The saying “statistics lie and you can lie with statistics,” proved true in a recent Washington Post article attempting to paint rural Americans as using Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) as their fall-back income when they could’t find jobs. “This is a strategy used by ill-intentioned politicos when they want to see cutbacks in the social safety net,” said Kevin J. Bambury, attorney, Jeffrey Freedman Attorneys, PLLC. “As an attorney who sees clients from many of the poorer rural areas of Western New York, I found the article totally off the mark. It was clearly an attempt to stigmatize and demean those who collect SSDI benefits.” The article used as an example one low-income family from rural Alabama, asking the question was the individual involved disabled, or desperate? “The truth is, those who apply for disability benefits have paid into the system for years, and — in order to be approved for benefits — must prove they cannot work at their former job or at any job in the local economy due to physical or mental health limitations,” Bambury said. “It is very difficult to be awarded benefits, and the vast majority of my clients would prefer to be working than… Continue Reading Rural communities painted as relying too much on disability payments
When you receive Social Security benefits, you will also receive a statement called the SSA-1099 or SSA-1042S. It is a tax form that Social Security mails to you every January that shows the total amount of benefits you received the previous year. This way, you know how much Social Security income to report on your tax returns. If you lose your benefit statement, you can instantly access it and reprint it by going to www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount. Log into your existing account to view the document and print it. If you don’t have an existing account, you can create one on the website in about fifteen minutes.
When you went to your last doctor appointment, chances are he or she sat in front of a computer, and took notes of the visit into your electronic medical file. Most physicians have already converted to electronic files, and those who haven’t soon will because of something called the HITECH Act — Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health. There are pros and cons to electronic files. Some patients feel their physician is staring at a computer screen instead of talking to them face-to-face, but they do see their visits being recorded in detail. As the saying goes, “the devil is in the detail,” and the devil in this case is the length of the files. It is not unusual for an electronic medical file to reach 2,000 to 3,000 pages — which would never happen with a paper file. How could you possibly store hundreds of files of that length? These long files have become a burden for those reviewing the medical records of Social Security Disability (SSD) claimants, including Social Security Administration staff and claimant representatives. Ultimately, the people affected most are claimants themselves, because the review of medical records has added time to a claims process… Continue Reading Lengthy electronic medical files are clogging the review of SSD claims
According to the office of Management and Budget Director, Mick Mulvaney, President Trump did not entertain potential reforms to Social Security or Medicare when preparing his initial budget request. Mr. Trump cited campaign promises in making his decision: “I told people I wouldn’t change that when I ran. And I’m not going to change that. Take that off the list.” The first budget request includes deep cuts for domestic programs while increasing defense spending. Although President Trump has vowed not to cut either Social Security or Medicare, he has not specified what he considers a “cut.” Together, Social Security and Medicare make up the largest amount of government spending, and, according to the Congressional Budget Office, the trust funds that provide for benefit payments under these programs will become insolvent within the next ten to fifteen years.
The Social Security Administration developed a program called Compassionate Allowance to expedite the cases of disability applicants diagnosed with one of 225 illnesses. However, there is a mandatory waiting period to receive disability benefits of at least six months. Too many of the applicants whose illnesses qualify for Compassionate Allowance do not live long enough to receive any benefits. As a result of the mandatory waiting periods, qualified applicants continue to suffer financially and risk poverty and homelessness while they wait to receive disability benefits. The Social Security Administration states that 68,827 people were approved for Compassionate Allowance in fiscal year 2016 but could not verify the average wait time for applicants who lived long enough to receive benefits. All applicants who qualified were required to wait at least six months or longer before receiving any payments. Rodney Davis, a congressman from Illinois has introduced federal legislation to remove the mandatory waiting period, and it appears to have bipartisan support in the House. If approved, the law would take effect in 2018.
