Three members of a family in Osceola County are accused of imprisoning elderly men to collect their social security checks and/or disability benefits. Detective Stephanie King of the Osceola County Sheriff’s Office explained that the family moved from house to house in Florida and other places around the country and forced the men into dire living conditions. They were provided only minimum food and clothes to survive. The family appears to have focused on military veterans because their monthly payments are typically larger. King added charges of human trafficking to the long list of charges the accused face. As she stated: “One hundred percent it’s human trafficking. One hundred percent. They’re taking these people and they’re coercing them, luring them, through methods of fear.”
The average 20-year-old worker currently has a one-in-four chance of becoming disabled before reaching retirement age. Social Security’s definition of disability is the inability to work because of a severe condition that is expected to last for at least one year or end in death. Social Security disability benefits help to replace part of your income when you are no longer able to work because of a disability. Most people focus on the medical aspect of proving their disability and offer extensive medical records as part of the application, hearing, and appeals processes. But it is equally important to paint a clear picture of your work information. Details that SSA should know about your work include: Main tasks you performed Main responsibilities of your job Rate of pay you received Number of hours you worked each week Dates you worked Knowledge, abilities, and skills your work required Machinery, tools, and equipment you used Amount of independent judgment you used Amount of supervision you received How you used your hands, legs, and arms Speaking, vision, and hearing requirements of your job Objects you had to lift and carry and how much they weighed How much you had to sit, stand, crouch,… Continue Reading What Does Disability Mean?
Mark was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease when he was in his mid-40s. It didn’t come as a complete surprise, because Mark’s father had Parkinson’s, however, Mark was younger than most people who develop this disease. He worked as a purchasing agent, and he was able to continue working for the next ten years. When he could no longer work, he applied for Social Security Disability (SSD). “The Social Security Administration (SSA) has a system that allows younger workers to qualify for SSD. However, since the person has not worked as long as they would have if they had reached retirement age, they receive a smaller monthly paycheck,” said Kevin Bambury, attorney, Jeffrey Freedman Attorneys, PLLC. Social Security was not designed to replace more than 40 percent of the average retiree’s income, and those on SSDI receive an amount based on how long they have worked. The average disabled person receives $1,034.93 a month, while the average retired worker gets $1,368.67 per month. SSD is just above the federal poverty level, and barely covers the basics such as food and shelter. One more reason to start saving for retirement at a young age is to have a cushion available in case… Continue Reading Younger workers applying for SSD should have realistic expectations
In Wellington, Kansas, Amy McLain was recently charged on one count of Social Security fraud, one count of theft of government funds, two counts of making false statements, and one count of wire fraud. McLain is accused of collecting more than $92,000 in Social Security disability benefits. She was working at the time she was receiving disability benefits after she, her husband, and her employer agreed to make her paychecks out to her husband so it would appear she was not working. She even filed federal paperwork stating that she did not have a job. Convictions for Social Security fraud, theft of government funds, or making a false statement can carry a sentence of up to five years in federal prison and fines as high as $250,000 for each count. Wire fraud carries a sentence of up to 20 years in federal prison and a fine as high as $250,000.
It has become clear that the SSA does not have enough funds to cover its administrative expenses, but that has not stopped the House and Senate from trying to squeeze even more money out of the allocation of funds for the SSA. The House’s plan is to keep the budget at the same level as the current year. The Senate wishes to cut its budget by nearly $400 million, or almost 4%. For disability applicants, near-retirees, and retirees, the effects show up in deteriorating customer service. Long waits on the phone and in field offices have already taken their toll on people in need of assistance from the SSA. For example, the SSA used to mail annual statements of earing records to all covered workers, but these have been eliminated since they say anyone can gain access to their records online. Of course, this only works if one has access to internet or is capable of navigating the Web. The agency’s caseload has greatly expanded since 2010 by about 14% or 63.3 million retirees. The sole area of long-term growth in the budget has been a separate appropriation for “integrity funding,” which is designed to erase waste, abuse, and fraud… Continue Reading SSA Budget Cuts = Less Customer Service
Some Senators are encouraging their colleagues to provide President Trump’s request of $12.5 billion for the Social Security Administration’s administrative budget for fiscal year 2018 in any final appropriations bill. They hope to reduce the disability appeals hearing backlog for Social Security Disability Insurance. Adequate funding for the SSA’s administrative budget used in part to reduce the backlog is critical since that backlog has reached a record high. Senators in favor of appropriating the full $12.5 billion say it will make significant progress at reducing the disability hearings backlog. SSA also has a plan to improve the operations of the agency and reduce the hearings backlog called Compassionate And Responsive Service (CARES). The CARES program aims to improve business processes, modernize informational technology systems and hire more administrative law judges and the necessary support staff.
