Increase In Social Security Disability Benefits For 2014

Social Security Administration (SSA) has announced a cost of living adjustment of 1.5% for 2014.  As a result, monthly benefits for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) beneficiaries will rise next year.

With the increase, the maximum federal benefit for an individual receiving SSI will rise from $710 per month to $721. The benefit for a couple on SSI will grow from $1,066 per month to $1,082. Many states add to SSI benefits for their residents meaning that actual payments could exceed these caps.  Massachusetts is one of the States that adds a supplemental benefit.

Planning With Special Needs Trusts

When your estate plan includes family or friends with special needs, care must be taken.  As the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program is means tested, beneficiaries are allowed only $2,000 in countable assets to retain eligibility.  Although Social Security allows beneficiaries to have one house and one car, any other assets over $2,000 will be countable and affect eligibility.  Therefore, if you leave money to a loved one who is receiving SSI or Medicaid benefits, there is a good chance it will affect their eligibility.  More importantly, it may affect the medical insurance they receive as part of their benefits.

One option to consider when your estate plan includes special needs family members is a Special Needs or Supplemental Needs Trust.  With this option, instead of leaving your assets directly to your loved one, you leave it to the Special Needs Trust for their benefit.  If the trust is properly drafted, the beneficiary can benefit from the assets without affecting their eligibility for Medicaid or SSI.  This type of Special Needs Trust is a Third Party Special Needs Trust.  Another type of Special Needs Trust is the Self-Settled Special Needs Trust, which will not be discussed as part of this post.

[Read more…]

Qualifying For SSI and SSDI Disability

If you are disabled and can’t work, there are numerous programs and assistance to help you.  Two of those programs at the federal level are Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI).  Although there are several differences between the SSI and SSDI disability programs, there is one similarity.  The definition of disability is the same and medical disability is assessed the same way under both programs.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is the disability program for those individuals that have not worked or have not worked enough recently to be insured for benefits. It pays monthly cash benefits to people who are age 65 or older, those who are blind, or those who have a disability and have $2,000 or less in assets and have no or limited income. Both adults and children can apply for SSI.

[Read more…]

Disability Benefits For Children With Congenital Heart Defects

Congenital heart defects (CHD) are Americas #1 birth defect, affecting nearly 1 out of every 100 babies. CHD are the leading cause of all infant deaths in the United States.

Defects can range from a hole in the heart and obstructed blood flow to conditions such as HLHS where multiple parts of the left side of the heart do not develop completely.  Surgeries can range from catheterizations to major open heart bypass surgeries and transplants.  Symptoms may include bluish skin, shortness of breath and fatigue.

SSI disability benefits are available to children with Congenital Heart Defects.  There are several CHD listed on SSA’s compassionate allowance list.  Children may also meet several listings to qualify for benefits.  The listings are:

104.6 – Congenital Heart Disease

To qualify under listing 104.6, the child must have cyanotic heart disease with chronically low blood oxygen, demonstrated by one of the following:

[Read more…]

Redetermination For Children’s Disability at 18

Many parents have asked what happens to their child’s disability benefit when they turn 18.  Do they automatically lose the benefit?  The answer is no.

At age 18, the child must go through a process called a redetermination of benefits to determine whether or not their benefits should continue.  The reason for this process is because the standard to determine disability is different for adults as it is for children.  As a child, the Social Security Administration (SSA) determines limitations based on functioning over six domains of function.  When the child turns 18, SSA must examine the child’s limitations and how it affects their ability or capacity to work.

So how does SSA determine a child’s ability to work at age 18 with little or no work experience.  SSA will assess the child’s ability to work or enter the workforce based on limitations observed in school, part-time work or volunteer position, and discussing the child’s limitations with persons that may have made observations regarding the ability to work.

Documentation will be needed to show these limitations and may include:

  • Medical records
  • School records
  • Teacher statements
  • Counseling records
  • Statements by employers, charities, internships and volunteer opportunities
  • Statements by family

Disability Benefits For Children With HLHS

I’ve addressed children’s disability benefits in previous posts, but would like address a specific disability, hypoplastic left heart syndrome, in this post.  Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome (HLHS) is a congenital heart defect where most of the structures on the left side of the heart are too small and underdeveloped (hypoplastic) to provide enough red blood flow for the body’s needs.  The Social Security Administration has listed HLHS on their list of compassionate allowances. Compassionate allowances are medical conditions so serious that their conditions obviously meet disability standards.  Compassionate Allowances are a way of quickly identifying diseases and other medical conditions that will ultimately qualify for benefits.

To recap, children’s disability benefits will be awarded to those children with:

  1. physical or mental condition(s) , or combination of conditions, that results in marked and severe functional limitations;
  2. The condition(s) must have been disabling, or expected to be disabling, for at least 12 continuous months; and
  3. The child must not be working and earning more than $1,010 per month.

HLHS is a rare congenital congenital heart defect (CHD) that may be diagnosed at birth or on a prenatal ultrasound.  HLHS consists of under-development of the left side of the heart.  Usually, the entire left side of the heart is affected, and can include the left ventricle, mitral valve, the aortic valve and the aorta.  Because of the under-development of the left side of the heart, the right side of the heart must work harder to maintain circulation to sustain both lungs and the rest of the body.  This, in turn, may cause heart failure.

A social security disability claim can take up to 2 years to process before being awarded benefits or ultimately denied, depending on many factors.  Because HLHS is listed on SSA’s list of compassionate allowances, the process may be expedited, and families may receive benefits in a matter of weeks versus a matter of months or possibly years.