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If you are disabled due to an accident or injury and are under age 65, you may already know that Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits are available to help you financially until you can return to work, or in the event that you may never return.
In addition to any assistance received in a worker’s compensation claim or personal injury suit, SSD may be available as a financial aid to help you pay your bills, visit the doctor, fill prescriptions, and provide for your family.
What Is the Social Security Process? How Does it Work?
The SSA defines a disability as "a medical condition that is expected to last at least one year or result in death." The SSA does not provide benefits under this program for persons with partial or short-term disability.
You apply for Social Security disability benefits and then it can take three to five months before a decision is returned to you. Unfortunately, not everyone’s application will be approved. If your claim is denied, you have the option to appeal (you really should appeal, as that is where most claimants will win). You should consider contacting an attorney for assistance with your appeal, as you will ahve a better chance of winning. Appeals must be filed within 60 days, so there is no time to waste.
What Kind of Benefits Would I Receive?
Monthly SSD payments are calculated based on your age, income, the number os years you have worked, and your projected date of retirement. On average, SSD reports coverage of 40% of your pre-retirement income. You can calculate your benefits here: Benefit Calculators (SSA.gov).
In the meantime, you may be eligible to receive compensation through your employer, personal disability insurance, health insurance coverage, or a personal injury claim outside of having to spend all your personal assets. You may consider speaking with an attorney about these options and the processes needed for each.
Of course, your health is top priority, but as you wait for a response on your claim, you may not feel you can afford to go to the doctor. However, it can be very helpful to your disability claim to regularly visit your doctor, though it is not always necessary for you to visit a doctor to win your disability claim if you have a severe disability. If the SSA requires a doctor’s evaluation, it will pay for the visit.
What About Medical Bills?
While there is no specific health
insurance coverage provided for recipients of SSD immediately, after receiving disability benefits for 24 months (2 years), you will be eligible for Medicare coverage. You should receive automatically information about this from the SSA.
However, if you suffer from certain medical conditions, you may be eligible to receive Medicare coverage immediately. These conditions are generally the most extreme, such as people needing kidney dialysis, but make sure to ask a Social Security representative about your specific situation.
For people with limited assets, Medicare offers "Extra Help" for prescription drug costs. This Extra Help covers the cost of deductibles, monthly co-payments, and other expenses that some people can’t afford if they find their income limited by a disability. Once accepted to Medicare coverage, the Extra Help program is estimated to be worth up to $4,000 per year. The application is online at www.socialsecurity.gov/prescriptionhelp .
What About My Family?
Your family may be eligible for benefits based on your acceptance into the SSD program or because of your general decrease in family income:
- Children (under age 18) of a parent who is receiving Social Security benefits may have a separate application submitted on their behalf, allowing them financial assistance so they can complete their high school education.
- Children of a deceased parent may be entitled to their parent’s Social Security benefit payments.
- Children under 18 can also qualify for Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program in families with annual income under $45,000.
Learn more about the Social Security benefits available for children of disabled or deceased parents.
Additionally, to supplement the expense of the cost of food, recipients of SSD are also eligible to participate in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. This program was formerly known as "food stamps" and is dedicated to providing funds for families in need. These days, the funds no longer come in "stamps" but in a pre-paid ATM-like card which is easy to carry and easy to monitor through its online-accessible account. In addition to financial assistance, SNAP also offers nutrition assistance, help locating retailers who participate, and is now piloting a new Healthy Incentives Program for families who choose the best nutritional value with their SNAP dollars.
If you find yourself suddenly facing a situation where an injury or illness has left you unable to work, and are thinking about filing for Social Security Disability benefits, you may want to consider hiring a disability attorney who may be able to help protect your rights through the process.