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!

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Laws Address Disability Discrimination

The Washington State Legislature passed seven new laws to address homelessness and affordable housing, Crosscut. reports. While all seven pieces of legislation are worth taking stock, two of the bills can significantly help people with disabilities; they could prevent permanently disabled citizens from finding themselves homeless.

Washington passed a new ban on source-of-income discrimination, according to the article. It is now illegal to deny a current, or a prospective, tenant housing due to said renter's reliance on Social Security and veterans benefits rental assistance, and Section 8 housing vouchers.

“That kind of discrimination has a disparate impact on people we know are already at a higher risk of housing discrimination — people of color, people with disabilities, single parent-headed households,” says Michele Thomas, Washington Low Income Housing Alliance’s director of policy and advocacy. “If someone goes out with a voucher and a landlord says, ‘I don’t want to rent to you’ because of stereotypes they have in their head, not only is it extremely unfair, it just makes our ability to use the for-profit rental market really inefficient.”

Two Bills for People Living With Disabilities

Previously, the state’s Housing and Essential Needs (HEN) program gave rental assistance only to people with temporary disabilities, according to the article. If a person’s temporarily disabled status were upgraded to permanent, the recipient would lose their rental assistance. Now, a new bill, House Bill 2667 - 2017-18, expands HEN to include people with permanent disabilities, protecting such people from homelessness.

Thanks to another new bill, people with disabilities will have an easier time getting their hands on medical records when applying for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). If an SSI or SSDI applicant wants to apply for benefits or appeal a denial, they must obtain a copy of medical records that prove their disability. Washington House Bill 1239 - 2017-18, waves a $26 fee for obtaining medical records; a cost that some low-income individuals could not cover.

“If we continue to make this level of progress in next session and the one after that, that’s how Washington is going to back out of our crisis and make sure everyone has a chance to live in safe and affordable homes,” says Thomas, who hopes that the passing of new laws is just the beginning of the effort to end the crisis.

SSDI and SSI Attorney

Finding affordable housing can be difficult in every state and it will be interesting to follow this story line to see if other states consider such legislation. If the SSA denied your application for Supplemental Security Income (SSI), or you are applying for benefits for the first time, 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, June 12, 2018

Phishing Warning from SSA Inspector General

SSA Benefits
If you are one of the more than 60 million Americans receiving benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA), there is a good chance that every penny matters. Those collecting Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), Supplemental Security Income (SSI), or any one of the programs offered by the SSA, often struggle to cover their expenses each month even with assistance. Many of the people collecting benefits are some of America’s most vulnerable; unfortunately, this fact has not been lost on fraudsters and individuals who would usurp the identity of another.

Interestingly, the SSA says that signing up for a ‘my Social Security’ account on the organization's website could actually protect people from identity theft. The Inspector General for the Social Security Administration warns that criminals use phone calls, emails, and other methods to obtain people’s personal information; identity thieves use the information to attempt to open a ‘my Social Security’ account and then redirect a beneficiaries direct deposit benefits to a bank account they can access.

“If you receive information from SSA indicating that you have opened a ‘my Social Security’ account, and you did not open an account, you should contact Social Security so that appropriate action may be taken, and the matter may be referred to the Office of the Inspector General. You can do so by visiting or calling a local SSA office or calling SSA’s toll-free customer service at 1-800-772-1213. Deaf or hearing-impaired individuals can call Social Security’s TTY number at 1-800-325-0778.”

Internet Phishing Alert

One of the primary methods of obtaining people’s info is through a practice known as “phishing.” Fraudsters send emails meant to coax recipients into revealing sensitive information by clicking on a malicious link or opening a malicious attachment. The SSA offers valuable tips for protecting yourself against identity theft phishing, including:
  • Most emails from Social Security will come from a “.gov" email address. If an email address does not end in “.gov,” use caution before opening attachments or clicking on pictures or links in the email.
  • Good: https://www.ssa.gov/ Bad: https://www.socialsecurity.gov.gmx.de/ and https://www.socialsecurity.gov.bx.co.rx/setup
  • Do not respond to emails requesting personal information. Reputable businesses and public agencies will not ask you for personal information in an email.
  • For more information about "phishing," go to OnGuard Online.

The Inspector General recommends that you never provide your personal information when receiving unsolicited calls or contacts; never agree to accept pre-paid debit cards or credit cards in another person’s name; Never agree to send or wire money to an unknown person; and, always contact your local SSA office if you receive a call from a person claiming to be from SSA, and that person asks you to provide your Social Security number or other information.

If you find that someone has stolen or is using your personal information to open credit accounts or for other non-SSA-related purposes, you should report that to the Federal Trade Commission at www.ftc.gov/idtheft or 1-877-ID-THEFT.

