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Can I get Worker’s Compensation and SS Disability?

Social Security LawThe short answer is yes. The full answer is yes, but… you cannot receive the full amount of both at the same time. In all but 5 states, if you are receiving Worker’s compensation benefits or SS Disability benefits as a result your Disability benefits will be reduced. (In the 5 states, worker’s compensation is reduced)

How much? The Disability benefits will be reduces so that the entire amount you get from both sources is no more than 80% of the individual’s average current earnings. So if you were hourly or salaried with bonuses, they will look at the monthly average you actually made, and get the 80% from this figure.

Retirement benefits are not offset because typically worker’s compensation would end when the injured worker reaches retirement age. Congress recently updated this to reflect the change in SS, “full retirement” age so there is no gap. Now, instead of ending at 65, worker’s compensation benefits terminate when the worker reaches their, “full retirement” age, instead of a static number.

Please visit our website: www.socialsecurityjustice.com or contact one of our Bailey & Galyen offices for additional information.

The US Government Reclaimed $713 Million from SS Benefits Paid Out in 2016.

Social Security LawUnder certain circumstances, the government can seize part of your Social Security check to satisfy unpaid debts, including overdue federal taxes and delinquent federal student loans. In some circumstances, past due child support can also be deducted from your SS checks. This money comes out of your payments before you receive them and there is not a thing you can do about it.

Once Social Security benefits are deposited into your bank account, you have additional protections against third-party debt collectors looking to garnish funds, but the Government is taking these debts before it gets deposited.

How much you stand to lose depends on the details of your debt and Social Security benefits. For example, under the Debt Collection Improvement Act of 1996, the maximum allowable collection on a federal student loan debt has the least impact. They cannot touch the first $750 of your monthly benefits and can only take 15% of your check after that. Back due taxes can take 15%, of your entire check. Court-Ordered past due Child Support or Alimony has the largest bite; this can take 50-60% of your total check depending on which State you live in.

But even a small collection could have a big impact on your budget. Social Security benefits account for at least half of income for 48 percent of retired married couples and 71 percent of unmarried individuals, according to government statistics. For 1 in 5 couples and 43 percent of singles, Social Security is 90 percent of their income.

What can you do if you find yourself in this position? Negotiate with the IRS, Challenge the Debt, or see if you qualify for a discharge of your student loans based on disability. In a very few instances, you may qualify for a hardship exemption for some types of debts.

Please visit our website: www.socialsecurityjustice.com or contact one of our Bailey & Galyen offices for additional information.

What will happen to Grandma and Grandpa currently in the nursing home under the proposed budget cuts?

Social Security LawCurrently, Medicaid pays for about two-thirds of the 1.4 million elderly people in nursing homes.

The Legislative Branch is currently debating the dramatic cuts to Medicaid, in addition to many other public service programs currently up for extermination. Many feel that this isn’t a problem that will affect them since they have private insurance or are middle-class. But what will happen to older Americans in nursing homes if these cuts take effect?

Under current federal law, state Medicaid programs are required to cover nursing home care. State officials decide how much to pay facilities, and states under budgetary pressure could decrease the amount they are willing to pay or restrict eligibility for coverage. This means that families will be forced to pay the rest, or the type of care grandma receives will be greatly diminished. This is not just a poor person problem, roughly 64% of all Americans in nursing homes currently depend on Medicaid, this includes people who were middle class at retirement, but who’s longer than expected life-span or high medical bills took more than they budgeted for, leaving them completely dependent on the Government for daily aide.

No one wants to imagine their grandparents living in sub-standard facilities with sub-standard nurses and doctors. Nor can many families commit to moving their elderly family members in with them and providing the around-the-clock care they will require. This leaves the only option, these working families will have to come up with the extra money to supplement what Medicaid will no longer cover, often foregoing saving for their own retirement in the process.

Contact your congressperson to express your wishes to them!

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To set up a free initial consultation, contact us online or call us at 844-402-2992. For your convenience, we answer our phones 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We will meet with you evenings or weekends upon request.

President Trump’s Budget Request includes $72 Billion in SS Cuts.

Social Security LawThe entire 2018 Budget Proposal, “A New Foundation for American Greatness.” Proposes to cut Federal spending by $3.6 Trillion over the next 10 years. Most of the largest cuts are aimed at discretionary spending, but over $1 Trillion is aimed at programs that provide lower-income Americans with living and medical assistance. (one plan scheduled to be omitted entirely is the low income home energy assistance program)

Some of the proposed SS changes to save $72 Billion include:

Reducing retroactive SSDI payments from 12 months to 6 months prior to the filing date;

Further reducing benefits if more than one person in the house receives SSI Disability
benefits;

More aggressive recovering of overpayments;

Creating a panel of experts to come up with more benefit reduction ideas.

