When people learn about the two or more year period of waiting from initial application for disability benefits until the hearing for a Judge, the question they always asks me is one of survival. I often get a distressed look from people followed by a question that goes something like, “Two years? What am I going to do? How am I supposed to live?” This question breaks my heart as it is not an easy one to answer. However, there are resources available to disabled persons that can be quite helpful on several fronts. Check out the “Resources” tab on our home page for a quick reference list of the some of the most important programs I will be covering in this blog.
In terms of emotional resources, many people are unaware that many counties provide free support groups. There are also suicide hotlines and mental health facilities in most areas. If you or a loved one reaches a point of desperation where emergency mental health is needed, do not hesitate to call 411 for your local suicide hotline in order to learn what resources are available. Most counties also provide free Narcotics Anonymous Meetings and Alcoholics Anonymous meetings to anyone needing this type of help.
In terms of financial resources, you may have paid into benefits that you can tap into. The first of these is your state disability insurance (SDI) benefits. Most employers contribute a portion of your each of your paychecks to your SDI account. Based on what you have paid in, you could have saved the maximum of 52 weeks of benefits in your account. In order to apply for these benefits or to check the balance of your account, contact your local Employment Development Department.
If your disability was the result of a work related injury, you may consider filing a claim for Worker’s Compensation benefits. Doing this more than a couple days after the fact carries many risks and burdens. If you are interested in doing this, I recommend you consult with an experienced Worker’s Compensation attorney. In a best case scenario, a Worker’s Compensation case could provide up to two years of temporary disability benefits (at a rate of 2/3rds of your average weekly earnings, generally speaking), permanent disability benefits and medical care.
Some people forget about unemployment. If you were let go from your previous job for any reason, you should consider filing for unemployment benefits.
I also advise my clients to negotiate their debts with creditors. The last thing you want are unpaid credit card balances or medical bills going into collections and ruining your credit. This could lead to you being sued and losing vital assets like your home. Some creditors offer programs for disabled persons that allow interest levels or minimum payments to be suspended for periods of time. These are called forbearance programs. Contact each of your creditors and ask if they offer any of these programs.
Although it’s not glamorous, there is always welfare and other general aid programs available to those who qualify. If you have no income, contact your state’s welfare office and inquire about food stamps and general assistance options.
If you paid into any form of short term, long term or PERS disability programs, these are wonderful resources. Check your policies!