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Social security disability payments affected by student debt

For most New Jersey residents, their employment is their primary source of income. The majority of people do not have trust funds and are not so independently wealthy so as to make working optional. When an individual loses the ability to work due to an illness or injury, the effects of that loss of income can be devastating. Fortunately, social security disability provides financial benefits for those who have an inability to work as a result of certain qualifying conditions. However, many people may not realize that there are various things that can affect the benefits received.

The Government Accountability Office recently released a report that revealed that approximately 155,000 people saw their social security benefits garnished by the U.S. government in 2013. These numbers include both those groups of people receiving retirement- or disability-related benefits from social security. The reason for the garnishments is that the people who were receiving benefits had defaulted on their federal student loans. The GAO reported that those receiving benefits due to disability comprised the majority -- 71 percent -- of those had their benefits cut.

In response to the numbers above, many people questioned the wisdom of cutting the benefits of-or seeking repayment of student loans from-people who had proven an inability to work. This problem only underscores the critical need for SSD benefits experienced by those who suffer a significant illness or injury. Although the social security disability program functions similar to an insurance policy, it involves an application that requires the person seeking benefits to prove that he or she has suffered a qualifying illness or injury.

Many different illnesses or injuries can qualify a person to receive benefits, so when someone becomes unable to work, the first thing that he or she should do is investigate whether his or her illness or injury qualifies. The list of qualifying conditions can by complex, however, and often requires an analysis of the symptoms and physical limitations caused by a condition, as well as a specific diagnosis. Because of the complexity and confusion associated with navigating the social security system, it is recommended that people begin the process of applying for benefits as soon as possible.

Source: Wall Street Journal, "155,000 Americans Had Social Security Benefits Cut in 2013 Because of Student Debt," Josh Mitchell, Sep. 10, 2014

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