Category Archives: social security disability

Closed Period of Disability: Money You May Be Missing Out On

If you have been out of work for 12 months or more, you may meet the requirements for a “closed period of disability” and may be entitled to Social Security Disability benefits. It is likely that you are eligible for benefits if the following statements apply to you:

  • You have been out of work for at least 12 months
  • You were out of work due to medical reasons
  • You received medical treatment during the time you were out of work

To receive benefits, you must also meet the minimum requirements for having a disability, which include having a medically determinable impairment that meets certain legal standards. A physician who can attest to your condition and treatment can help provide evidence to substantiate your claim. Your attorney can help you avoid roadblocks.

There is a mandatory 5-month waiting period from the date of being found disabled before a claimant is entitled to their first monthly benefit for a closed period of disability. Therefore, if you are out of work for exactly 12 months, you will be entitled to monthly benefit payments for 7 of those months.

To file for a closed period of disability, contact an attorney who can help you win your case and get paid.

If you have any questions about the material in this post or any questions at all about Social Security Disability, feel free to reach out to me at wmorrison@workerslaw.com.

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Creative Legal Argument Leads To An Award of Lifetime Diability Benefits

Good lawyering requires both creativity and a deep knowledge of the law. Last week I obtained a ruling of Permanent Total Disability for a client. The ruling entitles her to much-deserved lifetime weekly compensation benefits. This is especially important because in 2007 the Workers Compensation Law was changed to put limits on the time period for which you can receive benefits. There is now a 10-year limit on benefit duration unless you had a 100% Medicial Disability or a 100% Loss of Wage Earning Capacity (ability to work and earn money).

My client is a 55 year-old woman with a severe back condition. All of the doctors she consulted with conculded that she has a 60% medical disability. Most attorneys would have accepted that rating as is, entitling her to just 350 weeks of compensation benefits. But that would have been the wrong outcome.

Because of my client’s educational level and work experience, I knew that she was entitled to more. She only has a high school education and does not know how to use a computer. My client has never worked in any other position other than house cleaning.

All of the doctors who testified conceded that my client’s injury prevented her from doing her job – the work of a house cleaner. In fact, they all conceded that she could not do any type of physical labor. I then took my client’s testimony and established her lack of transferrable skills, focusing on her education and work experience. In essence I showed that there was no other work that she could successfully perform.

The judge agreed with my argument — my client has only a 60% Medical Disability, but has a 100% loss of her Wage Earning Capacity. The judge awarded my client Total Disability benefits, which allowed an award of a lifetime of benefits, not just a 10-year benefit period. This was a huge, and much-deserved, victory for my client.

When representing clients it is important to know your client and to know their background. This is how we practice. We strive to obtain the best outcome for out clients by knowing them, knowing the law and knowing how to obtain the maximum benefits for them.

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How Do Social Security Disability And Workers’ Compensation Benefits Work Together?

As a practitioner in the workers’ compensation field for almost 25 years, I have represented thousands of injured workers. A large percentage of those injured workers are also entitled to Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits which are benefits based upon disability and not age. My Partner, Barbara Tilker has practiced in the area of social security disability for over 35 years and she has provided me with important information regarding SSD. But what exactly are these benefits and who is entitled to them? In order to qualify you must have the requisite work credits. The number of work credits you need depends on your age. Generally speaking you need at least five years of work (20 credits). You will often hear people say you need to have worked five of the last ten years. You also must have substantial gainful employment – having minimum earnings of $1070 per month. The maximum SSD rates are based on individual income and FICA tax paid.  They are running around $2500 per person max and $4000+ if there is a dependent family

Filing for SSD can be a lengthy process. Every case is different, and some are processed faster than others. However, we’ve found that it takes the Social Security Administration (SSA) between four (4) to six (6) months to make an initial decision. If that decision is unfavorable (and about 70% of initial decisions are denials), it can take between eight (8) to twelve (12) months to have a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) scheduled. A year to a year-and-a-half wait is not uncommon.

