One of the more difficult conversations I have with clients is about how they’re supposed to pay their bills while waiting on disability benefits.
It can take more than a year to get a hearing in front of an administrative law judge. Even if a claimant is approved at the hearing, it might be another 3-4 months before they receive their backpay and monthly benefits.
The majority of claimants rely on assistance from friends and family while their applications are pending. The few who have substantial savings often burn through most or all of it while waiting for disability.
Unfortunately, there are no easy answers about where to get financial assistance during this period.
For some claimants who are still able to maintain some type of employment, part-time work is one solution. The Social Security Administration does not consider monthly earnings of less than $1,220 per month to be substantial gainful activity that can make a claimant ineligible for disability benefits.
However, some judges may still look at part-time work unfavorably, and part-time work can reduce backpay benefits for individuals who are only eligible for Supplemental Security Income.
Temporary Aid for Needy Families (TANF) is a federal cash program administered to states for low income individuals who are pregnant or caring for a child under the age of 19. However, payments are just a few hundred dollars a month, and state requirements for the program can be burdensome.
Most states at least have more lenient requirements for the SNAP program, still commonly called “food stamps.”
And while substantially less common, some towns and counties have cash programs similar to TANF for disability applicants, though most payments for these programs total just $100 or $200 per month.