SSDI and SSI Attorney

If the SSA denied your application for Supplemental Security Income (SSI), or you are applying for benefits for the first time, 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, May 15, 2018

VA Compensation and Social Security Benefits

Social Security disability benefits
In the wake of September 11, 2001, the United States launched an offensive in Afghanistan on October 7, 2001; as most of you are likely aware, there are still over 10,000 American servicemen and women in that country. Then on March 20, 2003, another campaign began in Iraq and continued officially until Sunday, December 18, 2011.

Both conflicts can are (were) protracted and unorthodox, especially when you consider that majority of injuries sustained by troops (both mental and physical) occurred after the initial assaults in the region. Improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, are a part of the American lexicon after more than seventeen years of combat; roadside bombs are responsible for a significant number of veterans’ disabilities.

In 2016, 675,000 veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan had been granted disability, according to PBS. A disability status can arise from both physical and mental injury, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The condition occurs in about 11-20% of Veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Upon discharge from the military, many veterans are unable to hold down steady employment due to the scars, visible or not, of service. Such individuals are in most cases eligible for benefits programs through Veterans Affairs and the Social Security Administration. However, qualifying for support from one agency does not guarantee the same treatment from the other.

VA and Social Security Programs

Service men and women who sustain injuries will want to have as much support as possible. Many  such people have families to think about, spouses and children who rely on them in life. Those in need of assistance should be made aware that the SSA’s programs, processes, and criteria for receiving benefits differ from that of the VA. The administration points out on its website that just because a veteran has a VA compensation rating of 100% permanent and total (P&T), does not guarantee they will receive Social Security disability benefits.

Although, while there are not guarantees of benefits, the SSA does allow for expedited processing for applications from veterans. Veterans who require assistance from Social Security must meet certain criteria, including:
  • You must be unable to do substantial work because of your medical condition(s).
  • Your medical condition(s) must have lasted, or be expected to last, at least one year or to result in death.
In most cases, the administration will identify veterans with VA compensation rating of 100% P&T to expedite the application process; but, it is important that applicants double-check to ensure there isn’t an oversight. It is also worth noting that VA compensation will not affect your Social Security benefits.

SSDI and SSI Attorney

If you are a veteran and the SSA denied your application for SSI or SSDI, or you are applying for benefits for the first time, 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, May 1, 2018

Elder Poverty Relief Act Helps SSI Beneficiaries

Elder Poverty Relief Act
Approximately 10,000 Americans attain age 65 each day, according to Justice in Aging, a national non-profit legal advocacy organization that fights senior poverty through law. Last month, the “Elder Poverty Relief Act” was introduced in the Senate by Ron Wyden, D-Ore., along with Finance Committee members Sens. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, and Bob Casey, D-Penn. The legislation would increase earned benefits for people on Social Security or Supplemental Security Income (SSI), according to KTVZ. If the measure garners approval, it could help many vulnerable Americans out of poverty and improve overall life quality.

“Too many seniors are walking on an economic tightrope, balancing their food bill against their rent against their utility bill,” said Sen. Wyden. “It’s time to update Social Security’s guarantee of a secure retirement by boosting earned benefits for at-risk seniors, particularly older women who live longer and have less access to savings.”

The legislation, according to the report, has the support of the Gray Panthers, Justice in Aging, the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, Social Security Works, and the Strengthen Social Security Coalition.

Elder Poverty Relief Act

If enacted in 2019, the Elder Poverty Relief Act could help almost 14 million people who would receive the Poverty Relief Benefit. The PRB (starting at an extra $85 a month) targets:
  • Social Security beneficiaries age 82 or older and SSI recipients at the full retirement age (currently age 66, increasing to age 67).
  • Social Security and SSI recipients who have received benefits for 20 years.
  • Social Security beneficiaries at the full retirement age with low monthly benefits (roughly $944 a month, adjusted annually)
Over time the benefit will increase; the Social Security Administration estimates that the Elder Poverty Relief Act would help 420,000 seniors out of poverty by 2030, the article reports. Around one out of every 10 seniors lives in poverty; 20 percent of seniors have zero retirement savings.

“With stagnating wages, the cost of living continuing to rise, and many budgets being stretched to the breaking point, expanding Social Security benefits is more important now than ever,” said Sen. Brown. “No one should ever have to decide between heating their home, putting food on the table, or filling their prescriptions.”

SSDI and SSI Attorney

If the SSA denied your application for Supplemental Security Income (SSI), or you are applying for benefits for the first time, 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, April 24, 2018

Strengthening Protections for Social Security Beneficiaries Act

SSA benefits
The Strengthening Protections for Social Security Beneficiaries Act of 2018 (H.R. 4547), introduced by Reps. Sam Johnson (R-TX) and John Larson (D-CT), was signed into law this month, Financial Regulation News reports. The authors of the bill say the goal is to modernize the representative payee program. If you are not familiar with the program, below you will find a quick breakdown.

