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.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Compassionate Allowances Expanded

compassionate allowancesToward the beginning of summer, we covered the important topic of Compassionate Allowances. This is the Social Security Administration's (SSA) method for fast tracking benefits for people with certain debilitating conditions. It should go without saying that Compassionate Allowances can prove to be real “life savers” for a significant number of individuals who would otherwise be subjected to the often-lengthy benefits approval process.

With any serious, chronic health ailment there is little time to juggle priorities: healthcare versus livelihood. If favorable outcomes are to be achieved, treatment must begin with haste. When it comes to cancer, that usually takes the form of chemotherapy and/or radiation. The side effects of which make it next to impossible to work, and unless an individual is financially secure, this can present a real problem.

If you or a loved one has limited resources, the SAA will likely be who one turns to. The benefits programs like, Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI), can make all the difference. After a medical diagnosis is made, there should be no reason for making someone jump through the many hoops of the approval process. The same obstacles that people with less serious conditions are required to jump through.


From Diagnosis to Benefits


Compassionate Allowances have helped nearly a half-million Americans with life threatening disabilities, according to the SSA. As of right now, the number of conditions that fall under the umbrella of Compassionate Allowances is 228. The agency recently added to the list: CACH--Vanishing White Matter Disease-Infantile and Childhood Onset Forms, Congenital Myotonic Dystrophy, and Kleefstra Syndrome.

“Social Security is committed – now and in the future – to continue to identify and fast-track diseases that are certain or near-certain to be approved for disability benefits,” said Acting SSA Commissioner, Nancy A. Berryhill. “The Compassionate Allowances and Health IT programs are making a real difference by ensuring that Americans with disabilities quickly receive the benefits they need.” 

If you have been diagnosed with a serious illness recently, you can find a list of list of all Compassionate Allowances conditions, here.


SSA Help


Attorney Stephanie M. Driscoll is committed to helping people with disabilities get the assistance that they require. The process is often difficult to understand and navigate. At the Driscoll Law Corporation, we can help you, if you are applying for the first time, or have been denied benefits. Please contact us today.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

SSA Benefits Access During Disasters

SSAIn the wake of serious flooding of catastrophic proportions there are likely to be thousands of people in Texas and Louisiana who are unable to access their mail. When it comes to receiving monthly bills, there are a number of people who might welcome such an occurrence. On the other hand, if you are awaiting monthly benefit checks, being unable to access your mail is likely to cause some serious stress.

Thousands of Americans have been displaced due to the torrential flooding of Hurricane Harvey. A traumatic experience, to say the least. For those who rely on monthly benefits like Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) from the Social Security Administration (SSA), being unable to get your check is big deal. Fortunately, the SSA is prepared for these kinds of events and those who can’t get their mail have options.

Accessing Social Security Benefits


In most cases, SSA payments are made on the first of every month. For those living on Gulf Coast, September 1st has come and gone. Which means many benefit recipients may not have been able to get their check. The SSA has resources available for those impacted.

Hurricane Harvey resulted in mail delivery services being suspended in the Houston area, according to the agency. As a result, many postal centers were shuttered, as well. If you were unable to get your check(s), there is a list of Post Office locations where recipients can pick up checks with proper ID.

People who would like to pick up their checks in person can go to any one of three emergency payment locations in Texas and two in Louisiana. Beneficiaries can request an immediate payment in person at such locations, to find the locations please click here.

SSA In Times of Disaster


If you are a regular reader of this blog you are probably aware that our practice is in Southern California. Quite a distance from the Houston area and the neighboring areas affected by Hurricane Harvey. However, natural disasters can occur anywhere, including California. As we speak, wildfires are burning all over the state of California. This means that many people have been forced to abandon their homes to head for safety. If you are one of the many affected Californians, you can get information on how to get benefits by calling 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) or go to the SSA Office Locator.

At the Driscoll Law Corporation, our thoughts and prayers go out to everyone affected by America’s current natural disasters. For those who are trying to access SSA benefits for the first time, or have been denied benefits, there are always options, but the process can be long and involved. If that is your story, please let Attorney Stephanie Merritt Driscoll advocate for you or a loved one.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

SSA Inspector General Fraud Warning

SSN Fraud
If you are a recipient of Social Security benefits, such as Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI), news that you might be eligible to get more money would likely be welcomed. After all, the amount of money that the average recipient receives each month (while helpful) is not a whole lot of money. So, if you were to receive a phone call from somebody working for the SSA, you may not hesitate to answer any questions, if it were a means to a greater financial end.