The Budget also seeks to cut benefits aimed at helping lower income individuals such as:

Dept of Health & Human Services 15.8% – this agency helps people obtain health care
and food;

Housing and Urban Development is slated for a 13.2% cut – this program helps low income families afford houses;

TANF – which provides Temporary Assistance to Needy Families – $21.6 billion in cuts;

Food Stamps/SNAP – $192 billion cut

$610 Billion to Medicaid.

• These numbers are scheduled to occur over a 10 year period.

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To set up a free initial consultation, contact us online or call us at 844-402-2992. For your convenience, we answer our phones 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We will meet with you evenings or weekends upon request.

SSA is not going to sustain you in your golden years.

DivorceThe first US Disability Program was the Civil War Pension program which began during the civil war in 1862. It provided benefits for soldiers with disabilities “incurred as a direct consequence of … military duty.” Widows and orphans could receive pensions equal in amount to that which would have been payable to their deceased solider if he had been disabled. In 1890 the link with service-connected disability was broken, and any disabled Civil War veteran qualified for benefits.

In 1906, old-age was made a sufficient qualification for benefits. So that by 1910, Civil War veterans and their survivors enjoyed a program of disability, survivors and old-age benefits similar in some ways to the later Social Security programs. By 1910, over 90% of the remaining Civil War veterans were receiving benefits under this program, although they constituted barely 0.6% of the total U.S. population of that era.

Following the outbreak of the Great Depression, poverty among the elderly grew dramatically. Around 1934 over half of the elderly in America lacked sufficient income to be self-supporting. A spurt of pension legislation was passed by several states in the years leading up to the passage of the Social Security Act. However, these programs were generally inadequate and ineffective. Only about 3% of the elderly were actually receiving benefits under these states plans, and the average benefit amount was about 65 cents a day.

The Social Security Act that we know was signed into law by President Rooselvelt in 1935. In 1939 it was amended to include spouses and minor children of retired workers and the family in the event of a premature death of a covered worker.

Disability benefits were added and enlarged to cover disabled persons of any age by 1960.

There have been multiple changes to the program recently – incentives to return to work and attempts to keep the program from running into the red. The baby boomers – the largest group of tax payers in SS history, are retiring. So more people than ever are going to be drawing retirement while less people are paying in. In order to keep the program from failing altogether, SSA is cutting benefits, delaying retirement age and trying to reduce fraud and abuse.

The generation of workers currently paying in cannot count on SSA to be there when they hit retirement age. They cannot count on it for income replacement should a disability occur. There may be some benefits, but it will not be enough to live on. The idea of doing a little good for many being the objective means that no one can rely on this benefit alone.

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To set up a free initial consultation, contact us online or call us at 844-402-2992. For your convenience, we answer our phones 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We will meet with you evenings or weekends upon request.

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It’s getting harder to get Disability.

Changes to How SSA Examines Mental DisabilitiesIn 2016, for the first time in nearly 30 years, the number of Americans receiving Social Security disability payments declined.

The 8.89 million people receiving SSD in January 2016 marked the first time that the number of people receiving disability decreased year over year since at least 1988, the earliest data available. The trend continued in 2017, as the number of payees fell, slowly but steadily, to 8.79 million in January, which is the lowest number in almost five years.

Fewer claimants are being approved for benefits. In 2002, 44.6 percent of applications were approved. Since 2014, the approval rate has been hovering around 32 percent.

And after March 27, 2017, a treating physician’s opinion won’t mean as much to a claimant’s case either. The Social Security Administration has adopted new rules for agency review of disability claims filed after that date. Notably, the new regulations eliminate the “treating-physician rule,” which requires Social Security adjudicators to give significant weight to the evidence of disability presented by a claimant’s medical treating sources. SSA also will no longer give added weight to disability determinations of other government agencies such as the Department of Veterans Affairs.

These changes do contradict prior District Court rulings which require SSA to give greater weight to treating sources and to find VA unemployability to be the same as SSA disability. Time will tell if these new changes will be upheld by reviewing Courts at the District level, but until then, it will mean even more denials and a much longer appeal process.

It currently takes a year or longer to get to an SSA hearing and a few years longer to get up to a District Court for Appeal. An estimated 1.4 million people are currently waiting for a disability hearing, and the delay from initial denial can be devastating to those with no income and who are unable to work.

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Please visit our website: www.socialsecurityjustice.com or contact one of our Bailey & Galyen offices for additional information.

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President Trump Causing increase in SSA Wait Time

Social Security LawPresident Donald Trump’s federal hiring freeze will exacerbate the backlog of cases waiting to be heard for Social Security Disability.

