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Monday August 28, 2017

If you are receiving hospice care for a serious illness like cancer, liver disease, ALS, or any other terminal condition, financial worries are bound to supersede many others. How will you support your family and pay for palliative care? Fortunately, you will almost certainly qualify for disability benefits via the Social Security Administration (SSA), which can help support your loved ones now and in the future.

How Do You Qualify?

Hospice patients are nearly always approved for disability benefits due to the advanced stage or severity of their illness. When you apply, the SSA will review the Blue Book, which is its official catalog of disabilities, to verify that you meet a listing. If you are receiving palliative care for metastatic cancer, or cancer that has spread to distant regions of the body, you will automatically meet the listing for whatever cancer type you were originally diagnosed with. ALS will also qualify with just a diagnosis.

There is an online version of the Blue Book, so you can review the doctor to determine exactly where you qualify. Again, if you are receiving hospice care, it'll be nearly impossible to not medically qualify for Social Security disability benefits.

Who's Eligible for Benefits?

If you are approved for benefits, your spouse and any minor children may be able to receive auxiliary benefits, which are added payments intended to support them directly. Eligible family members include:

  • A spouse who is 62 or older
  • A disabled spouse who is 50 or older
  • A spouse who is caring for your children under 16
  • A child who is under 18 or, if they are still in high school, 19 (this includes adopted children and stepchildren)

These dependents will receive benefits equal to 50% of your monthly payment. In other words, if you receive $2,000 a month and have a 64-year-old spouse but no dependent children, your family's monthly disability income will total $3,000. If you do have children, they would also be paid benefits, with total family income not to exceed 180% of your benefits total.

Survivors' Benefits

Using a system known as survivors' benefits, the SSA will continue to pay monthly benefits to your dependents after you pass away. While the eligibility criteria is the same in most respects, there are a few differences:

  • A spouse who is 60 or older, provided you were married for 10 years or more
  • A disabled spouse who is 50 or older
  • A spouse who is caring for your children under 16
  • A natural, adopted or stepchild who is under 18 or 19 if they are still in high school
  • Parents aged 62 or older, provided that you paid at least half of their expenses 

Survivor benefit payments are higher than auxiliary disability income. The limit of 180% for a single family remains in place, but your 60-year-old spouse could receive 71% of your benefits and potentially get more as retirement age draws closer. If you have any minor children or stepchildren when you pass away, they can claim 75% of your benefit total. Your spouse (or child, if you are a single parent) will also receive a single death benefit valued at $255.

How Age Factors In

People often wonder if they can collect both Social Security disability and retirement benefits at the same time. The answer is no. The SSA disability program is in place to support those who are unable to work and not yet old enough to draw full retirement benefits. If you are collecting disability at the time you reach full retirement age, they will converted to retirement benefits. If you're already on Social Security retirement, you will not be eligible for additional disability benefits.

How to Apply

Applying for disability benefits is quite easy, as it can be done online from the comfort of your home. You may also apply in-person at your closest SSA office: to schedule an appointment, call the SSA at 1-800-772-1213.

Although it normally takes up to five months for a disability benefits application to be approved, those living with a catastrophic illness such as metastatic cancer, organ failure, or ALS are eligible for an expedited approval of their claim. You could be approved in as little as 10 days.

SSA disability payments can give you peace of mind when you need it most. You will rest assured that your loved ones will receive much-needed financial support while you focus on your health.

This article was provided by Disability Benefits Help. If you have any questions about Social Security disability benefits or the application process in general, don’t hesitate to reach out to our team at help@ssd-help.org.

 

Special thanks to Deanna Power, Director of Outreach for Disability Benefits Help, for contributing this article.

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