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When you can't work because of a disability, you will still need a way to support yourself. There are two programs that administered by the Social Security Administration (SSA). There are some stark differences between them so you should learn about these before you file your application.

One of the biggest differences is that Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is for people who have a specific number of credits from working. The number of credits depends on how much you have worked within a specified number of years, usually the last 10 years.

For the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program, there are means and asset limitations. This program is for children and people who don't have the work history that is necessary for the SSDI program.

For both programs, the person who applying must have a disability that prevents him or her from having gainful employment. This means that they won't be able to support themselves through a regular job.

You mustn't think that the process of getting disability is a quick one. The process is often a hurry-up-and-wait situation wherein you apply for the benefits, wait for a letter telling you what to do and then follow those instructions. You might have to go to medical evaluations with the SSA's doctors to determine if you do have a severe disability.

Even if you should qualify, there is a chance that you will be denied. You need to look at this carefully. Read over all notifications. Strict time limits and processes exist for appealing the decisions that the SSA makes regarding your disability.

Source: The Motley Fool, "7 Things You Need to Know About Social Security Disability Benefits," Matthew Frankel, accessed June 13, 2018

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Many people worry about being able to live once they file for bankruptcy protection. While it is true that this process will impact your ability to get credit for a while, it isn't the end of the world. In fact, it is often better to file for bankruptcy than it is to have a bunch of unpaid, charged-off accounts on your credit report.

If you are worried about being able to rebuild your credit, you don't have to worry at all. You can actually start this process well in advance of the day you actually get credit again. One of the first things that you need to do is to give your money a job. Each dollar that you bring in should be budgeted so that you know where it is going before it is deposited.

Once you know where your money is going, you can adjust the plan as needed to help you meet your goals. This might not happen all at once. It will likely be a lengthy process that you have to go through to get to where you need to be after you file for this type of financial protection.

Make sure that you get into the habit of paying all of your bills on time. You don't want to have any that are late, especially if it is a creditor who will report to the credit bureaus. This can also help you when you do get credit again because you will expect that you have to pay the bill on time.

When you do get new credit, take the time to review the terms that come with it. You will likely have to start with low credit lines, such as department store cards. Pay these on time to establish a recent, positive payment history. Over time, you will likely be able to increase your borrowing power.

Source: The Street, "Bouncing Back From Bankruptcy - Sooner Than You Think," Brian O'Connell, accessed June 08, 2018

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Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is meant to be a safety net for people who are disabled to the point that they can't support themselves through work. The issue that some individuals find when they file for these benefits is that they have to expend their energy fighting for them.

SSDI applications often go through many different steps before they are approved or denied. These steps can include requests for more information, doctor's appointments and other activities. When you are dealing with a disabling condition, going through all of this can drain your energy to the point that you can't function with normal life activities.

We know that you probably never thought that you would have to go through all of this. You were likely a hard worker who didn't mind putting in a day of work for honest pay. Now, all you want is to know that the program set up to help disabled workers is going to work as it should.

Many SSDI applications are denied, but you have the right to appeal that decision. There are very strict time limits that apply to appeals, so make sure you don't waste time. If the time limit does pass by, you will have to start the application process all over again.

With the lengthy application and processing time for SSDI, you can't count on this as an immediate way to cover expenses when you are disabled. We can help you try to get this handled as quickly as possible, but you should be prepared to wait while the process moves forward.

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When you file for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy, appearing at meetings is not something you will ordinarily have to do outside of getting together with your attorney.

However, there is one meeting you will be required to attend. The 341 meeting, as it is called, is all about debts and creditors, and getting through it will not be as difficult as you might think.

About the meeting

In the United States Bankruptcy Code, Section 341 sets forth the requirement for a debtor to be examined under oath at a gathering of his or her creditors. Hence the name given to the meeting. You will not have to appear before the judge; the 341 meeting will be held outside of court. A trustee who is assigned by the United States Trustee will be in charge. The trustee will ask you questions about your current financial status, the property you own and the liabilities you have, and you will provide the answers under penalty of perjury. In advance of the meeting, your attorney will likely provide pertinent documents, such as your bank statements, tax returns, car titles and the like, so that the trustee can review them.