The representative payee program was authorized by Congress in 1939 allowing the Social Security Administration(SSA) to make benefit payments to another person or organization if the beneficiary is incapable handling their finances. Payees are usually family members, such as parents or spouses. Around 6.2 million people or organizations serve as representative payees on behalf of some 8 million beneficiaries, according to the Social Security Administration’s Office of the Inspector General.

“This new law is great news for the millions of Social Security beneficiaries who rely on a representative payee to help them manage their benefits,” said Johnson. “Not only will it provide much-needed accountability for the representative payee program, but it also puts measures into place that ensure newly selected representative payees are qualified and trustworthy. I thank Congressman Larson for working with me on this important legislation that will ensure Americans – from children, seniors, to individuals with disabilities – will have more peace of mind when it comes to having a representative payee they can trust.”

Protections for Social Security and SSI Recipients

The Strengthening Protections for Social Security Beneficiaries Act includes other provisions that SSA program beneficiaries will find of interest. H.R. 4547 disqualifies individuals from serving as representative payees if they have specific types of criminal convictions, the Disability Scoop reports. It should come as little surprise that the bill bars individuals who have representative payees themselves from fulfilling the same role for another beneficiary; if a person can’t manage their benefits then it makes sense that they can’t handle others. SSA beneficiaries will make a list of people who they would prefer handling their payments, the top of the list would be their first choice.

The law also requires protection and advocacy groups in each state to conduct performance reviews on payees and report to the administration. H.R. 4547 does away with a previous mandate requiring parents or spouses (living with a beneficiary) complete an annual accounting form.

 “For too long dishonest representative payees have exploited and abused people with disabilities without fear of being discovered,” said Curt Decker, executive director of the National Disability Rights Network, an umbrella group for the nation’s protection and advocacy organizations. “That stops today. We are thrilled to see that Congress has acted to protect the more than 8 million Americans who currently have representative payees.”

Celebrating National Social Security Month

It is fitting that this new bill was signed during National Social Security Month.

Celebrate National Social Security Month. Take 5 steps toward your financial security. Start Now. Produced at U.S. Taxpayer Expense.


SSDI and SSI Attorney

If the SSA denied your application for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), or you are applying for benefits for the first time, 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, April 10, 2018

Social Security’s National Disability Forum

Exciting news! The Social Security’s National Disability Forum on Financial Independence: Directing the Management of One’s Social Security Benefits is taking place on April 18, 2018; and, you are invited! The Social Security Administration is looking for input on, “how we can best assess a beneficiary’s ability to direct the management of his or her benefits?”

Moderating the forum is Howard Goldman, MD, MPH, Professor, Department of Psychiatry, University of Maryland School of Medicine. There are several ways you can take part, ask questions, and engage in the discussion via social media.

You can submit your questions topical to NationalDisabilityForum@ssa.gov, before and during the forum. You can also utilize Twitter to ask questions during the event, using @SSAOutreach and the hashtag #SSANDForum.

Enhancing The Representative Payee Program

“Social Security's Representative Payment Program provides financial management for the Social Security and SSI payments of our beneficiaries who are incapable of managing their Social Security or SSI payments,” the SSA website reads.

The upcoming forum aims to bring about a better understanding of the role supporters should play for beneficiaries. The discussion has two sessions, Session 1 (10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. EDT): “How to Strengthen & Clarify Instructions on Directing the Management of Benefits.” Session 2 (1:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. EDT): “How to Define the Role of a Supporter for Individuals Who Direct the Management of Their Benefits?”

Discussion panelists will include:
  • Marty Ford, Senior Executive Officer, Public Policy, The Arc
  • Nina Kohn, Associate Dean for Research and Online Education, Syracuse University College of Law
  • Pamela Teaster PhD., Director, Center for Gerontology, Virginia Tech
  • Ruth Luckasson, Chair, Department of Special Education, University of New Mexico College of Education
  • Andrew Sperling, Director, Legislative Affairs, Advocacy & Public Policy, National Alliance on Mental Illness
  • Kate Lang, Senior Staff Attorney, Justice in Aging
  • Kelly A. Thompson, Esq., Thompson Wildhack, PLC Attorneys at Law
  • Dari Pogach, Staff Attorney, American Bar Association Commission on Law and Aging
  • Susanne Horn, MSW, Representative Payee Program Manager, Bread for the City
If you receive benefits for the SSA or manage payments for another person, you can play an instrumental part in shaping the future of the Representative Payment Program. If you would like to participate, please register here, hit the "CONTINUE" button to register. The forum is being held at 1100 New York Avenue NW, Suite 200 East, Washington, DC 20005; you can also take part via teleconference.

SSDI and SSI Attorney

If the SSA denied your application for Supplemental Security Income (SSI), 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.