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Discontinuation of Utility Services

The first step in proving disability under the Social Security Act involves a showing that the claimant has not been engaging in substantial work activity. While unable to work, many applicants are consequently without income, and face difficult decisions on which bills to pay. Although the application process aims to resolve claims as quickly as possible, during the interim period, some claimants may risk losing their water, gas, or electricity services over an inability to pay for their utilities. In such situations, it is helpful to have a contingency plan.

First, claimants who are unable to pay their utility bills in full might consider negotiating a partial or structured payment plan with the service provider. Many companies would prefer a delayed or partial payment rather than discontinue services altogether and turn the debt over to collections. Being honest upfront with your financial resources can help retain utility services and avoid discontinuation.

Even with extended payment deadlines, however, financial assistance often does not arrive in time. If a utility company must discontinue service, most state laws require they provide adequate notice. Claimants who receive such notice may file a request for expedited processing of their disability application based on dire financial need. A “dire need” situation must be supported with appropriate documentation, such as a notice of utility service discontinuation. Resolution of a “dire need” case might still be lengthy, and is only shorter in comparison to average processing times.

Many state laws will also prohibit discontinuation of services during the colder winter months, or where a physician certifies a medical need for the service. Claimants should generally submit letters from a medical provider as early as possible. As a last resort, consider contacting local homeless shelters or charity organizations to make alternate living arrangements. While waiting for financial assistance, basic physiological needs must be met at all times.

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