Supplemental Security Income
Through research I discovered Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is not only difficult to get approval, most offices will not accept the application unless it has been completed by an attorney. It is not unusual for an application to be denied (most always) the first time, often the second, and sometimes, third, and fourth. It has taken some clients up to five years to receive approval. The good news is the insurance benefit is made retroactive to the first day of filing. The bad news is the payments come too little too late for some of us.
In addition, an attorney (in Indiana) will take 1/3 of the settlement off the top for his fees. One email said their state’s attorneys wanted 25% or $4,500, whichever amount was the lowest. While it is time-consuming and can be overwhelming for the average person, there is no reason someone other than an attorney can’t complete the forms at little or no cost to the patient.
The SSI regulations regarding cancer state that you will not be considered disabled until after 12 months, and they will wait to see how you are responding to your cancer treatments to make a final decision. If you do well, you will be denied because you should be able to return to work. If you die, it becomes a moot point.
A CEO in our local Indiana SSI office said as long as you can answer a phone, you are considered able to work. Some manage their treatments very well. Others have difficulty just getting from the bed to the bathroom and back. If you are lucky enough to have had a job before you became ill, you may not have one when you recover.
In my case, I had a good job with benefits. However, I was told that if I could not maintain my hours, I would lose my benefits. I had a compassionate boss that allowed me to bank hours – work more hours when I could, so I had them for the days I couldn’t. Had I not been able to bank my hours, I would have lost my benefits at a crucial time in my treatments.
Of all the people who wrote to me, not one said they were trying to get out of their bills. They just wanted some extension on payments, creditors off their backs, garnishments to stop until they could get back on their feet. They wanted a short reprieve – some time to focus on healing without the stress of losing their home, car, or job.
If a garnishment has been filed against you, you can file a motion and request a hearing to remove the garnishment. If your wages are being garnished and it is causing undue burden for you and your family, you can file a “Claim of Exemption” form with the court. You can find this form at your local courthouse and fill it out yourself. Be prepared to bring documents proof of your income and expense, including mortgage, rent, utilities, groceries and medical expenses. You do not need an attorney to prepare the paperwork for you.
Final Thoughts from Angie
Our politicians seem to be tweaking laws to benefit them and “for the people” is an afterthought. Currently, if you have a student loan and run into a difficult time in your life, you can ask for a deferral. Your payments are deferred for a particular length of time, but the interest accrues. If that can be done for student loans, tell me why the same cannot be done for mortgage and car loans. The owner would then have a roof over their heads and transportation to get to work or to treatments, and a short reprieve from payments.
Regarding short term disability – unless your employer has provided it as an addition to your benefit package, or you have paid for a policy out of your pocket, provision for short term disability does not exist. We need a wellness plan for Americans – a plan that covers screenings, tests, and exams to catch a disease before it gets ahead of us – before it costs thousands upon thousands of dollars. But….there is no money in well; the money is in sick, in treatments, in medicines.