Disability, like many things in life, is arranged on a continuum.

On one side of the spectrum, there are injuries that can be addressed so that someone is ready to work again within a few weeks or months. For injuries or illnesses suffered on the job, workers’ compensation is often available to in these types of cases.

For injuries or illnesses that are more severe, however, the ability to work may be deeply compromised for extended periods of time – or even permanently. Indeed, some injuries or illnesses are so severe that they are life-threatening.

In this post, we will provide a reminder of the basic role that Social Security disability (SSD) benefits can play in such cases.

To put this discussion in context, it is important to realize just how common a challenge disability is. One district manager for the Social Security Administration (SSA) illustrates this point by saying that if you take four people who are starting out their work lives at age 20, the odds are that one of them will become disabled before he or she is old enough to retire.

The types of disabling impairments that people encounter include physical and mental disorders. As we noted in our January 31 post, the percentage of SSD recipients who are considered to have mental disorders exceeds 33 percent (1 in 3).

How long does a disability have to extend before someone should consider applying for SSD benefits? The rule of thumb, according to at least one SSA manager, is that if the disability is serious enough to keep someone from working for a year or longer, an SSD application may be in order.

The same is true if the disabling condition is expected to result in death. Of course, it can take considerable time for the claims process to unfold. It often takes several months, for example, to get a medical determination from appropriate authorities.

And it is often necessary to appeal a claim denial.

Source: TriCities, “Disability benefits for what (severe) ails you,” Trevor Drozdowski, Feb. 5, 2014