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Cancer survivor fighting to improve SSD benefits

An Ohio woman is fighting to have the laws governing Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits changed. Julia Schaefer is in the process of establishing a non-profit whose goal is reform of the disability determination system for the chronically ill.

Of interest to recipients of disability benefits is her effort to change the work calculator used to determine eligibility for SSD. Currently, the calculator takes into account the income earned in the past 10 years. Shaefer says that 10 years is not long enough - any people who are chronically ill were probably recovering from surgery or trying to obtain a diagnosis during those ten years and had little or no income. She proposes using lifetime work history to determine an individual's eligibility. Shaefer said, "They may have worked for 30 years, but their disability income doesn't include the money they put in while they were well."

Shaefer is one of the longest-surviving patients with her type of cancer. She says that being a cancer patient is hard, but being disabled and trying to navigate the SSD system is harder. She takes strength from her knowledge that her efforts to improve SSD will benefit others. She is also asking that Congress raise the resource limit for people seeking Supplemental Security Income. That limit is currently $2,000; Shaefer hopes that it can be raised to $20,000. She says that SSI applicants must currently impoverish themselves in order to qualify for SSI benefits.

Individual wondering about the SSD work calculator and how it could affect their benefits should contact a disability advocate.

Source: Dayton Daily News, "Cancer survivor advocate for disability rights of all," by Susan Dalzell, May 2, 2012.

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