Social Security Disability Series: Part 1
By Anjel Burgess, JD
Jennie is a 40-year-old single mother of two children who has been working for 10 years as a data entry clerk. Jennie was diagnosed with idiopathic hypersomnia one year ago and has been working with her doctor to try and manage her progressively worsening symptoms. Over the last year, they have tried every medication conceivable, and her current medications have her optimal productivity time at about 3 hours. Jennie has been arriving to work late, struggling to stay awake at work, and sneaking breaks throughout the day to rest and is only able to be productive for about 3 hours throughout the day. Her supervisor has found her asleep at her desk on multiple occasions, and Jennie finds that her once impeccable work product is now riddled with errors. She was recently written up for performance-related concerns, which means that, at this point, the writing is on the wall. With a family to provide for and medical treatment that is vital to receive, Jennie is concerned that she will be fired. She has consulted with her employer, and has been told that she has the following options available to her:
- FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act) – This is unpaid job-protected leave of up to 12 weeks for employees who have a serious health condition that makes the employees unable to perform essential functions of their jobs.
- Short-term disability – These benefits are often made available by the employer, but private policies are also available. Short-term disability policies provide benefits after a short waiting period of 7 to 30 days, once the insurance company has documentation that employees are unable to perform their duties. Short-term disability programs typically pay 60% of the benefit salary and may be available for 3 months to a period of years.
- Long-term disability – These benefits may be available through the employer or a private policy. These policies typically provide benefits after a 180-day waiting period and typically pay 60% of an employee’s benefit salary. Long-term disability benefits may be available through full retirement age.
In Jennie’s case, her best option is to apply for short-term disability, with a plan to apply for long-term disability benefits once her short-term disability benefits are exhausted. Once she leaves work to begin her short-term disability benefits, Jennie should also apply for Social Security disability benefits.
Social Security disability – Jennie is eligible for Social Security disability benefits based on her work history. Through her employer, Jennie has been paying FICA taxes, which makes her eligible for financial assistance and health insurance through Social Security disability in the event that she becomes disabled and is unable to work for a year or more. Since the process for Social Security benefits typically takes two years to complete, it is in Jennie’s best interest to apply as soon as she stops working so that she can ensure that her financial support from short-term and long-term disability will carry her through while she waits for the process to be completed.
If you, too, are struggling to maintain your employment due to the symptoms flowing from idiopathic hypersomnia or any sleep disorder, don’t wait until the writing is on the wall for your termination. Secure your eligibility for short-term disability and long-term disability benefits today through your employer. Contact a qualified Social Security Disability Attorney to assist you with an application for benefits.
Anjel Burgess is a partner/attorney at the Law Firm of Burgess and Christensen located in Marietta, GA. She exclusively practices Social Security Disability Law for adults and children, as well as the ancillary areas of Guardianships and Special Needs Trusts. By doing so, she has been able to make a positive difference in the daily lives of people who need help the most. You may reach her at or 770-422-8111. You can learn more about her services at www.DisabilityHelpLine.com.