If you’re not organized, the expenses following a spinal cord injury can be a huge blow to your financial stability. Organizing your financial life as soon as possible following a spinal cord injury is vital to protecting yourself and your family financially in the future.
The overwhelming and emotionally-charged time following a spinal cord injury makes it easy to put financial concerns on the back burner; but you must resist this temptation. In the years ahead, the bills accrued during this period can haunt you. Here is a guide to help stay on track financially following spinal cord injury.
Newly Injured? Here’s What to Do
If you are alone in dealing with your finances, try to find a family member or friend who can help you make important financial decisions. And if you have a spouse, it is important that you are on the same page financially. If you were working at the time of your injury, you will need to contact your employer as soon as possible and ask them about disability benefits.
Tell your employer that you will be out of work for at least 3 months, if returning to the same job is possible. You’ll also need to get your other financial matters in order, such as collecting all important financial and legal papers and estimating what your future medical expenses will be by the time you’re discharged and sent home. Your future medical expenses will depend on the level and severity of your injury.
You’ll also want to organize your medical bills by priority level to ensure they are paid on-time—and don’t forget to keep all medical bills and records organized.
Additionally, you will need to make sure you’re utilizing all sources of funds that are available to you after your injury. Not only does this include your medical care and equipment covered by health insurance, but this includes VA benefits, assets, auto insurance, and any lawsuit money or settlement money you may receive after your injury.
**Critical** Keep Your Health Insurance Active
If you have health insurance at the time of your injury, do not cancel it. It is critical that you keep your current insurance policy following a spinal cord injury, even if your plan is not great. This is because, if you have a lapse in coverage for two or more months, you could be denied coverage for up to a year within that health insurance group if you decide to stay.
If you are covered by COBRA and you lose your job following your injury, you may be able to keep your health insurance coverage. This federal law protects people in this very circumstance. Learn more: https://www.ehealthinsurance.com/cobra-insurance-coverage
Have a Settlement? Consider a Special Needs Trust
Many people following a spinal cord injury receive settlement money after their injury through a lawsuit. You may also have received an inheritance and accumulated a large sum of money at once. If you find yourself in either of these situations, you may want to consider setting up a special needs trust.
A special needs trust is an account that will allow a person with a spinal cord injury to keep their settlement or inheritance money while still receiving government assistance such as Medicaid, SSI, and VA pension. Many government programs (like Medicaid) require that people must have a limited amount of money in savings to remain eligible for federal assistance. A special needs trust bypasses this issue by allowing people with disabilities to keep and save money for quality of life items that are not usually covered by the government, all while maintaining eligibility for their needed government benefits.
A special needs trust will be set up so that payments are scheduled to be sent out over a structured time period. These payments are exempt from Federal and state income taxes. The trust does not have to be made up of simply money, as well. A trust can include other items such as personal property, real estate, stocks, and cash.
If you did not come into a large amount of money, but you have a good income you do not want to stop, you can set up an Income Cap Trust. This trust allows you to receive a portion of your salary in order to stay within Medicaid income guidelines.
Setting up a special needs trust takes expertise, which is why you will need to find a lawyer who has experience setting up special needs trusts. Finding a lawyer who has experience helping people with spinal cord injuries is a huge plus.
Need More Funds?
A lack of funds is unfortunately common after a spinal cord injury, with many people not having enough money to buy the equipment they need to be independent following their injury. The high costs of wheelchairs, modified vans, and modifying one’s home can be out of reach for many. Additionally, many people are not covered by health insurance at the time of their injury, resulting in astronomical medical bills.
There are many community organizations that can help. Start by reaching out to your local Lions, Elks and Kiwanis organizations. These nonprofits frequently organize fundraisers to raise money for people in the community that have been injured; some organizations even help build ramps into homes, as well.
You can also reach out to a nonprofit that helps people raise funds following a disabling injury: HelpHopeLive. They teach you step-by-step what you need to do to raise funds wherever you live. They will also help you collect and manage your funds. Money raised through this organization is tax exempt, and you cannot use the money raised on this site to pay for things like rent, tuition, or personal items. Learn more: https://helphopelive.org/
Get More Financial Help
If you need additional help regarding your finances following a spinal cord injury, there are several organizations that can help. First and foremost, you can reach out to us by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. We are always happy to help.
The Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation also offers informational specialists that can answer questions for free through their toll-free number Monday through Friday 9 to 5 PM Eastern time. This number is 1-800-539-7309.