I get calls and emails from people who are still working, but are struggling, and are considering Social Security disability.
Depending upon a person’s individual circumstances, this is typically what I say to those who are currently working, but are exploring the disability process:
It is hard to plan for disability. First, there is no disability from Social Security if you are working, and earning more than the level of substantial gainful activity. So you must have stopped working to apply. I typically suggest that people who are still working should keep working as long as possible.
Second, Social Security does not pay for the first 5 full calendar months of disability. So you need to be prepared financially for 6 months, at a minimum, of little or no income after you stop working.
Third, not being able to perform your past work is not enough to qualify for disability benefits. Depending upon your age, Social Security will look at your ability to perform other work, including work that is sedentary, unskilled, and not demanding mentally. This work includes jobs that many people would never consider.
Lastly, you need to be able to back up the functional limitations that prevent you from working with significant medical evidence, preferably including opinions from your treating doctor(s).