(BPT) - No one ever anticipates a health problem so serious that they have to stop working, especially when a leave of absence becomes one or two years out of work. Yet it happens every day to some of the 160 million workers in the U.S. labor force. People get hurt, learn they have a disease, or succumb to a progressive illness. For those facing debilitating medical or mental issues, it’s critical to seek income protection by applying for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits as soon as possible.

Each year about 2 million people apply for SSDI, but the Social Security Administration (SSA), which oversees the Social Security disability application process, approves only 36% overall. In fact, as many as 700,000 former workers are immediately denied benefits for various reasons. Social Security also predicts it will have a backlog of 700,000 pending initial applications in 2020 — up from 565,000 initial pending applications the prior year.

These daunting statistics reinforce the urgency for former workers to start their SSDI application swiftly with the help of expert disability representatives.

SSDI is a vital safety net for former workers with disabilities who should be aware of these top 5 reasons to seek disability benefits.

1. Monthly income. SSDI can bring tremendous financial relief to former workers and their families. The average monthly benefit for a former worker in 2020 is $1,258. With regular monthly income, individuals are better equipped to deal with their medical conditions. Plus, with approval of SSDI, they can consider their options for the future and a possible return to work down the road. Many people may not understand that SSDI is an insurance program they’ve earned through their FICA taxes. So why not file a claim for insurance when a disability happens?

2. Dependent benefits. For some families, it can be vital that SSDI recipients also are eligible to receive dependent benefits. This provides additional monthly income for those with dependents age 18 and under. Typically, this additional benefit amount is about half of the parent’s monthly dollar amount, regardless of the number of dependents. This can be an added boost for the financial burdens resulting from a severe disability and family needs, such as childcare.

3. Expert help is available. The SSDI program is extremely stringent and only one-third of applications are approved, but expert help is available to improve your chances of getting through the first time. An SSDI representative can play an important role during a process that typically involves long wait times, confusing paperwork, complex rules, extensive criteria and many other obstacles. They can also help with your appeal, if needed. This is especially vital for those dealing with pain from a long-term illness, severe injury or chronic respiratory condition. Find expert help and a free online assessment to determine the likelihood of eligibility for SSDI benefits.

4. Medicare coverage. Another incredibly valuable benefit of the SSDI program is federal health insurance with Medicare. In general, most SSDI beneficiaries can start to receive Medicare coverage 24 months after they begin receiving cash SSDI benefits. Medicare provides health insurance coverage for hospital and medical services, and prescription drug coverage. This coverage even continues for those SSDI beneficiaries who return to work, providing more than 7 years of Medicare coverage.

5. Free return-to-work assistance. More than 52% of SSDI applicants say they eventually want to return to work if they are physically and mentally able to do so. An important advantage of applying for disability benefits is Social Security’s Ticket to Work program that provides free return-to-work assistance if the beneficiary’s medical condition improves. Ticket to Work and free help from a nationwide Employment Network (EN), such as Allsup Employment Services, can provide a path to a better financial future.

It can be overwhelming to contemplate dealing with Social Security and the SSDI application process. Red tape, the growing application backlog and the sheer complexity of the program can make anyone choose to avoid it, even if the income is desperately needed.

Asking for help from an SSDI representative can be the first step for former workers. Experts have the know-how and experience to help people navigate the complex process, while providing compassion and understanding along the way.

Consider a free, online assessment at filessdi.allsup.com.