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
The Social Security Administration (SSA) has revised its rules regarding Social Security Disability (SSD) claims so procedures at the hearing and Appeals Council levels of the administrative review process are consistent nationwide. The agency anticipates these new procedures will enable them to administer disability programs more efficiently and better serve the public. The National Organization of Social Security Claimants Representatives (NOSSCR), commented on the rules prior to their approval, and some of its recommendations were included in the new regulations. “Due to our recommendations, hearing notices will be provided 75 days prior to the hearing, rather than the current 20 days,” said Kevin J. Bambury, attorney, Jeffrey Freedman Attorneys, PLLC., “And there was a clarification of the ‘good cause’ exception rule, that will allow exceptions to the deadlines for subpoena requests; objections to issues raised in the notice of hearing; and pre-hearing written statements. This will be a big help to claimants and their representatives.” The SSA did not, however, comply with NOSSCR’s request regarding the “five-day” rule, which says claimants must submit evidence or inform the SSA of the existence of evidence at least five business days prior to the hearing. “In my experience, some important and timely medical… Continue Reading SSA revises rules for SSD claims, making process more consistent
For the past three years, Carolyn Lawson has faced the Holidays knowing she would not be able to provide any special gifts for her two sons. Lawson, who lives in South Buffalo, is one of the 1.1 million Americans who have applied for Social Security Disability benefits and who are waiting for a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) to get a decision on their benefits. “Carolyn had a good career for 27 years working with Tops Markets — up to the time she began to have panic attacks in early 2014,” said Jeffrey Freedman, managing attorney, Jeffrey Freedman Attorneys, PLLC. “Her anxiety and depression worsened until she could no longer work and on December 10, 2014, after she was denied SSD benefits on her initial application, we helped her apply for a hearing with an Administrative Law Judge. We are still waiting for that hearing.” Buffalo has the second longest hearing wait time in the country, next to Puerto Rico. It takes an average of 25 months to get a hearing from the date it is first requested. Rochester is not far behind, with a wait time of 22 months. The average nationwide is 17 months, with an… Continue Reading Little joy in the Holidays for SSD claimant waiting for decision on benefits
Buffalo, NY — The Office of the Inspector General, Social Security Administration, recently released a review of the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review’s (ODAR) Compassionate and Responsive Service (CARES) plan. CARES is an initiative that was introduced in January of this year as means of dealing with the hearing backlog of Social Security Disability cases. “The goal is to reduce both the hearing wait time and the number of cases in the backlog,” said Kevin J. Bambury, attorney, Jeffrey Freedman Attorneys, PLLC. “The objective is to get the wait time down to 270 days (nine months) throughout the country.” Currently, claimants in the Buffalo area wait 24 to 28 months for a hearing with an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) and 18 to 24 months in the Rochester area. The average processing time nationwide is just under 24 months. As of May, 2016, the backlog was 1.1 million cases. The strategies of the CARES initiative are to increase the use of video hearings (allows judges in areas that are not as overwhelmed as others to hear claims from all over the country); hire new ALJs; increase the use of senior attorney adjudicators (who can make decisions on cases before they… Continue Reading OIG review of CARES plan after six months shows little progress
Buffalo, NY — The staff and attorneys of Jeffrey Freedman Attorneys, PLLC have formed a team to participate in the 2016 Walk to Shine the Light on Lupus fundraiser. The Lupus Alliance of Upstate New York founded this event, which will take place September 18, 2016 at the Walden Galleria Mall. This is the Lupus Alliance’s largest fundraiser, in its 21st year, with walks also taking place in Albany and Syracuse earlier this spring. “We participate in this annual event because we believe that it is important to support our clients and individuals from our community who have to deal with the day to day struggles that come with a lupus diagnosis” said Christopher J. Grover, attorney. “Lupus is an auto-immune disease, which can affect multiple body systems, can take a long time to diagnose — and the complications arising from the disease can make it very difficult for an individual to work.” Lupus is not a rare disease. It is estimated that 5 million people worldwide — 2 million in the US and more than 105,000 in New York State – have lupus. According to the Lupus Alliance website, 90 percent of lupus patients are women between the… Continue Reading Freedman firm supports lupus sufferers in the Walk to Shine the Light on Lupus