Wednesday, December 14, 2016

SSA Ticket to Work

Ticket to Work
Much of who we are can be attributed to the things we do. In many ways, our identity and standing in society is inextricably linked to being employed. Among the many stigmas that are prevalent in America, there has long been a disgrace associated with people who do not work.

Certainly, there are some people who choose not to work, opting to utilize public welfare services as much as possible. And they probably have their reasons for choosing a couch over a desk. However, there are millions of Americans whose ability to work has been hindered by a disability. Those who are unable to work rely heavily on the Social Security Administration (SSA) in order to get by, taking advantage of programs like Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Medicaid.

If you were to ask people who collect such benefits if they wish they were working, the majority would say "yes." Most of the people who can't work, wish they could. But even if they picked up some part time work to improve the quality of life, many fear that they will lose access to SSA public health programs. While that may be true in some cases, there is a program available from the SSA that gives people the tools for reentering employment and still access their benefits.

Ticket to Work is program that links people with free employment services to help them:
  • Decide if working is right for them.
  • Prepare for work.
  • Find a job or maintain success while they are working.
If you would like to reenter the workforce, we encourage you to investigate Ticket to Work. It could be a life changing experience, bringing with it the fulfillment of having a job and contributing to society once again. Please take a few minutes and watch the video below to learn how it works:

If you are having trouble watch please click here.

Stephanie Merritt Driscoll is an attorney in Southern California who can help you navigate the waters of accessing SSA benefits, such as SSDI or SSI.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Disabled San Diegans Face Long Waits

There are millions of people whose disabilities are too arduous for them to work. The reasons for which are varied, such as mental health disorders or chronic physical ailments. If a person is unable to work, they are unable to earn an income and thus incapable of covering their living expenses. Fortunately, such people can find solace and comfort in the fact that they could qualify to receive benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA), which means that they will not lose the roof over their head or be unable to feed their family.

Under the umbrella of the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) programs, people with disabilities who meet the criteria are eligible for state and federal assistance. While such programs can be real lifesavers for well over a million Californians, it turns out that accessing SSA benefits can be a grueling, lengthy process.

In the San Diego area, the average wait to be heard by an administrative law judge for a disability hearing is 18 months (roughly 540 days), The San Diego Union Tribune reports. That being said, you will probably not be too surprised to learn that long waits are a common theme across the country. Nearly 1.1 million Americans are waiting for a disability hearing. SSA data indicates that those who live in Buffalo, New York, can wait as long as 25 months for a disability hearing.

“That is a long time if you believe you’re disabled and not working. You don’t really have an income, you may need medical care and you may not have access to medical care,” said Marilyn Zahm, president of the Association of Administrative Law Judges. “I think the American public deserves better than that.” 

In the wake of the “great recession” and rapidly aging “baby boomers,” it is fair to say that more people than ever are in need of such hearings. Just last year alone, Social Security paid out $143 billion to 11 million disabled workers and their dependents.

The problem stems from huge Social Security Administration budget cuts which has led to understaffing, according to the article. Additionally, there are simply not enough administrative law judges nationwide. There are only 11 judges responsible for disability hearings in San Diego, and around 1,500 nationwide. The SSA says that that is simply not enough.

“To us 1.1 million is not just a number; it is a line of people and their families — many of whom are in desperate circumstances,” testified Social Security Deputy Commissioner Theresa Gruber to the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. “For many of them, long wait times can mean catastrophic consequences, such as losing a home or making agonizing choices between other basic needs.” 

Stephanie Merritt Driscoll is an attorney in Southern California who focuses her practice as a Social Security Disability advocate.