How Do I Support Myself While Awaiting Benefits?

The Social Security Administration (SSA) offers two types of benefits for those who are limited by their disabilities, Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplementary Security Income (SSI). However, the SSA is always bogged down by cases, and getting approved can take anywhere from five months to two years.

Even if your SSDI approval takes less than five months, the checks don’t start coming until five months after your reported disability onset date. In the meantime, there a ways you can stay afloat while not hurting your chances of approval.

While you’re waiting for your SSD approval, it’s OK to work part time, but it can’t meet the Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) standards. In 2016, the SGA limit is $1,130 per month. This means, unless there are special circumstances, you can’t make more than $1,130 a month when you apply, or you will be denied benefits. Even if you are making less or even volunteering, the SSA may consider the work to be SGA if it’s physically or mentally significant.

Sometimes, you don’t need to look any further than your friends and family to lend a helping hand while you wait for SSD benefits. Once you are approved, you should easily be able to pay them back with the back pay you’ll receive. If you’re friends and family aren’t able to help much, there may be some charities in your area that can provide some relief.

Many states offer a number of assistance and welfare programs to help you out if you need it. The Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) website lists most of the types of assistance offered throughout the United States, including Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) for food stamps, LIHEAP for home energy assistance, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) for welfare, as well as information and help with child care, senior care, and more. HHS can direct you to the department in your state that administers these programs.

An easy way to make money is selling things you don’t use anymore or larger items that you might not be able to afford to keep, such as an expensive car. Keep in mind, however, that you this is only acceptable for SSDI applications. SSI, in addition to having a countable monthly income limit of $733 for an individual and $1,100 for a couple, has asset limits for each. An individual can’t own more than $2,000 worth of assets, and a couple can’t own more than $3,000. If you own more than the allowed amount and apply for SSI, you won’t be approved.

If none of these options work out for you, one thing you should NOT do is apply for unemployment benefits at the same time as SSD, because it could endanger your application. Applying for both benefits at the same time sends conflicting messages to both agencies. In order to be eligible for unemployment, you need to be able and ready to work and prove you are actively searching for jobs, but to be eligible for SSD you can’t be able to work for at least 12 months because of a disability. If you find yourself at a dead end, you may need to consider other options, such as getting a personal loan to hold you until your benefits start.