How to Apply for Disability 17 Times

Artwork: Robin Mead

Social Security is not the only game in town. Here is a long list of different types of disability you can apply for.

Social Security Disability. This is also called SSI and SSDI. This is the most popular form of disability. When you hear people say they are “on disability” this is usually what they mean. Learn a whole bunch more about how to apply and how to increase your chances of getting approved: The Sleepy Girl Guide to Social Security Disability.

Employer disability. Many employers offer disability insurance. This is often called STD and LTD. No, not that kind of STD…. it means Short Term Disability and Long Term Disability. While Social Security disability often takes months or years, employer disability payments can start immediately. There are a few very important things to know if you are Applying for Long Term Disability. If you are not applying now, but think you might apply some day, please take a look at this link: How to Protect Yourself if Your Employer Offers LTD

Cash Assistance. Some areas offer a small amount of cash assistance to low-income people. You may need to be very low income to qualify. Learn more here: How to Get Cash Assistance While Applying for Disability

Temporary state disability. California, New York, New Jersey, Hawaii and Rhode Island offer short term disability benefits through the state. You do not have to be low-income to apply for this. Many people get on this type of disability while waiting for the Social Security Decision. At some point this program also existed in Puerto Rico, but it is not clear if it is still operating.

Social Security for People Who Think They Can’t Get Social Security. Many people think they can’t qualify for Social Security when they actually can. There are 20 ways you may be able to qualify. Make sure to check all 20 before giving up hope: How to Apply for Disability When You are Told You Can’t Apply for Disability

Widow’s benefits. If you are disabled, you can get widow’s benefits sooner. You can collect Social Security widow’s at age 60 no matter what, or at age 50 if you are approved for disability. You may also be eligible at an earlier age in certain other circumstances.

Ex-Widow’s benefits. If you were previously married for at least ten years, you may be eligible for widow’s benefits from your ex’s income record.

Life insurance. Some life insurance policies have a payout for permanent disability. Check yours.

Retirement plans. Some retirement plans pay a higher rate or allow an earlier retirement if you are disabled. Check yours.

Private disability. This one is pretty self-explanatory. If you have purchased and been paying for private disability, you probably know it.

Veteran’s disability benefits. Again, if you are a veteran, you almost certainly already know this. Many veterans don’t realize they can get both Social Security and Veteran’s benefits. Apply for both.

Worker’s comp. If you were injured on the job.

Adult Disabled Child Benefits – If you first became disabled before the age of 22. How to Get Adult Disabled Child Benefits 

Unemployment. Pretty much all disability lawyers recommend that you do not go on unemployment while filing for Social Security. But sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do. It will still be possible to get approved, but it may be more difficult.

Government employees. If you were a state or federal government employee, you may be eligible for retirement disability payments through your employer. Some government jobs pay into a different system instead of paying into Social Security. Check with your jobs human resources department.

More Options

Early retirement. If you are over the age of 62, you can begin collecting early Social Security retirement while waiting for your disability decision. You should still continue your disability case, because it will probably mean more money. Warning: You must prove you became disabled before you filed for retirement. If you are planning to ask your doctor for a letter, RFC form, or medical test, make sure to do this before putting in for retirement.

Spousal benefits. If you are over the age of 62, you can collect early retirement based on your income or based on your spouse’s income. Social Security will usually automatically give you whichever is higher. This amount will be less than if you wait for full retirement age.

Ex-Spousal benefits. If you were previously married for at least ten years, you may be eligible for spousal benefits from your ex’s income record.

Cashing Out Retirement Plans – If you cash out your 401k or other retirement plan early due to disability or hardship, you may be able to avoid early withdrawal fees. Check the guidelines for your plan. You also may be able to avoid the extra taxes applied to most early withdrawals. Check IRS guidelines.

Disability home care. You do not need to be approved for disability to qualify for a a home care program. If you are unable to care for yourself, you may be eligible for help in your home. Or you may be eligible for funding to pay the person who is caring for you now. In most states your condition would need to be severe to qualify. Learn more: How To Be Homebound

Other Types of Aid – There are many (many!) other programs you can apply while waiting for your Social Security decision.  How to Get for Help While Applying for Disability. You can apply for food stamps, medicaid, discounted meds, housing programs, student loan forgiveness, cash assistance, medical equipment, home modifications, paratransit, and much more.

