Is Disability Insurance the Post-Unemployment Check? Not for Many

Ann Brenoff
Guy in a wheelchair - disability insurance
Guy in a wheelchair - disability insurance

As the jobless run out of unemployment benefits, many may be turning toward the Social Security Disability office hoping to find some relief. Officials report that initial claims are up from 2.5 million in fiscal year 2006 to 3.25 million in fiscal year 2010 -- a 30% jump during the recession.

But filing a claim doesn't mean that financial relief is just a few tall stacks of paperwork away. Social Security Disability insurance is one of the really hard assistance nuts to crack; the screening process is so stringent that it even makes qualifying for a mortgage these days look easy. Only about 40% of those who apply get approved in the first step. And that step takes three or four months to process, although the program has a list of 88 diseases and conditions on a sort of fast-track system to speed up the process for those with the most serious needs.