Ok, so winning cases is pretty darn important. However, I consider my advice and experience concerning coordinating benefits for a client just as important. Why? Well, oftentimes people walk into my office wanting to appeal a disability determination or to ask questions about early retirement without knowing the ins and outs of how and why someone would choose one option over the other. Our initial consultation is much more than the filing of an appeal or the starting of a case. It is a discussion in which we review your options, plan for your future, and determine the best course of action needed to ensure all financial and medical bases are covered.
Let me give you an example. I sat down for a consultation with a 63 year old gentleman earlier this week. He is disabled and cannot work any longer due to progressive medical conditions. He came to see me to discuss Social Security disability. Our discussion ultimately led us to determine that his best course of action was to pursue early retirement benefits on his ex-wife’s record, state disability benefits based on years of paycheck deductions he had made and a claim for benefits from a private, long term disability plan that he had been paying for and forgot he even had! We also started a disability case, but these other benefits will keep this man financially afloat while we work on the case.
The moral of the story? Before filing for any form or disability or retirement benefits, consult with an accredited professional who knows his (or her) stuff!
With that, here are some thought provoking facts concerning retirement and disability benefits that may get you thinking:
- If you are divorced, you may be eligible to draw retirement benefits on the record of a higher paid spouse, even if he/she has remarried. To do this, you should first determine what your benefit rate would be based on your record and then consider what your benefit rate would be on your ex-spouses’ record. If his/hers is higher and if you are unmarried, over age 62 and were married at least 10 years, you should have no problem pursuing benefits on your record, as well as, an additional amount based on your spouses’ record thus yielding you the higher benefit. There are some more complicated issues here involving deferred retirements, outside pensions, additional marriages, annulments and death. If your situation involves something more complicated, come see me.
- If you are married, even if you have never worked, you may be eligible for spouse’s retirement benefits once attaining age 62, if your spouse is drawing retirement or disability benefits.
- Are you the caretaker or guardian for someone and also a widow/widower? In many situations, auxiliary or survivor’s benefits may be paid to more than just spouses and biological children. Benefits may also be paid for stepchildren, grandchildren, adopted children and adult disabled children.
- If you are disabled, auxiliary benefits may be payable to your spouse, divorced spouse, children, disabled adult children and sometimes other family members.
- You can draw early retirement benefits and still pursue a disability case. If you win, your benefits increase to the full disability rates. If you lose, you remain locked into the early retirement rates.
- There are a whole host of disability related benefits that you may qualify for and not even know it. Most people pay into the California State Disability Program. You may have a year’s worth of benefits saved up! Other folks qualify for Family and Medical Leave under the US Department of Labor. Consider these programs.
- Many folks are disabled but are not ready to stop working. In these cases, you may be eligible for programs through the California Department of Rehabilitation. These are free programs specifically designed to get folks with disabilities back to work!
- If you are disabled due to a worker’s compensation injury, you may be eligible for supplemental job displacement benefits. These benefits often include job counseling, retraining and related services to help disabled folks return to the workforce.
In a nut shell, there is a lot to consider when making a serious life decisions involving disability and retirement issues. Do your homework and make sure you are in capable hands!