Belleville, Ill. (Vocus) May 5, 2009
More working mothers are becoming disabled and losing their ability to support their families. That means it’s even more important for women to understand the role of Social Security disability insurance, according to Allsup, which represents tens of thousands of people in the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) process each year.
In the past decade, from 1999 to 2009, the rate of disability for women has grown by about 72 percent compared with nearly 42 percent for men, according to the Social Security Administration. Since 1990, the number of working women who are fully insured for Social Security benefits has grown by 28 percent to 99.7 million women. As of April 2009, 3.6 million women were receiving SSDI benefits as disabled workers.
Disabilities may result from an accident, a chronic disease or worsening condition. Some of the diagnoses affecting women include multiple sclerosis, cancer, Parkinson’s disease, stroke, depression and fibromyalgia.
“Women may not realize they are insured for disability benefits, especially during the period before they experience a severe disability,” said Cindy Ratermann, manager of disability claims specialists at Allsup. “Women who are widows or widows with young children also may qualify for Social Security benefits based on their husband’s work record, so this is another option to consider.”
SSDI is a federally mandated insurance program overseen by the Social Security Administration (SSA) that operates separately from the retirement and SSI programs. SSDI provides monthly benefits to individuals who are under full retirement age (age 65 or older) and can no longer work because of a disability (injury, illness or condition) expected to last for at least 12 months or is terminal. Individuals must have paid FICA taxes to be eligible. More details are provided in the SSDI Overview on Allsup.com.
Concerns When Women Can No Longer Work
Women who have been working and supporting their families face enormous difficulties when they can no longer work because of an injury, illness or chronic disease. Allsup offers stories from women in this situation, including a former math teacher and former retail employee, on Allsup.com.
“If you’ve become disabled and must stop working on a long-term basis, you need to look at filing for SSDI benefits as soon as possible,” said Ms. Ratermann, who has more than 20 years experience in the SSDI process, working with a staff of nearly 580 professionals at Allsup.
Women must have a work history and meet certain qualifications to be eligible for SSDI on their own record, including having paid payroll taxes for five of the last 10 years. Having a record of your employment history for the past 15 years is ideal, said Ms. Ratermann. “Your earnings determine what your SSDI benefit would be if the SSA finds you disabled,” she explained.
Keep in mind that the SSDI process can be lengthy, with some claimants’ cases taking two to four years because of the backlog in the disability claims process. More than 2.9 million people are expected to apply for disability benefits in 2009, according to the SSA.
“Women can make this experience easier on themselves by choosing a representative to handle their SSDI claim,” Ms. Ratermann said. Allsup provides representation at all levels of the SSDI application process, including the initial application and, if needed, the hearing before an administrative law judge.
At the hearing level, or level 3, about 90 percent of claimants have a representative. Individuals Allsup represents at the hearing level generally receive an award four months faster than the national average. “It can be to your benefit to get representation from the beginning,” Ms. Ratermann said.
Considering Social Security Disability
There are a number of reasons why a woman should apply for SSDI, including regular monthly income. Additional considerations include:
Medical benefits: Regardless of your age, 24 months after your date of entitlement to SSDI cash benefits, you are eligible for Medicare, including Part A (hospital benefits) and Part B (medical benefits).
Prescription drug coverage: Once you are entitled to Medicare, you are also eligible for Medicare Part D, the prescription drug plan
COBRA extension: If you receive SSDI benefits, the length of your COBRA benefits could be extended an additional 11 months.
Protected retirement benefits: When you reach retirement age, SSDI ends and you transition to Social Security retirement benefits. Social Security disability entitlement “freezes” Social Security earnings records during your period of disability. Because the years in which you collect SSDI benefits are not counted when computing future benefits, your Social Security retirement benefits may be higher than if your earnings were averaged over a greater number of years.
Dependent benefits: If you receive SSDI benefits and you have a dependent under age 18, he or she may also be eligible for benefits. Benefits also may be paid to your husband on your earnings record if he is age 62 or older; or at any age if he is caring for your child (under age 16).
Insights On Social Security Benefits
Allsup provides representation services for Social Security Disability Insurance, but there are additional considerations for women.
Keep in mind that Social Security offers marginal amount of financial protection to women as a result of their earnings and through their spouse’s earnings, depending on the circumstances. Most people need 10 years of work, or 40 credits earned through payroll taxes, to qualify for benefits.
Today, nearly 60 percent of the people receiving Social Security benefits, including SSDI benefits, are women.
Women and earnings. Women are likely to earn less than men during their careers, so their benefits may be lower. For example, in April 2009 the average SSDI benefit for women was about 22 percent lower at $ 920.47 compared to $ 1,188.52 for men. One factor is that many women work as caregivers for family members and children during their earning years. Often, women step out of the work force for years at a time and, over time, pay less toward Social Security.
Women and business ownership. If you and your husband operate a business together, you are entitled to receive Social Security credits as a partner. Even though you may file your income taxes jointly, you should file a separate self-employment report with Social Security. This ensures that you get Social Security benefits from your own work. Otherwise, all the earnings will be reported on your husband’s work record.
Women and additional benefits. Your payroll taxes go toward several programs besides SSDI.