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    What You Need to Know About
    Disability After Kidney Transplant

    Because disability benefits change after kidney transplantation, it is important to know your options in advance so you can plan accordingly. California Pacific Medical Center's Kidney Team encourages patients to understand their coverage prior to transplant and speak with a vocational counselor to make the process flow smoothly.

    Overview of Disability Coverage and Options

    Social Security Coverage—The Social Security Administration has two disability programs, Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) for individuals whose medical conditions prevent them from working.

    Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)

    • covers individuals who are working and paying Social Security taxes

    • can be collected while you are involved in an approved rehabilitation program
    Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
    • makes monthly payments to disabled individuals with few assets and low incomes

    • requires no waiting period
    Social Security benefits continue for 12 months following transplant surgery. At that point, Social Security re-evaluates each case, but unless you have another disabling condition (blindness, stroke or severe amputation) or are over 65, your Social Security benefits end. The Kidney Team stresses that “mild side effects from medications are not enough to be considered for permanent disability in any situation.”

    Although Social Security benefits typically end 12 months post-transplant, you will continue to receive your Medicare health insurance benefits for 36 months post-transplant. Transplant recipients are strongly encouraged to go back to work at one year post-transplant (or earlier) to help prepare for when all disability benefits end.

    Patients can work part-time post-transplant, earning up to $500 per month without it affecting benefits. By 36 months post-transplant, the goal is for transplant recipients to be working full-time, so they will have full medical benefits to pay for medications and health care once Medicare disability ends.

    State Disability Insurance—Most California workers who suffer a loss of wages when they are unable to work also receive assistance from a State Disability Insurance (SDI) plan, managed by the California. Employment Development Department’s (EDD) Disability Insurance Branch. When patients receive a transplant, SDI usually provides 90 days of disability benefits for recovery.

    Private Disability from Employer—Some patients may have private disability through their employer in lieu of state disability. If so, a transplant will qualify you to receive benefits just as it does with State Disability Insurance. The Kidney Team encourages patients to check with their employer’s human resources department or manager about exact benefits.

    Ideal Scenario for Patients Receiving Social Security Disability—According to the Kidney Team, the following is an ideal scenario for a person to receive maximum Social Security Disability benefits and gain self-sufficiency following kidney transplantation:

    Before kidney transplantation, a patient is on Social Security Disability because of dialysis necessity. After kidney transplantation, Medicare disability begins its 36-month countdown.

    Social Security disability begins its 12-month countdown. At one year post-transplant, the patient returns to work part-time, earning up to $500/month. Patient increases work hours over next two years so that at 36 months post-transplant when Medicare disability ends, he/she is working full-time and thus receives full benefits from employer.

    Work Incentives and Employment Tips

    To help you move from depending on benefits to self-sufficiency, the federal government provides work incentives. These incentives protect your entitlement to cash payments and/or Medicaid or Medicare protection until you can support yourself. Also, if you attempt to work, and earn less than $500 per month, you can still receive Social Security benefits.

    Some tips for post-transplant employment include:

    • Look into vocational training programs

    • Look for a part-time job that offers private HMO insurance benefits

    • Volunteer your time at an institution that interests you; later look for employment there

    • Return to school for education in a new field that interests you

    • Visit your local Department of Vocational Rehabilitation office to see if you qualify for benefits at their “Ticket to Work” program

    • If you’re a veteran, research the Department of Veteran’s Affairs occupational rehabilitation program
    For more information visit:

    About California Pacific Medical Center

    California Pacific Medical Center, part of the Sutter Health Opens new window network, offers kidney, pancreas, liver and heart transplantation as part of our Barry S. Levin, MD Department of Transplant.

    Kidney & Pancreas Transplant Program
    California Pacific Medical Center
    2340 Clay Street
    San Francisco, CA 94115
    Tel. 415-600-1000

    Outreach locations available throughout Northern California and in Reno.