Tuesday, November 27, 2018

SSA Announces Benefit Increase

Mirabile dictu, the Social Security Administration announces a 2.8 percent benefit increase for 2019! Last month SSA revealed some welcome news for Americans receiving Social Security or Supplemental Security Income benefits. So, let’s unpack what this means for the more than 67 million such people in the coming year.

On December 31, 2018, more than 8 million Americans collecting SSI will see an increase in their monthly payments, according to an SSA press release. On January 1st, over 62 million Social Security beneficiaries will see their increase go into effect. Along with the 2.8 percent cost-of-living adjustment (COLA), the maximum amount of earnings subject to the Social Security tax (taxable maximum) will rise to $132,900 from $128,400. The COLA adjustment is based on the increase in the Consumer Price Index (CPI-W) from the third quarter of 2017 through the third quarter of 2018 

While a 2.8 percent increase may not seem like much, the rise in the maximum taxable earnings will significantly affect individuals whose earnings in previous years were on the cusp of the threshold. It is worth keeping in mind that one dollar in benefits is withheld from a beneficiary for every $2 in earnings above the limit.

2019 Social Security Changes

The COLA adjustment will impact people receiving benefits in different ways, especially those who are on Medicare. The SSA points out that is impossible to calculate the new benefit for those who receive Social Security or SSI and Medicare until premium amounts for 2019 are announced sometime next year.

Please take a moment to watch a short video about the increase:

If you are having trouble watching, please click here.

Please click here to gain a better understanding of how COLA is calculated or click here for a breakdown on the Social Security changes coming in 2019. Information about Medicare changes for 2019 can be found here, when available.

SSI and SSDI Attorney

If your application for Supplemental Security Income or Social Security Disability Insurance was denied, please contact The Driscoll Law Corporation. Serving Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Orange, Riverside, and San Diego County, attorney Driscoll can provide you with strong representation to help achieve a successful claim. We can also help people, who are applying for the first time, navigate the process.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

CDI Units Combat Disability Fraud

disability benefits
The job of Cooperative Disability Investigations (CDI) Units is to identify, investigate, and prevent Social Security disability fraud. CDIs play an essential role in maintaining the integrity of Federal disability programs. The Social Security Administration (SSA) and its Office of the Inspector General (OIG) efforts to combat fraud were strengthened recently following the opening of three new CDI units in Albuquerque, New Mexico; Honolulu, Hawaii; and Indianapolis, Indiana.

There are now 43 units covering 37 states; the three new openings put the SSA on track to provide CDI coverage for all 50 states by 2022, per the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 mandate. Analyzing and investigating questionable Social Security disability claims and nipping fraud in the bud before benefits are ever paid out is an enormous task. The job of CDI Units is to oversee personnel from Social Security, OIG, State Disability Determination Services (DDS), and local law enforcement agencies, as they work toward the goals listed above.
Source: OIG

When a DDS or SSA identifies a suspicious application for benefits, it is forwarded to the appropriate CDI Unit for investigation. Once completed, the CDI unit sends a report detailing the investigation to the DDS, where eligibility decided. Common types of disability fraud, according to the SSA’s OIG, include:
  • Malingering
  • Filing multiple applications.
  • Concealing work or other activities.
  • Exaggerating or lying about disabilities.

Combating Fraud

“Social Security is committed to combating fraud and preserving the public’s trust in our programs,” said Nancy A. Berryhill, Acting Commissioner of Social Security. “As we open the three new CDI units, let us remember the important work they do. The CDI program plays a critical role in detecting and preventing fraud, helping to ensure benefits are paid only to the people who are eligible. This collaboration between Social Security, the OIG, and local law enforcement helps save taxpayer money and ensures the integrity of our programs.”

The SSA and its OIG implemented the DCI program in 1997, according to the administration. Since that time, the units brought about $3.9 billion in projected savings to Social Security’s programs. 

Reporting fraud is easy, safe, and secure by internet, phone, mail, or facsimile.

SSI and SSDI Attorney

If the SSA denies your application for disability benefits, please contact the Driscoll Law Corporation. Attorney Driscoll can help you take the next step toward acquiring the benefits you require. Call us directly at 949-359-1370 to receive your free consultation.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Administrative Offset Affects SSDI

At the Driscoll Law Corporation, we specialize in Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). We work hard to keep our clients, and potential clients, informed of anything that could impact their benefits or factors that could jeopardize access to vital resources. Most American adults have a cursory understanding of what it means to have funds garnished. The legal definition:

To garnish is to obtain a court order directing a party holding funds (such as a bank) or about to pay wages (such as an employer) to an alleged debtor to set that money aside until the court determines (decides) how much the debtor owes to the creditor. 

While many people have an understanding of garnished wages as it pertains to collecting late child support and alimony payments, there are in fact several other instances when funds are garnished. Some cases, involve what is known as an "administrative offset;" it is when the Department of Treasury through the Treasury Offset Program (TOP) or the Federal Tax Refund Offset Program, withhold a person’s funds or benefits to pay off debt.

