Tuesday, March 13, 2018

American Retirees Living in Poverty

Americans work the better part of their lives with the hope that they can retire one day. Not just stop working, they wish to live comfortably for the rest of their days without having to fret over bills. Just because a person reaches retirement age, doesn’t mean they can expect to be entirely taken care of by Social Security benefit programs. Most people understand that any financial support that they receive from the Social Security Administration (SSA) isn’t much; such people realize that anything they can do to supplement SSA benefits could prove vital to ensuring a comfortable retirement.

Reaching one’s sixties is a different experience for each person. While many people manage to get all their ducks in order, so they are confident they can survive without a steady paycheck, a significant number of other people can expect to live below the poverty line in their “golden years.” We live in a different time than just a few decades ago. Most employees no longer have the same options as before when it comes to pensions, while some can utilize other instruments like 401(k) accounts. According to CNN Money:

“The percentage of workers in the private sector whose only retirement account is a defined benefit pension plan is now 4%, down from 60% in the early 1980s. About 14% of companies offer a combination of both types.” 

Between Social Security, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), and 401(k)s, hopefully, it will be enough for people; unfortunately, the data says otherwise with millions of retirees.

Many Seniors Living In Poverty

The Kaiser Family Foundation conducted an analysis of available research on senior poverty rates. There are some 49.3 million seniors in the United States. The study indicates that half of all people on Medicare had incomes less than $26,200 in 2016. When looking at poverty data, it’s important to understand that there are two measures of poverty in America, the official poverty measure and the Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM). The latter takes into consideration many variables, such as liabilities, including taxes, social welfare benefits, out-of-pocket medical spending, and housing costs.

Relying on the official poverty measure to determine the poverty rates among seniors paints one picture, using the SPM paints an entirely different picture. The foundation found that 4.6 million (9.3%) seniors fell under the official poverty measure in 2016. Using the SPM as a guide reveals that during the same years 7.1 million adults ages 65 and older lived in poverty, and almost 21 million seniors had incomes below 200% of poverty under the SPM. At least 15% of people ages 65 and older lived in poverty in CA in 2016, under the SPM.

SSDI and SSDI Attorney

If the SSA didn’t approve your application for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), The Driscoll Law Corporation can help. Attorney Stephanie Merritt Driscoll can help you or a loved one appeal the SSA’s decision and get the benefits you require. Please contact our office today.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

How Work Affects Social Security Benefits?

A large number of people who collect Social Security Administration (SSA) benefits due to an injury would like to get back to work. While many of them are unable to do so because of the severity of their condition, some people can start taking steps toward financial independence. Getting back to work can significantly improve one's life quality, and it is essential that you go about in a way that doesn’t lead to harm. Premature efforts to re├źnter the workforce could result in worsening one’s disability; it’s vital that the steps are taken carefully to ensure you do not bite off more than you can chew.


What’s more, a large number of people who’d like to get back to at least part-time employment fear they will lose all their benefits. It should go without saying that just because a person is ready to work doesn't mean they are prepared for total financial independence. Losing Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) too soon could be disastrous. With that in mind, it’s prudent to share with you an article we wrote a little over a year ago on this subject. At the time, we brought to our reader's attention an SSA program by the name of Ticket to Work. We encourage you to read the original post, but primarily, the program aims to help people rejoin the workforce by providing many tools.

How Will Work Affect My Social Security Benefits?

The SSA understands the concerns of beneficiaries who’d like to take back their financial independence. This February, the organization focused on providing people with SSI and SSDI greater insight about Ticket to Work. There is a plethora of information online that can help you or a loved one decide if working again is right for you and navigate the process with greater care. You also have the option to call the Ticket to Work Helpline at 866-968-7842 or 866-833-2967(TTY), to learn more about the program. Representatives will field your calls Monday – Friday, 8 a.m. – 8 p.m. ET.

On the phone you can get answers to questions like:
  • How will working affect my benefits?
  • How Social Security's Work Incentives help you toward financial independence?
  • Where can I find an authorized service provider to support my path toward employment?
Tomorrow, Feb. 28, 2018, you can learn more about Ticket to Work by registering for a Work Incentive Seminar Event (WISE). The online webinar is for anyone 18 through 64 who receives Social Security Disability benefits. Clicking here will direct you to more information about attending tomorrow's event.

SSDI and SSDI Attorney

If the SSA didn’t approve your application for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), The Driscoll Law Corporation could help. Attorney Stephanie Merritt Driscoll can help you or a loved one appeal the SSA’s decision and get the benefits you require. Please contact our office today.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Social Security Changes Worth Knowing About

In 2017, some 45,497,828 retired workers and dependents collected Social Security benefits. During the same time, 10,411,252 disabled workers and dependents received benefits. So, you can see that the vast majority of beneficiaries receiving benefits are retired Americans.