Two of our clients both suffer from a common physical disability. They have spinal stenosis (narrowing of the spinal column) in their necks, which causes numbness in their arms and chronic pain. They can only sit or stand for short periods of time. Both men worked for at least 10 years before their disabilities made it impossible for them to continue, so they applied for Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits and were denied at the initial application and reconsideration stages (almost 65 percent of applicants must go to the hearing stage). There is one big difference though, one applied for his benefits at the age of 60 in 2011. The other who is 45, applied this year. Although it wasn’t easy or fast for our 60 year old to receive benefits, the 45 year old faces a much bigger challenge for two reasons: it is more difficult for those under age 50 to get benefits; plus, when our 60 year old applied, 64 percent of applicants who went to the hearing stage received benefits. Now, only 46 percent of applicants win. “Prior to March of this year the administrative law judges (ALJs — who decide cases at the hearing level)… Continue Reading Higher hoops for SSD applicants to jump through
More than 1 million Americans are waiting for a hearing in front of an Administrative Law Judge to find out if they are entitled to disability benefits after being denied initially. Most people who complete the appeals process will eventually win benefits, but many are so sick they die before receiving them. Approximately 10.5 million people receive Social Security disability benefits. An additional 8 million receive disability benefits from Supplemental Security Income, which is a disability program for poor people who do not qualify for Social Security. Last year, the SSA paid out $197 billion in disability benefits. In 2016, there were over 7,000 people on waitlists for hearings who were dead, according to a report by the SSA’s inspector general. The average wait time for a hearing is now 602 days. In 2012, it was less than a year. The SSA says it is working to reduce the backlog by hiring 500 new ALJs and over 600 support staff. But the budget has remained almost the same as it was since 2011, despite an additional 6 million people receiving either retirement or disability benefits from Social Security.
Disabled New Yorkers won big when Governor Cuomo recently signed bill (A7842/S6078) authored by Assembly member Richard Gottfried and Senator David Valesky. This bill allows New Yorkers to obtain their medical and hospital records at no cost to them when applying for public benefits. Jeffrey Freedman, Managing Attorney at Jeffrey Freedman Attorneys, PLLC said “Applications for Social Security Disability, SSI, some veterans’ benefits, disability based Medicaid and other government programs require complete and accurate health records. We have been advocating on behalf of the disabled for a law such as this for over twenty years. ” The appeals process can be very difficult for those with mental or physical disabilities. Often, disabled applicants who would otherwise be eligible for benefits are denied if they can’t support their applications with thorough and timely medical records. By the Governor signing this bill into law, gaining access to medical records will be much simpler for all New Yorkers. Claimants being able to obtain free medical records will find it helpful for them to receive benefits they need and are entitled to.
According to the Social Security Administration, you must have an impairment that is severe enough to prevent you from doing substantial work. Also, the condition must last, or be expected to last, more than a year to meet the definition of who is disabled. Supplement Security Income is a more modest benefit that may be available to individuals with low income and resources. SSI covers the aged, those with severe disabilities, and people with very limited resources. Experienced attorneys can help you file your initial application or file your appeal if you are denied initially. These legal representatives work on a contingency basis and are not awarded any fees until your application is approved. Approximately one-third of all applications are denied initially. If your claim is rejected, you can schedule a hearing with an Administrative Law Judge who will review your case. Historically, having an experienced attorney help you with your appeal increases your chances of an approved claim at the hearing stage over those without representation. They understand the complicated application process and guidelines and are able to document your inability to perform other types of work. They also understand what kind of medical records are needed for the… Continue Reading Seek Assistance When Applying for Disability Benefits