How to Decide: Apply Right Now or Wait and See?


“I waited too long to apply for disability. I thought I was being responsible and self-sufficient by waiting. Plus, I thought it wise to put my effort elsewhere, since I’d heard it was difficult to apply. My stoicism cost me.” – AM

“I agree! I waited and now it is taking forever to get the assistance I so desperately need. If you are too sick to keep working, go ahead and do it!” – JVC

“Please don’t make my mistake. I did not know that disability work credits expire. I waited too long and now I am no longer eligible. I cannot apply at all.” – OM 

“I waited because I listened to everyone who told me applying was really hard and I’d never get approved. When I finally applied, I got approved the first time I tried. Unfortunately, because I waited, I lost a year of backpay for no reason.”  – PL

We hear from a lot of readers people who regret waiting too long to apply for disability. We are yet to hear from a single person who regrets applying too early.

The typical Social Security disability application takes 2 to 3 years to get approved. (Of course, if you are here reading this guide, you know there are many things you can do to increase your chances of getting approved sooner).

There seems to be an interesting trend among people with ME, CFS, Lyme, and Toxic Mold exposure. It seems like people with these conditions wait much longer to apply for disability.

Perhaps this is because it takes many people longer to get a diagnosis, and partly because many people experience not being believed, or perhaps it is because of the this-is-not-really-happening-to-me phenomenon.

Whatever the reason, a lot of people wait too long and wind up in bad situations — losing healthcare, housing, marriages, caretakers — or completely missing their “window of opportunity” to apply.

Most people don’t realize that Social Security disability is based on work credits, and these credits do expire. If you stop working and then wait too long to apply, in some circumstances, you may not be able to apply at all.

Sadly, we cannot go back in time and tell people to do it differently. All we can do is tell you right now: Now is your moment to make choices to take care of yourself for your future.

Only you know what is right for you and what is possible for you and whether you are genuinely too sick to continue working. No matter what anyone else says, no one else can know this for you.

If you need help and you are on the fence about applying for the help you need, please take a moment to read Bluebell’s story. It may give you a few good ideas: How to Be Like Bluebell

If you are still working now and trying to make good decisions for yourself, please check out: How to Decide: Reduce My Hours? Change jobs? Apply for disability?

If your employer offers disability insurance, please also check out: How to Protect Yourself if Your Employer Offers LTD

We took a survey of people who are now on disability. Find out: What is the One Thing You Know Now that You Wish You Knew Then?

If you want to check to see if you are eligible for Social Security disability: How Do I Know if I am Eligible to Apply?

“If you are unable to work, it’s time to start the process of applying for disability. At least you will have some income that can help with the financial strain.” – HW

“If you’re able to receive disability and bring in some income, that will help in the obvious ways, but also help you feel less helpless.” – EK

Robin Mead



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