Many people contact our office asking if they should file for Social Security Disability benefits or Supplemental Security Income. Typically, they wonder if they will be eligible for benefits, but they also wonder if they should wait to file for benefits; after all, many people are injured and think they may return to work or they become ill, but believe they might get better. Whether you have suffered a serious job injury, a car accident, or have a debilitating disease, every day you wait to file for disability benefits is a day that you lose money. SSD benefits are available one year prior to the date of application, if you were not working during that past year. SSI benefits are available on the date of application, but not prior to the application. Therefore, it is important to file for disability benefits as soon as you think you may have a period to time off work or you are uncertain as to when you may be able to return to work because of your disability. Applying for disability benefits is not a hard thing to do. It can be done online at ssa.gov and we can help you with your application. You can also call Social Security at 1-800-772-1213 to begin your application over the phone. If you are in doubt about whether you should apply, call our office for free and talk to one of our specialists. We can help you if you have a disability that prevents you from working.
An increasing number of Social Security disability beneficiaries have federal student loan debt. The Government Accountability Office recently released a report (GAO-14-866T) indicating that “from 2002 through 2013, the number of individuals whose Social Security benefits were offset to pay student loan debt increased about five-fold from about 31,000 to 155,000.” Since the report notes that only about 36,000 of those having benefits offset were aged 65 and older, many individuals with disabilities are having their benefits garnished for student loan debt, even though they may be eligible to have their debt forgiven. Please be aware that there may be though tax consequences of discharged debt and you would need to consult an accountant about your particular financial situation. If you are disabled and think you may be eligible for discharge of your debt, call the SSA to see if you can receive forgiveness of your student loan debt. The SSA's national number is 1-800-772-1213.
DIANNA CANNON, J.D.