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Turn to a Professional for Help

Most people submit their initial claims for disability assistance on their own, says Nancy G. Shor, executive director of the National Organization of Social Security Claimants' Representatives. "But if you are denied coverage, you may want to think about talking to an attorney or an independent claims representative."

Appealing a decision to Social Security or workers' compensation may require appearing before a judge. The appeals process can be complicated and time consuming.

Keep Detailed Medical Records

It's crucial to keep detailed records to show you are eligible for assistance. "Some programs offer assistance if you are unable to perform the work you were doing before your disability," Shor says.

Others pay only if you are unable to perform any kind of work. You may be required to list all of the jobs you have done in the past 15 years. You will have to provide detailed information about your medical condition and what you are able (and unable) to do. Keep records of every hospital and doctor visit.

Since a disabling injury or disease can be overwhelming, it's wise to take someone you trust with you to doctor appointments or meetings that involve your disability.

Make a Financial Plan for Living on Disability

Even if you qualify for disability assistance, chances are your household income will be less than it was before you became disabled. Make a financial plan based on what you spend each month and the money you expect to take in. Try to bring your household expenses in line with what you expect to receive. That may require trimming your expenses and finding other ways to save money. If necessary, talk to a financial consultant.

Find Ways to Ease Stress While You're Disabled

Becoming disabled, even for a short time, can be very stressful. It can affect your partner and your family life. Finding ways to ease stress is crucial.

Helpful strategies include:

  • Progressive relaxation exercises
  • Meditation
  • Biofeedback

Or just do something you enjoy, like reading or listening to music.

Stress management programs have been shown to improve medical outcomes and help people who have become disabled return to work. If you aren't sure where to turn, talk to your doctor.