President Trump’s order for a hiring freeze may seem like a good first step to smaller government – at first glance. The truth is, fewer government employees means fewer (and slower) government services. In particular, this hurts two of the most vulnerable segments of our population: disabled veterans and Social Security Disability (SSD) claimants who, because of an illness or injury, can no longer work. Both agencies have significant backlogs of applicants waiting for decisions on benefits. There are 1.1 million claimants in the backlog for SSD, with processing times from application to receipt of the first check taking one year nationally, and 730 days in Western New York. The backlog of veterans disability claims rose to 101,000 in February. The typical wait for a veteran to get a decision on a claim is one year, with appeals taking three to five years. Government officials explain these backlogs by saying the number of claims has increased significantly. There is some truth in that. The United States has an aging population. Employees, particularly those who do physical labor, are at increased risk of becoming ill or suffering injuries at ages 50 and above. And although one might think the increase in… Continue Reading Hiring freeze will hurt the vulnerable
There is a common belief that people who are applying for Social Security Disability have been in a work, automobile or some other type of accident where they become disabled and can no longer work,” said Courtney Quinn, attorney, Jeffrey Freedman Attorneys, PLLC. “In our experience, that is not always the case. The majority of our clients work for many years with chronic illnesses and only apply for SSD as a last resort. A recent study shows this is indeed what happens.” The study, performed by Jackson Costa with the Office of Program Development; Office of Research, Demonstration, and Employment Support; Office of Retirement and Disability Policy of the Social Security Administration, showed SSD applicants’ earnings stay steady for years, then drop off significantly in the years before they stop working. The length of this decline depends on the claimant’s condition and age, among other factors. “The reality is, many claimants work for years after they have been diagnosed with a progressive illness such as diabetes, gastrointestinal, musculoskeletal or another chronic disease,” Quinn said. “These individuals work through ever-increasing pain and illness, with corresponding decreases in earnings, often for a very long time.” Frequently, clients who come to the Freedman… Continue Reading Do workers with chronic illnesses want to work as long as possible?
The great misperception of Social Security Disability is that people become unable to work suddenly because they are injured in a work-related, automobile or other catastrophic accident. The reality is many claimants spend years working after they have been diagnosed with diabetes, gastrointestinal, musculoskeletal or other chronic, progressive illnesses. These individuals work through ever-increasing pain and illness, with corresponding decreases in earnings, often for many years. Workers’ efforts to avoid disability become obvious when we look at their earnings’ records in the two- to five-years prior to the day they tell Social Security they first became unable to work. A study performed by Jackson Costa with the Office of Program Development; Office of Research, Demonstration, and Employment Support; Office of Retirement and Disability Policy of the Social Security Administration, showed SSD applicants’ earnings’ records remained steady for years, dropping off in the years before work ended. The period of the decline depended on the nature of the impairment and the age of the claimant, among other factors. Impairments commonly seen after a car accident or workplace injury did correlate with an immediate drop off or end of earnings. However, common progressive illnesses and impairments, for example, Type 2 Diabetes and… Continue Reading Majority of SSD claimants work through chronic illnesses as long as possible
When “Mary” first applied for Social Security Disability, she was suffering from severe physical impairments due to degenerative disc disease, cervical stenosis, neuropathy, chronic low back pain, and had developed an anxiety disorder. Mary provided the Office of Disability and Review (ODAR), with copious records to prove her case, went through a hearing with an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), and was approved for benefits — until a staff member at the Social Security Administration decided to appeal the ALJ’s decision. “There were two problems Mary faced. One was that when she became totally disabled, she was under 50. Because of her age, the SSA questioned whether she was totally disabled,” said Kevin J. Bambury, senior attorney, Jeffrey Freedman Attorneys at Law, PLLC. “The second problem was that an accountant incorrectly stated her income as twice what she actually earned on her tax return — an amount that made her ineligible for benefits.” Bambury worked to correct the tax issue and applied for a new hearing with an ALJ. Mary, meanwhile, had no income. For four years she floated between homelessness and living with her mother or her sister. Fortunately, she had the determination to keep moving forward with her case,… Continue Reading Severely disabled client undergoes four-year roller coaster ride to get SSD benefits
Social Security is one of the most successful and long-lived programs in America’s history, touching almost every U.S. citizen. At its peak employment, SSA had 85,000 employees. It now has 60,000 but still handles 65 million benefit payments (including payments to disabled workers and their families) each month, 40 million visits at 1,000 field offices each year, and 30 million phone calls — in spite of the fact it’s operating budget has been cut 10 percent since 2010. The negative results of this underfunding, however, cannot be denied: Although there has been a 5 percent drop in visitors to field offices, 95 percent of visitors wait one hour or longer to see a representative, Average wait-time for a phone call to the 800 number is 20 minutes, and busy signals average 8.9 percent, according to SSA.gov. The backlog for Social Security Disability hearings with an Administrative Law Judge sits at 1.1 million, with average wait times of 540 days nationwide (Buffalo — 750 days; Rochester — 660 days). More cuts for the future Now, Rep. Sam Johnson (R-TX), chair of the House Ways and Means subcommittee on Social Security, wants to make further cuts, saying it’s the way to “permanently… Continue Reading Underfunding has already undermined Social Security, but GOP wants to go further