If you provide ongoing care for a disabled individual, then you may need to be the one who applies for benefits on his or her behalf. There are additionally some state and local programs that provide additional benefits directly to full-time caregivers of the disabled, which means that you may also be able to receive some financial support yourself for filling the role of caregiver to another individual.
Situations in which Caregivers May Need to Assist
Any condition that compromises the mental capacity of a disabled individual may require a caregiver to step in to facilitate the application process for Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits.
Parents of minor children with special needs or disabilities must also apply on behalf of their kids.
If you provide care for a developmentally disabled adult or adults with Alzheimer’s/Dementia, you may need to initiate and provide support and guidance throughout the disability application process as well.
A caregiver may need to apply for disability on behalf of his or her charge in many other instances too, including for coma patients and for individuals that are in and out of consciousness, for example.
The Application Process
When applying for benefits online, you have options available to describe whom it is that the application is for and who is completing the application. These options include:
· Filling out an application for yourself
· Filling out an application for someone else who is with you
· Filling out an application for someone else who is not with you
You must indicate that you are completing the application on behalf of someone else, and if that person is unable to comprehend the process and sign the application, then there will be additional steps required for applying for benefits on their behalf. Those details will be covered in the article section, which follows, on the topic of seeking assistance from an advocate or attorney.
You can also apply in-person, at your local SSA office on behalf of the disabled person in your care. However, he or she will still need to sign the application. Review the next section to know how to handle an application for SSD benefits, if the person in your care is not mentally competent.
Seeking Assistance from an Advocate or Attorney
As the SSA requires the signature of the applicant on the formal application for SSD benefits, you may need to seek additional legal assistance in order to act on behalf of an applicant with compromised or otherwise limited mental capacity.
In other words, if the person for whom you are applying for benefits is unable to understand the SSD application process and is unable to sign the application, then you will need to either:
· Have the legally designated representative of the disabled individual sign on behalf of the applicant and submit the associated documentation to the SSA to prove he or she is legally allowed to do so,
· Seek legal help to have a designated representative assigned to handle legal and medical matters for the person that is in your care, including the formal disability application process.
Becoming a Representative Payee
If the individual is approved to receive SSD benefits, you may also need to apply to be a representative payee with the SSA.
This simply means that benefit checks will be issued to you to use for providing the care and support your charge needs. This is a legally binding relationship that requires you to communicate honestly and openly with the SSA a minimum of four times per year regarding the manner in which benefit funds are being spent.
The application is Form SSA-11, and can be found here: http://www.ssa.gov/online/ssa-11.pdf It is important to note however, that in most circumstance, the SSA requires this application form be completed during an in-person interview appoint with an SSA representative, typically at your local SSA office.
Applying for Caregiver Benefits
As previously mentioned, there are some local and state benefit programs available that may provide direct financial and other support services for you as the caregiver of a disabled person.
These programs are typically administered through the department of family services in your home state, and may include the following:
· Referral services and other information
· Assistance in gaining access to other services
· Support groups, training, and individual counseling services
· Caregiver respite programs, to give you a break from your role as caregiver
· Supplemental supportive care services
· Income, usually in the form of Medicaid waiver payments issued to you as the caregiver of a Medicaid recipient
To know for certain what caregiver benefits may be available in your area, you must reach out to your local department of family services or another similar social services agency to make inquiries.
Social Security Disability Help