Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Disability Recipients Shouldn't Be Stigmatized

disability
Regular readers of our blog know that at the Driscoll Law Corporation our specialty is Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Each week, we work tirelessly to ensure our clients can access financial security provided by the Social Security Administration. Such people, more times than not, are individuals who have either experienced a debilitating injury or they have received a diagnosis for a disorder; in both cases, one's ability to maintain financial independence is a real challenge.

In the United States, there is a significant number of people who have negative opinions about Federal and state assistance programs. What’s more, there is a serious stigma toward people who receive benefits like SSDI and SSI; many people have the mindset that some benefit recipients are lazy and are bilking a flawed welfare system. Sadly, the previously mentioned outlook is flawed, to say the least; in fact, the average benefit recipient would like nothing more than to go back to work. 

In 2017, The Washington Post analyzed the increase of disability programs in rural America. The news organization published a series of stories shining a light on the subject matter. Naturally, people from around the country who are living with disabilities gave their feedback; they shared about the stigma surrounding disability benefit recipients. Through correspondence with such individuals, WAPO gleaned that many SSI and SSDI recipients muster the strength to work part-time or volunteer their services; in doing so, they can continue contributing to society and live productive lives.


Disabled Americans Stay Busy In Spite of Handicaps



The best way to erode stigma is to accurately represent the lives of people living with conditions that prevent full-time work. In doing so, we encourage people who aren’t living with a disability to exercise compassion. When that happen, people vote in favor legislation that helps people rather than harm the most vulnerable of Americans.

Below you will find a snapshot of the lives of a couple of individuals who receive SSA benefits; you will see that these people are not lazy, it’s the opposite in fact.

Richard Lamb, 57, a retired senior systems administrator for Boeing and Microsoft, receives financial assistance from SSDI and the Department of Veterans Affairs due to hearing loss, according to the article. In 2011, Lamb was forced to take early retirement because of myalgic encephalomyelitis, an autonomic and neurological disease which causes extreme fatigue. Lamb said:

“I’m very active at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, and participate in two different research projects there. That’s been helpful for me, because I think one of the things I really struggle with is finding a method to give back that doesn’t kill me."

Sarah Schwegel, 24, has spinal muscular atrophy Type II, for which she receives SSDI benefits, the article reports. Sarah is currently attending Saint Louis University for a master’s degree in public administration. When she is not in class, she works [15 hours a week] in the Political Science Department at her school or is volunteering with organizations that assist disabled people in finding independence. Schwegel says:

“I decided to go to grad school for public administration so that eventually one day I can either work in a nonprofit to help people with disabilities, or I can run for office or work as a bureaucrat in Medicaid or something.” 

Disability can impact anyone for many reasons. Just because someone receives financial support, doesn’t mean that they lack the desire to work or give back to society. Some disabled people collecting SSI or SSDI work more than many non-injured Americans.


Disability Attorney


Attorney Stephanie Driscoll assists people with the lengthy and complicated process of applying and qualifying for disability benefits. If you or a loved one’s claim received a denial, we could help you appeal the decision. Please contact us today.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

SSDI and SSI in California

SSDI
Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) are two programs offered by the Social Security Administration that are of the utmost importance. You may not yet rely on such a program, or you may never need to (hopefully), but it's important for Americans to have an understanding of SSA benefits. There may come a time when you need to assist a loved one in navigating the process of applying for SSDI, SSI, or both.

If you have read up on the vitality of SSA benefit programs, then you may know that the process of applying for benefits can be complicated. What’s more, the time between applying and enrollment is often lengthy. There are hundreds of thousands of cases and a limited number of administrative judges to hear each case. The number of cases waiting for consideration from an administrative judge increased by more than 300,000 to 1.14 million, between 2010 to 2017, The Orange County Register reports. Simply put, there are not enough resources available to handle the heavy workload.


