The Social Security disability system can be confusing and difficult to navigate, especially when it comes to receiving benefits after the wrongful death of loved one. While it is possible to successfully traverse the gauntlet of the Social Security system, a lawyer familiar with Social Security matters can guide the way to the benefits you deserve.
There are two different types of benefits offered by the Social Security Administration (SSA): Social Security Disability Insurance (SSD) and Supplemental Security Disability Income (SSI).
Provided on a temporary or permanent basis, dependent upon the nature of a disability, SSD is a payroll tax-funded program that provides income supplements to those who are restricted by disability or completely unable to work. SSI is funded from general U.S. Treasury funds and provides financial supplements to low-income seniors 65 or older, the blind and the disabled.
The path to receiving these benefits can be convoluted. An experienced lawyer can make the journey a lot smoother, especially if you’re trying to continue to receive a loved one’s benefits after a wrongful death. The following tips can help you improve your chances for a favorable decision from the SSA.
Know Which Benefits to Apply For
If you have worked regularly and have paid taxes into Social Security, you should apply for SSD, or disability insurance, benefits. These benefits are for workers 18 and older who can no longer work due to disability.
If you have not worked enough to qualify for SSD, are already receiving welfare or are under the age of 18, you need to apply for SSI, or supplemental security income, benefits.
If you have physical or mental impairments that will keep you from employment for at least one year, you should apply for either (or both) of these benefits right away. The application and review process can be lengthy, so the longer you wait to apply, the longer it will take to begin receiving the benefits you need.
You can apply at your local Social Security office or by calling Social Security’s toll-free number: 1-800-772-1213. If you are unsure of which benefits to apply for, contact a lawyer that is familiar with Social Security issues.
Are You Eligible for Continued Benefits after a Wrongful Death?
If a loved one who was already receiving benefits suffers a wrongful death, you might be wondering if you’re eligible for survivor’s benefits. Like filing for SSD or SSI, applicants for continued monthly benefits must meet certain criteria to qualify. A full list of family members who are eligible can be found here.
Detailed Records Can Make or Break Your Case
When completing your application for benefits, it’s vital to document all of your health problems, not just your most severe disability. The SSA will take all of your health problems into consideration, especially if they compound each other. Be honest about how severe your problems are, but be sure to explain the difficulty level of everyday activities based on your “bad” days. Be as detailed as possible.
Many people suffer from mental health problems as a result of physical disability. If you are suffering from depression, anxiety or any other mental health issues, seeking treatment from a mental
Doctor’s treatment records are also extremely important in SSA decisions. A successful case can hinge on the amount of treatment, whether or not you required a specialist and the quality of records. Be sure to include detailed doctors’ reports and results from any MRIs, EMGs or other relevant medical tests.
If you obtain a lawyer to help you through this process, he or she will look over these documents to ensure they are detailed and complete.
Wrongful Death Documents
Just as in a regular application for benefits, applying for survivor’s benefits after a wrongful death requires detailed documentation. You or your lawyer will need to provide proof of death, as well as any relevant medical records. If you are personally receiving benefits already, you will need to supply that information along with your own medical records.
Denials are Common
Denials from the SSA are common early in the application process. Do not get discouraged. If you find yourself denied, you may want to consult a lawyer if you haven’t already. Appeals should be filed as soon as possible, as they must be submitted within 60 days of the date on the denial letter. It is best to submit your appeal in person.
When fighting a denial of an application for survival benefits after a wrongful death, an appeal is less likely to be successful. There is, however, another option you can pursue.
Civil Litigation an Option for Wrongful Death Damages
If the SSA ultimately denies your claim for continued benefits after a wrongful death, you still have the option of filing a civil lawsuit against the liable party. While damages in a wrongful death lawsuit aren’t guaranteed, a lawyer may be able to recover damages a great deal larger than what you would have received in survivor’s benefits from the SSA.
A knowledgeable wrongful death lawyer can determine if you have a basis for a successful civil claim.
Navigating the complicated Social Security system can be frustrating and discouraging. Don’t lose hope. If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed, a knowledgeable lawyer can guide you through the process and help you achieve a successful result.