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San Diego Social Security Disability Law Blog

Are SSD benefits taxable?

Although it is perhaps our nation's most important social program, most people, including those who live in California, probably know very little about Social Security benefits, especially SSD benefits. Therefore, it may come as a surprise to them that more than 62 million people receive a guaranteed payout from the Social Security Administration monthly, of which more than 20 million rely on these benefits to keep them out of poverty. Additionally, 175 millions workers are covered by this security net in case they die untimely or are severely injured.

One of the main issues many people do not realize is that it is possible that Social Security Disability benefits are subject to taxes. Although the majority of SSD and SSI benefits are not taxable, if either the beneficiary or their spouse has another substantial source of income, they may likely end up getting taxed on their benefits.

The basics about Social Security Disability benefits

When California residents imagine their old age, very few imagine they would become disabled or unable to work due to a chronic illness. However, one in four of people currently in their twenties is likely to become disabled before they reach the age of 67, according to the Social Security Administration. Since it is a real possibility, preparing for it is very important. One way to prepare is to know the basics about Social Security Disability benefits.

To qualify for SSD benefits, a person must be disabled according to the SSA's definition of "disability." The definition is a strict one and requires that the individual have a physical or mental impairment that is expected to last for 12 months or more, even resulting in death. The disability must be such that it prevents the disabled person from performing "substantial gainful activity." This means it must prevent the person from performing work-related activities. The SSA has a list of impairments it considers serious. If a person's ailment is on the list, that individual will automatically qualify for benefits. If not, then the SSA must evaluate the situation.

Meeting the definition of disability for Social Security benefits

Everyday injuries and illnesses can prevent San Diego residents from getting out of bed and getting to their places of employment. When these transient ailments attack, individuals may have to take a day or two off of work so that they can recuperate and come back feeling ready to accomplish their tasks. While short-term physical harm can be detrimental to a person's career, it generally will not disrupt their ability to earn an income for more than a few days.

However, serious injuries and illnesses can force individuals out of their jobs indefinitely. The treatment that a person may have to undertake to improve their health may stop them from working and contributing to the success of their home lives. Without the ability to work, a person may not have an opportunity to support themselves with their own income.

Does workers' compensation affect SSD benefits?

California residents who are injured in a work-related accident may be unable to return to work right away. If workers are disabled, as per the Social Security Administration's definition of the term, they might be able to file and collect SSD benefits for their disabling condition. But what happens if the injured individual is also collecting workers' compensation? Does one type of benefit affect the other?

Although disability payments from a private source, such as insurance or retirement benefits, don't affect SSD benefits, workers' compensation benefits could reduce them. This is because workers' comp is paid from federal or state workers' compensation agencies or by insurance companies for the employers. Similarly, civil service disability benefits, and state or local government retirement benefits, may also affect SSD benefits. On the other hand, Veteran's Administration's benefits and SSI do not reduce SSD benefits.

Improving an SSD application

A previous post here mentioned that there are certain ways to improve a Social Security Disability application to get it accepted on the first try. Although there is no way to guarantee that an application does not become one of the 66 percent of SSD applications that is rejected on the first instance, ensuring that paperwork is in order and evidence is in place can go a long way in getting an application approved.

At first glance, it might seem like a simple process: fill out the application, gather the necessary paperwork, send out the papers and wait for the decision. Unfortunately, this is rarely the case. The application itself is complicated for many people suffering from cognitive issues to understand and physical ailments from filling out. The very issues for which they are seeking SSD benefits might prevent them from filling out an accurate application.

Is there a way to improve an SSD application?

Although it is not possible to guarantee the success of a first time Social Security Disability application, there are certain steps California residents can take to attempt to improve the chances of their application getting accepted on the first try. Those who are applying are probably aware that they are facing daunting waiting times with dwindling resources for SSD benefits and that initial applications are more than 70 percent likely to be rejected on the first instance.

Many people plan on applying online, but this should not deter them from printing out the application and filling it out on paper at first. This can give them an opportunity to get familiar with the questions and gather all the information they may not have immediately ready. This way, when they go online, they do not need to halt the process every time they need to collect additional information. Having the medical records ready is not only a good idea, but a necessary one. Not only does an applicant need to answer questions related to their condition, they also either need to provide those documents to the Social Security Administration or give them permission to access them.

Can migraines qualify an applicant for SSD benefits?

What may seem like an ordinary headache to many and no cause for concern can often escalate into pain so severe that a sufferer is unable to move, much less work. Migraines are much worse than severe headaches. They often cause nausea, light and noise sensitivity, imbalance and fatigue. Although the 18 percent of people across the country who suffer from migraines may only get an attack once or twice a week, the symptoms can plague them on a daily basis. Research has found that 14 million Americans are affected by chronic fatigue and debilitating pain because of migraines on a daily basis. 90 percent of those who suffer from migraines are unable to work or move for hours, or even days, after they have had a migraine attack.

California residents may not be aware that the World Health Organization has classified migraines as the eighth leading cause of disability in the world, underscoring the serious consequences of this condition on an average individual. Migraines have the potential not only to leave someone unable to leave their house, but also can isolate them from their loved ones and leave them unable to work and take care of themselves, both emotionally and financially.

The four stages of SSD appeals

Submitting a Social Security Disability application is not the end of the road for many California residents-less than half of all first time SSD applications are accepted in the first attempt. A denial of SSD claims may seem disheartening but it doesn't have to be, because the Social Security Administration has a comprehensive appeals process that can be utilized to ensure the decision reached is the correct one.

Once the SSA has made a decision on the application, a letter is sent to the applicant explaining the reasons. An appeal may be requested within 60 days of receiving this letter and it must be in writing. There are four levels of appeal.

Can a widow receive a deceased spouse's benefits?

If anyone in your family has received Social Security Disability benefits, you know how that monthly check can be a lifesaver for everyone in the household. When, due to illness or injury, you can no longer work to earn a living, the Social Security Disability Insurance program can provide you and your family with much-needed income. But if the disabled recipient passes away, does that income disappear?

The short answer is no, not necessarily. Widows may file an application to receive a late spouse's disability benefits.

Cancers and qualifying for SSD benefits

With more than 200 types of cancer currently and around 1.7 million new cancer cases discovered every year, it is not surprising that it is included as a covered condition in the Social Security Administration's Blue Book of recognized disabilities. However, not all cancers are included in the listings-that depends on where the cancer originates, the extent of the body's involvement, duration and response to anti-cancer treatment and effects of post-therapeutic residuals.

As many California resident can imagine, cancer at any stage and of any type is disabling. The physical and emotional affects of the condition are in addition to the side-effects of the medicine or treatment being taken for the illness. As a result, working can become impossible while someone is trying to fight cancer. Those who are working may need to take time off for their treatment or while they are recovering from it. Those who have been treated may not be able to return to work for a number of months, if they ever can. At the same time, treating cancer is incredibly costly, with medical bills running into the thousands every month. Covering this expense can be difficult when income is consistent-without a job it can be downright impossible.