When a parent or friend has a medical condition that leaves them unable to work, they may qualify for Social Security Administration (SSA) disability benefits. However, applying for these benefits can be challenging for the following reasons:
- Medical records and other forms of supporting documentation need to be collected. While some may be readily accessible, others need to be formally requested.
- Disability claims forms are highly detailed and must be completed correctly if the claim is to succeed.
- If the claim is denied, the next step is to request reconsideration, which may require assistance from a Social Security Disability attorney.
Fortunately, there’s a lot that children and friends of a disabled individual can do to increase the chances of a successful claim. The Social Security Disability attorneys at Bross & Frankel have compiled this resource page to explain the programs available, how to apply for them, and how an SSD lawyer can help.
How Do You Know When Your Loved One is Ready for Disability Benefits?
Disability benefits are intended to provide financial support to those who cannot maintain gainful employment due to a disability. If your friend or parent is unable to work and lacks the resources needed to meet their reasonable monthly expenses, SSDI or SSI benefits pay monthly cash benefits and can provide access to much-needed medical care.
While some people apply for disability benefits as soon as they realize that they need the support, others hesitate to take the first step. In the latter case, family and friends can explain what their options are.
In some cases, this can be a difficult conversation to have. Parents in particular often take pride in being self-reliant and may hesitate at the thought of having to apply for government assistance. You can reassure them and let them know that you’re willing to help them with the application process and even arrange a consultation with a Social Security Disability lawyer.
Disability Benefits for Dependent Children of Disabled Parents
If your parent or loved one is approved for SSDI, their minor dependent children may receive what are known as auxiliary benefits and even survivor benefits if the parent dies while receiving SSDI. In general, children over 18 who become disabled prior to the age of 22 can continue to receive benefits based on their parent’s earnings records. You can file for dependents’ benefits for your loved one’s children at the same time you carry out their disability application. Make sure you have access to the children’s birth certificates and Social Security numbers.
It is important to note that there are no auxiliary benefits for children of SSI recipients. If any of these children are disabled, they may apply for SSI benefits on their own. Ask your loved one if they would like your assistance in this area.
How Can Children Help Their Parents Apply for SSD Benefits?
If your parent or other loved one is too unsure or unable to apply for disability benefits on their own, you can help them through the claims process by sourcing the necessary forms and helping them fill out all required information. The SSA will follow up with your parent and will ask for their signature or yours if you serve as their power of attorney or representative.
As stated above, the SSA website allows applicants to start the SSDI and SSI application process online. The SSA will, however, follow up with you and your parent to complete your application. Should their claim require a hearing, they can authorize you to represent them- the SSA understands that some claimants have illnesses that prevent them from attending.
If your parent agrees to apply, you may need to talk to them about appointing a representative payee if they have difficulty managing their finances. A representative payee can be a relative, friend, caregiver, or even anyone who is willing to assume the responsibility of using the money to pay for your parent’s current needs and saving the rest.
In addition, a representative payee must:
- Report all money spent and maintain accurate records and receipts
- Submit an accounting report to the SSA
- Return any money that your parent was not entitled to receive
The SSA can provide you with a form that you’ll need to complete and present, along with identification.
How to Apply for Disability Benefits
Most applications are completed online unless the applicant is over 65 (more on that below). In general, you will need the following information:
- Date and place of birth
- Permanent resident card (if the person is not a U.S. citizen)
- Name of current spouse
- Name of prior spouse if that marriage ended in death or lasted more than 10 years
- Beginning and ending dates of marriage(s)
Provide information about children who became disabled before the age of 22, are under 18 and unmarried, and/or aged 18 to 19 and still in secondary school full-time. (SSDI only)
U.S. Military Service
If your parent served in the U.S. military, provide information about the type of duty, branch, and service period dates.
Provide employer details for the current year and last two years (if applicable). You’ll need to include total earnings, so collect pay stubs and income tax forms for the years in question. If your parent was self-employed, you can view their Social Security statement online. You’ll also need to specify the business type and total net income.
