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How to stay afloat while you wait for disability benefits

There are reportedly 153 million workers insured by Social Security disability insurance. And the main purpose of the Social Security disability program is to be there when a person becomes disabled due to injury or illness and can no longer work.

New York readers may be interested to learn that a 20-year-old who is currently working has a 30 percent chance of becoming disabled and unable to work during their employment years. If that were to occur, Social Security disability benefits can provide some financial relief, but it can be helpful to prepare through advanced financial planning as well as research into other benefits programs that may be available to you.

The average Social Security disability benefit recipient receives a payment of $1,111 monthly. This payment can be an important source of income for many in New York and across the country. However, it can take months or even years for an application to be approved. While the disabled person waits, it can be difficult to make ends meet. Some workers consider dipping into retirement funds, though it is not generally recommended as it can result in large fees and penalties.

So what can you do in the meantime? First, create a budget. Determine in what areas of your life you can cut costs. You can also look into other income assistance options like private long-term disability coverage. If you find yourself seriously struggling financially, many communities offer services like food pantries and housing programs that can assist with rent payments or ways to avoid foreclosure.

As you look into alternative options, it's important to remember to apply for SSDI as soon as you become disabled. You will have to submit a lot of information, including medical records and other personal information. Hopefully between SSDI and other programs that exist, disabled workers will be able to get the financial assistance they need to carry on.

Source: Journal Sentinel, "Financial steps millennials to baby boomers need to know to prepare for disability," April 30, 2012

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