An injury can radically alter the course of your life, whether it lasts for a week, a year, or forever. Before pursuing your options, make sure you know your rights. If your company has more than 50 employees and you have been there longer than a year, you are entitled to protection under the Family and Medical Leave Act, which allows 12 weeks of unpaid leave. Be sure to also check your company’s policies, since you might be entitled to additional paid or unpaid leave. Maxing out these benefits before you lean on government assistance can help you remain afloat longer.
SSI and SSDI
Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) can both help you if you are injured and unable to work, whether permanently or for a short period. However, SSI is based on financial need, so you must prove that you qualify. The amount you can receive is dependent on your geographic location and your monthly income prior to applying for SSI. You can begin collecting payments the first month that your application is approved.
Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) has a five-month waiting period, which means you must be disabled five months before you will be eligible to apply. You must be under 65, and have earned a predetermined number of work credits. However, the program may also extend benefits to your spouse and dependents, which means it offers more income stability than SSI.
Veteran Disability Compensation
Veterans are eligible for a wide range of compensation programs based on their level of disability and the cause of the injury. Veterans who are married, who have children, who have a disabled spouse, or who have been very seriously disabled are typically eligible for more. Your local Veterans Administration (VA) office can help you determine which programs, and at what level of compensation, you are eligible for. Sometimes there are long waits. If your initial disability assessment does not accurately rate your disability, you may have to ask for a re-rating.
Some of the programs veterans can apply for (in addition to the programs available to civilians) include:
- Medical care at VA facilities
- Cash disability payments
- Employment and career counseling and assistance
- Mileage reimbursement for money spent traveling to and from VA facilities
Welfare collectively refers to a group of federal programs administered by the states. Anyone who meets income requirements can apply for welfare, though states may place additional requirements—such as employment counseling or only receiving assistance for a set period of time—on recipients. Various welfare programs that can help you if you are unable to work include:
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance (SNAP)–Formerly known as food stamps, this program provides vouchers to purchase food based on family size.
- Women, Infants, and Children (WIC)–This supplement to the SNAP program provides additional assistance to pregnant women, mothers, and children. Participants may be eligible for other forms of assistance, such as lactation consultations and career counseling.
- Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF)–This program provides cash payments to families based on family size and financial need.
Section 8 Housing—This program offers vouchers to help families afford housing. Families must apply for housing at eligible facilities, and Section 8 does not cover purchasing a home.