Articles Posted in Government Benefits

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A bill that has recently been introduced in Congress aims to do away with the 5-month waiting period that mandatorily applies to Social Security disability claimants whose claims have been approved. Even after a Social Security disability applicant’s claim is approved, he must wait 5 months before he starts receiving his benefits. If the person also qualifies for Medicare befits, then those privileges have an even longer wait time attached to them. Social Security disability claimants who have begun receiving their benefits must wait a further 24 months before their Medicare benefits start kicking in.

Some exceptions have been made to the 24-month Medicare waiting rule. For example, individuals who are suffering from terminal kidney failure or advanced stages of ALS may have their wait period eliminated. The wait times are extremely distressing for Social Security disability beneficiaries who cannot afford to wait for important medical care as well as money to meet their daily expenses. The bill spearheaded by Representative Steve Israel (D) New York, aims to eliminate both the 5-month waiting period and the 24-month waiting period for commencement of Medicare benefits.

As a Social Security disability lawyer who sees firsthand how stressful those wait times are for claimants, I strongly support this bill. I also support the waiver of the 5-month waiting period as well as the 2-year waiting period for Medicare benefits for all claimants. Many disabilities make it virtually impossible for a person to earn enough to support himself and his family. Making him wait arbitrary lengths of time to begin receiving benefits only increases the stress on the disability applicant and their loved ones.

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Some people ask whether immigrants  can be eligible for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI).  First, authorized non-citizens may be eligible for SSI if they fit into one of these categories granted by the Department of Homeland Security:

  • On August 22, 1996, they were lawful residents of the US and were disabled or blind.
  • They were receiving SSI on August 22, 1996, and lawfully residing in the US.
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In Georgia, there are various programs that help people living in poverty.  These programs include Supplemental Nutrition Assistance (SNAP), Head Start, and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). SNAP is a program that provides low-income households with food stamps to help pay for the cost of food. In order to be eligible for SNAP in Georgia, you must be a resident of the state and have a current bank balance (savings and checking combined) of under $3,001 if you share your household with a person with a disability or person over age 60. If you do not fit into these categories, your bank balance must be under $2,001. You must also have an annual household income (before taxes) below a certain amount (for example, no more than $32,630 for a family of 4).

Another program supporting low-income families is TANF, which provides temporary assistance to families. This program has four goals, which includes giving families support and job preparation.  In order to be eligible for TANF, you must be a US citizen, national, legal alien, or permanent resident, and also have a low income. For example, a family of three must have an income of less than $784/month to qualify for TANF. The amount of cash benefit this program provides depends on the county you live in and your family’s income.  However, there is a five year lifetime limit on TANF benefits.

Head Start, a federal program, educates and supports infants and children up to five years old in families with incomes under the national poverty level. Head Start programs enhance young children’s cognitive, social, and emotional development and work to prepare them for success in school. There are also some Early Head Start programs which support pregnant women and babies living in poverty. The maximum income eligibility for Head Start depends on your household size. However, there are groups eligible for Head Start programs regardless of income including:

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The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAPS) is a federally-funded program that assists low-income households with their meals. Anyone is eligible to apply for food stamps. Once you submit your application, in person or through the mail, you will be interviewed by someone from the Division of Family and Children Services (DFCS)to properly assess your need for food stamps.

Your request for food stamps will most likely be met in the state of Georgia if you:

  • Have a bank balance (savings and checking combined) of $2,001 or less