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The million dollar question

Updated: Aug 29, 2018



One of the most difficult realities that applicants face while waiting for approval or denial of their #SocialSecurity Disability claims is how are they supposed to survive during that time (often a two year period!). Not a day goes by in my practice where a client doesn't ask me "how can I possibly afford to pay my bills if the #SSA won't allow me to work while waiting on my decision?" For this...I never have an answer that sits well with myself or my clients.


The reality of the program is that it requires at Step One of the sequential evaluation (https://www.ssa.gov/oidap/Documents/Social%20Security%20Administration.%20%20SSAs%20Sequential%20Evaluation.pdf) that an individual NOT engage in substantial gainful activity (SGA) (https://www.ssa.gov/oact/cola/sga.html). SGA is measured by the amount a person grosses each month from work activity. Currently, in 2018, a non-blind applicant CANNOT earn more than $1,180 in gross income per month, or they are technically disqualified and will likely be denied after application.


In what world can an individual live on $1,180 per month GROSS income? This is the million dollar question that I can never answer without a gripping pain in my chest. How can I advise my client, who is often on the brink of eviction or the bank is threatening to take their home, that they must buckle down and live even more below par than they are already use to? I have a hard time recommending to them that they turn to their friends and family for emotional and financial support, knowing full well that they are likely living more substandard than I've ever experienced.


To put it into perspective, $1,180 GROSS income equates to $14,160 per year. If you file single in 2018, you will owe 12% in Federal taxes for that year or $1,699.20 (https://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/taxes/federal-income-tax-brackets/). Let's further assume another 5-8% withheld for other State and miscellaneous taxes or $2,832. This leaves $11,328 of NET income for the entire year. This means that this individual has roughly $944 to spend on their home/rent/mortgage, insurance, utilities, automobiles, gas, health insurance, etc. The average rent in 10 U.S. cities (according to http://www.apartmentlist.com/rentonomics/national-rent-data/) is well over $1,000 per month. This leads to an assumption that my client would likely have to be collecting Food Stamps or inhabiting government subsidized housing to even get by on such a minimal income. Or, perhaps they are reliant on a spouse or loved one already.


Regardless, this question is always a difficult one to discuss. I sympathize with how impossible it must feel for my clients to give up their often low-paying full-time job to begin with in order to file for #SSDI or #SSI; but to suggest that they cannot work, even part time, to earn enough to cover the costs of their home and basic needs is a very tough pill to swallow.


In the end, there is no good answer and the process for obtaining disability benefits is no-doubt grueling and emotionally challenging; but when you factor in the idea of losing everything you have because of the financial devastation, it becomes all too much to understand for any person with good conscience. I encourage all of my clients to fight the fight and find solace in the fact that we will do WHATEVER it takes to put their #BestCaseForward to win them the benefits that they deserve.


If you know of a loved one or you need help fighting for disability benefits, please call us today! We are sympathetic to the strain that this process places on ones self and family and we want to help! Call us today or visit our website at www.gramenoslawgroup.com. 888-983-3890 toll free.

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