Survival of the Unfittest

There have been a lot of inquiries asking how I survived financially during the waiting period after applying for disability. Fortunately, I documented everything and kept great notes because the medications I was on pretty much wiped out my short term memory. While barely able to function, I still understood how important it would be to my future and the future of my youngest son still in college and living at home to make the right decisions.

There is a five month to two year waiting period for SSDI in my state during which time there is no income while you are unable to work. Even if you qualify for unemployment, you cannot apply unless you are able to work. What really helped us out was the accidental timing. I had become more and more ill while working and finally felt I needed to take some leave to try to recover. It became apparent closer to the end of the 12 week family leave from November through February, that I would never be able to return to this job and probably never work again. That decision was extremely difficult as I always felt I would work until the day I died. How were we going to make it?

I started a notebook and listed all of my assets and bills. First, we did the obvious and dropped unnecessary services like cable, sold extra items around the house, and used coupons, discounts and sales with every shopping trip. It was tax time so the hefty return I expected would be a huge advantage. After retiring in February and applying for both state retirement disability and social security disability and hiring a disability attorney to speed things up, there was a good chunk of money in my final paycheck which I recieved in March. We had Care Credit (a medical credit card), and three other credit cards with limits from $500 to $1,200 which all had $0 to very low balances as I always kept up on my payments. We would need all of our cash and credit cards for monthly bills. In April, I applied for Food Stamps and Medicaid and switched as many of my medical appointments to a sliding scale fee based clinic. If you look online, there are many pharmaceutical companies that will send you free prescriptions if you qualify based on income. Zero income qualifies. That took care of the immediate and short term financial situation.

Long term, I needed to concentrate on my mortgage, the largest monthly payment that could not be paid by most of the methods listed above. At least not indefinately. Of course, the first thing I did was communicate my concerns to my mortgage lender. They were not sympathetic and could think of no other alternative than to pay in full each month and every month or go into foreclosure. Nice. The loan officer at my bank who gave me the original mortgage tried his best to refinance my current loan, but said my interest rates were already as low as they could get and even after paying five years of principal, the economy had reduced the value of my home so there was no equity and I would have had to pay an additional $3,000 down on another loan with payments only minutely smaller than my current one. Next. After calling a half dozen mortgage assitance agencies, they said I had done all that I could do and there was nothing they could offer to help out.

By this time in July, I was accepted for state disability and started receiving monthly payments plus back pay to the day I applied. I called my mortgage company back and offered to make partial payments to cover principal and interest each month until I was accepted for disability. I sent a partial payment to show good intent. They kept it, but didn’t count it as a payment. They said they wouldn’t accept partial payments and I wasn’t eligible for mortgage forebearance unless I had an income of at least $1,000 a month which I did not. At this point, I stopped making mortgage payments and started doing research on how I could stay in my home as it would be a hardship to move while disabled.

Just as my cash stash was tapped out and the credit cards maxxed, I was approved for SSDI and payments began in December with back pay and medicaid coverage to last January. I paid off the credit card bills with the back pay and sent the medicaid number to all my pharmacists, physicians, etc. and received refunds for services received during that time. More bill catch up and here I am with a disability income approximately the same as my working income without insurance or benefits.

The fight for my home continues as documented in previous blogs, but I have confidence that it will work out in the end. If you know someone who needs to be on disability, but doesn’t think they can make it financially during the long waiting period, please refer them to It is the best resource out there.