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Can a Terminal Illness Qualify for Social Security Disability Benefits?

Social Security Disability Benefits

The physical and emotional suffering imparted by terminal illness cannot be denied, but often, terminal conditions also prompt their fair share of financial duress. Social Security Disability benefits can play a key role in handling this financial burden — but many people who qualify struggle to understand their eligibility or get started with the application process. Below, we clarify the role terminal illness plays in qualifying for Social Security Disability.

Can someone with a terminal illness qualify for disability benefits?

Qualifying For Social Security Disability After a Terminal Diagnosis

Not only could you still qualify for SSDI after receiving a terminal diagnosis, the process may be expedited to ensure that you receive benefits as quickly as possible. The Social Security Administration's Terminal Illness Program (TERI) is responsible for handling terminal cases in a prompt, yet sensitive manner. Typically, the SSA is alerted as soon as a claimant or other individual alleges a terminal condition — or once the patient is placed in hospice care.

Medical conditions that qualify for the Social Security Disability TERI program include:

  • Metastatic cancer, stage IV cancer, inoperable cancer, or cancer that recurs after therapy;
  • Cancer of the esophagus, liver, brain, pancreas, or gallbladder;
  • Mesothelioma;
  • Small cell or oat cell lung cancer;
  • Dependence on a cardiopulmonary life-sustaining device;
  • A newborn with a fatal genetic or congenital defect;
  • Acute myelogenous or lymphocytic leukemia;
  • Being comatose for 30 days;
  • Anyone who is awaiting a heart, liver, or lung transplant or a bone marrow transplant.

This list isn't exhaustive; any terminal illness can qualify for the TERI program once hospice care begins.

How Substantial Gainful Activity Plays Into Terminal Illness Social Security Disability Benefits

Beyond processing, terminal cases are handled much like any other SSDI claim. For example, the condition must prevent the sufferer from engaging in 'substantial gainful activity,' or any work that nets a monthly income of over $1,220. This is typically the case for terminal illnesses, which, in most cases, severely restrict patients' ability to work. Those who are able to continue working, however, may enjoy the distraction and routine provided by their jobs — and as long as their income remains below the aforementioned threshold, they should have no trouble maintaining eligibility.

Social Security Survivor's Benefits

If you or a loved one passes away, leaving dependent family members behind, those dependents can also receive social security benefits. Eligible family members include:

  • A child under 18, or 19 if they're still in high school;
  • A surviving spouse over age 60;
  • A spouse with a disability over age 50;
  • A spouse of any age if they are caring for a child under the age of 16.

Your survivors are generally eligible for up to 75% of your monthly social security disability payments. Benefits continue until your children become adults or if your surviving spouse elects to receive benefits under their account.

Contact a Social Security Disability Benefits Lawyer

As you deal with the physical and emotional burdens of terminal illness, the last thing you need is to stress over Social Security Disability benefits. We're happy to handle these concerns so you can focus on your health and other important matters. Get in touch today to learn more about our SSDI services.  Contact Underwood Law Office in McKinney, TX at (972) 535-6377.

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