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When Should I apply for Social Security Disability?

Appealing for benefits is best done under the guidance of an experienced disability lawyer.

Are you wondering when or even if you should apply to receive SSDI?

Author Attorney Lloyd Bemis:
Updated 1/19/2023

Many people, especially younger people, don’t ever consider the possibility of becoming disabled. However, the unfortunate reality is that there is a 25% chance of a worker becoming disabled over the course of their career. Social Security Disability is
a program you may want to consider if you find yourself unable to work after suffering a disability.

apply for disability

If you have a condition which prevents you from working then you should consider applying for Social Security disability. The Social Security Administration recommends applying for disability as soon as you become disabled. Call 512-454-4000 for help with the application process.

Disability has many different faces.

Sometimes people become disabled instantly. Sometimes an injury or disease can take years before it prevents someone from working. Sometimes disability is very clear- obviously it is difficult to find work for someone who is blind or needs assistive devices. Sometimes it is not as obvious- there are many so-called “invisible disabilities” such as fibromyalgia, which aren’t apparent upon immediate observation, but make it difficult to perform everyday tasks. To further add to the confusion, there are many conditions which might be considered a disability in a medical or colloquial sense, but are not covered by disability insurance. Social Security will only provide benefits for conditions that prevent you from working and are expected to last for at least a year.

If you have a serious medical condition, you may be wondering if you should apply for disability.

Many people put off filing a claim because they are unsure if they meet the requirements for disability. The severity of a condition and how it impacts an individual’s life can vary and seem subjective. Having an understanding of criteria for disability will help you determine if your condition is severe enough to file a claim.

The Social Security Administration uses a measure called substantial gainful activity (SGA) to determine whether or not you are able to work.

The substantial gainful activity limit generally increases every year. As of 2024, if you are unable to earn more than $1,550 per month, then you are considered unable to work.

Beyond the SGA requirement, you must also have paid in to the system.

If you’ve ever looked at your paycheck and wondered what all the money going into the “FICA” line was for, then you have paid into Social Security. The Social Security Administration has a complicated method for determining whether or not you have paid enough taxes to collect benefits. More simply, if you have worked for ten years or longer you will be eligible for disability insurance and if you are younger, it is possible to qualify with less time in the workforce.

Is there a “Right” or best time to apply for SSDI?

If you are thinking of applying for Social Security Disability Insurance you may want to consider when is the ideal time to file a claim.

Social Security disability

The Social Security Administration (SSA) recommends applying for benefits as soon as you become disabled. If you have questions about applying call 512-454-4000 for a free case evaluation.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) recommends applying for benefits as soon as you become disabled.

The SSA claims that the average application takes 3 to 5 months to process. However, many cases take twice that long to process. If an application has been denied and goes through appeals, the process will only take longer. Because of long wait times, it is important to apply as soon as you are unable to work. The Social Security Administration defines “working” as earning over the Substantial Gainful Activity limit. It is possible to qualify for disability if you earn under that limit ($1,550 in 2024). However, the purpose of disability is to provide income for those who can’t work, so it will be more difficult to prove you are unable to work if you are earning money in some capacity.

You must show that your disabling condition has lasted or is expected to last for a year.

Some people are confused by this requirement and take it to mean that they cannot apply for disability until they have been disabled for a year. You can and should apply for benefits before a year has passed. It can take a long time between when you first apply for benefits and when you finally see your first check. It is generally advised to file as soon as possible so you can avoid being without income.

Some attorneys will recommend waiting for six months before applying for benefits.

There are two perceived benefits to this. One is that if treatment continues, there will be more medical records documenting the disability. The disability may even get worse (and more obviously disabling) over time. However, you are able to send in updated medical records if your condition worsens regardless of when you apply. Also, health care facilities generally ship medical records off to storage after a few years, which makes them more difficult to find, increases the likelihood of them getting lost, and may lead to the records becoming outdated.

Social Security disability

If an application has been denied and goes through appeals, the process will only take longer. Because of long wait times, it is important to apply as soon as you are unable to work. If you need help filing call 512-454-4000

The second benefit of waiting is that if you are not working for six months, it builds a good case for the idea that you may be unable to work.

The downside of this is that it may be difficult to support yourself if you are neither working or collecting disability for six months. You will also lose the opportunity to collect some back pay if you wait more than a year to file for benefits. Generally waiting needlessly puts time between the applicant and their benefits.

So, when should you apply for disability benefits?

The short answer is as soon as you are disabled. If you think you may be disabled but believe the condition will last under a year, it may be a good idea to contact the Social Security Administration and set up a protective filing date. This means that if you do choose to file an application for benefits, the application will be count as being filed on your protective filing date for the purposes of back pay.

Disability attorneys

If you are considering applying for benefits, your claim has a much greater chance of success if you have professional representation. Disability law can be confusing, and the filling out of forms and filing of paperwork is, ironically, a lot of work. Let the attorneys at Bemis, Roach and Reed help
Contact us today for a free consultation.
Call 512-454-4000 and get help NOW.

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"Words can not truly express the gratitude that I feel toward Mr. Lonnie Roach and his professional team. I give them an A+++. Very compassionate and prompt. Their priorities are first and foremost helping you succeed at your case. When you feel helpless, feeling like someone is on your side can mean the world to you. Thank you for working for the people."
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Attorney Lloyd BemisAuthor: Attorney Lloyd Bemis has been practicing law for over 35 years. He is Superlawyers rated by Thomson Reuters and is Top AV Preeminent® and Client Champion Gold rated by Martindale Hubbell. Through his extensive litigation Mr. Bemis obtained dual board certifications from the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. Lloyd is admitted to practice in the United States District Court - all Texas Districts and has argued before the U.S. Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit. Mr. Bemis is a member of the Travis County Bar Association. He has been active in the American Association for Justice and is a past Director of the Capital Area Trial Lawyers Association. Mr. Bemis and all the members of Bemis, Roach & Reed have been active participants in the Travis County Lawyer referral service.

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