Due to the lengthy process, you should file for SSD as soon as possible. You should file as soon as you know that you will be out of work for at least twelve (12) straight months OR if your condition is expected to result in death. You should talk to y our doctor to see how long he/she expects you to be unable to work. Your doctor’s support is incredibly important to your case so talk to him/her before making the decision to apply.

In order to make sure that you get the maximum amount of benefits you’re entitled to, your application must be filed within 17 full months from the time that you become disabled and unable to work. If you’ve already been out of work for a year or more, consider putting in an application right away to prevent any loss of benefits you would otherwise be entitled to. 

In New York, Social Security disability benefits are offset by workers’ compensation. There is an 80% ceiling on concurrent WC and SSD translates as follows:  A disabled individual (including dependent family benefits) cannot exceed 80% of highest gross income of the last five years worked, together with workers’ compensation benefit. This is computed on a monthly basis. If exceeded, social security is offset. Many of my clients have multiple concurrent medical issues – they may have a back injury as a result a work related accident but they may also have diabetes or a prior leg condition. Social Security takes all of these medical conditions into account to determine whether or not you are entitled to benefits. Your entitlement to SSD is based upon your overall medical condition and not just your workers’ compensation claim. While no one plans on getting injured or disabled, you should plan on knowing what you are entitled to before the unthinkable occurs.

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The Wounded Warrior Program Expedites Social Security Disability Claims For Veterans

Veteran’s Day is a day that the American people have set aside to celebrate and honor all those who have served in the armed forces. Veteran’s Day – originally known as Armistice Day – has been celebrated in the United States since 1919. Armistice Day became a national holiday in 1938, and has been known as Veteran’s Day since 1954. It is celebrated on November 11th to commemorate the armistice that ended the fighting in World War One.

The Social Security Administration recognizes the sacrifices that the members of our armed forces make every day. With the Wounded Warrior Program, the Administration ensures that military members who were injured on active duty have their cases processed in an expedited manner. While the standard of disability remains the same for all claimants, individuals injured on active duty can obtain a decision faster.

Even if you are still on active duty and receiving full pay, you may be eligible for Social Security disability benefits. Social Security looks at the activities you are performing, not the pay you are receiving, to determine if you meet the standard of disability. These benefits are in addition to any benefits you may receive from the Veteran’s Administration – it is important for you to know that a separate application for each type of benefit is required.

If you have any questions about applying for Social Security disability benefits, even if you are still on active duty, please contact us today for a free case evaluation.

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What Is Chained CPI And Why Is It Bad For Elderly And Disabled People?

Chained CPI Infographic – click to zoom in

Chained CPI is back in the news.  What does this mean for the elderly and disabled who rely on Social Security benefits?  The short answer to this question is “nothing good.”  Before we discuss why chained CPI is such bad news, I should explain exactly what it is.

Chained CPI is a different way of calculating the amount of inflation that occurred in a given year, and the amount that Social Security benefits will increase in response to inflation.  Currently, the Social Security Administration uses the Consumer Price Index for urban wage earners and clerical workers (CPI-W).  Due to the way it is calculated, chained CPI measures inflation at a lower rate than CPI-W.  Chained CPI assumes that individuals have the ability to buy cheaper items in place of more expensive items – the classic example is buying pork instead of chicken or beef – in order to bring their expenses down.  According to the Congressional Budget Office (which provides nonpartisan analysis for Congress), chained CPI is likely to measure inflation as being 0.25 percentage points lower than CPI-W does.

A one-quarter of one percent decrease may not sound like much.  In fact, it would only result in the loss of a few dollars per month in benefits.  The problems with this approach really become apparent when you think about how your benefits will be affected several years down the road.  Due to the fact that you receive a smaller inflation adjustment each year, your benefits grow at a slower rate as the years go by.  Eventually, this one-quarter of one percent decrease will have a very large effect.

