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Some essential information for those about to start receiving disability benefits

There is perhaps no better moment for someone dealing with an incapacitating injury or illness than the day they learn their application for Social Security disability benefits has been approved. Indeed, it means they now have access to a sort of financial lifeline that they can use to help cover basic necessities.

As comforting as it is knowing disability benefits will soon begin, there are a few things that individuals should know about the disbursement process ahead of time.

Payments

In general, disability benefits are paid on a monthly basis electronically. There are three forms of electronic payment used by the Social Security Administration: direct deposit, the Direct Express card program and Electronic Transfer Accounts.

While it's possible that you may prefer a check, the law dictates that if you applied for disability benefits any time on or after May 1, 2011, payment must be received electronically.

If you someday receive a direct deposit payment to which you are not otherwise entitled, it's imperative to contact the SSA as soon as possible. Failure to do so can result in possible criminal charges.

Taxes

It's important to understand that if you have income in addition to your disability benefits, you may be required to pay taxes. Indeed, roughly a third of all beneficiaries pay federal income tax.

As to the scenarios in which taxes are owed, they include the following:

  • Those who file as individuals and have an income of over $25,000 will be required to pay taxes.
  • Those who file jointly and have an income of over $32,000 will be required to pay taxes.
  • Those who are married but choose to file a separate return will likely be required to pay taxes.

Cost of living

If the SSA determines that the cost of living has increased, disability benefits will increase automatically -- each January -- to reflect this new reality. To illustrate, if the cost of living increases by 1 percent, your direct deposit payment will increase by 1 percent. Notification of any increase will be sent to recipients in advance.

Here's hoping the foregoing information has proven helpful.

As always, consider speaking with a skilled legal professional if you have concerns about the appeals process or questions about disability benefits in general.

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