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Showing posts sorted by relevance for query social security. Sort by date Show all posts
Showing posts sorted by relevance for query social security. Sort by date Show all posts

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Survey Shows Americans Support Social Security Changes; Republicans and Democrats Agree

Massachusetts and Rhode Island residents receiving Social Security benefits can take comfort in the fact that support for the program remains strong across the country. Americans report strong support for Social Security and are willing to pay more in taxes to stabilize the system’s finances and improve benefits, according to a recent survey by the nonpartisan National Academy of Social Insurance.

“At a time when the nation seems deeply divided about the proper size and role of government, Americans show remarkably widespread agreement on Social Security,” said Virginia Reno, the Academy’s Vice President for Income Security Policy and co-author of the new study, Americans Make Hard Choices on Social Security: A Survey with Trade-Off Analysis[PDF], which was supported by the Ford Foundation and the Tufts Health Plan Foundation.

In Massachusetts and Rhode Island, a total of 1.4 million people (or about 18% of the population) receive Social Security benefits, according to December 2013 figures. Their average benefit amount is $1,204 a month, or just under $14,500 a year. On an annual basis, that brought $20.5 billion in income to the area – 4.7% of all personal income in the two states combined, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis. Americans of all ages value Social Security’s protections, and for seniors in particular – who make up one million of the area’s beneficiaries – its dependable income is vital for healthy aging. As documented in the Massachusetts Healthy Aging Data Report, approximately 28% of the population age 65 and older have incomes less than $20,000 per year. As such, for this population Social Security is the primary source of income.

Large majorities of survey participants, both Republicans and Democrats, agree on ways to strengthen Social Security – without reducing benefits. Fully 69% of Republicans and 84% of Democrats agree “it is critical to preserve Social Security benefits for future generations even if it means increasing the Social Security taxes paid by working Americans.”

When asked the same question about top earners, 71% of Republicans and 92% of Democrats agree that they could pay more. Social Security taxes are paid by workers and their employers on earnings, but only up to a cap ($118,500 in 2015). About 6% of workers earn more than the cap.

Majorities oppose measures to balance Social Security’s future finances by reducing benefits. Fully 75% of respondents oppose increasing the retirement age to 70; and 76% oppose reducing the cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) that retirees receive.

To gauge Americans’ policy preferences, the survey used trade-off analysis — a technique that is widely used in market research to learn which product features consumers want and are willing to pay for. The trade-off exercise allowed survey participants to choose among different packages of Social Security changes. As lawmakers would do, they weighed how each policy change would affect workers, retirees, and the program’s future financing gap, and then chose among different packages of reforms. Seven out of 10 participants prefer a package that would eliminate Social Security’s long-term financing gap without cutting benefits. The preferred package would:

Gradually, over 10 years, eliminate the cap on earnings taxed for Social Security. With this change, the 6% of workers who earn more than the cap would pay into Social Security all year, as other workers do. In return, they would get somewhat higher benefits.
​Gradually, over 20 years, raise the Social Security tax rate that workers and employers each pay from 6.2% of earnings to 7.2%. A worker earning $50,000 a year would pay about 50 cents a week more each year, matched by the employer.
Increase Social Security’s cost-of-living adjustment to reflect the inflation experienced by seniors.
​Raise Social Security’s minimum benefit so that a worker who pays into Social Security for 30 years or more can retire at 62 or later and have benefits above the federal poverty line.


Without any changes, Social Security would be able to pay only about three-quarters of scheduled benefits after 2033. This package would turn the projected financing gap into a small surplus, providing a margin of safety.

The package was preferred by large majorities across political parties and income levels. Fully 68% of Republicans, 74% of Democrats, and 73% of independents favor the package, as do 71% of study participants with incomes above $75,000 and 68% of those with incomes under $35,000.

“This study deserves close attention by lawmakers,” said James Roosevelt Jr., CEO of Tufts Health Plan and grandson of Franklin D. Roosevelt, who signed the original Social Security law in 1935. “To get to stronger reforms in our system, we need to negotiate with a better understanding of what people need and are willing to ‘trade-off.’ This survey gets us closer to that.”

About the survey: The survey was conducted online to facilitate use of the deliberative trade-off exercise. Greenwald & Associates partnered with the Academy to survey 2,013 Americans ages 21 and older between June 12 and 23, 2014. Participants were randomly selected from the Research Now consumer panel of nearly 2.2 million individuals. Results are weighted to reflect the U.S. adult population in the March 2013 Current Population Survey. The survey was released nationally in October 2014. The findings of this 2014 survey are consistent with a similar survey by the Academy in 2012, an indication of stability in Americans’ views on Social Security and how they want to remedy its future financing gap.