There are currently around 1,650 Administrative Judges hearing disability claims in the US. Even with this number, the average wait for an appeal to be processed as of May 2016 was 526 days, according to the Social Security Administration’s inspector general. There were 1.1 million people waiting on decisions at this level.

SSA wanted to increase the number of Judges to 1,900 to lower the processing time as the number of applicants increased, but the federal civilian employee hiring freeze will prevent this.

Trump’s Order does allow the Office of Personnel Management to grant exemptions. The order requires the Office of Management and Budget to develop a plan within 90 days for shrinking the workforce, and says the blanket freeze will expire once that plan is implemented.

SSA Commissioner said that he hopes Social Security officials will seek an exemption for appeals judges and their clerks, and that Trump’s personnel department would grant it.

One ALJ stated that many of the judges have been working extra uncompensated hours every day to try to get through the outstanding cases, some of which require reviewing 1,000 pages of medical records as well as experts’ assessments. If it were your case, you wouldn’t want the Judge rushing and potentially missing some important details.

This means that Americans out of work, waiting on Disability benefits to begin in order to cover some expenses and medical bills, will now have an even longer wait for a decision.

Please visit our website: www.socialsecurityjustice.com or contact one of our Bailey & Galyen offices for additional information.

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2017 SSA Changes

Social Security LawCOLA or Cost of Living Adjustments are meant to keep benefits on track with inflation rates. The 2017 COLA adjustment is .3%.

The tax rate is remaining unchanged, with employees still being taxed at 7.65% and self-employed persons being taxed at 15.3%.

The Maximum taxable earnings for 2017 has increased, so now the first $127,200 of your earnings are taxable for SSA purposes.

 

The maximum dollar amount you can make while receiving retirement has also increased. Under full retirement age – the amount you can earn without being penalized is $16,920 per year or $1,410 per month. Above this amount, one dollar in benefits will be withheld for every $2 you earn.

The year you reach full retirement age, the amount has increased to $44,880/year or $3,740/month before you lose one dollar in benefits for every $3 you earn. There is no limit for earnings beginning the month you reach full retirement age.

The Maximum amount you can receive in SSI in 2017:
Individual: $735/month
Couple: $1,103/month

Resources remain unchanged at $2,000 for an individual and $3,000 for a couple.

The maximum SSDI/Retirement benefit has also increased to $2,687 per month.

What SSA considers to be substantial and gainful activity (SGA) is $1,170/month for non-blind individuals and $1,950/month for blind individuals. And a trial work period now is defined as any month you make over $840/month.

SSA is estimating that in 2017 the average retired worker is receiving $1,360 per month in SS benefits and the average disabled worker is receiving $1,171 per month in SS benefits.

  • Figures are from NOSSCR Volume 38, Number 12

Please visit our website: www.socialsecurityjustice.com or contact one of our Bailey & Galyen offices for additional information.

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Changes to How SSA Examines Mental Disabilities

Changes to How SSA Examines Mental DisabilitiesAs of January 17, 2017, SSA is updating their criteria for determining whether or not someone is disabled due to a mental or emotional impairment.

The new criteria have more specific examples and are better defined, helping claimants get statements from their treating doctors in order to help their claims. The new areas are:

  1. Understanding, remembering, or applying information;
    Examples: Following oral instructions, identifying problems and solving them, using reason and judgment, learning new work activities.
  2. Concentrating, persisting, or maintaining pace;
    Examples: working at an appropriate and consistent pace, ignoring distractions, sustaining ordinary routines and regular attendance and working a full day without extra breaks or rest periods, initiating and performing tasks you know how to do.
  3. Interacting with others; and
    Examples: cooperating with others, asking for help when needed, understanding and responding to social cues, handling conflicts, responding to criticism appropriately.
  4. Adapting or managing oneself.
    Examples: regulating emotions and controlling behavior in the work setting, adapting to work changes, making plans, maintaining personal hygiene, recognizing normal hazards and taking appropriate precautions.

Post written by: Jennifer Scherf

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2034 and 2023 – Important Years to keep in mind for all current and future SS Beneficiaries.

For years and years people have been claiming that Disability and SS Retirement are going to end. They are actually separate funds, but at times, they have borrowed from one another to keep both programs afloat.

Due to the aging of the baby boomers and the lower birth rates of the next generations, more people are drawing out while less workers are paying in which is a recipe for disaster. On the bright side, this is not something that was not a surprise, and SSA has planned and prepared for this by increasing retirement ages and decreasing the amount of benefits they pay out. In fact, in the Annual Report of the Board of Trustees of the Federal Old-Age and Survivors Insurance and Federal Insurance Trust Funds released on June 22, 2016, showed that less money was paid out in 2015 than had been expected, which resulted in an increase in the trust.

Currently, the programs combined are expected to be able to continue to pay all benefits until 2034, around the time people born in 1969 reach age 65.

