Mavis Bryant, from Cocoa, Florida, loved her career as a case manager at the Children’s Home Society. So when her health began to deteriorate in March 2018 due to heart disease, kidney disease, and type 2 diabetes, forcing her to spend several months in the hospital, she was devastated. She worried she’d never be able to be able to work or be financially independent again, and ultimately, she didn’t know what to do.

Mavis had tons of questions. What is disability insurance? How much does it cost? How do you apply? Is there any assistance for going back to work after recovery?

Unfortunately, Mavis’ questions are pretty common. The Social Security Administration (SSA) estimates that one in four 20-somethings will experience a disability before retirement age, but most are unprepared both emotionally and financially — most households do not have enough savings to cover a $400 emergency, let alone hundreds of thousands of dollars of unexpected medical expenses.

Mavis was lucky in that the Children’s Home Society is one of about 34% of employers that offer long-term disability (LTD) insurance, so she was able to access this safety net when her condition took a turn for the worst. In most situations, LTD is a voluntary benefit for which employees must pay out of pocket. A lot of people either cannot afford to do so or decide the expense is not warranted for the potential risk they may face during their working career.

So the good news is that there is another benefit, provided by the federal government, that workers can tap into if they find themselves suddenly unable to work. That benefit is called Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), and to qualify, individuals must simply meet the following requirements: have worked at least five of the last 10 years; paid FICA payroll taxes; be under their Social Security full retirement age (65-67); and have a severe medical condition or injury that is expected to last at least a year or is terminal.

Those that find themselves in need of SSDI must apply as soon as possible – many people wait an average of 7.6 months after disability onset to apply for benefits, and that’s a long time to go without any source of income. The sooner someone applies, the sooner they can receive a decision and either start collecting benefits or appeal their case. This is important considering wait times for hearings are nearly 500 days long. During this time, many people fall into financial ruin or foreclosure, which is why I always recommend that people work with an SSDI representative to increase the likelihood their disability application will be approved at the outset. Right now, two-thirds of applicants who apply nationwide are denied by Social Security.

Thankfully, Mavis was approved for SSDI benefits, as well as having her LTD policy. Once she reached medical stability, she sought help from Allsup Employment Services, a national SSA- authorized Employment Network. At the time, she had been unable to work for nearly a year.

Once she stabilized, we helped her use SSA’s free Ticket to Work program to fine-tune her resume, prepare for interviews, and find open, accommodating positions in social services.

In only a few months after beginning to work with AES, Mavis returned to her previous position at the Children’s Home Society. Today, she’s helping families every day and working in a part- time capacity with a plan to increase her work hours.

Mavis’ story is one of many I see every day as I guide people through the process of returning to work after a disability. With all of the hardships and struggles, it’s very rewarding to watch people put in the time and effort to succeed. Most importantly, these individuals know when to ask for help and make the most of the programs for which they have paid their entire working lives.

If you or someone you know is attempting to return to work after receiving SSDI benefits, don’t let the opportunity to utilize Ticket to Work pass you by.

Originally posted by: Forbes