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When there isn't enough: How to supplement your income after an accident

You had always been an avid runner. Since you were a kid, you would run to school, to a friend's, to the store. You joined track in high school and ran your first marathon when you were 15. Running feels like flying, and you couldn't wait to get to it every day.

But on your last run, a car swerved--knocking you off the path and sending you down a steep hill. You're on the way to recovery, but the doctor says it's going to be a long road. How can you make house payments when you can't  even work? The guy who hit you had minimal insurance, and the settlement you got is dwindling fast. Are there any financial options available to you?

Disability may be the answer

The Social Security Administration is not just for retirees. It also administers disability benefits to people of all ages. And your condition does not necessarily have to be permanent.

If you have worked, you have more than likely seen a deduction from your paycheck with the initials: FICA. FICA is an acronym for Federal Insurance Contribution Act. Money taken out for FICA helps support the Social Security Administration fund, and since you have paid into that fund, you are eligible for its benefits.

How do I qualify?

First, you must have a condition or illness that will keep you from working for at least a year. Second, you must have earned at least 40 credits during the time you were working. In 2016, a credit is awarded for each $1260.00 of earnings. A maximum of four credits can be earned in one year. So if you have worked even part-time for most of the last ten years, there is a good chance you have sufficient credits.

Who determines if I am disabled?

When you apply for disability, you will be given a lengthy form to fill out detailing your condition and how it affects your life day-to-day. Be sure to give very, very detailed information. Remember, the SSA gets thousands of disability applications a year. You will need to be very specific in order for the examiner to be certain about your disability.

In addition, your doctors and counselors will provide medical records to the SSA. You might also be required to be examined by a doctor of their choice.

How long does it take?

The process generally takes around six months--but decisions sometimes come sooner.

Is there someone who can help me with the process?

Decisions are made by rules based in federal law. Having someone who understands the legal process can make it easier to navigate. If you had a personal injury attorney for your accident, have a chat with them. They can give you the best feedback on your case.

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