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

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

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.