Understanding Social Security Disability Programs

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Cancer can make it difficult – if not impossible – for some young adult survivors to work during or after treatment. But rent is still due, medical bills keep coming in, and you need to eat… so how in the world are you supposed to make ends meet?

MollyClarke2The SAMFund is committed to helping you understand the full range of financial assistance resources available to you. This blog post is dedicated to Social Security disability programs, which could be an important source of temporary support while you get back on your feet.

We welcome Molly Clarke from the Social Security Disability Help blog to provide information on Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Molly works to promote disability awareness and help individuals throughout the Social Security disability application process.

This post is a great preview of our upcoming Webinar in our “Moving Forward With Your Financial Health” series.  Register today for “Social Security Disability Programs: What Cancer Survivors Need to Know” with the Social Security Administration on November 14th at 3pm EST.

The two main disability benefit programs, Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI), are both governed by the Social Security Administration (SSA). In order to qualify for either of these programs, applicants must meet the following criteria:

  • The adult cannot do the work they did prior to becoming disabled; and
  • The adult has a physical or mental condition(s) that prevents him or her from learning to do a different type of work; and
  • The adult’s condition has lasted, or is expected to last, at least 12 months or result in death.

Each program has its own set of technical eligibility requirements and is intended to serve a specific group of people.

SSDI provides financial assistance to workers who have disabilities and their eligible family members. To qualify for SSDI, applicants must have extensive work history and must have made Social Security tax contributions throughout their careers. Although some young adults may qualify for SSDI, this program best suits older individuals who have worked and earned a living for many years. Learn more about SSDI technical requirements here.

SSI, on the other hand, is intended to offer benefits to individuals with disabilities of all ages who earn very little income. This program has no work, age, or tax requirements. Instead, eligibility for SSI is dependent on how much money an applicant earns and how many financial resources they have access to. Learn more about SSI technical requirements here.

It is important to note that if you qualify for SSDI but still fall within the acceptable income limits for SSI, it is possible that you may be eligible to receive benefits from both programs.

Medical Requirements

In addition to the criteria mentioned above, all applicants will have to meet specific medical requirements. These requirements are located in the SSA’s Blue Book. The Blue Book is the official publication of disabling conditions and medical criteria. Each condition has its own set of medical requirements that an applicant must meet in order to qualify for disability benefits. Young adults who have been diagnosed with cancer will be evaluated under Blue Book section 13.00—Malignant Neoplastic Diseases. This section covers many different types of cancers.

If an applicant does not meet the requirements for any Blue Book listing, he or she may still be eligible to receive disability benefits if they can provide the appropriate medical evidence. This means that you must provide medical documentation proving that you are unable to do any type of work.

Compassionate Allowance Conditions

Some types of cancer are listed in the Social Security’s Compassionate Allowances (CA) conditions. This means that applications for individuals with eligible conditions are identified for “fast-track” processing. Although having a CA condition does not guarantee approval, processing time can be significantly reduced. The SSA began the Compassionate Allowance initiative because they recognized that applicants with inherently disabling conditions could not wait years or even months to receive disability benefits.

The Application Process

application formFor adults over the age of 18, the initial application is made up of several forms. These can be completed on the SSA’s website or in person at a local Social Security office. It is important to fill out all paperwork with as much detail as possible. Your answers and supporting medical evidence should provide the SSA with a thorough understanding of how your condition affects your day-to-day life.

After submitting the correct paperwork, you will not receive a decision for several months. If your condition is among the Compassionate Allowance Listings, you should receive a decision much sooner. If your initial application is denied, it is important that you do not panic or give up. You can file an appeal within 60 days of receiving your notice of denial. Although it can be overwhelming to face the appeals process, you should look at it as an opportunity to build a stronger claim. In fact, statistics have shown that more applicants are approved during the appeals processes than during the initial application.

The key to being awarded benefits is staying organized and thorough. While the application process may feel like a full time job, it is often a necessary step toward receiving financial assistance. Once you are awarded benefits, you will be able to focus on your health rather than your finances.




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