Each year, millions of older adults in the U.S. heavily rely on the Social Security Administration (SSA) to help cover the costs of living. Without SSA programs it’s probably fair to say that many of those same people would find it extremely difficult to manage. It is essential that such people keep themselves apprised of the changes that occur at the agency, as they may affect one’s benefits, and thus, individuals' way of life.

Most changes to Social Security are small, but now and then a drastic change is made that can impact your life. This year, there are seven changes that beneficiaries might have an interest in, The Week reports. Some of the alterations may affect your benefits, useful information to have when you are trying to plan your retirement strategy.

SSA Changes 2018

One change of note is that most workers will no longer receive paper statements in the mail showing past annual earnings and estimate Social Security benefits. You must sign up for a my Social Security account to retrieve info; only people, over 60, currently collecting benefits will continue getting paper statements. 

Full Retirement Age (FRA) is age (66), that is the age at which you can claim full benefits without a monthly reduction. Americans can begin collecting retirement at age 62. However, the administration is transitioning FRA to 67, according to the article. The cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) is raised to 2 percent in 2018 (although, premium increases for Medicare Part B may cancel out the rise). 

There is a higher taxable earnings cap, which means people who make more money have a new taxable earnings threshold of $128,700. A higher earnings limits affects people who collect benefits before reaching the FRA, they can receive income up to a certain threshold without reducing their benefits.

There are also higher beneficiary payments in 2018, with average paychecks increasing by $27 per month, the article reports. While people collecting Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) understand their payments are scaled to work records, the threshold for monthly income that can be earned without impacting benefits will rise to $1,970 for the blind and disabled, and $1,180 for the non-blind disabled. Those receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI) are getting a bump too: $750 for individuals and $1,125 for couples.

The final change this year involves a Social Security credit increase. As of 2018, individuals must accrue 40 credits for Social Security eligibility, each credit requires $1,320 in earnings.

SSDI and SSI Attorney

Attorney Stephanie Driscoll can help you and your loved ones with applying and qualifying for disability benefits. If your claim was denied, we can assist you to appeal the decision. Please contact us today.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Special Needs Trusts Protect SSI

Family members often look after young and adult children living with disabilities, especially those born with special needs conditions. Parents who give birth to a child with Down’s syndrome or autism know that more will be required from them in practically every aspect of life, if their child is going to succeed. With that in mind, pointing out the obvious is helpful, nobody’s parents live forever; a reality not lost on the parents of special needs children.

The parents of special needs children have a burning question in their mind. Who will look after their offspring when they are gone? Naturally, there are several government programs in place that assist people with disabilities financially, such Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). Social Security Administration (SSA) programs can make all the difference for people unable to work for a living. Medicaid covers the costs of health bills.

It’s vital that parents plan wisely for when they are no longer around, the choices you make today could drastically impact the quality of your adult children’s lives in the future. A large number of parents need to consider life after death, given that over 40 million Americans had a disability in 2016, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Some experts have offer guidance on the subject for said parents.

“We don't expect anybody else to do what we do for our child, so while we're still here, we want to try and have some peace of mind that everything will be OK,” the president of the Special Needs Alliance, Brian N. Rubin, tells USA Today.

Parents of Adult Children with Special Needs

Hopefully, other members of the family can oversee the care of an adult child with special needs after you are gone. They can help with making decisions that your son or daughter can’t make on their own. You may need another member of the family to act as trustee for a special needs trust.

If you are planning on leaving an adult child with special needs a financial inheritance, it’s critical that you do so wisely. In fact, how you go about it is of the utmost importance; incorrectly going about it can severely impact SSA benefits, according to USA Today. Attorney Jay Roberts, a special needs planning expert, points out that a person must have under $2,000 in assets to qualify for SSI. Having access to more than that could disqualify a person from government benefits program that covers substantial medical costs each year.

With the above information in mind, parents need to consider special needs, or supplemental needs, trusts, according to the article. A trust will allow parents to leave an inheritance without jeopardizing government benefits. There are also ABLE Accounts; a tax-advantaged savings account permitting up to $100,000. An ABLE Account will not impact government benefits.

“Those trusts will essentially protect any assets held for the benefit of the children,” Robert says.

SSDI and SSI Attorney

Attorney Stephanie Driscoll can assist you with 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, January 10, 2018

Disability Recipients Shouldn't Be Stigmatized

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

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:

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

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.