Other Assistance. Check out: How to Survive Financially While Applying for Disability and How to Be Poor in America

Updated January 2018. Please comment below with stories, questions, input or ideas. Please let us know if any links on this page stop working. If you found this page helpful, please use one of these magic buttons to share this post on Facebook or Twitter:

6 thoughts on “How to Apply for Disability 17 Times”

  1. Grab a coffee, tea, heck as back! This is one of the longest posts I’ve EVER written:
    Hi, I need some advice but you need MAJOR (why this is so long) backstory…
    I need to do something you recommend against…REAPPLY for SSDI from scratch.
    1. It’s been months since I was denied – 5/2017
    2. I was denied because of medical records missing, not having a lawyer, being “too young” at 41…there IS a bias, discrimination by SSDI appointed doc…who decided I could work because I don’t need help bathing (based on his condescending and arrogant look he gave me – hello! I have an INVISIBLE disability!), and MOST IMPORTANTLY, I was UNDIAGNOSED.

    I didn’t appeal because the main reason I was denied was a lack of a diagnosis. I’ve been sick FIFTEEN YEARS with a slow advancing disease that no one could figure out. My symptoms caused me to stop working 4/2016, so it a took a LONG time of of multiple mis-diagnosis, giving up, starting up again when new symptoms appeared, not seeking help for 3 years because I had no insurance, finally getting a new doc which started the testing at square one again with new misdiagnosis and no treatment over allllll this time for me to get to the point that I could no longer work. The company I worked for closed in 4/2016 and it killed me to work those last few months but I stuck it out until the end and then decided I can’t do this anymore. Then to complicate matters, I also got an ovarian cancer diagnosis in December…but was also cured in December. But the recovery took almost 10 months because of the aggressiveness and type if surgery I had…and this mystery illness slowing down my healing and recovery. The cancer was not related to the mystery illness…that was random from left field so to speak. THEN, last month…

    FINALLY, I have my answer!
    Hyperdrenic Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS for short)!

    There’s 3 types of POTS…and I have the hardest to diagnose. The other two types cases LOW blood pressure and resting heart rate and usually causes fainting or near fainting, dizziness and/or light headedness.
    While the hallmark of POTS is an abnormally steep increase in heart rate upon standing, many doctors, if they know ANYTHING AT ALL about POTS because it’s new-ish in the medical community, don’t think POTS unless a patient is complaining of dizziness, light headedness or fainting and have low blood pressure. So it never crossed my doctors minds. Also, because I’m a woman, have a mom and maternal grandfather with thyroid diseases and thyroid disease is so common, they kept focusing on thyroid.

    So in walks me with the EXACT OPPOSITE of “common” POTS symptoms…HOT all the time (heat intolerance BUT also cold intolerance I need 60-70° temps to feel ok), profuse sweating, HIGH blood pressure and resting heart rate, tachycardia, dizziness when singing of all things lol, shortness of breath, trouble concentrating, insomnia, extreme fatigue, muscle weakness, etc. almost ALL relieved by laying down. Literally 5 YEARS were wasted just checking my thyroid. Always borderline or normal. So doctors were baffled and…sent me to psych.

    It’s super common for pots patients to have their symptoms dismissed as being caused by a psych disorder like anxiety or depression. I was diagnosed with panic and anxiety disorder…NO ONE listened to me saying “I panic because my HEART is doing weird things and no one knows why”. I wasn’t having panic attacks because of anxiety DISORDERS, I was panicking because I KNEW something was wrong and no one was listening which made me think…this could kill me if they don’t figure it out!

    Finally, 3 years ago, when I got insurance after 3 years without it, I met a wonderful Doctor. He decided to test for more than just thyroid. He sent me to a cardiologist. The cardiologist ran every test and said my heart was he sent me to an endocrinologist. After ruling out Cushings Disease, Pheochromocytoma, Paraganglioma, mast cell/carcinoid disorders & thyroid cancer he sent me BACK to the cardiologist (hot potato treatment by docs is also super common in pots patients on their road to diagnosis) saying it might be a small nerve cell disorder.

