The intricacies of the Social Security disability are extensive and endless. Without the benefit of good legal advice, you can end up losing thousands of dollars even at the end of your Social Security disability case. This is another example of why going it alone can cause one to have regrets later on.
Whether you live in Maine, Massachusetts or New Hampshire, Social Security disability claimants are many times faced with the need to apply for welfare assistance in order to make ends meet. Whether it’s transitional assistance through the state, such as Emergency Aid to the Elderly, Disability and Children (EAEDC) in MA, or the need to apply for general assistance through the City of Portland, Maine one will be required to sign what is called an interim reimbursement lien agreement and apply for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) in order to qualify for this interim cash assistance. What is expected by the state or local entity is that at the end of your Social Security disability case, if there is recovery of SSI, then the first check for retroactive benefits will be going back to the state or town/city to repay them for the assistance they have paid out. Interestingly, such reimbursement is only payable out of SSI benefits and not out of Social Security disability insurance benefits (SSDI).
With this in mind, a smart and experienced Social Security disability lawyer will understand that when a claimant receives a favorable decision and has both SSI and SSDI claims pending, the SSI claim is always processed first. Because of this, the processing of the benefits does not take into account whether the claimant will be entitled to retroactive SSDI benefits that may in fact preclude entitlement to any SSI benefits at all.
For example, let’s say Mary (a resident of Salem, Massachusetts) has had to apply for SSI benefits given she is receiving EAEDC benefits from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and files for SSI, SSDI and EAEDC benefits in January, 2015. She has remained out of work since June 1, 2014 and is claiming she is totally disabled from all forms of gainful employment and a decision is ultimately rendered in her favor at the hearing level in May, 2017. The first thing the Social Security Administration (SSA) will do is figure out how much in retroactive SSI benefits Mary is entitled to receive beginning the month after she applied for SSI: thus she would be paid SSI benefits from February, 2015 up until May, 2017. With that in mind, Mary might receive up to $735.00 per month plus a state supplemental benefit for a period of 28 months, and in an amount that exceeds $20, 000.00. That first check will likely finds its way being sent to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, allowing the state to recoup the amount of EAEDC it has paid over the course of that 28 month period: at a rate of $303.00 per month in cash assistance, this would allow for reimbursement of $8,484.00. The remainder of the money will then find its way to the claimant.
However, what happens next is concerning. Assuming, for instance, Mary’s entitlement to SSDI is $1000 per month and goes back to her onset date of June 1, 2014. She would thus be entitled to receive $1000.00 per month after a 5 full month waiting period: that is, as of December, 2014. This would entitle Mary to approximately $28,000.00 in SSDI over the same period of time. However, prior to releasing any money, SSA would hold the money, indicating in their Notice of Award that they are holding on to this amount as there may have been too much paid in SSI benefits. Next, SSA would redetermine the amount Mary is entitled to receive in SSI by taking into account the amount of SSDI that has now been determined and would find that all of the SSI had been overpaid. They would consequently reduce the amount that is payable in SSDI by the amount overpaid in SSI. This would result in a reduction (or loss of $8,484.00). The fact that the state has been $8,484.00 would be done deal: there is no way to get that money back.
However, a knowledgeable Social Security lawyer would assist Mary with a withdrawal of of her SSI claim prior to the processing of the SSI claim and, by doing so, would allow Mary to keep an additional $8484.00 in benefit money in her pocket. The law provides that at any time prior to the processing of a claim, one is entitled to withdraw their claim. Since Mary would not receive any additional money by pursuing the SSI claim (and assuming she doesn’t need to purse the benefit given she has already been approved for Medicaid health insurance, or what is referred to as Mass Health in Massachusetts), there would be no reason for Mary to pursue the SSI claim.
The assessment for each individual claimant is different, and given this, it is always advisable to have an experienced Social Security disability lawyer on your side who can think about these types of issues on your behalf. If you, or someone you love, needs a detail oriented, aggressive Social Security lawyer to assist them with their claim, contact the Law Offices of Russell J. Goldsmith at 1-800-773-8622 to see how we can make a difference in your case.