SSA Not Affected by Potential Government Shutdown
We’re sure you’ve heard that the government may partially shut down on Friday, December 21. Because the Social Security Administration received its Fiscal Year 2019 appropriation in September 2018, any potential shutdown will not affect SSA. Your hearings will be conducted as scheduled, and all district and hearing offices will be open as usual, even if there is a government shutdown.
We also want to clarify that the prototype states that will be instituting reconsideration on January 1, 2019 are California (Los Angeles North and Los Angeles West), Colorado, Louisiana, New Hampshire and New York. This means that for any case in which an initial denial is issued on or after January 1, 2019 in those states, the next level of appeal is to file a request for reconsideration, not a request for an ALJ hearing. Reconsideration is scheduled to be reinstituted in Pennsylvania on April 1, 2019. Alabama and Michigan are scheduled to start reconsideration on October 1, 2019; Missouri on January 1, 2020; and Alaska on March 1, 2020.
As 2018 comes to a close and 2019 approaches, it is important to be aware of changes in Social Security amounts that will come into effect in 2019.
For SSI, the 2019 monthly maximum benefit amount will be $771, an increase from $750 in 2018. An eligible couple will have a monthly maximum amount of $1,157, up from the 2018 benefit limit.
How are these new amounts calculated? Social Security determines these amounts based on their determination of how the Cost of Living has increased from the prior year. The Social Security Administration has published their increase for 2019 is 2.8 percent. This is the largest annual increase since 2011.
For individuals applying for disability benefits, the Social Security Administration also states that an applicant must be unable to engage in “substantial gainful activity,” which is an annually set amount of monthly earnings calculated before taxes. For non-blind individuals, in 2019 the SGA amount will increase to $1,220 per month. The SSA determines this amount based on the annual changes in the National Average Wage Index, which go into effect January 1, 2019.
The process of filing for Social Security disability benefits can be both complicated and confusing. Call the offices of Lancaster & Eure today at 941-365-7575 for a free consultation regarding your potential disability case.
The Social Security Administration offers two different programs for people who cannot work for at least one year because of their medical conditions. The two programs are Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). The programs have a variety of different requirements in order for someone to be eligible.
For both programs, you need to prove the following:
The two programs have different requirements. For SSDI, you need to prove that you have worked and paid into the system for a sufficient amount of time depending upon your age. For SSI, you do not need a work history, but you must prove that your assets are low enough to qualify for assistance.
In most cases, your initial application for disability will be denied. This happens to many individuals who have qualifying medical conditions.
Speak with one of our experienced, professional attorneys today to determine if applying for disability is right for you. Call to schedule a free initial consultation at (941) 365-7575.
For Social Security Disability claimants in Florida, the average processing time from the date of the application until the hearing decision is approximately 627 days. While the Social Security Administration has implemented initiatives to decrease the wait times for hearings by attacking the back log, the delays seem to be ever increasing. According to a recent study, the average wait time for post-hearing decisions has increased since the end of 2015 and as many as 11% of all claimants are forced to wait anywhere from 120-180 days to receive their decision following their hearing.
How to Streamline the Process of Applying for SSDI (Social Security Disability Insurance) or SSI (Supplemental Security Income)
While both SSDI and SSI are part of benefit programs available from the Social Security Administration (SSA), because SSI is a needs-based program, the information gathered through the application process is different for both programs. The following checklists will help ensure your application process for either program is much more smooth than what most typically experience.
Information/Documents to Have Ready When Beginning the Application Process for SSI:
Information/Documents to Have Ready When Beginning the Application Process for SSDI:
For those who have become disabled and are no longer able to work, the Social Security Administration (SSA) offers two separate and distinct programs which provide much-needed assistance. The major difference between the two programs boils down to the individual’s work history; only those who qualify with the sufficient amount of work credits are eligible to apply for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a needs-based program which exists for those who are disabled, but lack the required amount of work credits. SSA's website explains some of the similarities and differences between SSDI and SSI.
We have compiled a breakdown of the differences between the programs using SSA’s statistics and information not readily accessible through the SSA’s information:
SSDI (Social Security Disability Insurance)
Navigating the Social Security Administration’s Disability system can be an overwhelming and daunting task. Let the experienced attorneys at Lancaster & Eure help you through this difficult time. Each attorney gives every client the unique and personal attention they deserve. Call us for a free consultation (941) 365-7575, or, feel free to contact us online.
