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Disability? It's almost always complex

When most you begin to suffer some disabling illness or medical condition, you may realize you need to find a program that will provide benefits. Once you can no longer work, you know your income will drop and paying your bills will become a severe problem.

Knowing which programs to apply for and how to navigate the maze of requirements would be challenging enough if you were healthy, but can be overwhelming once you are sick. A case involving a man who was an Air Force veteran illustrates the complexity. 

He retired after 23 years with the Air Force and was still healthy. A few years later, he was diagnosed with terrible news. He suffered from "mild cognitive impairment," which often leads to Alzheimer's disease. Three years later, suffering from early onset Alzheimer's, he could no longer work.

Because of this, he qualified for Social Security disability insurance (SSDI) benefits. But, as with many disabled individuals, his situation was more complex. His disability was not service connected, so he did not qualify for programs from the VA, and he was too young for other programs designed for the elderly. He also did not qualify for Medicaid.

His wife had to quit working in order to take care of him, as he could no longer be left alone and placing him in a long-term care facility would cost the family more than $50,000 a year.

She even contacted her U.S. Senator for help, and they had little success in finding a program that could help. As she found out, many of the potential programs take months to process the complex paperwork and you cannot apply in advance.

This is all overwhelming to most people. The illness, the loss of the ability to work, the loss of income and the complexity of the programs can be too much. The system is far from perfect, and every situation is different. An attorney can help by dealing with some of the complexity and to identify your eligibility for various programs, but it is never easy. There are times when no help is available other than Social Security disability. The U.S. does not have the safety net that exists in some other countries.

Source:, "Air Force vet can't find care," Prue Salasky, November 8, 2015

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