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Death does not wait for disability benefits

Federal disability benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA) are intended to serve as a financial safety net for recipients who have a qualifying disability. Unfortunately, many Michiganders have died after applying for Social Security Disability benefits and while awaiting their appeals of denied claims.

Approximately 8.8 million Americans rely on Social Security disability insurance. The maximum monthly amount is $2,800 which makes a difference for many claimants and exceeds the national poverty level.

There are 800,000 Americans awaiting the resolution of their appeals. During the 2016 fiscal year, 8,699 claimants died while on the waiting list for disability insurance. One year later, this grew to 10,002 claimants. If this trend continues, this number can rise to 11,000 people in 2018. The average rate for an appeal to be heard and adjudicated is 540 days.

The SSA claimed that it received a record number of requests for hearings. The increase was caused by aging baby boomers who reached their disability-prone age and an economic recession.

Approximately 10,000 people file disability claims each day and the need for Social Security grew by 16 percent over the last 10 years. However, the SSA's resources did not keep and its budget dropped by approximately 11 percent over that time adjusted for inflation. Though, the SSA said it reduced the waiting list for 11 consecutive months under a new plan and an $190 million appropriation.

Determining eligibility can be difficult. SSA must calculate work credits that are based on total earnings and work activity. It must also find that the claimant has a disabling condition that is strictly defined as being unable to engage in a substantial gainful activity because of a medically-determinable physical or mental impairment that is expected or lasted over one year or lead to death.

The disabling conditions are contained in a vast listing. Medical evidence must include a doctor's visit within the previous year, the doctor's opinion that there is a disabling condition and, in some cases, more evidence from a doctor or medical reviewer and a vocational specialist.

Attorneys can help claimants gather required evidence and pursue their claims. Seeking legal representation may also assure that claims are processed as expeditiously as possible.

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