Receiving An Administrative Offset Notice

administrative offset noticeAmericans with defaulted federal student loans, delinquent taxes, and back child support payments can be subject to Administrative Offset, KSDK reports. There is a relatively long list of income streams that are exempt from the Treasury Offset Program or Federal Tax Refund Offset Program, including Supplemental Security Income. However, those collecting Social Security Disability Insurance are not protected from Administrative Offset. Why the disparity? Because SSI is based on a person’s financial need, whereas SSDI is based on peoples’ work record.

Individuals who receive an offset notice have sixty days from the date of the notice (not when it's received) to object to the action, according to the article. If one’s defensive measures do not prove fruitful, be advised that offsets are limited to an amount that is no greater than 15% of your total benefits.

Anyone who receives an Administrative Offset Notice must act quickly to plead their case, especially if the notice is in error. Those who do in fact owe money, have the option to pay it off within the sixty-days, request a hardship reduction, or negotiate a payment plan.

California SSI and SSDI Attorney

Stephanie M. Driscoll is a Social Security disability attorney practicing in Southern California. Attorney Driscoll can help you work through the often-complicated process of applying for disability benefits. Please contact us today to learn more about how the Driscoll Law Corporation can help advocate for you or a loved one.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

ABLE to Save Month

ABLE account
The Achieving a Better Life Experience Act, known as ABLE, was passed in 2014 in an effort to help people living with disabilities save money. Those who open ABLE Accounts can save up to a $100,000 without the risk of losing benefits like Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

While states that adopt ABLE account options for people with disabilities is a huge step toward helping people gain economic independence, the law only applies to individuals under the age of 26. Hopefully, the age restriction will change in the near future to include a more extensive age range. With that in mind, it's worth pointing out that this year is the 28th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.

Senators Richard Burr and Bob Casey, the co-authors of the ABLE Act, writing for CNN point out that one of the four goals of the ADA is to establish economic self-sufficiency for people living with disabilities. ABLE account expansion is one way to achieve such a purpose.

August is ABLE to Save Month

The ABLE National Resource Center (ANRC) is using the month of August to promote their #ABLEtoSave campaign. During this time the center hopes to both raise awareness about ABLE accounts and encourage people across the country to sign up for them as a way toward greater independence.

“ABLE accounts are a down payment on freedom for millions of individuals with disabilities and their families,” said Christopher J. Rodriguez, Director of the ABLE National Resource Center. “Yet, public knowledge of ABLE accounts is somewhat lacking and enrollment in ABLE programs still has significant room for growth.” He adds, “The goal of the #ABLEtoSave campaign is to significantly boost public knowledge about ABLE accounts and ultimately increase the amount of ABLE accounts opened across all ABLE programs.”

If you would like more information on opening an ABLE Account or would like to participate in helping to promote the #ABLEtoSave campaign, please click here. As of August 6, 2018, more than 20,000 individuals with disabilities from across the country have opened ABLE accounts, according to the ANRC.

At the end of the month, individuals who have an ABLE account will receive guidance on taking steps to even greater financial security. The ANRC will unveil a plan designed to help people with disabilities:
  • Set Financial Goals
  • Create a Circle of Support
  • Make Smart Financial Decisions
  • Monitor Their Account
Please take a moment to watch a short video:

If you are having trouble watching, please click here.

SSI and SSDI Benefits Assistance

If the Social Security Administration (SSA) denied your application for SSI and SSDI, The Driscoll Law Corporation could be of assistance. We can help anyone who is applying for the first time as well; please contact us to learn more about how the Driscoll Law Corporation can help you or a loved one.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Reinstating Social Security Benefits After Incarceration

People who are required to serve a month or more in jail or prison may find it upsetting to learn that they will no longer receive Supplemental Security Income or Social Security Disability Insurance benefits. The Social Security Administration states:

We cannot pay benefits to someone who, by court order, is confined in an institution at public expense in connection with a criminal case.

When individuals are wards of the state, it is difficult to make the argument that they are still eligible for SSA support. Those subject to incarceration have everything—medical, food, and shelter—taken care of already. While a loss of benefits isn’t a welcome reality for those serving time, the good news is that in most cases payments will begin again upon release provided however that the length of stay is less than 12-months.

It stands to reason that people receiving disability checks before jail will often require the same assistance after serving time. With that in mind, the administration provides several resources online to help steer such individuals in the right direction after release.

Reinstating Social Security Benefits

The SSA points out people who serve more than a year in a public institution must file a new application and be reapproved for SSI or SSDI. There are mechanisms in place to prepare people for release regarding reinstating benefits. Many prisons have a prerelease agreement with the Social Security Administration, allowing inmates to get the ball rolling 90 days before the scheduled release date. If everything goes ideally, upon release benefits will recommence. If you would like more information on statewide prerelease agreements, please click here.

