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

SSI
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.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Remarrying Can Affect Your SSI

SSI
Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits are vital to many Americans' survival. Both older and younger adults who are unable to work can utilize the program if they meet specific requirements. Naturally, there is a lot that people who may qualify for Social Security Administration (SSA) benefits need to understand; particular a life choice can impact your eligibility for assistance. You can do yourself a great service apprising yourself with all the information that the agency provides. 

Whether you are applying for SSI for the first time, or are receiving payments currently, you are required to report any changes in your life regarding financial or employment status. For instance, if you start receiving financial assistance from friends or family members, if you become a parent, or if someone moves into or out of your house. You can see a full list of all the changes in your life that the SSA wants to know, here.

While younger Americans are eligible for SSI, the program is commonly utilized by older demographics. It is a fact that people, by and large, are living longer today than ever before, thanks to advancements in modern medicine. The extension in life expectancy means that people who have lost their spouse may consider remarrying. The details of late in life marriages can impact your benefits, and it is a change that you must report.


Remarrying Affects SSA Benefits


A desire to not spend your golden years alone leads many people to re-tie the knot later in life. In fact, the Pew Research Center published a report in 2014 showing that sixty-seven percent of previously married people ages 55 to 64 had remarried and half of all adults 65 and older had remarried; up from 55 percent and 34 percent in 1960, respectively. Setting aside how older people’s children feel about one of their parents remarrying as it pertains to their inheritance, let's talk about how it can affect people’s benefits.

Hyman G. Darling, president of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys, and attorney Lina Guillen, co-authored the book “Living Together: A Legal Guide for Unmarried Couples.” Darling tells The New York Times that the risks attached to later-in-life marriages include:
  • Potential loss of government benefits like Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income.
  • Loss of pensions or alimony.
  • Income and estate tax increases.
  • Taking on a new spouse’s debt.
If you are considering marrying late in life, you have every right. Please keep in mind that the change could affect benefits that you rely on every month. Discussing your intentions with an attorney is strongly advised.


SSDI Attorney


If the SSA denied your application for Supplemental Security Income (SSI), 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, March 13, 2018

American Retirees Living in Poverty

SSI
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.

SSDI

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.