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Columbia MO Social Security Disability Law Blog

Can I receive disability benefits more quickly if I have cancer?

Facing a cancer diagnosis can be overwhelming and patients in Missouri may wonder about the different options available to help them financially. Social Security disability (SSD) insurance is a disability insurance program available to help disabled individuals who qualify. To qualify, an individual must be suffering from a disability that meets the Social Security Administration's (SSA) requirements for disability and have paid into the system through their work history. When a disabled individual is unable to work due to their disability, they may qualify for SSD benefits.

In addition, disabled individuals suffering from cancer may enjoy expedited claims processing. For individuals with a diagnosis on the SSA's list of Compassionate Allowances, the claims processing process may be quicker. Because benefits are not available until the disabled individual's sixth full month of disability, it is important to promptly apply for SSD benefits and to be familiar with the application process.

Disability benefits are available for many medical conditions

A diagnosis of a serious medical condition can be an overwhelming point in anyone's life. It may leave the diagnosed individual unable to work as they face mounting medical bills and other financial struggles, while adjusting to life with their illness. For disabled Missouri residents diagnosed with a serious illness, Social Security disability (SSD) benefits may be one option to consider.

To qualify for SSD benefits for illness, the disabled individual must suffer from a severe disability that prevents them from working, or engaging in daily activities, and is expected to last for at least 12 months or result in death. The disabled individual must suffer from a qualifying physical or mental medical condition. The Social Security Administration provides a list of qualifying illnesses, divided by sections and includes some rare diseases, and also maintains a list of compassionate allowances for medical conditions that may be subject to expedited claims processing. Even if the disabled individual suffers from a medical condition not on the list, it may still be possible to obtain benefits.

Understanding the SSDI appeals process

As many people in Missouri can attest, a large percentage of Social Security Disability Insurance claims are denied. Fortunately for disappointed claimants, the Social Security Administration provides an extensive SSD appeals process that such claimants can use to obtain further review of their claims. The appeals process comprises four levels: request for reconsideration, review by an administrative law judge, review by the internal SSA appeals council and, finally, federal court review.

A request for reconsideration is the first step; it is a written request to the SSA to submit the disability claim to an SSA employee who was not involved in making the initial decision to deny the claims. The claimant can submit new medical or employment evidence with a request for reconsideration. The claimant is not required to be present for the reconsideration review. If the reconsideration request ends with a denial, the claimant can ask for a review by an administrative law judge. The ALJ's review is similar to a court trial. The ALJ takes testimony from the claimant and any other witnesses the claimant may call, including medical professionals and employment experts. The claimant is expected to attend, but the SSA will allow attendance by video conferencing if the appellant is physically unable to travel to another city for the hearing.

Can SSD benefits be considered taxable income?

Tax season is here, and many people in Columbia have either already filed their taxes and received their tax returns or they are in the process of doing so. While those who work earn a clear income that is taxed, those who do not work but receive Social Security disability benefits may wonder whether they must report these benefits as income.

There are instances in which a person's SSD benefits will be taxable. Whether they are depends on whether the person has alternate income or on their filing status. It is possible that up to 85 percent of one's benefits could be taxed.

How does "substantial gainful activity" affect SSD benefits?

Many people in Missouri who are considering applying for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits are uncertain if a return to work will mean that benefits will terminate. The answer depends upon the concept of "substantial gainful activity" as defined in the federal regulations that govern SSD claims.

The rule is easily stated: a person may work while receiving SSD benefits as long as the amount of income does not exceed the limit for SGA. SGA is defined by the Social Security Administration as being able to earn a specified gross amount of monthly income. A person who earns more than this figure is deemed to be engaging in SGA and is not entitled to disability benefits. A person who earns less than the SGA amount is deemed to be disabled and eligible to receive SSD benefits. The SGA amount may vary from year to year depending upon economic conditions in the country as a whole. The SGA amount for blind people in 2017 is $1,950 per month and $1,170 for non-blind people.

How do work credits affect eligibility for SSDI benefits?

Most Missourians understand that a person must be totally disabled in order to obtain Social Security Disability Insurance benefits, but the federal regulations that govern the SSDI claims process impose other requirements on applicants. One of the most important of these requirements is the number of work credits that a person has earned. This post will explore the effect of work credits on an SSD claim.

In general, work credits are earned whenever a person pays what are commonly called FICA or Social Security taxes. (FICA stands for Federal Insurance Contributions Act.) Prior to 1978, work credits were earned every quarter of the year. After 1978, work credits are earned on an annual basis. A person earns one credit for every $1,260 in earnings subject to the Social Security tax up to a maximum of 4 credits per year.

Obtaining SSDI benefits for traumatic brain injury

A traumatic brain injury can be devastating. Among the effects caused by a brain injury are loss of sensory perception, loss or interference with the ability to speak, and loss of memory and interference with cognitive processes. Missourians who have suffered a traumatic brain injury may be eligible for Social Security Disability Benefits if they can submit medical and employment records that document the nature of the injury and its effect on their ability to perform work functions.

A successful SSD claim for a traumatic brain injury requires documented medical evidence of the effects of the injury. Qualifying effects fall into two categories. The first is disorganization of motor function in two extremities (both arms, both legs or one of each) that results in "extreme limitation" in the ability to stand from a seated position, maintain balance while standing or walking or use of the arms, hands, wrists and fingers. "Extreme limitation" means the complete inability to do any of the listed functions.

Can SSDI benefits be terminated?

When Missourians have their applications for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits granted, they rarely wonder about the chance that those benefits might end someday. Unfortunately, the federal regulations that govern SSD claims provide two grounds on which benefits may be terminated. This post will summarize each of those reasons.

As noted in prior posts, a person may continue to receive SSD benefits and also work if the amount of income is less than $1,130 per month ($1,820 for blind persons). If the amount of income exceeds that limit, the Social Security Administration has the right to terminate benefits. The second basis for terminating benefits is an improvement in the recipient's medical condition to the point where the recipient's condition no longer satisfies the SSA's definition of disability.

Does eligibility for SSDI benefits require a workplace injury?

Many people in Missouri who suffer disabling injuries are unsure if they can obtain Social Security Disability Insurance benefits. Often, this uncertainty is caused by confusion between the state's workers' compensation system and the federal program for SSD claims. This post will provide an overview of differences between eligibility under the two programs.

Eligibility for workers' compensation benefits in Missouri requires that the injury be suffered on the job or be related to the recipient's employment. Benefits may be awarded for temporary injuries and for partial and total permanent disability. Benefits cover specified medical expenses, lost income and rehabilitative care.

SSDI benefits for paralysis

Among the most severe injuries suffered by people in Missouri are injuries to the spine and brain. The Social Security Administration has adopted regulations that prescribe the conditions under which such injuries may allow victims to receive Social Security Disability Insurance benefits. This post will summarize those provisions.

The federal requirements governing SSD claims do not explicitly provide benefits for paralysis. Instead, the regulations identify various forms of neurological impairments that qualify for benefits; such impairments are referred to as neurological disorders that cause disorganization of motor function. Some disorders, such as brain injuries, may cause a variety of impairments, including both limitations on motor functioning and cognitive impairment. Spine injuries, on the other hand, usually result only in disruption of motor functioning in the arms and legs. The disorder can result from either illness or trauma.

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