Inviting creditors

The 341 meeting is also known as the meeting of creditors because they will be notified and invited to attend. The good news from your standpoint is that they rarely accept the invitation, but anyone who does appear can question you about the disposition of your assets and any other topic that is pertinent to the administration of your bankruptcy matter. On the other hand, creditors who choose not to come to the meeting will not lose any of their rights relative to your case.

A word of caution

Your bankruptcy attorney will accompany you to the 341 meeting, and you will be reminded of the requirement to appear. If you do not, the trustee can request that the court dismiss your case. Keep in mind that the meeting usually only takes a few minutes and your attorney will see that you are well-prepared. The purpose is to provide the trustee with the information he or she needs to efficiently manage your bankruptcy case.

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Some people live with crippling bouts of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This extreme stress reaction to reminders of past traumatic events can sometimes meet the qualifications of a disability. The PTSD sufferer may then be able to receive disability benefits.

In determining whether or not the PTSD condition qualifies applicants for disability benefits, the severity of the condition matters a great deal. The effects of PTSD are on a spectrum ranging from mild symptoms that slightly disrupt someone's life to severely debilitating symptoms that make living a normal life impossible.

If you suffer from the more extreme version of symptoms, you may qualify for disability benefits.

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth edition (DSM-5), the American Psychiatric Association (APA) states that PTSD can have extreme consequences for its victims' ability to function in society.

Below are some examples:

  • Occupational disabilities
  • Physical disabilities
  • Social disabilities
  • Reduction in occupational and educational success
  • Absenteeism from school or work

Those suffering from PTSD typically have optimistic prognoses. Roughly half of adult sufferers recover completely within 90 days. Still, some will have to live with their conditions for long periods — one to 50 years. That can be daunting.

Are you struggling to cope with the lingering effects of PTSD after living through one or more traumatic events? You don't have to soldier on alone, as there is help available to you. Reach out to medical professionals and a Belleville Social Security Disability attorney to learn what you need to do to access the government benefits that may be available to you.

Source: Healthy Place, "Is PTSD a disability? How to get PTSD disability benefits," Tanya J. Peterson, accessed May 25, 2018

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Bankruptcy can accomplish many things that can get you on a more stable financial ground. If you are considering filing, you need to make sure that you are looking at all the ways it might impact your life. You might be surprised at how much relief you are able to enjoy by filing.

One of the attractive points of filing for bankruptcy is that you will enjoy the benefits of an automatic stay. This means that your creditors can't contact you with demands for money. You can check the mail and answer the phone without having to worry about what you might encounter.

We know that you can't base your decision to file only on this. Instead, you need to think about what it will mean for your finances. The decision to file doesn't mean that you are shirking your responsibilities. Instead, it is letting your creditors know that you realize you are in over your head and are willing to sacrifice to correct your errors.

When you file for bankruptcy, you have to decide what chapter is appropriate for your case. A Chapter 7 won't require you to make payments, but you have to qualify for this and you might have to part with some assets. A Chapter 13 bankruptcy requires you to make payments to the bankruptcy trustee, but you will likely be able to hang on to more assets.

We understand that this is a big decision for you. We can help you review the options and get your case moving forward on your chosen path.

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You have been missing mortgage payments for months, and you know the lender is going to foreclose on your home. That doesn't make it any easier when the official notices begin to arrive. You desperately look for any option to save your home or at least buy yourself some time to get your finances straightened out so that you can afford the house again.

One potential option is bankruptcy. You may be able to use either Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 to slow the process down.

When you file, an Order for Relief will be given out by the court. This puts an automatic stay on the foreclosure process. The lender cannot continue trying to collect on the loan and repossess the house. Even if the lender has already scheduled a foreclosure sale, it must get postponed. Nothing else in the foreclosure case can proceed.

The reason is that bankruptcy cases take precedence. That foreclosure is not cancelled, but simply put on hold until the bankruptcy case is over. This can often buy you a few months, perhaps three or four. Every case is a bit different, but that's a standard timeframe.

In this way, bankruptcy can give you the time that you need. An imminent sale is not going to force you out of your home in the next two weeks. With reorganization bankruptcy -- Chapter 13 -- you may even be able to get all of your debt sorted out so that you have affordable monthly payments.

As you can see, bankruptcy offers you a potential solution during foreclosure, so make sure you know exactly what steps to take.

Source: FindLaw, "Facing Foreclosure? How Bankruptcy Can Help," accessed May 11, 2018

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When you are getting ready to apply for Social Security Disability (SSD), you need to make sure that you are planning properly. There are a few things that you have to think about so that you can make the most of what you are going through.