The National Academy of Social Insurance is a non-profit, nonpartisan organization made up of the nation’s leading experts on social insurance. Its mission is to advance solutions to challenges facing the nation by increasing public understanding of how social insurance contributes to economic security.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Coordinating Workers Compensation & Social Security: The Inequity Among States Continues

Source: National Academy of Social Insurance



A recently published report by the National Academy of Social Insurance reflects that a "reverse offset" (coordination of benefits) still continues in 15 states. In reverse offset states, the insurance carrier gains the financial benefit of the coordination of benefits and NOT the Federal Social Security system. 

"If a worker becomes eligible for both workers’ compensation and Social Security disability insurance benefits, one or both of the programs will limit benefits to avoid making excessive payments relative to the worker’s past earnings. The Social Security amendments of 1965 require that Social Security disability benefits be reduced
15 (or “offset”) so that the combined totals of workers’ compensation and Social Security disability benefits do not exceed 80 percent of the workers’ prior earnings. 16 Some states, however, had established reverse offset laws prior to the 1965 legislation, whereby workers’ compensation payments are reduced if the worker receives Social Security disability benefits. Legislation in 1981 eliminated the states’ option to adopt reverse offset laws, but the 15 states that already had such laws in place were exempted. 17
__
15 The portion of workers’ compensation benefits that offset (reduce) SSDI benefits are subject to federal income tax (IRC section 86(d)(3)).

16 The cap remains at 80 percent of the worker’s average earnings before disability, except that, in the relatively few cases when Social Security disability benefits for the worker and dependents exceed 80 percent of prior earnings, the benefits are not reduced below the Social Security amount. This cap also applies to coordination between Social Security disability insurance and other public disability benefits (PDB) derived from jobs not covered by Social Security, such as state or local government jobs where the governmental employer has chosen not to cover its employees under Social Security.

17 States with reverse offset laws are: Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Louisiana, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Washington, and Wisconsin.

More Articles About The Offset
Feb 26, 2011
A NJ Court of Appeals has ruled that the reverse-offset permitted under Federal law was allowed to be asserted by an insurance carrier years after an original workers' compensation judgment was entered. Even though the ...
Dec 01, 2009
Social Security (SSA) has been subsidizing a select group of States since 1981. The workers' compensation insurance carriers in only those select States are permitted to take a credit against SSA payments. The US Congress ...
Mar 23, 2008
In 1984 Congress amended The Social Security Amendments of 1956 and required that workers' compensation benefits were to be offset against the federal Social Security disability insurance benefit. In 1985 the offset was ...


Thursday, October 14, 2021

Social Security Announces 5.9 Percent Benefit Increase for 2022

Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits for approximately 70 million Americans will increase 5.9 percent in 2022, the Social Security Administration announced.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

What is the Date Last Insured, and Why Does it Matter?

Today's post comes from guest author Susan C. Andrews, from Causey Law Firm.

A person who has been out of the labor market for quite some time before he applies for Social Security Disability (SSD) may find that his application for benefits is rejected because he cannot prove he became disabled before his date last insured.  

In order to qualify for benefits in the first place, a person must pay Social Security taxes long enough to have insured status. When the individual stops working and therefore stops paying into the system, eventually he will hit his date last insured and lose his insured status. It is a little like a private insurance policy: when you stop paying the premiums, you no longer are covered by the policy.  For a person who has work steadily in his lifetime, the date last insured is arrived at and insured status lapses about five years after stopping work.
 The Social Security Administration has another program for the medically disabled called Supplemental Security Income (SSI) where there is no date last insured rule, but there are other program requirements and limitations. In a future article, we will explore the differences between the Social Security Disability (SSD) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) programs.   
     As an example of how the date last insured issue can prevent a person from getting Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits, consider the case of a 35 year-old woman who has worked steadily since her late teens. She and her husband have twins when she is in her mid-30s. There are a lot of late night feedings and diapers to change! She stays home to take care of the twins while her husband continues to work to support the family. When the twins turn five, she begins to think about returning to work, perhaps when they go into first grade a year or so later. Five years has passed, and she reaches her date last insured. She loses her insured status and has not yet returned to work. When the twins turn six, she gears up her job search, but has not yet re-entered the labor market. Then medical catastrophe strikes: she has a very disabling stroke – unusual in a person this young, but not unheard of. She clearly cannot work. She applies for Social Security Disability and is turned down because she did not become disabled before her date last insured. Unlike the Social Security Retirement program, where it is possible to collect Social Security Retirement (SSR) benefits on the earnings record of one’s spouse, the Social Security Disability program only allows for benefits to be paid on the basis of one’s own earnings record.

