Social Security is not the only game in town. There are
Seventeen 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 important things to know about Long Term Disability.
Cash Assistance While Applying. Some areas offer a small amount of cash assistance to low-income people who are applying for disability. For example, I have met people in Colorado who got cash assistance of $180 per month while applying, and I have met people in New York who had their rent paid while applying. These programs are sometimes run by the state, and sometimes by your local town or city. Inquire at your local social services department and your local town office or town clerk. You can also try googling “cash assistance” “general assistance” and/or “general relief” and the name of your town, city or state. It is not available everywhere.
General relief. Some areas offer temporary “general relief” programs that provide small amounts of cash assistance for low income people. You do not need to be applying for disability, but you may need a doctors letter to get out of any work requirements. See above for how to find these programs.
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. I believe it is available to people who have worked. Many people get on this type of disability while waiting for the Social Security Decision.
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 18 ways you may be able to qualify. Make sure to check all 18 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 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.
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 at any point, you may be eligible for disability payments through your employer. Some government jobs pay into a different system instead of paying into Social Security.
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.
Disability home care. You do not need to be approved for disability to get into 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 (friend, neighbor, family member, etc). In most states your condition would need to be very severe to qualify. Learn more: How To Be Homebound
Other Assistance. Check out: How to Be Poor in America