Social Security Disability Benefits in the New Year

Social Security Disability Benefits Elizabeth struggles from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and a mid- stage of a rare, but deadly form of lung cancer, mesothelioma.  Twenty years ago, Elizabeth was working as a volunteer firefighter when she was called to the scene of a fire at a historical building.  By the time Elizabeth arrived, the building was completely engulfed in flames and her husband, who was also a firefighter, was stuck in the building and was not rescued until it was too late.  Elizabeth was traumatized from the event, but had to keep on moving forward for her family.  Last year, she started to feel very ill and had her most severe panic attack to date when her son went away to college.  After visiting a doctor, Elizabeth was told she had been and was suffering from undiagnosed PTSD, attributed to witnessing her husband’s death.  Her early diagnosis of mesothelioma was a surprise for a younger woman of 50, but the doctors had speculated that she had breathed in asbestos particles from her husband’s clothing and body (after he fought fires) and from all of her own exposure while firefighting.  Her overall diagnosis is not good, but Elizabeth has a life expectancy of at least 2 to 3 years, maybe more if she’s able to manage her health in other ways.

Elizabeth never remarried and has worked hard, as a book keeper, to provide for her 3 children.  At one point, she had attempted to return to school and get her Master’s degree in Financing, but was too overwhelmed by the physical, emotional, and financial stress.  With one teenage child still living at home, Elizabeth cannot afford not to work, but is physically and mentally unable to.  Six months ago, she filed for social security disability benefits (SSD) and was initially denied because her condition was not severe enough, after being given a more thorough and accurate diagnosis, she was approved to receive benefits, as she is expected to be “disabled” for at least one year or until death.

One Mother’s Struggle, Millions Needing Assistance

Elizabeth is just one of millions of people who are struggling with physical and mental health issues on a daily basis, so debilitating that they are unable to keep or find a job.  Unfortunately, not every one of those people “qualifies” for assistance.  Filing for SSD is a lengthy, frustrating, and complicated process with strict guidelines that are based upon how much work you have performed throughout your life (and paid into Social Security) and if your disability falls within the List of Impairments.  Monthly SSD benefits can range from $300 to $2,200 with the average 2013 payment being about $1,132.  For many recipients, the benefits they receive are barely enough to get by and for others, not even enough to meet a “living wage”.

The 2013 National Poverty Guidelines for a Household of 1 is $11,490.  If a single parent with a child or a couple received the “average” monthly SSD payment they would fall below the poverty line for a 2 person household ($15,510).  Depending on where you live, how you live, and what you need, will determine if you are receiving a livable wage.

Promising News for the New Year

Starting in the 2014, some recipients will see a 1.5% increase in SSD benefits.  For some struggling recipients, this will be the boost they need offering a little financial cushioning while others will continue to struggle with their disability and trying to make ends meet.  Individuals, who have once worked hard to try to make a living wage, but have all of a sudden been thrown a “curveball” (like a disability), deserve and are entitled to financial assistance.  If you are disabled and are no longer able to work, will you file for benefits you deserve or suffer your financial, physical, and mental struggle in silence?

Injured On The Job? Workers Compensation Procedures

Most companies are required to maintain workers compensation coverage for their employees. Injuries, illnesses, or exposure to dangerous chemicals can make cause damage to an employee and lay the grounds for a workers’ compensation claim. The injuries covered under this policy can be minor or major. One are that is not covered under this general liability coverage is under the coming and going rule. This rule references any injuries that occurred on the commute to or from the work-site. Although these injuries would not be covered under a workers’ compensation claim, other injuries that occur while transporting goods, traveling, or running errands for your employer may be covered.

First Steps: File A Claim

The first step when you have been injured on the job is to file a workers compensation claim. Your supervisor or boss will provide you with the proper claim form to complete. If your employer contests the claim, a court hearing will be scheduled. It’s very important that you file your claim form as soon as possible after the injury. Some of the more long-term injuries from the incident may not appear until a few weeks or months after the initial accident, which is why it’s so important to have an attorney representing her interest in court. If you need an attorney, the time is now to contact Salvi Law.

What Happens Next?

After you have filed a claim, the insurance company will select a doctor to perform an independent medical examination. Preparing for this exam is incredibly important, since the doctor will send a report to the insurance company that is used to generate an offer for your compensation. Write notes about the appointment after it is over, and come prepared with your own list of questions for the doctor. Do not underestimate the severity of your symptoms during this appointment.

What Happens If My Claim Is Approved?

In general, the monetary payment under an approved workers compensation claim will represent up to 66% of your typical income, but what sets workers compensation apart is that these monies are tax-free. Since there are no taxes on these funds, it’s likely that your payment will be similar to your former income. All medical expenses will also be covered under a workers’ compensation claim, so long as those medical expenses are related to the workplace injury.

Should I Accept a Settlement?

If a worker has been on long-term disability for some time, one common tactic for companies is to offer that individual a settlement. In the short term, these settlements can be appealing. Over the long run, however, the settlement may not be in your best interest. For example, if your medical costs increase or you incur other complications as a result of your initial injury, the settlement may not be enough to provide for your future medical expenses. Especially when you are not represented by a lawyer, the company will usually undervalue the settlement offer. You can reject the settlement, and it’s recommended that you have a conversation with an attorney about your best options.