Most of us think that tomorrow will be just like today. We will get up, go to work, get a paycheck, pay our bills, and maybe have some money left over for a vacation, possibly to someplace warm and sunny.
But things happen that can change your tomorrow into a day when you cannot go to work, you will not get a paycheck and you cannot pay your bills, let alone take the family to the beach or the mountains.
If this change in life’s circumstances has happened to you because of a physical or mental condition and you worked for an employer that withheld and paid Social Security taxes on your behalf, you can file for Social Security disability to recoup some of your income. But you should know that it takes time for Social Security to make decisions on disability claims—up to six months after your initial application, another six months if you are denied and appeal that decision, and another 18 months if you must appeal your claim for a hearing.
That is a total of 30 months. So, you are most probably wondering what you’re supposed to live on if you can’t work. Good question . . . but the answers aren’t easy.
First you should apply at the human services agency that serves your area. In Ohio, they are districted by county and called Jobs and Family Services. That agency can provide assistance to you if you meet their eligibility requirements. Not everyone does, unfortunately. Where do you turn next?
Generally, individuals who are in this situation turn to family, friends or charitable organizations for help. It can be hard to ask your loved ones for help, but you may need to. Churches or other religious organizations are often actively involved in charitable outreach to their communities. They just need to be made aware of your situation. One example of this is the Salvation Army.
And don’t forget about the phone! The national 2-1-1 initiative seeks to reserve these three digits nationwide as a quick, easy-to-remember telephone number for finding human services answers. By dialing 2-1-1, you will be connected to a help hotline that can assist you in finding local human services providers for different needs, such as low-cost/no-cost medical providers, housing, food banks and many other resources.
Yes, we truly understand . . . the waiting is very difficult; but the reward of eventually having your claim approved should encourage you to stay the course. Having a representative assist you with your claim won’t make the wait any shorter (that is determined by the Social Security disability process) but it can help you understand the process and give you tips on what to do while you are waiting.
Robert L. Heller has practiced law in Ohio for nearly 40 years, devoting his entire career to helping disabled people in the Mahoning Valley to pursue needed benefits. A native of Warren, Ohio, Robert earned his undergraduate degree from Miami University of Ohio and his law degree from the University of Toledo College of Law. He also studied public administration at American University in Washington, D.C. He is admitted to practice in Ohio state courts, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio and Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals as well as a member of the National Organization of Social Security Claimant Representatives (NOSSCR).