SSDI and SSI Cases Piling Up


A new report from The OC Register revealed that services and funding for SSA benefit programs are changing throughout the country. The focus of this piece will be California, naturally, but such changes are occurring across America. In the Golden State, 4.4 percent of adults ages 18-64 received Social Security Disability, SSI or both last year. Lake County, CA has the highest percentage of disabled workers, with 10 percent (3,725 people) of the population receiving benefits.

In certain California cities, individuals wait for nearly two years to receive a decision on their application. In Orange, CA, the average wait time is 646 days, which is only slightly better than Los Angeles West 644, and San Diego 592. A lack of administrative judges and SSA staff has contributed to the long wait times, delays in coverage are expected to only increase. Since 2010, California has seen a 13.89 percent drop in Social Security administration staff. If you’d like to get an idea of how we compare to other states, please refer to the map below:

SSI
Source: OC register


SSDI Attorney


Seeking assistance will help you or a loved one chart a course toward SSA benefits, and greater financial security. The longer one goes without the support they need, the more complicated life can become. The Driscoll Law Corporation has helped a number of people whose claims were denied, access the benefits they desperately required. We can help your family, too; please contact us today.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

SSDI Benefits Calculator

SSDI
If you are considering or are in the process of applying for social security disability insurance (SSDI), it’s likely you’ve have some questions about how much support you can expect. Being injured or becoming ill and no longer being able to work is a severe blow; fortunately, we all have access to benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA). The agency's various programs are designed to alleviate the burden of no longer being able to work.

After a cursory examination, you have probably gathered that you will not receive benefits comparable to what you made while working. You may have discovered that you might not get anything close to what you were making as part of the workforce. As you can probably imagine, there's a formula in place used by the SSA to determine an individual’s monthly benefit payments. There are several factors considered in calculating how much money beneficiaries will receive, including work income from previous employment and age.

If you are in the process of applying for SSDI benefits, you should know that your monthly payments could be much less than you made while being employed. In some cases, less than half or as much as 90 percent less than before, The Washington Post reports. We are not sharing this information to worry you, but everyone should be informed about what their SSDI payments will look like if approved. You should consider taking a moment to use a calculator that mimics what the SSA uses to do their calculations.


SSDI Calculator


The SSA looks at several factors, including elapsed years, computation years and average indexed monthly income (AIME). Those numbers are plugged into the SSA’s primary insurance amount (PIA) formula, which then delivers the benefit amount. Using the calculator will not give you the exact amount you can count on, just a rough estimate that can help you prepare for the future.

Those who already have an account with the Social Security Administration (SSA) can get a more accurate figure. For those who don’t, you can sign up for an online account profile or use the calculator, here. Please keep in mind that the calculator will make assumptions about certain things based off how people’s careers typically progress and evolve over the years, such specific considerations may not be entirely accurate or representative of one’s personal history.


SSDI Attorney


If your application for SSDI has been denied or you are applying for the first time, please contact the Driscoll Law Corporation. We will help you get through the process to ensure that you get the help you need.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

SSA Needs Immediate Funding

SSDI
Taxpaying Americans expect certain protections when they are injured and cannot work, or reach a certain age. No person should be caught out in the cold when their life takes a turn for the worst which is why we have agencies like the Social Security Administration (SSA). Aside from Social Security retirement benefits, the administration has many programs for people who are disabled, such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI).

Right now, over a million Americans are desperately awaiting aid from the SSA. Without assistance, individuals are at risk of severe consequences. Vulnerable people must be taken care of; they should not have to perish waiting for support. Unfortunately, that seems to be happening more often than you might think. Just over a week ago, The Washington Post published alarming findings regarding the Social Security disability backlog. Some people are waiting 596 days to receive a judge's disposition on obtaining benefits, Medicare, or Medicaid. In fact, the report showed that 10,000 people died waiting for a judge's decision.