The average age of an individual receiving disability benefits is just over 53.  Most individuals who stop receiving Social Security disability benefits have their benefits stopped because they attain full retirement age and are no longer entitled to disability benefits.  Based on this, we know that many individuals receive disability benefits from Social Security for a long period of time – many years in most cases.  This means that the cumulative effect of the switch to chained CPI will hit the disabled hardest.

This decrease is an especially big problem when you realize how important Social Security benefits are to the disabled and retired.  According to the Administration, Social Security benefits provide 50% or more of household income for 53% of elderly married couples and 74% of unmarried individuals, and provide 90% or more of household income for 23% of elderly married couples and 46% of unmarried individuals.  71.7% of all disabled workers receive 50% or more of their household income from Social Security disability benefits.

Switching to chained CPI would result in a loss of benefits to the retired and disabled – those who are least able to afford such a loss.  There are news reports that a switch to chained CPI is being considered by lawmakers in Congress.  You should make sure that your elected representatives know that you do not support such a switch.  You can find contact information for your Congressional representatives at House.gov and Senate.gov.  Let them know that reducing future Social Security benefits for the elderly and disabled is unacceptable.

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Disability, USA? A Different Point of View About Social Security Disability Benefits

imageYou may have seen a recent report on 60 Minutes regarding the Social Security Administration’s disability program.  If, after watching that report, you became concerned that either a) Social Security would soon run out of money, or b) Social Security was paying disability benefits to either outright frauds or those who just aren’t disabled, I wouldn’t blame you.  That’s not because those things are true, but because this “report” was extremely biased and inaccurate.  The truth is that Social Security is well-funded and will be able to pay benefits well into the future, if not indefinitely.

It’s true that applications for Social Security disability benefits increase when the unemployment rate goes up.  What’s not true, however, is that otherwise healthy people are drawing a disability check during bad economic times.  The Center for Retirement Research at Boston College recently published a report that concluded that applications for benefits did rise when the unemployment rate went up, but that most of these “extra” claims were denied.  Those who were approved tended to be older individuals working physically demanding jobs whose bodies were just worn out after years of hard labor.

Applications for disability benefits have increased recently, and a large part of that increase can be attributed to the fact that Americans are simply getting older.  One of the consequences of getting older is that your body doesn’t work as well as it used to, and you become much more likely to get a chronic disease such as diabetes.  It’s no surprise that disability applications will increase as more and more Americans enter the most disability-prone category of their lives.

People might worry that this increase in applications means that Social Security will soon run out of money to pay benefits.  60 Minutes didn’t do anything to allay those fears, stating several times that the trust fund is going broke in the next few years.  The disability trust fund currently only receives a fraction of the amount collected in payroll taxes, with the vast majority going to the retirement trust fund.  There is a simple fix for this problem – the government can either give more of each dollar to the disability fund, or transfer some money from the retirement fund to the disability fund.  In fact, this has been done several times, but with the money going from the disability fund to the retirement fund.  Social Security is well-funded and in no danger of going broke – don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

60 Minutes also made it appear that disability benefits are there for anyone who applies, with no need to present any medical documentation to back up their claims.  Those who have been through the process know that this is just false.  The standard of disability for Social Security’s program is extremely high.  Only those who are truly disabled – and who have the documentation to back it up – are awarded benefits.

There are some people who try to game the system and get benefits that they are not eligible for.  Due to Social Security’s strict standards, most of these people are denied benefits in the first place.  For those that do resort to fraud, Social Security has an investigative unit dedicated to finding these individuals.  Once caught, they face stiff penalties, including restitution and jail time.

Despite what 60 Minutes would have you believe, Social Security’s disability program is well-funded, and only pays benefits to those who can prove they deserve them.  Don’t be fooled by sensationalistic programs designed to mislead rather than inform.

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Overpaid Disability Benefits by Social Security: Now What?

Today’s post comes from guest author Roger Moore, from Rehm, Bennett & Moore.

