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Are Social Security benefits available to abuse victims?

Victims of domestic violence in Pennsylvania, in additional to physical and emotional harm, may also face numerous financial hardships from being injured, missing work or having to leave their households. In some cases, Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits may be available to these victims.

Social Security Disability Insurance provides benefits to an abuse victims and some family members if the victim meets the Social Security Administration's (SSA) definition of a disability and was employed at a job requiring payment of Social Security taxes. The victim must have worked for a sufficient and recent period to qualify for these benefits.

A disability is based upon the victim's inability to work. To meet the definition, victims can no longer perform the work they once did, the victim's medical condition precludes them from doing other work and the disability lasted, or will last one year or lead to death.

The SSA will require documents, such as a birth certificate, recent W-2 form, a work history summary, contact information about health professionals, who treated the victim and dates of visits, names and dosages of medicines and the victim's medical records. The SSA will also ask the applicant to execute a document allowing the SSA to contact their treating doctors and obtain medical records.

Victims do not have to disclose counseling or other services received from a domestic violence program. These programs do not provide medical services or hold records associated with a Social Security Disability claim and are not considered as mental health providers.

The SSA will review the application to determine whether the applicant meets the basic requirements for a disability and worked for a sufficient time. The Disability Determination Service (DDS) will then review the application. DDS doctors and disability specialists will review health records and consult with the victim's treating physicians and other authorized professionals. The SSA can also ask the victim to undergo a special examination paid for by the SSA.

If the claim is approved, the first payment will be paid for the sixth full month after the date the disability began. If the claim is denied, the victim can file a written appeal within 60 days.

Domestic assault victims should seek legal assistance to obtain a restraining order or other legal measures to protect their families. An attorney can also help victim obtain benefit to assist with their financial challenges.

Source: PCADV.org, "Are you eligible for Social Security disability benefits?," accessed on Nov. 12, 2016

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