SSA Needs Funding


In the United States, there are 1,600 Social Security administrative law judges charged with deciding the fate of over a million-people hoping to receive disability benefits. Given that the backlog continues to grow, the wait time for applicants only becomes lengthier. In 2012, the average wait time was 353 days, which seems long but paled in comparison to 2016.

To reduce the backlog and get people with disabilities the help they require, Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Senator Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Senator Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, called for Congress to fund the SSA adequately, according to a press release. In a recent WAPO opinion piece, Sen. Wyden wrote: 

“Congress has a chance to turn the tide and restore some functionality to the SSDI hearings process. Instead of harmful cuts, Congress should provide sufficient administrative funding in its upcoming appropriations bill so those who are eligible can receive disability insurance in a timely way. That’s why I’ve asked Senate leaders to make the necessary investments so the Social Security Administration can make case-management systems updates, ensure that the agency has enough evaluators and administrative law judges to process claims, and fulfill its obligations to those caught in the disability backlog.”

Americans shouldn't have to wait nearly two years to receive a judge's decision on benefits. So many things can go wrong during such a period, both physically and financially. The press release points out that SSA’s administrative budget has been cut by almost $460 million.


SSDI Attorney


If your application for SSDI was denied or you are applying for the first time, please contact the Driscoll Law Corporation. We can assist you in working through the process to ensure that you get the help you need in a timely fashion.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

SSA Lingo Worth Knowing

SSA
AIME, COLA, and OASDI are three acronyms that might not mean a thing to you, especially for those who’ve never dealt with the SSA (Social Security Administration). Even if you have sought assistance from the SSA, there is a good chance that you have found yourself scratching your head over the language used. The three acronyms above are some examples of what one may hear when discussing benefits with administration representatives.

The scale and scope of SSA terminology can be dizzying. A multitude of factors plays a part in determining one’s monthly benefits. If you are like most Americans, it’s unlikely you thought it prudent to become fluent in the language of the Social Security Administration.


SSA Glossary


In case you were curious, AIME stands for Average Indexed Monthly Earnings (i.e., the dollar amount used to calculate your Social Security benefit if you attained age 62 or became disabled). COLA is an acronym for Cost Of Living Adjustment which occurs when benefits are increased to match a rise in the cost-of-living (inflation). OASDI is short for Old Age Survivors and Disability Insurance, or programs that provide monthly cash benefits to workers and their dependents when they retire, die or become disabled.

Those acronyms are just three examples, there are many more, and we chose those above randomly to give you an idea of what you may hear when applying for benefits. Understanding the lingo of Social Security puts one at an advantage when having conversations about benefits. Instead of feeling like a bystander in the effort to have more significant financial security, you can be an active participant if you know the vernacular.

If you are approaching retirement age or are of retirement age, the SSA suggests knowing particular terms. For instance, PIA (primary insurance amount), FRA (full retirement age), and DRCs (delayed retirement credits) are acronyms which should be in your vocabulary. Fortunately, the Social Security Administration has provided a glossary of Social Security terms to help you take part in the conversation about your benefits.


SSA Disability Attorney


While apprising yourself of Social Security language is beneficial for understanding the process, we would be remiss for failing to point out that the benefits process can get complicated. Not everyone who applies is approved, you may find yourself having to fight for financial security. If you are applying for the first time or were denied, please contact attorney Stephanie Merritt Driscoll for a free consultation.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Social Security and SSI Increases 2018

SSI
The Social Security Administration (SSA) is gearing up to begin paying more to beneficiaries in the coming months. Starting in January 2018, a 2.0 percent cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) will impact more than 61 million Social Security beneficiaries. Americans who receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) will see an increase in their payments as well. The SSI benefits increase takes effect on Dec. 29. 2017, affecting more than 8 million people. Some Americans will benefit from both Social Security and SSI increases.

People who rely on Social Security and SSI will see a 2 percent increase as we make the transition into 2018, Disability Scoop reports. This is the most significant benefit increase since 2012 when recipients saw a 3.6 percent jump and the third-biggest increase since 2009.