One important thing to remember is that you should file your claim as soon as possible. These cases take a while to go through, so the sooner you get the process started, the better. Plus, this gives you a chance to fill out all the paperwork while everything is still fresh in your mind.

You need to ensure that you have a financial plan going into this so that you can survive in the period between the application and the approval. You can't go out on a spending spree. Instead, you will need to create a budget and stick to it. Even if you are approved for benefits, you will soon find that there are very strict limits to what you are going to get.

Another important consideration is making sure that you have medical care during the application period. You can't let your health slip so make sure that you take the time to make appointments and go to them.

When you apply, make sure you are only including factual information that can be proven. If your claim is denied the first time, you do have options for appealing. Pay attention to any dates or instructions in the correspondence you receive. These are very important and can impact your appeal, especially if you allow deadlines to pass by you.

Source: Kiplinger, "5 Tips on Applying for Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits," Michael Stein, April 24, 2018

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One of the biggest fears you may have as an Illinois homeowner is falling behind on your mortgage. Though you are current on payments now, you cannot help but wonder what your options are. Most lenders start the foreclosure process once borrowers are three months or more behind on payments. 

Bankruptcy is a solution that many people turn to when they are in danger of losing their homes. Here are some facts that may help you understand how you may benefit from the process if you become delinquent on your mortgage payments. 

Income affects bankruptcy options

If you still make a decent income and are simply struggling to pay your mortgage because of an unexpected financial emergency, you should consider filing for Chapter 13. Though you like the idea of not having to pay certain debts back and to keep your home, Chapter 7 may not work well for your situation. 

Chapter 7 has limitations 

The law allows for bankruptcy filers to claim exemptions to protect their home and certain assets. In order to keep your home in Chapter 7 bankruptcy, its equity must be less than the exemption limits. If your property has equity that is over the limits, the trustee can sell your home and liquidate other assets to pay down your debts. Another downside if you have modest income is you may not qualify for Chapter 7 because of the means test. 

Chapter 13 requires repayment 

Chapter 13 is ideal if you only want to catch up the arrears on your mortgage. Chapter 13 is for debtors who do not meet the eligibility criteria for Chapter 7 and are interested in a repayment plan. Chapter 13 bankruptcy can help you keep your home. The trustee negotiates with your creditors and mortgage lender to modify your financial obligations, so your payments are more affordable for your situation. 

Before filing for bankruptcy, reach out to your mortgage lender and inform the company of your situation. Many mortgage companies have hardship programs in place to keep borrowers from defaulting. Other options may also be available.

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One trip to the hospital can result in a stack of unpaid bills, especially since the doctors and the hospital may bill separately for their services. If you've got a credit card or two with enough room, should you clear the debt and pay the credit cards instead?

Experts say that's a really bad idea.

While bankruptcy over medical debt isn't uncommon, it's better to let that medical bill go unpaid than to bury yourself in credit card debt for a number of reasons.

Medical service providers are often slow to report you to credit agencies. You can make payments and sometimes even miss a few for a long time. One missed credit card payment, however, will damage your credit.

If your debt does go to collections, the credit agencies are required to wait 6 months before they add it to your credit report to give you time to work something out. Even when the medical debt does hit your report, new formulas weigh the medical debt differently. It doesn't count for as much as other kinds of bills.

Medical debt has little or no interest rate, while many credit cards charge in excess of 20 percent. You will pay much more to pay off the same amount over time on a credit card. Also, hospitals frequently have financial assistance for those who qualify. You may have to inquire through their financial department, because these programs are not routinely advertised.

Credit card bills, however, can destroy your credit even when you're paying them. One of the big weighted factors that affects your credit is how much of your credit is in use compared to how much of your credit is available. Use too much and your score dips considerably, even if you're making the payments.

Plus, putting that debt on credit can add years to your payments. It may even double how much you end up eventually paying over time, especially if you're just making the minimum payments. That's essentially a waste of money.

Finally, if your health takes another wrong turn or you develop chronic problems, you may end up filing for bankruptcy anyhow eventually. In that case, the struggle to pay those credit cards loaded with medical debt certainly wouldn't be worth it.

Source: The Motley Fool, "Why You Should Never Put Medical Debt on a Credit Card," Elizabeth Aldrich, April 25, 2018

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