The NSLS Veterans' Rights Project recently worked in partnership with the Social Work Unit to help a veteran's son establish his eligibility for Social Security disability benefits under his father's work record. People who become disabled before age 22 are eligible for disability benefits based on a parent's work history when that parent passes away or begins claiming retirement or disability benefits. Receiving these benefits can be transformational for people with life-long disabilities. It can mean the difference between receiving below-poverty level SSI benefits and disability benefits that are sufficient to support an independent life, with fewer restrictions on savings or holding other assets. However, it can often be challenging for people to establish when a disability began, in some cases decades earlier.
C came to the Veterans' Rights Project after attempting for over 20 years to claim Child Disability Insurance Benefits (CDB) as a disabled adult child. C was now 58-years old and unable to work due to neuro-cognitive disabilities that began at birth. C had submitted multiple CDB claims beginning in 1995 and was denied every time. That is when Veterans' Rights Project attorney Catherine P. Mendolia stepped in.
Upon meeting C, Mendolia referred him to the social work unit for support. Social worker Eva Jimenez quickly learned that C needed support to help navigate the complexities of his case. Over two years, Jimenez provided C with a variety of services related to his case. From helping C recertify for necessary public benefits, to obtaining resources, and providing supportive services.
Meanwhile, Mendolia represented the claimant at a hearing on appeal for CDB benefits, alleging the claimant’s date of birth as the onset date of the disability. The issue on appeal was whether the claimant has a disability that began prior to age 22. Jimenez provided assistance interpreting evaluations central to C's case.
Mendolia submitted an extensive hearing brief arguing that the claimant’s education and medical records, which dated back to age 6, showed that the claimant’s disabilities began before turning 22 years old. Taking into consideration the hearing brief and the claimant’s testimony at the hearing, the Administrative Law Judge issued a fully favorable decision finding C disabled at birth, warranting entitlement to CDB. Jimenez continues to work with C to ensure he has a smooth transition after obtaining benefits.