Please be advised that if you receive a call from someone claiming to be a Social Security employee, it may be a fraudulent scam. Someone attempting to phish information out of you, such as your social security number (SSN). Social Security’s Office of the Inspector General, Gale Stallworth Stone, has issued two scam alerts for SSA benefits recipients.


SSA Is Not On the Other End


The Inspector General would like all recipients to be vigilantly cautious about anyone who calls claiming to be employed by the administration. With one scammer luring people to divulge personal information by enticing them with a 1.7 percent cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) increase of their Social Security benefits. Calling from a "323" area code, according to Forbes, the imposter attempts to get victims to verify their personal information, including:
  • Name
  • Date of Birth
  • Parents’ Name
  • Social Security Number
  • Any Other Personal Information
If the SSA imposter succeeds, they will use the information to alter victim’s direct deposit, address, and telephone information. Thus, scamming them out of their benefits. The second fraudulent act occurring right now involves former clients of Kentucky disability attorney Eric C. Conn. The Inspector General warns that the calls come from 202-681-5115, and the scammer will offer victims $9,000 from a “Conn Client Compensation Fund” (nonexistent) if they send $200 to the “Federal Reserve Bank of New York.”


Protecting Yourself from Fraud


You can learn how to protect yourself and your clients, here. But below you will find three tips from the Inspector General:
  • Understand the threats. Be wary of scammers who may impersonate government officials or seek advance payment for services.
  • Exercise caution. In general, no government agency or reputable company will solicit your personal information over the phone or by email, or request an advance fee.
  • Secure your information. Store your Social Security number in a safe location — don’t carry it with you. Shred documents that include your personal information.


Moving forward...


If you live in the Orange County area of California and you believe you might have responded to a scam call regarding your Social Security information, please take the time to contact Attorney Stephanie Merritt Driscoll of Driscoll Law Corporation. We may be able to assist you in reaching out to the appropriate Social Security Administration department to alert the SSA of a possible scam.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Orange County Homeless Czar Shows Promise

Homelessness is a major concern across the United States, and California is not exempt. In major cities across the state, thousands of people are without home or employment to pay for the core necessities. Orange County’s homeless population, in many cases, is living in conditions of squalor. Living in tents and storm drains, due to a serious lack of homeless shelters. Many people living in such conditions have serious mental and physical health problems, making their ability to find employment untenable.

While many of such people would qualify for state assistance, the process for applying for Supplemental Security Income and Social Security Disability Insurance benefits is too much to take on without help. These benefits could, in fact, make all the difference in changing one’s situation.

In an effort to gain control of the ever-growing homeless problem in Orange County, a call went out to the Board of Supervisors and other county officials to step up their efforts, The Orange County Register reports. The call was answered by the appointment of “Homeless Czar” Susan Price, at the end of May 2016. By October, Price had helped with efforts to open The Courtyard homeless shelter, providing emergency housing for as many as 400 people. Next year, renovations will be completed on Bridges at Kraemer in Anaheim, which will be able to assist 200 people, offering health services, employment counseling and other resources like SOAR.

“When I arrived, the board had already laid the groundwork,” Price said. “Look what’s happened in the last year.”

SSI/SSDI Outreach, Access and Recovery



As was mentioned above, with the aid of certain benefits a number of people could get back on their feet and acquire permanent housing. But, they need help. SSI/SSDI Outreach, Access and Recovery (SOAR) involves county workers trained to help the homeless successfully fill out applications for SSI and SSDI, according to the article. The little bit of extra help is what many need, but have been unable to get.

“It’s a critical component,” Price said. “Trying to negotiate that system on your own is not realistic. It doesn’t happen successfully. We have to do it with and for them, in some cases.”

SOAR is funded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), an agency that believes mental illness recovery rests on having a safe place to live. Given that a significant number of homeless men and women have mental health concerns, SOAR can have a dramatic impact on reducing the homeless population.

“This is about benefits,” she explained. “The primary thing is connecting people to income and benefits that they’re eligible for.”

SSDI and SSI Help



At Driscoll Law Corporation, we can help you or a loved one navigate the process of Social Security benefits, like SSI and SSDI. If a denial was received, we can help you with the appeals process. Please contact Attorney Stephanie Merritt Driscoll, today.