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Qualifying For Disability Benefits After an Organ Transplant

30 Nov

If you or a loved one has recently had an organ transplant procedure, or is on the wait list for an organ transplant, you will almost always qualify for Social Security disability benefits. The Social Security Administration (SSA) offers financial resources for people with serious illnesses that prevent them from working for one year or more. An organ transplant always medically qualifies, and you might also qualify while you are awaiting your donor.

Qualifying After a Transplant

The SSA maintains its own list of qualifying conditions, known as the Blue Book. For most illnesses or disabilities, the Blue Book has descriptions of test results or symptoms needed to qualify. Organ transplants are much more straightforward—If you have a transplant surgery, you will qualify for at least 12 months after the procedure. A lung transplant will qualify for a full three years after surgery. If you are the recipient of a bone marrow or stem cell donation, you will also qualify for benefits for 12 months.

It’s important to keep in mind that only organ donor recipients are eligible for disability benefits. Live donors typically recover in a matter of weeks or months depending on the donation, so they will not meet the SSA’s basic definition of disability.

Qualifying Before a Transplant

If you are eligible for an organ transplant, it’s more than likely that you’ll have a condition that is severe enough to meet a Blue Book listing. Some conditions that could qualify include, but are not limited to:

Listings for organ failure in particular are highly complex and are best read by a medical professional. Your doctor can help determine if you qualify for disability benefits via the Blue Book, but again, if you are on the wait list for a transplant you shouldn’t have any difficulty qualifying.

Medical Care and Disability Benefits

Most Social Security recipients also receive Medicare. Unfortunately, there is almost always a 24-month waiting period for Medicare. This means that you will not be eligible for health insurance for a full two years after your condition became severe enough to qualify for disability benefits.

If you’re currently working and receiving health insurance from your employer, you may want to evaluate your options before applying. It might be very expensive to qualify for disability benefits if you do not have health insurance through a spouse.

There is one exception to this 24-month wait period—End Stage Renal Disease. If you have ESRD and are waiting for a kidney transplant, you will automatically be enrolled onto Medicare as soon as your Social Security disability application is approved.

Starting Your Application

Most people can file for Social Security disability benefits online on the SSA’s website. This is one of the fastest ways to apply, and someone can apply on your behalf if you’re too ill to use a computer. You can also apply at your local Social Security office. To schedule an appointment to apply in person, call the SSA toll free at 1-800-772-1213.

Most claims will be approved in a couple of months. Once you’re receiving benefits, you can spend the additional income on your health costs or transportation bills, living arrangements for your family after surgery, childcare, and any other daily living needs.

We offer special thanks for this article written for TRIO by:
Eric Minghella
Outreach Specialist
Disability Benefits Help

Note: to download a PDF version of this article,click here: Trio Philadelphia Chapter final SSA article

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Life and death decisions about who gets organs

17 Sep
Life and death decisions about who gets organs

September 17, 2013
Pittsburgh’s Post-Gazette
An editorial by Jim Gleason

     A story out of Newtown Square, Pa., is known to many millions of people: Sarah Murnaghan, now 11 years old, received two lung transplants in June after highly emotional attention in news and social media and a public debate over the merits of transplant allocation policy. Sarah has end-stage cystic fibrosis, and a judge ordered her added as an equal to the adult and adolescent lung transplant lists when she was originally at the bottom of those lists because she was too young.

     Every thinking, feeling human being should wish Sarah and her family well in her continued treatment and recovery.

     But some facts have been largely overlooked: In the months since Sarah Murnaghan’s story first gained public attention, about 5,500 men, women and children received transplants made possible by the generosity of deceased donors and the work of the national transplant network administered by the United Network for Organ Sharing. Sadly, about 1,500 others awaiting transplants died because no donated organs were available to meet their needs.

     When confronted with a large, tragic situation, we often seek personal meaning in the story of one person, such as a child. We can’t grasp the immensity of the earthquake and tsunami that struck the Indian Ocean in 2004. We can, however, e-mail to our friends the pictures and stories of the children who were rescued and needed to be reunited with their families.

     We can’t take in the immense human toll of Hurricane Katrina, but we can sympathize with Charles Evans, a precocious 9-year-old who sums up the plight of many in New Orleans’ 9th Ward. If we can be assured that one child’s needs are met, we can somehow feel just a bit better about the fate shared by thousands.

I, too, see transplantation in uniquely personal ways. I received a heart transplant nearly 20 years ago. My wife lost an adolescent son, who helped save and enhance other lives through organ donation. I am president of Transplant Recipients International Organization, a group devoted to addressing the needs and interests of transplant recipients and their loved ones. I also am a member of UNOS’ board of directors, which votes on national organ transplant policies. We decision-makers are not thoughtless, faceless bureaucrats. We are donation and transplant professionals, transplant recipients, living donors and relatives of deceased donors.

     We all are informed by strong personal experiences, whether they are first-hand experiences like mine or the relationships that transplant doctors have had with hundreds or thousands of patients. We want to ensure that as many people as possible have the chance for renewed life through transplantation.

     As much as we are moved by our personal emotions and opinions, to have a national system that is fair to the needs of more than 119,000 transplant candidates, we must also weigh carefully what medical experience and data suggest will be the most effective and beneficial policy given the supply of organs we have today. We do not take lightly any decision we make, knowing that as long as there is an organ shortage, some people in desperate need will benefit and others will not.

     Allocation policy can change and will continue to change as needed to help candidates with the organs we have available. But the larger lesson is lost in the focus on policy. Every transplant begins not with a policy but with a personal commitment to save and enhance the lives of others through organ donation.

You can decide, right now, whether someone needing a transplant will live — through your decision to be an organ donor. In fact, your decision can help save multiple lives — in some instances, as many as seven organ transplants can be made possible by one donor.

     If the nearly 100,000 people who signed the change.org petition asking for a policy change for Sarah Murnaghan continue to advocate for organ donation by committing personally and by getting 10 more friends and family members apiece to make the same decision, that would be a potent force in Sarah’s honor to ensure that the next person in need — perhaps a child, or a grandparent, or a veteran, or a first responder — will have the same opportunity for renewed life and health.

     If would be a great tragedy if, as we all take justifiable comfort in knowing one person’s needs have been met, we lose sight of the many who still can be helped and the role we all can play in helping them.

     Jim Gleason lives with his wife, Pam (a donor mom) in Beverly, N.J., and blogs at gleasonjim.wordpress.com  E-mail him at GleasonJim@aol.com.
This editorial first published September 17, 2013 12:00 am