    So I go back to the cardio, show him my lab results, and tell him what endo said.
    He tells me to lie down and don’t move until he gets back. 20 min later, he comes in, places a HR monitor on my finger and a BP cuff on the arm facing him. He tells me to read out my HR..72 (I don’t know what my BP readings were and they’re not as important here). He tells me to sit up and read my HR…it was 60 then stabilized to 70. He said good, now, when you stand up it should fall to around 60 again then stabilize around 75-85. I said ok and stood up…FORTY. My heart rate dropped to 40 not 60…then it started to “stabilize”…(the exact number I’m sure of is the last number, but the rest are the closest guess I don’t remember exactly) I’m reading out loud 55, 69, 75, 88…he says good as I continue…95, 110, 130, 144…I stabilized at 144…standing fir me is the equiveant of someone jogging or riding a bike! No wonder I’m always hot, sweating and exhausted! That test is what indicated POTS.

    Right now, I’m technically diagnosed, but it’s not official yet. To ensure there’s no questioning the diagnose for insurance (I’m on Medicaid) and disability, both my cardio and awesome ordinary doc are ordering more tests to confirm AND rule out. I have to have a sleep study in January to rule out sleep apnea (which doesn’t cause profuse sweating, tachycardia, breathlessness while walking, and insomnia but it does cause fatigue so we are ruling it out. I’m being tested for Lyme Disease & Lupus because (besides nerve and spine damage if which I have a LOT of from 2 major fall injuries and 10 years of domestic abuse) they are diseases that can trigger the onset of POTS. And I will also have a tilt table test which literally does the EXACT SAME THING as what my cardio did with the BP cuff and HR finger monitor…but that’s considered the gold standard test so we are having it done so they can’t claim I don’t have POTS because I didn’t have that test.

    POTS is incurable. But it IS manageable with medication, special exercises (AFTER symptoms are well controlled with mess), diet changes, special clothing like compression stockings, and/or therapy. Just finding the right treatment can take YEARS because not everyone responds the same to these treatments and as of right now, there are NO MEDICATIONS specifically used to treat POTS…all are prescribed off label.

    The GREAT news is, MOST can live a normal life with treatment eventually! That’s why POTS patients can be lawyers, doctors, teachers etc. AND at the same time, why patients are completely disabled on disability (it IS considered a disability by Social Security). The difference between someone being successfully treated and me, untreated for over a decade is galaxies away from each other even if we have the exact same diagnosis with cause.

    Now that you know my journey…
    I applied for SSDI 10/2016 (because they told me I had to wait until my unemployment and disability during unemployment ran out). I applied with my back/spine injuries, nerve damage symptoms, anxiety and panic attacks, and my mystery illness SYMPTOMS were listed on the diagnosis line by my doctor. I called in and added ovarian cancer to my claim when diagnosed. I heard most who are denied don’t even SEE a doctor through SSDI, but I did, and 2 weeks later got my denial.

    I chose not to appeal until I had a diagnosis. At the time, the endo was SURE I had a Paraganglioma tumor causing the symptoms so I waited to appeal until the tests came back. They came back NEGATIVE 2 days before the 60 day deadline to appeal. So I made the decision to start a NEW claim once I had a diagnosis and PRAY that a lawyer could help me get the back pay that I deserved (and most likely will lose by starting a new claim) because I’m applying with a complete different reason/diagnosis which has insanely affected my previous disabilities (spine and nerve damage) with increased pain and decreased mobility due to the new diagnosis.

    First, thank you for reading all of this. And lastly, PLEASE tell me what I did was the right decision…because at this point I can’t go back, that deadline was too short for my illnesses. I needed more time because SSDI doesn’t understand what it’s like trying to get diagnosed with a condition that’s relatively rare.

    Also, ANY advice would be immensely helpful. I’m sorry this was SO long.

    Sandy D,


  2. Hi Sleepygirl, I am so glad I found your blog. I met you on MDjunction and you helped me so much I was sad you were not longer there. I just wanted to say hi and have your information handy since I will be going through CDR sometime next year.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s