Why The Sudden Increase in Benefits?


Every time inflation rises in the United States an automatic cost-of-living adjustment is calculated, by law. The Administration ties the annual COLA to the increase in the Consumer Price Index set by the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics. If you’d like to learn more on how the COLA is calculated, please click here. While the increase may not appear to be all that significant, the extra money will add up over time, giving millions of Americans greater financial security. The average retired worker will receive an extra $27 per month, for instance:
  • In 2017, the maximum federal SSI payment for individuals was $735; in 2018 that number will rise to $750 per month.
  • This year couples received a maximum $1,103 per month, in 2018 that number will go up to $1,125.
  • The ceiling on earnings subject to the Social Security tax (taxable maximum) will increase to $128,700 from $127,200.
It’s worth pointing out that Medicare recipients who have their Plan B premiums deducted from their monthly Social Security may not benefit from the increase, Fortune reports. The “hold harmless clause” is a rule that ensures that Part B monthly premiums don’t rise at a faster pace than Social Security’s COLA. Information on changes to Medicare in 2018 resides here.


If you are having trouble watching, please click here.

SSI Lawyer


If you are applying for or were denied Supplemental Security Income, please contact Attorney Stephanie Merritt Driscoll. At the Driscoll Law Corporation, we can help you navigate the ins-and-outs of Social Security and give you the best chance at receiving the benefits you require.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Social Security Representative Payee Program

representative payees
Social Security is the saving grace of most Americans of retirement age. Without such benefits, getting through one’s golden years would be even more trying than it already is in America. Those who reach the age of collecting Social Security are eligible to receive monthly checks of varying amounts. Naturally, it’s generally not a lot of money, but it is usually enough to make all the difference.

If budgeted in a sound manner, Social Security Administration benefits can go a long way. But, what if a recipient is not of sound mind? As you can probably imagine, there are a number of things that can go wrong. Before we proceed with this article, please keep in mind: A half million retirees have what are known as “representative payees.” Which is only 1.5% of SSA retirees. But, researchers Geoffrey Sanzenbacher and Anek Belbase of the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, contend that an estimated 10% or so of retirees have dementia, Forbes reports. Recently, the two published a study on the Representative Payee Program.

If the research is accurate, that is a lot of Americans who probably should not have control over their benefits. You are probably wondering how this can be the case? The answer is that most people don’t know about the existence of the SSA Representative Payee program.

“People don’t know about the Representative Payee program,” said Sanzenbacher. “It’s one reason they don’t use it more.”


Managing SSA Benefits


Perhaps the most troubling facet of this story is that in 1939 Congress granted the SSA authority to appoint “representative payees,” according to the article. Said payees, who are not government employees, manage the benefits of beneficiaries unable to manage their finances on their own. Representative Payees decide how to spend a beneficiary’s Social Security income and/or Supplemental Security Income (SSI), and are required to keep records of how the money is spent. Naturally, to deter against elder abuse.

“Representative Payee can be a wonderful tool particularly for a person whose assets are only Social Security benefits,” says Marit Anne Peterson, program director at the Minnesota Elder Justice Center in St. Paul, Minn. 

The study had some promising findings, indicating that when a Payee is not utilized, one’s family usually steps up to manage finances. However, family is not always a reliable resource to depend on, or are no longer living with the beneficiary. In other cases, getting control of another person’s finances can be extremely tricky, even if they are your family. What’s more, family members may not be in a position to oversee the finances of their mother or father. If you have a loved one with dementia, you should take a look at the Social Security Representative Payee program.

“The people with dementia may be better off with a family member, but clearly the family member is worse off,” says Joseph Gaugler, long-term care professor of nursing at the University of Minnesota. “We clearly rely very heavily on families to provide extreme support. How long can we rely on this system?”


Help With Social Security Benefits


Making sense of the minute details of Social Security can be extremely difficult. At the Driscoll Law Corporation, we can help you or a loved one. Please contact us today.