Survival Guide While You Wait for a Decision on Your Social Security Disability Claim
Many clients are shocked when they find out it can take 2 to 3 years between their last work date and the date they receive their first benefit payment when they file for Social Security Disability Insurance or Supplemental Security Income benefits. This is the average time for a claim from filing to notice of award if it is successful.
Did you know that according to a survey completed by Southern Illinois Healthcare, 30.4% of the population in Jackson County Illinois lives below the poverty line? Physical and mental impairments clearly play a big role in poverty because they interfere with work and drain household funds for medical care. Fortunately, residents of Illinois still have access to services for their basic needs through public and private resources. Here is a searchable directory of resources for Illinois at Benefits.gov.
Here are some tips, links, and resources to help you and your family as you navigate through the administrative process. Many of these links are specific to Jackson County, Illinois, but some links will also be helpful to residents of Williamson County, Perry County, Union County, Randolph County, Franklin County and Saline County.
- Make a plan that will last up to 2 ½ years.
- Take prompt action when you get notices from the Social Security Administration.
If you don’t open your mail, return calls, fill out paperwork or follow through on appeals promptly you are extending the time it will take for your case to be resolved. Don’t procrastinate! Find a friend or family member or representative who can help keep you organized and on task.
- Reduce or eliminate monthly expenses that are not essential.
- Take advantage of these public resources to cut expenses:
We all know that groceries cost more every year. When money is tight, you might think that buying fresh fruits and vegetables is out of your budget, but every Wednesday at the local farmer’s market in Carbondale, you will double your Link card value if you use it for vegetables and produce. That means that you will be able to buy twice the amount.
In the summer, children can qualify for The Illinois Summer Food Service Program.
Good Samaritan Ministries offers a food pantry and a soup kitchen in Carbondale.
Murphysboro also has a Food Pantry.
Department of Human Services also maintains a list of local food pantries.
The Jackson County Health Department has this downloadable menu planning guide for healthy meals.
Food stamps (Link card) are available to those who meet income and resource guidelines. Here is a link to information and an application for a SNAP benefits.
Jackson County Housing Authority offers affordable housing to those who have a low income. There is a wait list.
For those who are in need of emergency housing the Good Samaritan Ministries offers emergency shelter, transitional living and other services.
United Way offers assistance with rent/ housing and utilizes for those who find themselves in a situation where they are unable to pay. The website for United Way of Southern Illinois explains their programs.
Since we live in a rural area, transportation can be a barrier to keeping appointments, going shopping, and visiting with family. With some planning, transportation can be convenient and affordable.
Jackson County Mass Transit District (JCMTD) provides on demand transportation for Jackson County residents. Here is a list of the routes. A thirty-day pass for adults under 60 is $25.00. A single ride is $2.00 for adults, $1.00 for seniors and free for children (0-5). It is best to schedule rides at least 24 hours advance by calling 618-549-0304.
South Central Transit (SCT) provides rides to residents of Marion County, Jefferson County, Franklin County, Perry County, Clinton County. See the SCT website for routes, schedules and fares. They also offer reduced rates for those with disabilities.
Low-Income Rate Assistance and Energy Efficiency (LIHEAP) helps residents with utility bills and weatherization. Apply early in the season because funds can be exhausted.
See this link for an application for the Illinois Weatherization Assistance Program.
The All Kids program offers many Illinois children comprehensive healthcare that includes doctors visits, hospital stays, prescription drugs, vision care, dental care and medical devices like eyeglasses and asthma inhalers. A guide to premiums and an application are available here.
- Re-negotiate child support.
- Suspend student loan payments.
- Talk with your landlord before you get behind on rent—you might be able to move to a less expensive residence.
- Move in with a family member.
- Sell items that you can live without.
- Share an automobile or use mass transportation.
- Consider part time work that you can still do despite your impairments—and document it.
- Talk with medical providers about payment plans or reduced costs based on hardship.
- Shop around for the best prices on medications you need and ask your doctor about samples or pharmacy assistance with the most expensive medicines.
- Talk to an attorney about bankruptcy options.
Your Southern Illinois Social Security Disability attorney may be able to refer you.
- Get involved in a community group that you feel comfortable with such as a local church or charitable organization.
- Commit yourself to good healthy habits:
· Exercise—a little every day.
· Sleep—but not too much—get sunshine to help regulate your sleep schedule.
· Diet—simple meals are often healthier and less expensive.
· Play!—Summer in Southern Illinois is rich with activities and events that are free and fun!
- Get discouraged if your claim is denied the first or second time.
- Ignore your bills and think that the problems will just go away.
- Work for cash “under the table.”
- Turn to alcohol or drugs to forget your problems.
- Get caught in the Pay Day Loan trap.
Pay day loans sound like a great idea when bills are due, but the catch is once you start borrowing the money, it almost becomes impossible to repay the original loan. Pay Day loans have extremely high interest rates ranging anywhere between 300%-1000% on interest (that means interest is 3 to 10 times the amount you borrowed!) If possible, try to borrow money from family members or close friends, or the bank before you try to obtain a pay day loan.
- Think you can gamble your way out of financial distress.
- Take your frustration out on the people close to you.
- “Borrow” money from an aging relative without their knowledge.
Exploitation of the elderly by mismanaging their funds is a crime and could expose you to fines and imprisonment.
- Go to your hearing without a Southern Illinois Social Security Disability representative.
Your Social Security Disability benefits are probably your single largest financial resource. Going to a hearing in front of an Administrative Law Judge without a Southern Illinois Disability attorney to develop the record and present your case is a gamble you cannot afford.
For more information on this topic, see my series How a Social Security Disability Attorney Can Keep You From Sabotaging Your Own Claim.
Joni Beth Bailey is a Southern Illinois Social Security attorney.