Over the past 34 years I have been asked this question hundreds of times. It is a very difficult question to an individual struggling to work while experiencing severe medical problems. Here are some thoughts to consider as you ponder this decision.

  • It is best to work as long as you possibly can. You will earn more money working than drawing disability. Further, work provides purpose and meaning to one’s life. Disability should be viewed as a last resort.
  • Discuss this question with your doctor. Social Security bases its decisions on evidence, and medical records are the best evidence. Your medical problems need to be documented. Further, if your doctor will support your attempt to get disability, it will increase your chance of success.
  • If you are under 50 years of age, be aware it is very difficult to get Social Security disability benefits. In most cases, the younger you are the more difficult it is to get disability.
  • The 12 Month Rule. Social Security does not offer short term disability. One requirement is your medical problem must have lasted, or be expected to last, at least 12 months. If you have a medical crisis and obviously cannot work, that does not mean you should file for disability. Consider how long it will take you to reach maximum medical improvement (MMI), and whether you will be able to return to work when you reach MMI.
  • Do NOT apply for disability if you have been drawing unemployment benefits. In order to receive unemployment in NC, you must affirm to the state government that you are able to work. When you apply for disability, you affirm to the federal government you are unable to work. These two statements are contradictory. It hurts your case to apply for disability when your unemployment benefits end.
  • Be aware that it often takes 2 to 3 years to get disability benefits. For most of my clients it is a slow, frustrating process.