What can I do if the Social Security Administration (SSA) says I have been overpaid disability benefits?

This is a very common problem, unfortunately. There are a number of factors that cause these issues to come up so frequently.

First, the rules about how much one can make differ, depending on what type of disability benefit is received. Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) recipients can earn over $1,000 per month without jeopardizing their monthly benefit. But almost every dollar earned by Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipients can affect the amount of their monthly benefit, as this benefit is partially based upon a recipient’s financial situation. These amounts can change over time.   

Second, there are many different rules about when you can earn money from working above what is called the substantial gainful employment level and not jeopardize your continued entitlement to disability benefit. It’s difficult to summarize all of the circumstances, yet alone know all of the rules, for a claimant. What’s more, simply providing the SSA your wages doesn’t absolve you from having to repay overpayments. The SSA doesn’t look at this information on a regular basis. Years later, you may get a “Dear John” letter advising you that you were overpaid thousands of dollars. 

Finally, you may simply get wrong or bad information from someone when you meet with or speak with the SSA. It’s important to document when you spoke with the person and who that person was. If possible, get them to put their advice in writing. 

When faced with an overpayment, there are two things you should always do. First, Continue reading

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Your Social Security Benefits After The Defense Of Marriage Act (DOMA) Decision

Nearly two months after the Supreme Court struck down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the Social Security Administration has announced that it will start to pay benefits to some individuals in same-sex marriages. In order to be eligible for benefits, these individuals must meet the same criteria as individuals in opposite-sex marriages, in addition to several other requirements.

Only applications for spousal benefits are being approved right now. Spousal benefits are payable to a spouse who either 1) did not work enough to be entitled to Social Security benefits or 2) worked enough to be entitled to Social Security benefits but would be entitled to a larger benefit on their spouse’s earnings record.  This is generally the case when one spouse earned significantly more than the other spouse over the course of their working lives. The individual on whose earnings record the claim is made (the number holder, in SSA’s terms) must also be entitled to old-age or disability benefits from Social Security. In order to receive spousal benefits, you must be at least age 62 and have been married to the number holder for at least one year.

The individual applying for benefits (the claimant, in SSA’s terms) must show that he or she was married to the number holder in a state that permits same-sex marriage and that the number holder is living in a state that recognizes same-sex marriage either 1) when the application for benefits is filed or 2) while the application is pending a final determination. It does not matter what state the claimant lives in. What matters for SSA’s purposes is the state the number holder lives in. This only matters when spouses live in different states.

Below is a chart from SSA that shows which states recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states, and when those states permitted same-sex marriages.  If a state is not listed, it does not recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states or permit same-sex marriages to be performed.

Before filing a claim for benefits or moving to a different state, you should consult with an experienced attorney or with the Social Security Administration to determine your eligibility for benefits.  As SSA continues to pay benefits to more individuals in connection with the Supreme Court’s decision, we will provide updated information regarding who may be eligible for these benefits.

State

Date Same-Sex Marriages from Any Other State Was Recognized

Date Same-Sex Marriages Were Permitted in the State

California

June 17, 2008 – November 4, 2008

June 26, 2013 – present

June 17, 2008 – November 4, 2008

June 26, 2013 – present

Connecticut

November 12, 2008

November 12, 2008

Delaware

July 1, 2013

July 1, 2013

Iowa

April 30, 2009

April 20, 2009

Maine

December 29, 2012

December 29, 2012

Maryland

February 23, 2010

January 1, 2013

Massachusetts

May 17, 2004

May 17, 2004

Minnesota

August 1, 2013

August 1, 2013

New Hampshire

January 1, 2010

January 1, 2010

New York

February 1, 2008

July 24, 2011

Rhode Island

May 14, 2012

August 1, 2013

Vermont

September 1, 2009

September 1, 2009

Washington

December 6, 2012

December 6, 2012

Washington, DC

July 7, 2009

March 9, 2010

 

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