Jonathan Schwabish, of The Urban Institute, put together an article called, “11 Charts about the Social Security Disability Insurance Program.” Each of these charts break down the numbers to show the amount of people currently receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), and trends in the characteristics of those receiving Social Security Disability benefits.
The charts included in the article show some revealing statistics about Social Security Disability and those who receive disability benefits:
• In 2013, there were approximately nine million disabled workers on Social Security Disability, nearly SIX TIMES the one-and-one-half million who received benefits in 1970.
• The percentage of people awarded disability within a year has remained flat since 199, despite the increase in the amount of applications, most notably during the latest recession.
• The older you are, the greater your chances for being awarded Social Security Disability: the average age of SSDI beneficiaries is 53.5 years for men and 53.4 years for women.
• Women tend to receive a less benefits than men. More than half of women on Disability received benefits under $1,000 per month, while only about one-third of the total men on Disability received benefits that low.
• People who receive Disability tend to have a much lower average family income than non-beneficiaries. In 2010, almost half of people on disability (younger than forty-nine years old) were in the lowest income group.
• Southern states have a higher percentage of residents on Disability than other states.
• The majority of people on Disability report either mental disorders (Ex. autism) or muscle/bone disorders (Ex. carpal tunnel syndrome).
• Once approved, few actually leave: the number of individuals removed from Disability declined by about forty-four percent from 1970 to 2003; but that trend is shifting. In 2014, the number of people removed from Disability increased by about fifteen percent.
• The number of Disability applications has increased over time, and typically follows the path of the economy. The worse the economy, the greater the number of Disability applications. The amount of applications for Disability typically grows in times of high unemployment. The more the economy improves, the more the number of people applying for Disability will fall.
Navigating the Social Security Disability system, a system where nearly half of all applicants are denied, can be a frightening and overwhelming task. If you are unable to work due to medical or psychological conditions, let the seasoned attorneys at Lancaster & Eure fight on your behalf to get you the benefits you deserve. Each attorney gives every client the unique and personal attention they deserve. Call us for a free consultation (941) 365-7575, or feel free to contact us online.
Attorney David Wieland recently received another fully favorable decision in favor of his client in a Social Security Disability Case. The decision awarded Supplemental Security Income benefits to our client who previously worked as a screen writer and video camera operator in California.
Our client filed for Supplemental Security Income benefits, in April of 2013, due to his inability to continue working based on his disabling conditions of lumbago, embolism, thrombosis, gout, and degenerative changes of his foot. The Administrative Law Judge agreed with our allegations and found those conditions to be severe impairments.
The Judge found our client was able to work the full range of sedentary work. However, our client was found to be of advanced age (55 years or older) and as such the Judge had to find if a successful adjustment to other work could be made. Of significance, the Judge stated in the hearing the only year our client earned what Social Security considers Substantial Gainful Activity (over $1,000 a month take home pay) was the year in which he successfully sold a screen play. The Judge asked for a memorandum to be filed, following the hearing, explaining which position was to be considered his past relevant work, either his occupation as a cameraman or a screen writer.
This distinction, while seeming minute, was extremely significant as the Judge had to look to the client's past relevant work to determine if he would be able to make a successful adjustment to other work. If the Judge found the past relevant work was his occupation as a screen writer then our client would have been found NOT disabled as he would be able to successfully adjust from one sedentary position (screen writer) to other sedentary positions found in the national economy.
However, Mr. Wieland was able to avoid this unfavorable decision for our client by successfully arguing the client's past relevant work should not be determined based the amount of his earnings. Attorney Wieland argued past relevant work should be determined based on the value of his work had he been an employee rather than self-employed and based on the hours/skills/energy output expended in his position as a cameraman.
Based on this successful argument our client was awarded Supplemental Security Income benefits. Most importantly, this award also entitles the client to Medicaid benefits, allowing him to receive continued medical treatment to help alleviate his symptoms of his disabling conditions.
In Social Security Disability claims, the majority of individuals are denied on their initial application, and in the appeal of the initial denial, called a Request for Reconsideration. The reason for these denials are generally thought of as evidence of Social Security’s unofficial policy of denying everyone twice, and forcing them to go to a hearing (almost 2.5 years from the initial application in Florida) so only those who are serious about their claim will continue. Unfortunately, Social Security does not seem to realize this type of mandatory delay, of approximately 2.5 years in Florida, before someone truly looks at your case, is extremely harmful to those who are already struggling to make ends meet due to their disability and inability to work.