The SSA will want as much information as possible about your loved one’s disability, so collect and supply details like the following in an adult disability report:
- Names of doctors, hospitals, and clinics where they were treated.
- Information about medical tests, examinations, and treatments
- Medications the person is currently taking
- Information about vocational rehabilitation services and similar support programs they may have participated in.
Identify the date that your friend or parent’s medical condition affected their ability to work. The SSA will also want information about the types of jobs they had in the 15 years prior to becoming disabled.
Education and Training
Include information about the highest grade they reached in school and any trade school or vocational school they may have attended.
What if the Applicant is 65 or Older?
SSI online applications are not available for adults age 65 and older. You can call 1-800-772-1213 to make an appointment to file the application or visit your local Social Security office.
What Happens After You Submit the Disability Application?
The SSA will review your loved one’s application to ensure that they meet the basic requirements and contact you/them if it has any questions. You may be asked to submit additional documents the application can be processed.
After evaluating the claimant’s current work activities, the SSA will process the application and forward the case to the Disability Determination Services office in New Jersey. This state agency completes the disability determination. Afterward, your loved one will receive a letter in the mail with the SSA’s decision.
What if the Disability Claim is Rejected?
There is always a possibility that your loved one’s claim will be rejected. Over 60% of applications are initially denied for reasons that include missing paperwork, inaccurate application forms, and even SSA error. If this happens to you, you have the right to appeal the denial, but you must do so within 60 days of receiving the SSA’s decision.
There are four levels of disability claims appeal:
- Reconsideration, which is a close review by an SSA representative who did not take part in the original determination
- Hearing before an administrative law judge
- Social Security’s Appeals Council review
- Federal court review
Appeals have the best chance of succeeding when you work with a Social Security Disability lawyer who understands how to present a strong case.
How Does Social Security Define Disability?
The Social Security Administration uses a strict definition of disability that is based on your ability to work and the projected length of your disability. If a claimant meets specific medical criteria and their condition will last for at least 12 months or result in death, then the claim should theoretically be approved. Those with short-term or partial disabilities are generally not eligible.
What SSA Disability Programs are Available?
Several federal benefits programs provide financial assistance to persons living with disabilities. Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) are two of the most common programs.
What Is Supplemental Security Income (SSI)?
SSI pays financial benefits to adults over 65 and those who are blind or have disabilities. To qualify, applicants generally need to have limited income ($794 per month for an individual and $1,191 for a couple) and resources ($2,000 in assets for an individual or $3,000 for a couple). SSI benefits are often complemented by state-based ones.
What Is Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)?
Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is available to those with a qualifying work history, either through their own employment or that of a qualifying family member, which in this case is a spouse or parent.
An applicant for disability benefits through SSDI must be making less than $1,310 per month to qualify. Blind individuals can make up to $2,190 per month.
What Medical Benefits Come With SSI and SSDI?
An SSI recipient also automatically qualifies for Medicaid coverage in New Jersey while someone who has been approved for SSDI will be entitled to Medicare after 24 months of receiving disability payments unless they meet an exception. Specifically, claimants with an end-stage renal disease with kidney failure may receive coverage the third month after their dialysis treatment begins while those with an amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) diagnosis can receive payments immediately.
Benefits of Working With a Social Security Disability Attorney
Social Security is a necessary system, but it’s also complex. Collecting the necessary forms take time and the information requirements are so precise that it’s easy to make a mistake while applying.
Working with an SSD lawyer who understands the system and will protect your rights can increase the likelihood of your loved one receiving the benefits they need. You also pay nothing upfront: SSD attorneys work on a contingency fee basis, meaning that they accept a percentage of the settlement as part of their fee for services.
If you are thinking about helping a parent or friend apply for the disability benefits they need or your initial application has been denied, help is available. At Bross & Frankel, we are committed advocates for those who are unable to work due to disability. Years of experience in preparing and presenting SSD claims have put us in an excellent position to create a strong application and/or appeal. To learn more or to schedule a free initial consultation about your options, contact us online or call our office at (856) 795-8880.