What Happens To My Disability Claim If I Pass Away?

What happens to my disability claim if I pass away?  A sad reality of many disability claims is that a person applying for disability benefits may pass away before their claim is resolved. A disability claim can sometimes take two years or more to resolve.  For claimants with severe medical conditions, they may not survive the wait. If your medical condition is documented as terminal, or you are expected to pass away soon, the Social Security Administration (SSA) may expedite your claim.  Sadly, not all of these claims are expedited.  Many of my clients ask me about what could happen to their claim if they pass away.  Some of my clients have passed away from an unexpected cause and not from the conditions they assert are disabling.  Different cases have different facts and must be pursued in a way that have the best chance of getting these past due benefits.  In claims for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits, your family may be entitled to benefits if they file a Substitution of Party claim.

A Substitution of Party allows for one person in a priority list of family members to pursue past due benefits on behalf of the deceased. The following groups of people may become a Substituted Party:

  1. The spouse of the deceased
  2. Surviving children
  3. Surviving parents, or
  4. The legal representative of the estate of the deceased

In order to become a Substituted Party, the SSA will need several tasks completed. A Form HA-539 must be completed and a copy of the claimant’s death certificate must be submitted to the SSA. Additionally, an attorney assisting the Substituted Party may need other documents to be signed to properly represent the claim. If a claimant has passed away while waiting for a hearing, the Substituted Party may be asked to appear at a hearing to testify before an Administrative Law Judge.

In a claim for SSDI with a Substitution of Party, the deceased will not be entitled to continuing monthly benefits. Disability benefits in these types of claims are limited to past due benefits from the onset date to the date that the claimant passed away. The person who serves as a Substituted Party may not always be the person who is paid the past due benefits if there is someone with a higher priority. The process for requesting a Substitution of Party can be daunting, especially in a difficult and heartbreaking time. An attorney that is experienced in these matters can guide you through this process.

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