Social Security is NOT Just For “Old People”

Sometimes, when an important issue arises, I have to call attention to it. As I inch closer & closer to possibly needing Social Security Disability benefits I get concerned not only over the process & fight I will need to get it, but if it will even be there when I need it? How many of us in the younger generation, (unless we have parents reaching retirement age) really know about Social Security & what it does?  How many of us recognize the urgency & diligence we need to possess to keep it going?  (Let me be clear, this is not a political soapbox posting. This is a bipartisan mess that needs to be sorted out.)

Investment News had this great snapshot of what Social Security is & what it does. In some cases, it’s over simplifying it a bit, but I feel it’s a great primer for people who don’t know much about it & want to learn more in a digestible form.

Why do I care?  Because, if I cannot return to work, once my short term disability benefits are depleted, I’ll have to file, maybe even possibly sooner, especially if I’m recommended to go “active” for transplant immediately after my evaluation. I am under 40, but I have worked enough credits & paid into the system enough long enough for that safety net to be there for me, but I have serious doubts from news cycle in the past two months that I will actually have it when I need it.

In case one is curious, anyone can create an online account at SocialSecurity.Gov.  There you will find if you qualify for any benefits & how to go about applying for different benefits.  It will also give you an estimate as to how much you may receive if your application goes through.

The LAM Foundation also posted this video on Vimeo that is a great primer on the process. If one is only interested in the disability portion (& not retirement) that is about halfway through.  The video walks you step-by-step on how to create an account & gives some good general information on disability benefits.

What is often the elephant in the room that is not always discussed is the the fight some people have to undertake for receiving those benefits. In most cases with disability, there’s a high denial rate on first time applications. There are certain illnesses that in some states will help expedite an application & get it approved more quickly, but I walk a very fine line with my illness. It’s really going to depend on my numbers.

Hopefully, I can discuss this with my financial coordinator at my transplant evaluation & get some sound advisement on when & how to file. Perhaps they’ll even help me with the paperwork.  I’ve heard just as many cases of successes in getting SSDI benefits but an equal amount of denials, appeals, & needing legal representation to get benefits so it’s not as easy as one might think to apply when that time comes. (Most people are lost when it comes to even knowing how or where to go to file an application as well).  It’s stories like these that make me very tempted to keep working at my current job for as long as possible, even if it’s harder to do so because at least with my job, I’m at least guaranteed a steady income.

My main concern now is if I do have to stop working, will I have to fight to get my benefits? I sometimes wonder I’ll even get a chance to collect before the proposed cuts take place.  I have paid my taxes, paid into the system like many for years. I do fear that my safety net will not be there when I need it. Yet instead of panicking, maybe I’ll take this time to yet again contact my representatives in Congress & let them know my concerns. It certainly can’t hurt.  But then again, I can’t turn a blind eye to the reality of what will happen if my benefits are reduced by 20 percent.  I do my best to be austere but still. I would eventually have to pay COBRA premiums or find another plan, have to keep a roof over my head, pay my prescriptions, the list goes on, with 20 percent less I might be faced with some very difficult decisions. (Keep in mind, since I am single, I am a head of household & income of one. I have no other income to factor in.)

While this Forbes article hits the nail on the head it over simplifies the situation.

I paid taxes for years & still do, I gladly forfeited funds from my check to feed the system.  However, I did do so knowing that safety net would be there if I need it. I know SSDI is not an income replacement, but a 20 percent reduction off of less than half of what I was already making is a tough pill to swallow. (My benefits could be reduced even more if I try to work part-time because what they estimate for benefits is based on tax filings. If I show less, I’ll get less, so in my case it’s most likely going to be an all or none situation when it comes to continuing to work). According to this  Forbes article,  I’m either just supposed to pay more or swallow it.  How do I pay more in taxes if I can’t work full-time or if I were to work part-time with reduced income?  How do I absorb that shortfall if I can’t work at all?  It’s a lot to think about.

While most young people don’t know or care about this issue, they should. It’s not just about whether one’s parents would need those benefits, it’s in the event of someone being struck with a serious medical issue themselves like needing transplant, having a catastrophic illness or an accident. These could easily put someone in an otherwise healthy state in a position to need those benefits sooner rather than later.

Everyone should be concerned & care.  However, most people think it won’t happen to them — until it does.

 

 

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