Where can I find help?

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Independent living centers are one of the most important resources that can help you. Your local independent living center has information about all aspects of living with a disability, including housing, transportation, personal attendant services, employment, education, and benefits. The Minnesota Association of Centers for Independent Living can help you find an independent living center near you.

Also, Disability Hub MN at 1-866-333-2466 links Minnesotans with disabilities to information and community resources to stay independent, support work, and explore benefits. The Hub helps people with all types of disabilities, including health conditions, drug or alcohol problems, or mental health needs. The Hub is statewide, free, and private (confidential).

Disability Hub MN specializes in disability questions related to:

  • Work and work planning
  • Benefits and services
  • Housing
  • Accessibility
  • Assistive technology
  • In-Home services
  • Disability rights

You can also use MinnesotaHelp.info to find social services near you, from benefits applications to job counseling.

When should I apply for disability benefits?

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You should apply for disability benefits as soon as you think you need them. Remember, it can take a long time to get the benefits, so don’t wait. Deciding when to apply for disability benefits can be an important part of what you and your doctor discuss. Once your disability starts progressing to the point that it is affecting your work or other areas of your life, you should apply for disability benefits.

How do I apply for disability benefits?

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If you are working, you should talk to your employer’s Human Resources department to find out how to apply for any private disability benefit that’s available through your employer.

If you need to apply for Social Security disability benefits you should contact the Social Security Administration. You may be able to apply online, over the phone by calling 1-800-772-1213 or 1-800-325-0778 (TTY), or you can visit your local Social Security office and apply in person.

You can apply for Minnesota public health programs, such as Medical Assistance (MA) and MinnesotaCare online at MNsure.

Note: The only way you can apply for Medical Assistance for Employed Persons with Disabilities (MA-EPD) is by filling out the Minnesota Health Care Programs Application for Certain Populations and taking it or mailing it to your local county human services agency. You cannot sign up online.

If you have questions or need more information, Chat with a Hub expert.

What is Social Security’s definition of disability?

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To get benefits such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), Social Security has to consider you disabled. For them to consider you disabled, you must:

  • Have a physical or mental condition that can be verified by medical records
  • Have a condition that is expected to last at least 12 months or to result in death
  • Have a condition that limits your ability to work and earn more than the Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) level

To learn more, read DB101’s section on SSDI.

What’s the difference between SSA, SSI, and SSDI?

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Social Security has 3 different acronyms that are easy to get confused:

  • The Social Security Administration (SSA) is the federal agency that administers all Social Security programs and Medicare.
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a federal program that pays a cash benefit for people who have low incomes and are disabled, blind, or at least 65 years old. SSI is based on a person’s financial need, not their work history.
  • Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is a federal program that pays a cash benefit when you can't work because of a disability. You have to have worked in recent years and paid payroll taxes for a certain amount of time to be eligible for SSDI.

What’s the difference between MA, MA-EPD, and MinnesotaCare?

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Medical Assistance (MA), MinnesotaCare, and Medical Assistance for Employed Persons with Disabilities (MA-EPD) are all public programs that help pay medical expenses for people who are disabled, young, elderly, pregnant, or who have low income. If you qualify, these programs will help pay for your visits to the doctor, hospital stays, prescription drugs, medical equipment, and other medical services, though the exact services they pay for may vary. You may need to pay a small copayment for some services.

There are a couple of major differences between these programs:

  1. They have different income and asset limits. Depending on your situation, it may be easier for you to qualify for one of these programs or the other.
  2. You have to pay a monthly premium to get MinnesotaCare or MA-EPD, while MA has no premium.

You can apply for all of them on MNsure.

If I get a job, will I lose all my benefits and be worse off?

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No, not necessarily. Your disability benefits may change if you go to work, but you’re almost always better off working and figuring out how to balance your work and benefits. There are many rules called “work incentives” that can help you try out working.

Various work incentives like SSI 1619(b), Expedited Reinstatement, and the SSDI Extended Period of Eligibility help guarantee that if you get Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and your benefits stop, you’ll be able to get them back if you leave your job. Additionally, Medical Assistance (MA) has a special program called Medical Assistance for Employed Persons with Disabilities (MA-EPD) that provides affordable health care coverage if you get a job and your employer doesn’t offer health insurance.

The bottom line is that if you get a job, you’ll probably be in a better financial situation and you’ll still have health coverage. If things are worse after you get a job, work incentives let you go back on the benefits you had. You can read more in DB101’s Work Incentives article.

When should I talk to my employer about my disability?

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It depends on your situation. You may feel uncomfortable talking about personal information with your employer or fear discrimination. On the other hand, telling your employer about your disability might be necessary for you to stay in your job as long as you can and it may open up possibilities you didn’t know about. Only you can decide if or when to tell your employer about your disability.

Here are some things to think about when making that decision:

  • What and how do you want to tell your employer about your disability?
  • What are the risks and benefits of telling your employer that you have a disability?
  • How will your disability affect your job performance now and in the future?
  • What will you need to be able to stay in your job as long as possible?

To learn more about your rights and responsibilities when it comes to your disability, read DB101’s article, Know Your Rights and Responsibilities.

What things can I ask for that can help me keep working?

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Things like extra breaks in the work day, alternative work schedules, screen readers, headphones, lower shelves, and parking close to the entrance are all examples of “accommodations” that your employer may be able to offer.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires employers to offer reasonable accommodations to assure that people who have disabilities have the same employment opportunities as people who do not have disabilities. You should talk to your employer about accommodations you need.

Are there resources to help me explore other jobs that might fit better with my changing needs?

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Yes. First, you may want to talk to your employer to find out if there are other jobs within your company or agency that might better fit your needs.

If you have a disability, places like Vocational Rehabilitation Services can help you prepare for, find and keep a job, and live as independently as possible. With the right kind of training, preparation and workplace accommodations, you can find the right job that fits your needs. For more information on employment resources, see DB101's Finding the Right Job for You section or Chat with a Hub expert.