Filing a claim for Social Security disability benefits could be one of the most important financial decisions you make in your life. However, people mistakenly view it as the "last great act of their working career." Thus, they delay in filing a claim for years, or worse, they never file a disability claim. To delay in filing a claim, or to never file a claim could have disastrous financial consequences to you, your family, and eventually your Social Security retirement benefit.
When should you file a disability claim with Social Security? Simply put, when you reasonably expect that you will be unable to work for a minimum of 12 continuous months, or you expect that your medical condition will result in death.
The value of Social Security disability benefits to your retirement age can be staggering. For example, a claimant in their mid-forties with a monthly disability benefit amount of $1,000 could easily have a claim worth well in excess of $250,000 if they never return to work. This amount does not include the automatic Medicare health insurance benefits one is entitled to twenty-nine (29) months following the date the Social Security Administration (SSA) finds that you became disabled.
A statement commonly made by prospective clients is, "I've never lived off of the system" or "I have never asked the government for a handout." Unfortunately, this is a message often spread by society and a terribly misinformed American media regarding how and why one becomes eligible for Social Security disability benefits.
Simply put, you are eligible for Social Security disability benefits because you have worked most of your life! It is important to understand you are insured for disability insurance benefits by SSA if you have worked 5 of the last 10 years (the years do not need to be consecutive). In essence, you have a disability policy with the federal government. You paid the premium for this disability insurance either by paying Social Security withholding taxes or self-employment tax.
It is also critical to understand that if you do not file a disability claim within 5 years of becoming disabled, your earnings record at SSA will not be protected for retirement. This means that every year you do not work and pay taxes to the Social Security Administration, zero earnings will be posted to your earnings record for retirement. This eventually becomes a problem because SSA will average in "all the zeroes" with the years you did work to calculate your retirement benefit. Of course, when SSA is done doing the numbers, your retirement benefit is reduced… often dramatically.
However, when you file a claim for Social Security disability and you are found disabled, your earnings record and your retirement benefit is protected during the time you are disabled. This is because SSA does not average in the non-earning disability years into your retirement benefit. The result is your retirement benefit is protected and not reduced. In fact, generally speaking, if you remain disabled to retirement age, your monthly disability benefit amount turns into your monthly retirement benefit.
Winning SSA disability cases based on chronic pain and chronic fatigue is difficult. It is important to obtain the advice of an experienced disability attorney as soon as you believe you need to file a claim.
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