Applying For Benefits Hurts!

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What Are My Options?

There are several programs that offer financial support for those who qualify as disabled. To find out more about disability programs read my article “What Does It Mean to Go on Disability?” Otherwise, fell free to click the links below to find in- depth articles about these programs. There are options out there, but there is a bit of a catch too. Keep reading to learn more…

SSI
SSI

Supplemental Social Security Income (SSI) is a social welfare program for low-income, low-asset individuals unable to work due to disability.

SSDI
SSDI

Social Security Disabiliy Insurance (SSDI) entitlements program for workers who have recently been employed and are now too disabled to work

SNAP
SNAP

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) provides nutrition benefits to supplement the food budget of low-income families so they can purchase healthy food and move towards self-sufficiency.

LIHEAP
LIHEAP

The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) helps keep families safe and healthy through initiatives that assist families with energy costs

In the US, disability programs are focused on the inability to reliably earn ‘substantial’ income. No matter what your condition is, if you earn ‘too much’ you can’t get benefits.

Why is This So Hard?

The link between ‘disability’, ‘poverty’, and ‘failure’

Too often, poverty is viewed as a moral failing, rather than a reality that goes with a broken financial system.

Getting Benefits is Seen a ‘Failure’

Applying for disability support appears to be the ultimate failure because of these beliefs

Often, you are applying for assistance while grieving the loss of independence that comes with your disability – or applying has forced you to process it in a new and different way.  Loss is painful and becoming disabled is inextricably connected with loss.

Because these are so pervasive, many government employees whose jobs are to help you through the process also share these beliefs/ideas, as did the people who designed the applications/process, as did the people who provide funding for these programs. 

The System Lacks Perspective

The forms to file are designed by people who generally never had financial struggles and look down on those who do.

Many disabled people become and remain poor due to these impacts.

How Do We Break This Cycle?

Taking care of your needs and yourself during the benefits process…

  • Recognizing that it isn’t your fault – the system is broken and the decision-makers are biased against you
  • Taking ultimate responsibility – it doesn’t matter that it’s broken, you still need (and deserve) the help.  It’s your job to get it, honestly answer the questions, and make sure things are done according to their arbitrary rules
  • Remember that the system is intended to help you and you deserve that help, no matter how challenging they have made it.
  • Brace yourself for the potential emotional traps in the questions.
  • Be prepared: the questions and information you gather are likely to set off feelings of inadequacy or failure.  Recognize that this doesn’t mean that you ARE a failure, just that you feel bad during this process
  • Reward yourself for every achievement, success, and completed step.  This isn’t easy work, and you deserve to celebrate your progress
  • Make the process as comfortable and safe as possible.  If you have music you like, comfy clothes(or pj’s), a pet or family member or friend who can comfort you – use it, do it, or treat yourself to it.  It’s already going to be painful – don’t make it worse.
  • Expect to wait: unfortunately, these processes usually take a long time.  Don’t put your life on hold. Get yourself focused on your self-care and healthcare – it’ll help the time pass.
  • Focus on the things you can control.  Many people are rejected when they apply for disability because they don’t have detailed enough medical records.  Seeing the right doctors and trying new treatment options will tend to help your case and help you feel better. Wins all around.
  • Be kind to yourself.  The decision-makers are working off of what you and your doctor have put on paper. Do your best to give yourself a break once your paperwork is sent in.
  • When you do get your benefits, make sure to get yourself a reward of some sort.

Read More

If you want to learn more about this cycle and how to break it, I have a few articles that go in-depth on the subjects. Considering the following articles for further reference: “How Filing For Disability Hurts” , “How to Take Care of Yourself While Appling For Government Support”Maintaining Mental Health While Filing For Disability“, and “Internalized Ableism: The Struggle to Accept Our Own Worth“.

Want to Learn More?

I offer a coaching program designed to help you face down your particular challenges on this front.  If you are thinking about applying, or have started the process and feel overwhelmed, I can help you through!  It’s four sessions where I help you recognize your specific challenges and brainstorm solutions so that you can successfully apply for SSDI/SSI.

I also have created two mini courses on applying for SNAP and LIHEAP benefits – social welfare programs for low-income individuals.  If you suspect you may be eligible for either program but are having a hard time applying, please spend the $10-15 to take the course and help yourself apply.