

  1. Using the Social Security Administration website HERE
  2. Going to your local SSA office (You can use their office locator HERE)
  3. Apply by phone by calling 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) from 8:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., Monday through Friday.
  4. Mailing in your documents (Make sure to include your social security number so they can properly file everything together!)

For those having an advocate or other third party fill out their paperwork for them, the SSA also provides the proper documentation for them to have on hand and updates on changes in procedure available HERE.

Private Disability Insurance

“But Kenny”, I hear you ask, “do I have to go through the the bureaucracy of the Social Security Administration to get disability?” Short answer, no. Long answer, no, but you have to have your disability insurance in place BEFORE you become disabled. 

As we pointed out in this article, most people are better prepared financially for death than they are disability. One way to reduce your risk: enroll in disability insurance.

Companies like Aflac, MetLife, and Humana provide disability insurance directly to consumers or as a part of work benefits that you will have to opt into and, of course, pay extra for. There are many caveats with this route which PatientAdvocate.org does a great job of outlining, including:

  1. A wide variety of eligibility, limitations, and payouts.
  2. If you have health issues before becoming insured, you may have to pay extra or be outright denied insurance.
  3.  There are typically time limits on how long you can receive disability benefits so even if you are still disabled once the time period is up, you lose that income.

Easily one of the biggest pros for private disability insurance is the ability to receive benefits for partial disability. Also, you can receive both SSDI and private disability benefits at the same time. Most private companies will likely decrease your benefit amount by the amount of your SSDI, but having that dual-income can be a lifesaver for those already struggling with a difficult situation.

How much does private disability insurance cost?

Do note that your insurance costs are based on these factors, as explained by Policygenius.com:

  1. The monthly benefit amount, benefit period, and elimination period 

The higher the coverage amount, the longer the benefit period, and the shorter the elimination period, the more your policy will cost.

  1. Gender, age, and health

Women tend to pay more for coverage, as do older applicants. Your health rating and whether or not there will be restrictions in coverage will be determined by your medical records and medical exam.

  1. Profession

An insurance company may price members of a certain profession differently than another company, even for seemingly safe jobs. Choosing the right company for your chosen profession can save you a lot of money over the life of the policy. You can compare disability insurance quotes to quickly find the best price. 

Understanding these factors can help you figure out the best way to go about acquiring private insurance or deciding whether or not you need/want it at all.

There is definitely a lot of info out there about disability insurance, but I hope this gives you a clearer picture. Make sure to check out the links for more information to help you make the best decision for yourself and your loved ones. Dealing with a disability doesn’t have to be the be-all and end-all for you. Get the help you deserve and keep pushing!

Related Reads

Securing Your Financial Legacy

Financial Resources on the Internet

Disability Insurance


Kenneth Medford III

Writer, rhymer, gamer: the easiest way to define the man known as Kenneth Medford. I’m a simple man who loves to learn and loves to help and I wander the digital world trying to find ways to sate my hunger for both. Basically, I’m Galactus but helpful.

Check out my other work here or reach out to me on LinkedIn.

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