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If social security benefits are not an option, do you have a plan B?

I often meet with clients who have suffered serious work related injuries that end their careers. In the course of those meetings, I am asked this very question, “If I go on SSD, what exactly would my benefits be?”  You can find out what your monthly benefit would be by the use of a couple handy federal websites (or you could call them directly and wait on the phone for an hour or so while listing to lovely federalized Mozark). However, one of the larger questions that needs to be asked, is if you can afford to go on the benefit in the first place. Some people have a choice, others do not.

In this article, I will help you figure out that puzzle Are you sitting down? Just so you know, the monthly monetary benefits for Social Security Disability (SSD) run anywhere from $300.00 to $2,642.00 per month, based on your lifetime earned income. The national average is $1,148. I am not even going to try to explain how they calculate the benefits described in this article; all numbers quoted here are approximate. If you qualify for SSD, your benefits will be increased up to one-half of your base benefit if you have minor dependents. You will qualify for Medicare benefits two years after you qualify for SSD. If you so choose, you can thereafter earn up to $1,075.00 a month on the side (for 2014) which will fly you under the Substantial Gainful Activity radar allowing you to keep your benefits. You could be Bill Gates and get this SSD if you are entitled to it.

The Feds have a calculator on their website to figure out what you benefit will be. That site is: www.socialsecurity.gov/planners/benefitcalculators.htm.

If you are interested to find out what your lifetime earnings history is visit: www.ssa.gov/mystatement/. Big brother knows all!

If you do not have the work history (adequate reported income for five of the last 10 years), you can only qualify for Supplemental Security Income (SSI). The current monthly benefit is $721.00 per month. Once you qualify for SSI, you will immediately qualify for MediCal. SSI is federal welfare, and it is an income/asset based benefit. In other words, if you are earning too much money or if you have too many assets, you cannot qualify for the benefit. As far as assets go, if you are single, you cannot have more than $2,000.00 in cash ($3,000.00 if you are married). This benefit also gets reduced for your earned income roughly by ½ and is completely credited out if your earnings are earning a pinch over $1,500.00 a month. If someone is supporting you (you are getting “any kind” income), they can reduce your SSI monthly benefit by up to 1/3. If you are married, they can “deem” part of your spouse’s earnings as your income too and this will progressively reduce your benefit down to zero if your spouse is making $30,000.00 a year or more.

As you can see, the numbers are pretty skinny. There are people that could technically qualify for the SSD or SSI but choose to tough it out and keep on working. I had the pleasure of taking the deposition of a doctor in Redding last year who struggled into a cramped little break room in his wheelchair. He chose to work regardless of his disability. This would be me, unless one of my wife’s horses kicked me in the head real good while I was trying to collect my fair share of the manure needed for my garden.

If someone is on the fence regarding whether or not to apply, my advice is this. Just do it! It normally takes at least two years to qualify. Use it as a “Plan B” in your life. There are some serious “Back to Work” benefits when you qualify for SSD to help you get back in the old saddle. In addition, the claim can always be dismissed if you find a better way to keep a roof over your head. If you are interested in how you can get qualified, you can familiarize yourself with what the SSA calls their Sequential Evaluation Process. The basics are laid out in our Social Security Survival Manual. If you would like a copy, or simply want to download a PDF of the book, we will send you the complete Social

Security Survival Kit (which includes the book and all the forms you need to get started). If you want to talk to us in person, we will have a hot cup of strong coffee waiting for you.

Thomas Ledgerwood
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Proprietor Ledgerwood Law Group