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Qualifying for Disability Benefits While in Hospice

If you are in hospice care, you might be eligible for financial aid. The Social Security Administration (SSA) offers benefits for people who are unable to work due to a serious illness. People in hospice almost always medically qualify for disability benefits. In fact, your family may be eligible for additional resources as well.

The SSA’s “Definition of Disability”

To qualify for disability benefits, there are two sets of medical criteria you must meet. The first is that you’re unable to work and earn a “gainful income,” which is $1,070 per month in 2017. If you’re in hospice care but still working (remotely or otherwise) and earning more than $1,170 monthly, you will not qualify regardless of your condition.

Your disability also must last for at least 12 months, or be terminal to qualify. This criterion is not a challenge for anyone in hospice care to meet.

Medically Qualifying for Disability Benefits

You’ll need to have a condition that the SSA considers “disabling” to qualify for benefits. This is never a problem for someone in hospice care. Some qualifying conditions include, but are certainly not limited to:

  • ALS
  • Advanced cancer
  • Heart failure
  • Kidney disease
  • Liver disease

The SSA maintains a catalogue of disabling conditions known as the Blue Book. The entire Blue Book can be found online. If you have any doubts as to whether your condition will qualify, you can always review the manual with your doctor.

Eligible Family Members

If you are approved for Social Security disability benefits, your family could be eligible as well. Family members who can receive additional payments include:

  • A child* age 18 or under
  • Your spouse age 62+
  • Your spouse of any age, caring for your child under age 16.

*Adopted, biological, and stepchildren all count as eligible parties.

Each family member is eligible for up to 50% of your monthly payments, but you’ll have a household maximum of 180% of your payments. For example, if you qualify for $2,000 in monthly benefits and you have two young children, you’ll receive $3,600 per month.

Survivors’ Benefits

In the event of your death, your family will be eligible for resources as well. Your spouse or eldest child will automatically receive a $255 one-time death payment from the SSA. The following members of your family are then entitled to up to 75% of your monthly entitlement:

  • A spouse age 60 and older, presuming you were married for at least 10 years
  • A child under age 18
  • A spouse of any age caring for a child under age 16
  • Your parents if they were “dependent” on you, meaning you paid for at least 50% of their living expenses.

A spouse cannot receive Social Security survivors’ benefits at the same time as retirement benefits, but they can choose to receive whichever payment is higher to help your family as much as possible.

Starting Your Application

Most people can complete the entire application for disability benefits online. This is the most convenient way to apply. If you’d prefer, you can also apply in person at your closest Social Security office. There are more than 1,300 offices located across the United States. Make an appointment by calling the SSA at 1-800-772-1213.

Once approved, you can spend your benefits on any daily living needs. These include, but are not limited to, rent/mortgage, monthly bills, healthcare and hospice needs, childcare, travel expenses, and more. Social Security disability allows you to focus on what’s important: your health.

Helpful Links:

The SSA: https://www.ssa.gov/

Gainful income: https://www.disability-benefits-help.org/glossary/substantial-gainful-activity

SSA Blue Book: https://www.ssa.gov/disability/professionals/bluebook/AdultListings.htm

Apply online: https://www.ssa.gov/disabilityssi/

Nationwide offices: https://www.disability-benefits-help.org/social-security-disability-locations

Ohio Council for Home & Care: https://www.ochch.org/about/