It is important to avoid making any type of mistake resulting in additional delays during Social Security's decision-making process. Accordingly, avoiding the 7 common mistakes made in applying for Social Security Disability, published in the article by Medical News Today, is extremely important.
From Medical News Today’s 7 Mistakes to Avoid When Seeking Social Security Disability Benefits- Avoiding the following mistakes will help present your claim in the strongest possible way:
If you or your loved ones need assistance in obtaining Social Security Disability benefits contact us today.
The Supreme Court of the United States recently issued a decision in the case of Obergefell v. Hodges, in which the Court held same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry in all states. The Obergefell decision has made a large impact in all aspects of the Federal government, especially in the Social Security arena. A prior Supreme Court decision in 2013 opened the door for same-sex couples to apply for spousal and survivor benefits, but only in states which recognize their union. The Obergefell decision has now made it so states such as Florida, who has traditionally refused to recognize the union of same sex spouses, may no longer be a bar to same-sex couples applying for Social Security benefits.
As mentioned in the previous post, Social Security Benefits for Spouses, in certain circumstances, individuals can apply for Social Security Disability or Retirement under the earnings records of their spouses. Now, with the Obergefell decision, same-sex spouses can apply for Social Security Disability benefits under the earnings record of their spouse, even if they live in a state who does not recognize their union.
However, there are drawbacks to this decision and its effect on Social Security, namely for those applying for or receiving Social Supplemental Income (SSI) benefits. In order to be eligible for SSI benefits, the applicant must show they they have "limited resources." For the Social Security Administration, "limited resources" means the individual may not have assets (such as cash, bank accounts, cars, etc.) which collectively amount to more than $2,000 or $3,000, if married. The Obergefell decision has resulted in the Social Security Administration now considering the assets of the same-sex marriage as a whole, as opposed to only looking to the individual applying.
Additionally, if your spouse is earning an income then Social Security will attribute some of their income to you, the individual receiving SSI benefits. So in same-sex couples where the spouse is earning income, the individual receiving SSI benefits may have those reduced based on the income that Social Security "deems" to them from their spouse's earnings.
If you have questions regarding your claim for Social Security Disability or SSI benefits, contact us today.
In the US, almost every single working individual knows of the benefits available to them should they become disabled or once they retire. However, the majority of Americans are unaware that Social Security provides benefits to the spouses of those workers and even those who have divorced.
WTSP 10 News recently published an article on the 5 Surprising Facts of Spousal Benefits everyone should know. While the article focuses on the benefits available for retirement, these facts are true in Social Security Disability cases as well.
One of the most significant aspects of Spousal Benefits in Social Security Disability cases is that a spouse who lacks the sufficient amount of work credits, and therefore cannot apply for Social Security Disability under their earnings record, CAN apply for Social Security Disability under their WORKING SPOUSES' earnings record in certain circumstances. This option can provide those individuals who lack the amount of credits a significant increase in benefits from what they would be entitled to under SSI (which has no work credit requirement) to the benefits they can receive under Social Security Disability.
If you have questions regarding your Social Security Disability claims, or need assistance navigating the complexity of the Social Security appeal system, Contact Us Today!
The Social Security Administration currently has the largest backlogs of any federal agency with 990,399 cases waiting for the Social Security Administration to take action. The majority of the backlog stems from the system governing applications for Social Security Disability.
Currently, the system is set up in such a way to essentially force those applying for Disability to wait 2.5 years for a chance to plead their case. The system is set up so that the first two decisions, the initial application and the request for reconsideration (used when the initial application is denied), are made by those at the local office who lack the training and expertise required to make such decisions. With such limitations imposed on those making the determinations at the first two levels, it is extremely rare to be approved before making it to the hearing level.
After filing the initial application and the request for reconsideration, the next step is to file a request for hearing. The hearing stage is when the claimant finally has a chance to truly present his case to an Administrative Law Judge who will then determine if the claimant is able to work any job in the national economy. However, due to the massive backlog the Social Security Administration has, the typical waiting time for a hearing (from the date of the request for hearing) is ONE AND A HALF YEARS.
Unfortunately, this backlog causing such large wait times is imposed on those who are the least able to weather the storm. Our attorneys at Lancaster & Eure, P.A. are available to help you navigate this complex system and ensure your case is presented in the strongest possible form at every level of your case.
Social Security- Biggest Backlog in the Federal Government