Many Claimants find that they are waiting years before their Social Security disability case is resolved. For many, the years pass by very slowly.
So, what if you have a terminal illness when you do file for benefits? -If you do have a terminal illness when filing for benefits or your case takes a turn for the worse, you can be placed in expedited status. But even then, the wheels of the Social Security system still seem to move rather slowly.
If you die before your disability case is approved, depending upon the status of your case, you (or your heirs) will have options.
If you die and your case is then denied, it is basically dead in the water (forgive the phun). However, your surviving family members can still pursue the case to benefit your estate. Although, this is going to be quite difficult. The surviving member submits a death certificate and substitutes him or herself into the claim and it keeps moving forward through the system. If the claim is then approved, whatever back-pay would be owing to the deceased would be payable to the estate. If there is a dependent within the home, his or her benefits may continue as a normal case would have been treated.
Many times, this happens before a hearing. Claimants often have to wait a year or more to present their case to a Social Security Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). If the case is then approved at the hearing level, the ALJ will write a decision and the surviving family member(s) would then be able to receive the back-pay for the benefits owing up and until the time of the decision.
Sadly yet, and even worse, is when a claimant wins his or her claim and is just waiting for the paperwork to go through and he or she passes. This, more than anything, is the worst possible case scenario because the claimant was looking forward to being placed on benefits and was unable to live long enough to receive his or her back-pay. This is a terrible tragedy in a system that is doing its best to stay up with the incredible amount of applications and appeals filed each month.
If you do feel you may not survive until your case is decided, there are some things you can do to make sure your beneficiaries receive your past-due benefits.
1, Make out a will. If you want a certain person to receive your past-due benefits, have a game plan in place. It is going to be difficult enough to resolve your case with Social Security if you pass, be at least thinking ahead.
2. Designate a person close to you to get your death certificate, make an appointment with Social Security, and follow the directions given for how to receive your past-due benefits.
3. Make sure your case is expedited if it really needs to be. Don't be afraid to call Social Security and make sure your case is on an expedited status. If it is, the Administration will expect you to give them the necessary information they need to finish your case is quickly as possible.
4. File your case online or in person. This way, you have a confirmation the case was actually filed and you can at least know it is moving forward in a timely manner.
5. If your case is at the hearing level, make sure all your medical records are up to date. Then, designate a person in your family (or an attorney) to adequately present your case to the ALJ. Make out a time line in which you first became ill up and until the time you pass. Make it as easy on the decision maker in your case to verify you were disabled to the point of not being able to work. Just because you died, does not automatically mean you were unable to work up to a certain point. For example, if you filed because you had cancer, and then you died from a heart attack, you still may lose your case (even if you died) attempting to show your cancer was so severe you were unable to work at a job eight hours a day, five days a week. So, prepare to show the ALJ or any other decision maker how your cancer kept you from working (not the fact that you died from a sudden heart attack).
We hope this helps. We assist claimants throughout Texas and California fighting for their disability benefits. You can always contact us at: (888) 780-9125.