People who are not serving a sentence in non-prerelease agreement facility should call 1-800-772-1213 Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. to schedule an appointment to apply for benefits.

It is worth noting that some inmates are required to enter sober living homes or halfway houses upon release, which are often under the control of the Department of Corrections. As a result, residents of such programs are not eligible for benefits; because, they are still under the supervision and custody of the state.

The amount of time it takes to restore benefits varies from case to case, here are three things people should know:
  • If Social Security benefits were only suspended, benefits could begin anew with minimal delay.
  • If benefits were terminated, benefits could take a few months to resume; hence the need for preapproval agreements that mitigate the risk of coverage lapses.
  • If SSI benefits were terminated, a new application and disability determination are required, and a decision could take from three to five months.

SSI and SSDI Benefits Assistance

Applying for benefits under any circumstances can lead to complications, reinstating SSI and SSDI isn’t any different. If you are struggling to reacquire support from Social Security, The Driscoll Law Corporation could be of assistance. Please contact us at your earliest convenience to learn more.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Social Security Scams Persist

In Alabama, hundreds of people collecting Social Security benefits are dealing with scammers, WHNT reports. Fraudsters are working hard to mine personal information from beneficiaries in an attempt to cash in on victim's benefits. The trend isn’t unique to individuals living in Alabama, in fact; in early June the Social Security Administration released a warning about impersonators using phone calls, emails, and other methods to obtain people’s personal information.

Given the importance of Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits in people’s lives, it is crucial that beneficiaries do everything in their power to protect the personal information. Phishers typically use the phone as a means of harvesting Social Security Numbers, addresses, and dates of birth from unsuspecting persons.

 If you are receiving suspicious phone calls from people claiming to work for the administration, you should take action immediately to protect your account.

SSA Impersonation Schemes

Andrew Cannarsa, OIG Communications Director, writes that citizens should report suspicious activity to the OIG at 1-800-269-0271 or online via https://oig.ssa.gov/report. While the SSA may contact beneficiaries in certain situations, there are questions that such representatives would never ask; never provide SSN or bank account numbers to unknown persons over the phone or internet unless you are confident of to whom you are speaking. It is always better to err on the side of caution than risk losing access to your benefits.

“Be aware of suspicious calls from unknown sources, and when in doubt, contact the official entity to verify the legitimacy of the call,” said Acting Inspector General of Social Security, Gale Stallworth Stone. 

In some circumstances, beneficiaries will answer the phone to hear an automated recording stating that their Social Security number (SSN) “has been suspended for suspicion of illegal activity.” The recording tells the listener to call a number to resolve the issue, or their assets will be frozen. This is a scam!

Contact your local Social Security office or call Social Security’s toll-free customer service number at 1-800-772-1213, to verify the legitimacy of any email, letter, text or phone call—claiming to be from SSA or the OIG.

SSDI and SSI Attorney

Navigating the process of applying for Social Security benefits can be complicated and confusing; it is always sound to have a legal expert in your corner. If your application for SSI or SSDI was denied, please contact Attorney Driscoll for guidance.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

SSI Electronic Wage Reporting

Last month, the Social Security Administration (SSA) gave beneficiaries the capability to exercise greater control over their time. Applying for and maintaining access to vital SSA benefit programs is a time-consuming process that can place enormous burdens on a person's life. Getting all of your ducks in order to ensure that you continue to receive financial support can be onerous, and it may involve several trips to SSA field offices; travel expenses can add up quickly and the administration has sought to address the problem.

People who work and rely on Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits are required to report their gross wages to Social Security. The agency asks that SSI beneficiaries consistently report wages during the first six days of the month to avoid overpayments and underpayments. Naturally, you can report wages by visiting, calling, or writing your local Social Security Office. All three of the above options can be time-consuming.

The SSA now offers a fourth option, using the my Social Security online portal, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipients and deemors, concurrent beneficiaries, and representative payees can report wages electronically.

SSI Electronic Wage Reporting

Electronic wage reporting is a feature that Social Security Disability Insurance recipients already had, it makes sense that SSI beneficiaries have the option too, considering that people are often eligible and rely on both SSDI and SSI. The SSA writes:

“This new application makes it possible to avoid visits to a field office to report wages in person. However, users must still contact an office to report when they first start working for each new employer. It’s also important to note that representative payees are able to report wages, but won’t have access to beneficiaries’ or recipient’s other information. When you sign up for or log in to your my Social Security account, you’ll have access to this convenient application on your desktop, laptop, and mobile device. After you report your wages online, you can save or print a copy of your receipt.”

SSDI and SSI Attorney

The Driscoll Law Corporation can help anyone who has had their SSI or SSDI application denied or who are applying for benefits for the first time. The process can be challenging to understand, and it helps to have an advocate in your corner. Please contact our office today!