When your health impairments are interfering with your ability to work, it is difficult to understand what options are available. Many wonder whether they can financially survive without working—how is it possible to afford a mortgage and household expenses without a pay check. How will you continue to go to the doctor without your health insurance? At Nash Disability Law, we counsel individuals regarding these difficult considerations every day. Following is a check list focused on the considerations involved in one such situation-where you are employed and about to stop working due to your disability. This is what we recommend:
- Know your rights. If you are employed, you might have employee benefits, including sick leave, FMLA, short/long term disability insurance, extended health insurance. Federal law requires that if you provide your employer with a written request of employee benefits and plan details that your employer provide you with this information in writing within a certain time frame. We helped one new client understand her rights and how to request this information—to her surprise, she reported only a short week later that her employer responded to her request and already sent the information to her.
- Talk to your doctors. Have a candid discussion with your doctor and tell him/her that you are unable to continue working and that you plan to file for disability. We talk to hard-working individuals everyday who to their detriment, assume that their doctor is aware that their health impairments are interfering with their ability to work. You cannot assume this. Remember that your doctor sees many patients and therefore depends on your thorough report of not just how your medications are helping you, but also about how your health conditions are impacting your daily functioning, including your ability to function at work. Going forward, at each appointment, remember to accurately report your symptoms at each appointment. What you tell your doctors is the same information that the SSA relies upon in making their decision.
- Understand your monthly benefit amount. Many people who call have no idea what their Social Security Disability benefit amount is and that it does not replace their monthly income. As a result, they are blindsided by their inability to afford their pre-disability expenses. The Social Security Administration allows you to create an account on their website and download your Social Security Earnings Statement. Follow this link to create your account today: https://secure.ssa.gov/RIL/SiView.do. While you can’t always predict when you will become unable to work, you can better understand what type of income you might expect if you are approved for disability.
- Explore all available resources. We cannot always plan for every eventuality, including a health condition impairing your ability to work. If you are in this situation for the first time, you have most likely never explored what resources are available to individuals in financial need. In Illinois, the Department of Human Services (DHS) runs the food assistance program but also has many other programs that might be of help, including the Department of Rehabilitation Services, providing employment support and counseling for individuals with disabilities. DHS is also the main contact for an Illinois Medicaid application and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). While undoubtedly difficult, it is worth it to explore all available options even ones you could have never predicted you would need. Visit this link for more information: https://www.dhs.state.il.us/page.aspx?item=27894
- Gather your Worker’s Compensation settlement contract or old TTD stubs, even if old. The SSA requires that a disability claimant provide evidence of any compensation they received as a result of a work injury. This is because the law states that a disability claimant who is currently receiving or has received in the past temporary payments or a lump sum settlement/award in Worker’s Compensation might have their disability insurance benefit reduced. This is known as a “Worker’s Compensation Offset.” In general, a claimant’s combined disability benefit and worker’s compensation benefit (when broken down into a monthly benefit amount) cannot exceed 80% of what the worker made on average in the past. The calculation is complicated and the rule is upsetting for many, but do not worry needlessly. Call us at Nash and we will counsel you as to whether you would expect your disability benefit to be offset. Most importantly, whether your disability benefit will be reduced or not, the SSA requires evidence of the Worker’s Compensation money received to even process your disability award, so do not delay. Pull the information from your records, or request a copy of the settlement from the IL Worker’s Compensation Commission.
- Gather your 2014 and 2015 W2s or paystubs. This is another example of what the SSA requires to process your disability application. If a claimant worked during the year they are filing disability or the year prior, SSA will request evidence of the money earned from employment. The easiest thing to do is to gather your W2. If you don’t have this, you can request it from your employer, or you can gather your most recent paystub which will typically provide a “year-to-date” summary of earnings.
As you can now see, the considerations involved in filing for Social Security Disability benefits are numerous and at times complex. The lawyers and staff at Nash Disability Law in Chicago, Palos Hills, and Elgin can provide you with the right information to empower you and your family during this difficult time. Do not delay in calling for a free consultation today: (312) 443-0900.