Should I apply for benefits now – or wait?

We are often asked this question and the answer will vary depending upon your circumstances.  Suppose you suffer an on-the-job injury or suppose you sustain an injury while on vacation.  What if you were just diagnosed with a serious illness.  Assuming you are forced to stop work, should you apply now or wait to see how you recover?

The first question you should consider is “how long will I be off of work?”  Social Security disability rules require that your condition continue for at least twelve (12) months.  You should probably therefore discuss your situation with your doctor and ask the question.  Keep in mind that there is really no such thing as short-term social security disability such that if your recovery period is most likely less than twelve (12) months, you will be denied benefits.  Also, even if you’re not able to return to work at your current job because it might be too strenuous during your recovery, if the doctor feels that you could perform some sort of work at a lighter exertional level, you will probably be denied.

The second factor to consider however is that the disability application process can often take well over a year.  Consequently, if your condition is such that you could very well be out of work for an extended period, you might want to apply early.  Even if you are initially denied because of the twelve-month continuation issue, if you have to extend your application process as far as a hearing with a Judge, it may be that you’ve met the twelve-month period by the time you have that hearing.  It will not cost you anything to file other than the time you spend doing so and if it turns out that you are able to return to work, you can always drop your claim.

If you’re confused or not certain as to whether to file now, you should talk to a professional representative after you’ve spoken to your doctor.  Then you can at least feel confident that you’ve made the right decision.

Michael A. LeBoeuf, Associate Attorney

Peter J. Lemoine & Associates

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