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What happens when a person dies before receiving Social Security Disability benefits?

Social Security Disability Lawyer

Sadly, it is not uncommon for a person who has applied for Social Security Disability Benefits to pass away during the process before a determination is made on his or her claim. Unfortunately, the process for receiving approval for benefits is very lengthy and involves extended wait times.

The majority of individuals require a hearing in front of an administrative law judge in order for the case to be approved, which takes approximately two years to occur after the application for benefits is submitted.

Although it is frustrating and disappointing for a person to pass away before he or she is able to receive their benefits, Social Security, fortunately, allows eligible family members to receive some benefits on the deceased person’s behalf.

Who is eligible for Social Security Disability benefits?

Social Security Disability benefits are available for those with a medical condition that lasts or is expected to last for at least 12 months or result in death who are unable to engage in work activity due to their condition.

There are two Social Security disability benefit programs available and administered by the Social Security Administration:

  1. Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits are available for those individuals who have worked and paid taxes on their income for roughly at least five of the past ten years. This benefit program functions like an insurance program in that a person seeking benefits must prove that he or she became disabled before their “date last insured,” which is the date that a person stops being “covered” by his or her work credits.
  2. Supplemental Security Insurance. This program is for people who have limited income and resources. SSI monthly payments are reduced based upon any other source of income he or she is receiving. Both requirements have the same medical requirements in that the person’s condition must be severe enough to prevent them from engaging in any work activity.

What is the process for receiving Social Security Disability benefits?

First, the person needs to file an application of benefits. The application will require that you provide a list of your conditions and a list of the doctors which you have been seeing. Your application will then process at the initial stage with the state’s Department of Disability Services. The stage agency will send you additional forms to complete, such as a Work History Report, Function report, and other forms which are sent out depending upon your condition.

The case manager assigned to evaluate your application may send you out to a doctor paid for by Social Security if additional information is needed to assess your medical condition. Most individuals are denied at this initial stage and progress onto the reconsideration stage. After the reconsideration stage, the next step is to request a hearing in front of an administrative law judge.

The administrative law judge will review the work history and medical information in the file, work history, testimony provided at the hearing regarding your conditions and things that you can and cannot do due to your conditions, and testimony from a vocational expert regarding whether jobs are available in light of your medical limitations.

What happens if the person dies before the hearing occurs?

For an SSDI claim, an administrative request for hearing will not dismiss the request for hearing if there is a qualifying person who may serve as a substitution of party.

A “substitution of party” is a person who is entitled to receive Social Security Disability benefits on a deceased person’s behalf.

The persons who are entitled to receive benefits on the person’s behalf are the deceased individual’s surviving spouse, the child or children of the deceased individual, the parent or parents of the deceased individual, the parent or parents of the deceased individual, or the legal representative of the estate of the deceased individual. These persons are listed in order of priority.

The surviving spouse must either be living in the same household with the deceased individual at the time of the deceased individual’s death or be entitled to a monthly benefit based on the same earnings record as was the deceased individual for the month in which the individual died.

A “parent” is defined as a person who is the mother or father of the deceased individual, you are the adoptive parent of the deceased individual and became the adoptive parent before the deceased individual became 16 years old, or you are the stepparent of the deceased individual and married the deceased individual’s parent or adoptive parents before the deceased individual became 16 years old.

For SSI benefits, the person entitled to receive benefits on the deceased individual’s behalf are the surviving spouse of the individual if they were living within the same household as the deceased individual within six months of the person’s death, or if the deceased individual was a disabled or blind child who was living with his or her parents within the 6 months immediately preceding the individual’s death.

In order to avoid the request for hearing being dismissed, a Substitution of Party form must be completed and submitted to the hearing office. This form will indicate who the eligible individual is in relation to the deceased person. The form will indicate whether the eligible person wishes to attend the hearing and testify on the person’s behalf, or if they would prefer not to attend a hearing and for a decision to be made without the hearing taking place.

LaBovick Law Group can assist if your loved one dies while waiting for benefits.

The legal team at LaBovick Law Group is experienced with substitution of party cases and will be able to advise you on how to proceed should your loved one die while waiting for a request for hearing with an administrative law judge. If someone you know is suffering from a medical condition which prevents them from working, give us a call at (561) 625-8400. Our team is ready to assist with your application for benefits and support you through this challenging process.

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