The Disability Insurance Trust expenditures, in contrast, grew compared to the prior year as well as exceeding what was anticipated by the Board. The good news is that the Board had issued a report in 2015 stating that as of 2016, they would only be able to pay around 80% of benefits at that time because the fund would be insolvent. However, due to a change in tax revenue allocation the same year, the disability trust is expected to last until 2023 right now.

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Please visit our website: www.socialsecurityjustice.com or contact one of our Bailey & Galyen offices for additional information.

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Choosing Between waiting for Disability or Food Stamps

Earlier this year, the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, the program that oversees Food Stamps, found that the economy is improving enough to stop extending the time low income people could receive food stamps.

The work-for-food requirements were first enacted under the 1996 welfare reform law. It requires able-bodied adults aged 18 – 49 who have no children or other dependents in their home to work, volunteer, or attend education or job-training courses at least 80 hours a month to receive food aid. If they don’t, their benefits are cut off after three months. This timeframe was waived due to the poor economy, but now that the unemployment rate is falling, the three month limit is being reinstated.

This could affect nearly 1.1 million adults, some of which are applying for disability. Here is the catch: if you engage in “work activity” (education and volunteering could count) while applying for disability benefits, SSA may use this as evidence of your ability to engage in full time work and it could disqualify you from receiving disability benefits entirely. Making these people choose between eating today while waiting on SSA, which is admittedly a very slow process, and risk ever getting the benefits at all, or food banks which are not able to keep up with demand as it is currently.

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Please visit our website: www.socialsecurityjustice.com or contact one of our Bailey & Galyen offices for additional information.

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SS Disability and Gun Control

SSA has issued a Notice of Proposed rule which would prohibit any individual from owning a gun if they have been adjudicated as, “a mental defective or who has been committed to a mental institution.”

Mental defective sounds pretty not PC, it has multiple criteria: 1. someone must have been found disabled due to the mental impairments SSA recognizes as disabling under Listings 12.00; 2. They must be between the ages of 18 and full retirement age; 3. The mental impairment was their primary diagnosis; and 4. SSA requires that their benefits be paid through a third party because they are incapable of managing benefit payments.

Opponents to this proposed rule raise some valid concerns; it may cause some people with mental illnesses not to seek treatment or not to apply for disability benefits. This also raises the question/argument of whether or not mentally ill people are more likely than not to be violent than non-mentally ill people.

Comments can be submitted at www.regulations.gov

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Please visit our website: www.socialsecurityjustice.com or contact one of our Bailey & Galyen offices for additional information.

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Student Loan Discharge

Depending, upon your student loan/lender, when you are found disabled by SSA, your loans may be forgiven. Some, but not all lenders will do this now.

President Obama introduced an executive action in April 2016, that will help all disabled people discharge their student loans. To qualify, you must be found totally and permanently disabled, and medical improvement is not expected. This action should help approximately 380,000 individuals receiving SS Disability.

However, there may be tax consequences if your loans are discharged, you will need to contact your lender for additional information to determine whether or not this may benefit you.

Please visit our website: www.socialsecurityjustice.com or contact one of our Bailey & Galyen offices for additional information.

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SS Disability for Seizures

There are a few medical conditions and even some psychosomatic conditions which cause an individual to experience seizure activity. There are between six and forty distinct types of seizures depending on where you look. SSA divides them into just 2 categories, convulsive epilepsy, and non-convulsive epilepsy.

To be found disabled due to seizure activity, you need to have a diagnosis as to the type(s) you experience, the frequency which you experience them, and the fact that this occurs even though you are taking your anticonvulsants as prescribed by your doctor.

For non-convulsive seizure activity, you need to be experiencing an average of 1 or more events per week, for at least 3 months in a row, even while taking your medication. For convulsive seizure activity, the requirement is at least 1 a month for at least 3 months in a row while you are taking medication. The frequency is less often because these seizures generally involve more severe symptoms both during and after the event.

Like most conditions, if you aren’t taking the medication and it may prevent your seizures, SSA will not find you disabled. Testing such as an EEG, MRI, CT scan or other neuropsychological tests which show evidence of your seizures makes proving your disability so much easier as well. However, these tests do not always prove the existence of seizure activity. If this is the case, documenting the frequency and severity is vital, as is providing this information to your medical provider. With today’s technology, there are sites you can track this info on as well as apps you can download to your phone. Keep good records! www.diary.epilepsy.com is a good place to track seizure activity because it tracks triggers, duration, type and after-effects pretty thoroughly. Again, don’t forget to provide updates to your doctors so they are including this information in the medical evidence they submit to SSA on your behalf.

Please visit our website: www.socialsecurityjustice.com or contact one of our Bailey & Galyen offices for additional information.

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