You’ve been approved for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits and you are worried—you have never lived off of Social Security disability income before.  But, you are still unsure how certain things will impact the SSA’s determination of your monthly payments if you qualify for Social Security disability.

Three Things That You Would Think Matter but Don’t
It would seem like the following factors would be significant in determining the amount of your Social Security disability check. However, the truth is that:

1.  Becoming “more” disabled.  Your actual disability is irrelevant  once SSA decides that you are disabled, unless you are blind. Someone who qualifies for Social Security disability because of cancer does not get more or less than someone who qualifies for heart disease or another condition. If you have heart disease and then develop cancer, you do not get a higher monthly benefits.  Once the SSA finds that you qualify for Social Security disability, your monthly checks will be calculated based on your previous earnings and not on your specific disability. An exception is made, however, for applicants who are blind. Monthly payments may be higher for Social Security disability applicants who are blind.

2.  How much you used to make compared to your benefit check.  Your financial need is irrelevant. Social Security disability is not a need-based program. Your savings, assets, investments, and financial need is irrelevant to the SSA’s determination of eligibility and it is irrelevant to the amount that you may receive.

3.  Other unearned income.  Any income you receive from private disability insurance is irrelevant. You have the right to receive benefits from private disability insurance, if you qualify, and from the SSA, if you qualify without the private disability insurance impacting your Social Security benefits.

4.  Windfall income.  If you are lucky enough to have a windfall, say from the lottery or a rich uncle who dies, this will not affect your SSD check.

A Social Security Disability check is based on the amount Social Security taxes you paid and the fact that you are disabled.

 

Note that the above facts do not apply to individuals receiving SSI or Supplemental Security Income which is a welfare-based program.  ALL income affects the amount of that check and too much income can result in the check ceasing.

 

If you have questions, call me at 904.981.9812.

Social Security Disability can be a great benefit to a person with Parkinson’s who can no longer earn a living because of his condition. Parkinson’s is a progressive disease. Shortly after a diagnosis, you may be able to continue working, but as the years go on and  if treatments fail, your tremors, stiffness, lack of coordination, speech problems or dementia may keep you from gainful employment.

When that happens, you may qualify for Social Security disability if you can prove one of the following:

You meet the requirements of Section 11.06 of the Listing of Impairments. Section 11.06 allows someone with Parkinson’s syndrome to be found eligible for Social Security disability if that person has “significant rigidity, bradykinesia, or tremor in two extremities, which, singly or in combination, result in sustained disturbance of gross and dexterous movements, or gait and station.”

Your symptoms are equal in severity to another listing in the Listing of Impairments. If you can prove that your symptoms are as severe as those in another listing, you are eligible for benefits.

Your ability to perform work-related activities is severely limited and keeps you from earning a living. If your residual functional capacity prevents you from working, you should be eligible for benefits.

Social Security disability benefits can help you make ends meet and remove some stress from your life. Accordingly, it is important for you, and for other Parkinson’s patients to consider these benefits.

If you know anyone else suffering from this condition, please share this blog post so that he or she can better understand the Social Security disability eligibility requirements for Parkinson’s patients.

And call me if I can help.  904.981.9812.

When applying for Social Security Disability benefits, SSA will ask you for a lot of forms.  An overwhelming amount of forms. A staggering amount of forms.  Are they really necessary?

Short answer:  yes.

Winning a claim has become more difficult in recent years and judges are  increasingly using an individual’s own statements against him or her. How you complete the SSA forms can make a big difference in winning your disability claim.  The best policy is to be honest, accurate, and thorough. For example, many clients answer that they can walk “a mile” or “a block” before needing to rest. While they may have been able to walk that far when healthy, their ability may have changed since they became disabled. Check the actual distance you can walk before committing it to paper.

Similarly, SSA asks about your ability to lift. It is important to understand they are really asking about your ability to lift things repeatedly like in a work situation. Try lifting various items around the house on different days and note closely whether lifting certain items increases pain in a certain area. Just because you used to lift a certain amount of weight while working, does not mean you are still capable of lifting that amount when disabled. You should also talk with your doctor about your limitations to ensure he or she can treat your medical conditions more effectively.

Finally, when describing your ability to perform activities of daily living (ADLs), consider how the way you perform ADLs may have changed since you became disabled. If you have arthritic hand problems, do you need frequent rest breaks to massage your hands when peeling or chopping food items? Do you need extra rest breaks when sweeping due to increased lower back pain? When describing your ability to perform ADLs, be sure to provide a complete answer. A complete answer includes your limitations when performing such activities.

If your disability claim is important to you, it is worth the effort to test yourself around the house or neighborhood to actually figure out your physical limitations. Overestimating your capacity in an effort to look “good” can undermine your claim.  Remember:  be honest, thorough and accurate.

And call me if you have questions.  I can be reached at 904.981.9812.

 

Embarking on its 80th Anniversary of being a key piece of the Nation’s fabric, Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, today officially released Vision 2025. The vision will serve as a “North Star” to guide Social Security and show how the agency will accomplish and deliver three key priorities: superior customer experience, exceptional employees, and an innovative organization over the next decade and beyond.

“We must be prepared to adapt as technology and society changes at an unprecedented rate,” Acting Commissioner Colvin said. “Vision 2025 is our way of making sure we keep up with these changes, and how we position ourselves to best serve the public in the future.”

Vision 2025 reflects Social Security’s full commitment—now and in the future—to offering customers choices in how they do business with us. This commitment includes sustaining a field office structure that provides face-to-face service and is responsive to members of the public who need or prefer face-to-face service.

“Vision 2025 represents the agency’s commitment to continuous long-term planning. It will guide our more than 65,000 employees who continue to provide exemplary service to our customers,” Acting Commissioner Colvin said. “We are proud of our longstanding commitment to customer service and continual efforts to improve efficiency. We are also excited about our vision for serving the public in the next 10 to 15 years.”.

More information can be seen at ssa.gov.

 

If you need help with a disability claim, call Tracy Miller at 904.981.9812

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