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Strong budget helps avoid disaster

I was pleased to see the commentary piece with tips for applying for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits, “Learning about Disability Options for Americans.”

The SSDI application process is notoriously difficult. One of the things many people do not anticipate is how long it might take.

Even if an applicant enters the process well-armed with tips to help them get a determination as quickly as possible, they may still have to wait for months, or sometimes years, for a decision.

For instance, more than 29,000 people in Ohio are waiting an average of 361 days at the hearing level of the disability review process alone.

That’s compounded by the fact that the nearest hearing office to Ironton is located more than 130 miles away in Cincinnati. A one-year wait is too long for most people to be without income, especially those who have mounting medical expenses.

According to an Allsup survey of pending SSDI claimants, 15 percent waiting for a decision are in or expect to be in foreclosure proceedings and 5 percent faced bankruptcy.

That’s why the first step toward avoiding a financial disaster is creating a budget. A good budget shows how much you have to work with and how it’s spent from month to month. It should take into account household bills, including utilities, household maintenance expenses, medical fees and other costs.

An advantage with a budget is that it helps you to discover ways to save money. When you have a clear view of where money goes every month, you can find expenses to trim. This can be of vital importance to someone who is unable to work.

Sometimes, those with disabilities require the assistance of a caregiver. A caregiver can assist their loved one in creating a financial plan and managing expenses effectively. But taking over the care of another individual can be expensive.

According to the AARP, caregivers of a family member age 50 or older report spending more than 10 percent of their annual income on caregiving expenses.

Examples of the legal documents a caregiver is likely to need are power of attorney and trust documents. Other important documents include deeds, mortgage papers, medical records and insurance policies. The important thing is to gather every document you can find that might have an impact on your loved one’s finances.

If you or a loved one might be eligible for SSDI, don’t wait to file a claim and build a monthly budget. Taking these steps early is critical to keeping your head above water and achieving some financial stability in the wake of a debilitating diagnosis.


Jim Allsup is the founder and CEO of Allsup, a nationwide provider of Social Security Disability Insurance representation and Medicare plan selection services.