You can apply for disability benefits through the Social Security Administration (SSA) at any time. Being on short-term disability is no guarantee you’ll be approved for Social Security Disability though. In some case, applying early makes good sense, while in others, preparing and submitting a disability claim too soon may just be a waste of your already limited time and energy.
Knowing which kind of a claim you have can be difficult, but a disability advocate or attorney can help.
Short-term vs. Social Security Disability
Some people who go on short-term disability are able to return to work within a matter of weeks or months. For others, short-term disability is only the first step in a transition from active employment to long-term or permanent disability. In either instance though, short-term disability insurance only typically pays for a somewhere between 6 and 52 weeks, with the average plan providing between 9 and 12 weeks of coverage.
Since short-term plans come with an expiration date, you may feel like you need to apply for disability from the SSA as soon as possible. Dependent upon your circumstances, applying now may be the right move. It’s important for you to understand though that SSA benefits are only available if you meet certain requirements, including having a disability that will prevent you from earning a living for a period of 12 months or longer.
What Happens if You Submit a Social Security Claim?
If you apply for benefits while still on short-term disability a number of different things may happen, dependent upon your specific circumstances:
- If the injury or illness that landed you on short-term disability is expected to improve before a year has passed, then you won’t be approved for Social Security disability because you don’t meet the basic eligibility requirements.
- If your medical condition is uncertain and the SSA is therefore unable to determine whether you may improve before a year has passed, they may place your claim on hold until a clearer medical prediction is available.
- If your disability is not expected to improve for a year or is a permanent impairment that will prevent you from returning to work, then applying early gives you a jumpstart on disability approval. In this case, getting your application started now may mean you have no break in income between employer-sponsored disability benefits and Social Security disability.
Getting Help with Your Claim
A disability advocate or attorney can help you understand the SSA’s eligibility rules and whether your medical condition is likely to meet them at this time. If now is not the right time to apply, your attorney can assist with deciding when it is the right time, and can additionally help you throughout the entire application and review process.
Disability benefits may be available to you through one of both of the SSA’s programs. An application for Social Security disability can be filed online or at the local office. For Supplemental Security Income though, a personal interview is necessary, which usually means a trip to the local SSA branch.