Greater Peoria Metro Area, IL

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Unable to Work? What’s Next?


By Beth Cooper Ingle, Certified Senior Advisor®

Let’s admit it 2020 was a very difficult year for some…one of loss—loss of income, loss of jobs, loss of health, and for some the biggest loss of all—Loved Ones. While things are looking up for most, some of us are still struggling with loss of health and do not know where to turn. Maybe you are no longer able to perform your normal job duties or not up to a standard that you are used to, or your boss expects.

Some employers offer short-term and long-term disability benefits. Short-term disability benefits usually only last 6 months—then what?  What if you are still not able to return to past job?  If you are lucky enough to have long-term disability benefits, this is typically when they will kick in. They will also require you to file for Social Security disability benefits and may even help you through the process with an outside agency. But what if that is not the case?

Did you know that…

  • Social Security disability benefits could be available, but there is a five-month waiting period before any benefits could be payable;
  • You have to have worked 5 out of the 10 ten years before you become disabled to qualify for Social Security;
  • It takes at least 3-4 months for a medical decision to know if you qualify for disability benefits;
  • If you are still working and earning over $1,260 gross earnings per month you would not qualify for Social Security disability benefits. Social Security considers this amount substantial earnings.

If it is apparent that you are not going to be able to return to work or even if you return you will not be making substantial earnings, you should begin the process of filing for Social Security disability benefits.

How do you go about filing for Social Security disability benefits when all Social Security offices are closed?  Good question!!

Social Security offices are presently available by telephone only or online. Representatives are able to answer your questions and give guidance as to how to file for disability benefits by going to   On their website you will find answers to most of your questions and what you need to get started filing. To prepare yourself, have all the names, addresses, and telephone numbers of your doctors who are currently treating you as well as the date of your first and last visit and any upcoming appointments. You will need the same for any hospitalizations as well. Be sure to list all your diagnoses, even if you are not being currently treated i.e., depression which many times goes along with health issues but not always identified or admitted. You will also need to list all your medications and what they are for—non-prescription ones also.

Social Security recognizes that filing for disability benefits is a daunting task, one not everyone is able to do themselves. If necessary, an appointment can be scheduled for a representative to help with the process. Social Security has also reached out to other organizations and agencies to help with this process. Social Security has provided these organizations with online help to assist. If you are unable to find help, call Social Security at 800-772-1213.

Look for Beth Cooper Ingle’s columns with Living By Your Design in future months. Her background is 37 years as a Social Security Rep in Central Illinois. For more information, contact Living by Your Design, Inc., focusing on the issues of older Americans: legal, financial, and free guidance for residential referral and healthcare issues.