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Columbia MO Social Security Disability Law Blog

The costs of living with a spinal cord injury are staggering

Spinal cord injuries can arise from a variety of circumstances. For example, a person in Missouri could suffer a spinal cord injury after being involved in a car crash, a sporting accident or even a fall down the stairs. What they will soon find, however, is that the costs associated with living after having suffered a spinal cord injury can be staggering.

According to the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center, on average, a person with a high tetraplegia spinal cord injury can expect to spend on average over $1 million in medical and living expenses the first year of their injury, and almost $185,000 on average each subsequent year. A person with a low tetraplegia spinal cord injury can expect to spend on average nearly $770,000 in medical and living expenses the first year of their injury, and over $113,000 on average each subsequent year. A person with paraplegia can expect to spend on average almost $519,000 on medical and living expenses the first year of their injury, and approximately $69,000 each subsequent year. Finally, a person with any level of incomplete motor function can expect to spend around $347,000 on average on medical and living expenses the first year of their injury, and over $42,000 each subsequent year.

The five-step process the SSA uses to determine disability

When a person in Missouri has a serious illness or injury that prevents them from working, they may be in a very precarious financial situation. Fortunately, our government has a safety net available for qualifying individuals in such situations: Social Security Disability benefits. Part of determining whether an applicant qualifies for SSD benefits is determining whether the applicant is disabled. The Social Security Administration has a five-step process it uses when determining whether an applicant has a disability.

First, the SSA will determine whether the applicant is working and, if so, how much the applicant earns. If the applicant earns more monthly than an amount set by the agency, then the applicant will not be considered disabled.

Does returning to work automatically cancel SSD benefits?

Some people in Missouri may think that spending time away from the workplace is usually relaxing, for example, if a person takes a vacation. However, some people must exit the workplace for very unpleasant reasons -- because they have an illness or injury that is so severe that it prevents them from working for a year or more, or is projected to be fatal. This type of leave from work is anything but pleasant.

Some people in such situations receive Social Security Disability benefits to help them cope financially when they cannot work. While this is certainly helpful, not everyone wants to stay out of the workforce permanently, especially if they enjoy their job or want to become independent. However, they may be afraid that they will lose their SSD benefits if they go back to work. The Social Security Administration wants to encourage beneficiaries to return to work, and therefore has enacted the Ticket to Work program.

Pursuing an SSD claim after a debilitating injury

No one in Missouri expects to be injured in any given day. However, a day that starts out normally could turn to catastrophe if a person is in a serious car wreck, is injured on-the-job or is injured in another type of accident. A severely injured person often needs extensive medical care and rehabilitation. Unfortunately, sometimes this just isn't enough and an injured person finds that the incident has led to long-term disability.

When this happens, a person may want to pursue Social Security Disability benefits. However, not every injury will qualify one for such aid. In general, the person's injury must keep them from performing substantial gainful employment for one year or more and there must be a medically determined cause.

How do SSD benefits change when one reaches retirement age?

Many recipients of Social Security disability benefits in Missouri have been out of the workforce for many years. Because they are unable to earn an income, they may depend on SSD benefits to make ends meet. Therefore, as they near the retirement age for Social Security retirement benefits, they may be concerned about the amount of benefits they receive being reduced or eliminated entirely.

This is because to calculate Social Security retirement benefits, the Social Security Administration considers a person's past 35 years' work history. If a person hasn't worked for that long, the SSA will enter zeros for those years when calculating benefits. For those on SSD who haven't worked for many years, or who were disabled for a number of years and then returned to work, it is understandable why they may be concerned that there will be a lot of zeros in their work history leading to a reduction of benefits.

Mental disorders include trauma and stressor-related disorders

People in Missouri and nationwide spent the Fourth of July holiday celebrating our nation's independence. This independence wouldn't be possible if not for the brave men and women who have fought and are still fighting to preserve our nation's security and freedom. However, servicemembers often witness traumatic incidents. The damage of witnessing these occurrences can have serious effects on a person psychologically.

Under the Social Security Administration's "Listing of Impairments," if a person has a trauma- and stressor-related disorder that has a significant effect on their ability to function, they may seek Social Security disability benefits. Of course, it's not just servicemembers that can experience a trauma and stressor-related disorder. Anyone who witnesses a traumatic or stressful incident, or who learns of a loved one who has been the victim of a traumatic incident, may experience trauma and stressor-related disorders if certain symptoms are present.

Even young workers may end up needing SSD benefits

When young adults enter the workforce, they anticipate building a successful career until it is time to retire. However, for some people in Missouri, this dream is cut short when they suffer an injury or illness so severe that it prevents them from working, perhaps forever. When this happens, a person might want to explore the possibility of seeking Social Security Disability benefits.

There are certain requirements that must be met for a person to qualify for SSD benefits. First, they must have been working for at least five of the past 10 years. Also, they cannot be as old as the full retirement age, which is 65-67. In addition, their injury or illness must last a minimum of 12 months or be projected to be fatal. Finally, the Social Security Administration must deem the injury or illness severe enough that the person is entitled to SSD benefits.

Fewer people applied for SSD benefits in 2017

People in Missouri who suffer from a disability may find that being able to hold down a job is not possible. When the only jobs available to them are manual labor jobs, it is understandable why a person with a disability would be unable to work. However, when economic times are better and more low-skilled jobs are available that do not require manual labor, more people with disabilities are able to work, as recent numbers show.

According to government officials, under 1.5 million individuals applied for Social Security disability benefits in 2017. This is the lowest number of applicants for SSD benefits since 2002. And so far, this year it is projected that the rate of applicants will be even lower. In May, over 8.5 million individuals received SSD benefits. This is a decline from September 2014, which saw a peak in applicants of 8.96 million.

Cancer sufferers may qualify for Compassionate Allowance

National Cancer Survivors Day took place earlier in June, and it serves as a good reminder that many people all across the nation are battling this disease and winning. Still, such battles come at a cost, both physically and financially. Cancer itself is a serious disease, and even treating cancer can make a person feel very ill for an extended period of time. This can lead to financial difficulties, especially when the medical bills pile up and a person cannot work for a year or more or if the illness is projected to be fatal.

The Social Security Administration recognizes that those who are battling cancer may be in need of financial help. Those fighting cancer may choose to seek Social Security disability benefits. And, depending on the type of cancer they suffer from, they may qualify for a Compassionate Allowance.

Disability benefits based on a diagnosis of depression

Depression is a serious mental illness that may rob a person of their happiness, energy and capacity to function. It can manifest in physical symptoms and may cause a Missouri resident to endure significant and life-altering suffering. Because depression can affect a person on so many different levels, the Social Security Administration recognizes it as a disability in certain situations.

In order for depression to serve as the basis of a disability benefits claim, the applicant's condition must qualify as a disability. For example, a person with depression may be required to show with medical evidence that they suffer from multiple depression-related disturbances, such as but not limited to sleep disturbances, decreased energy, diminished interest in life activities, thoughts of ending their life, changes in weight and others.

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