I regularly receive questions about auxiliary Social Security disability benefits. Often these questions are from divorced persons who are struggling with the cost of raising a child, while the disabled, non-custodial parent has not been cooperative with regard to auxiliary benefits.
Recently I received the following question:
i have a 15 yr old son. my ex husband is dying of cancer. he has not applied for ss , so i was told by ss that i cannot apply until my ex does. in the meantime we r struggling. help. -S
Here is my response: unfortunately, there is nothing that S can do unless and until her ex-husband applies for disability benefits. Cancer is a listing level impairment and my experience has been that SSA adjudicators and judges are more likely than not willing to grant benefits. Further, some cancers are included in Social Security’s compassionate allowance program. Even if the cancer is treatable, the treatment protocol often lasts 12 months or longer, so a cancer claimant can usually get a closed period even if on-going benefits are not awarded.
Since auxiliary benefits are payable in addition to whatever benefits are payable to the claimant, there is no financial dis-incentive for the father to apply.
In short, there is no reason why a cancer patient should not apply for benefits, especially if doing so would provide support to a dependent child.
Sometimes the relationship between divorced parents is so bad that any request, even a reasonable one, is viewed with suspicion and hostility by the other. Perhaps this is a case where a mutual friend or clergy person could intercede to help persuade S’s husband to apply for benefits – if not for his own sake, for his son’s.
Jonathan Ginsberg represents Social Security disability claimants in Georgia. In practice for over 29 years, Jonathan publishes a widely known disability blog, a podcast and several disability web sites. In 2004, Jonathan published a "how to" book about Social Security disability called the Disability Answer Guide. Jonathan lives with his wife and 2 children in Atlanta.