by Eric Minghella
As we are faced with life-limiting illnesses, our incomes are often affected, and the last thing on our mind should be financial strain. Many of us may not know that if you or someone you love has been diagnosed with a serious illness there may be resources available for you. The Social Security Administration (SSA) offers disability benefits for individuals and their eligible dependents.
If you are already in Hospicare’s services, you’ll almost certainly medically qualify for disability benefits.
Every form of cancer that has spread to another organ will automatically medically qualify. Some types of cancer, such as liver or esophageal cancer, will qualify with just a diagnosis. Other conditions like ALS or early-onset Alzheimer’s disease will also qualify with a diagnosis.
In fact, it’s likely that your claim could be approved in two weeks or less. The Social Security Administration (SSA) offers monthly financial aid for people with severe disabilities that prevent them from working. In fact, your family might be eligible for additional benefits on your behalf.
It’s important to note that Social Security disability benefits are awarded to people who are not old enough to retire. If you’re already receiving retirement benefits from the SSA, you wouldn’t be able to receive additional benefits due to a new illness.
If you’re receiving Hospicare services, you already meet the SSA’s “definition of disability,” which state that Social Security benefits are available for people with a serious illness that prevents them from working for at least 12 months, or is terminal. Some common conditions that always qualify include:
- Advanced or aggressive cancer, such as cancer that’s present in more than one organ
- Heart failure
- Advanced liver disease
- Kidney failure
The SSA will contact your healthcare provider to confirm your diagnosis—all you’ll need to do is list where you’ve received treatments.
Eligible Family Members
Some family members can receive benefits on your behalf as well. These are paid in addition to your monthly benefits. Additional benefits for family members are known as auxiliary benefits. Family members eligible for auxiliary benefits include
- Your children* under age 18
- A spouse over age 62
- A spouse of any age caring for your child under age 16
In the event of your death, your family members will be eligible for survivors’ benefits. The relatives who are eligible for survivors’ benefits include:
- Children under age 18
- A spouse over age 60, but only if you were married for 10 years
- Any spouse caring for a child under age 16
- Your parents if they were “dependent” on your care, meaning you paid for at least 50% of their living needs
Eligibility may change throughout time. For example, your spouse will be eligible for either survivors’ or auxiliary benefits until your children turn 16. At that point your spouse will no longer receive benefits, but he or she could receive benefits again at age 60.
Keep in mind that a family’s total monthly payments cannot exceed 180% of what your monthly entitlement is. Your monthly payments might change slightly as children turn 18 and become ineligible.
Starting Your Social Security Application
You can apply for Social Security benefits online. As mentioned previously, the Social Security Administration (SSA) will gather your medical records on your behalf, so you will not need to mail in any paperwork when filing online.
The alternative option would be to file in person at your closest Social Security office. There are 1,300+ offices located across the country. To apply with a Social Security representative, simply call the SSA toll-free at 1-800-772-1213.
Most people on Hospicare services have clearly disabling conditions and their applications will be accelerated automatically. If you have advanced cancer or another condition requiring hospice services, you should hear back from the SSA in a matter of weeks. Once approved, your benefits can be spent on any hospice expenses, medical bills, medication costs, rent or a mortgage, transportation or housing arrangements for your family, or any other daily living needs.
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