     Consider another scenario with this family of four. When the twins are three, mom is diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. This condition can progress slowly or more quickly. In her case, she suffers a fairly quick progression of symptoms. By the time the twins are six and going into first grade, she is ready to return to work, except that she is suffering a variety of MS symptoms, including the profound fatigue that is experienced by many with this disease. Her combination of symptoms prevents her from working, so she applies for Social Security Disability. She passed her date last insured when the twins turned five. Will she get benefits? That depends. She certainly can apply for benefits after her date last insured, but she must be able to show that her symptoms had become sufficiently severe to prevent her from working before her date last insured. We have handled many cases where the individual is out past his or her date last insured. The key is to obtain all of the medical records that help to document the seriousness of the medical condition before that date last insured. Sometimes these can be buttressed with statements from family members or close friends who were in a position to observe at close range how seriously the person’s medical condition was affecting her functioning prior to the date last insured. In the case above, a statement from the husband likely would be helpful.

     The Social Security Administration has another program for the medically disabled called Supplemental Security Income (SSI) where there is no date last insured rule, but there are other program requirements and limitations. In a future article, we will explore the differences between the Social Security Disability (SSD) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) programs. 

Photo credit: Đˆerry / Foter.com / CC BY

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

When Should A Disabled Worker Take Social Security Benefits

Disabled workers are faced with complex decisions on when they should take Social Security benefits. The senario is complicated with the addition of  workers' compensation benefits and pensions, especially if they are married and/or have dependent children.

Answers to maximizing Social Security benefits are now available on-line as reported by the PBS Newshour. Several versions, including a free basic version, of software is available from Laurence Kotlikoff, Professor of Economics at Boston University. A version called, Maximize My Social Security is available for a licensing fee of $40.00 per year.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

No Social Security COLA for 2011


Like so many state workers' compensation programs, Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits for more than 58 million Americans will not automatically increase in 2011, the Social Security Administration announced.


The Social Security Act provides for an automatic increase in Social Security and SSI benefits if there is an increase in the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W) from the third quarter of the last year a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) was determined to the third quarter of the current year.  As determined by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there is no increase in the CPI-W from the third quarter of 2008, the last year a COLA was determined, to the third quarter of 2010, therefore, under existing law, there can be no COLA in 2011.

Other changes that would normally take effect based on changes in the national average wage index also will not take effect in January 2011.  Since there is no COLA, the statute also prohibits a change in the maximum amount of earnings subject to the Social Security tax as well as the retirement earnings test exempt amounts.  These amounts will remain unchanged in 2011.  The released agency fact sheet provides more information on 2011 Social Security and SSI changes.

Information about Medicare changes for 2011, when available, will be found at www.Medicare.gov.  The Department of Health and Human Services has not yet announced if there will be any Medicare premium changes for 2011.  Should there be an increase in the Medicare Part B premium, the law contains a “hold harmless” provision that protects more than 70 percent of Social Security beneficiaries from paying a higher Part B premium, in order to avoid reducing their net Social Security benefit.  Those not protected include higher income beneficiaries subject to an income-adjusted Part B premium and beneficiaries newly entitled to Part B in 2011.  In addition, almost 20 percent of beneficiaries have their Medicare Part B premiums paid by state medical assistance programs and thus will see no change in their Social Security benefit.  The state will be required to pay any Medicare Part B premium increase.

For additional information about the 2011 COLA, go to www.socialsecurity.gov/cola.

For additional information about changes in the national average wage index, go to www.socialsecurity.gov/OACT/COLA/AWI.html.
.....
For over 3 decades the Law Offices of Jon L. Gelman 1.973.696.7900 jon@gelmans.com have been representing injured workers who have sought Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) Benefits.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Social Security’s Job

The Social Security system is an "unfair" benefit distribution plan according to some authorities. Compounding this issue is the patchwork of workers' compensation system that all seem to apply different rules for setoff f benefits from lifetime benefits as well as COLA modifications. Choosing the "right" jurisdiction to file a workers' compensation total disability claim can make all the difference in the world for the amount of benefits an injured worker receives during his or her lifetime. Today's post was shared by Steven Greenhouse and comes from economix.blogs.nytimes.com

Ratio of Social Security benefits to Social Security taxes paid, by race or ethnicity and year.
Ratio of Social Security benefits to Social Security taxes paid, by race or ethnicity and year.
Source: The Urban InstituteRatio of Social Security benefits to Social Security taxes paid, by race or ethnicity and year.
Does Social Security need to be fixed?
As Democrats and Republicans grapple over how to reduce the government’s budget deficit in the face of rising costs for pensions and health care, whether Social Security should be touched remains one of the most controversial topics in American budgetary politics.
But something big is missing to the debate over the finances of what is still the largest component of the social safety net: an understanding of how well it does its job.
When you peek under the hood, it doesn’t always look so great. Indeed, this supposedly great redistributive program — which uses a broad tax on all workers to protect the elderly from poverty — exhibits some fairly stark regressive features.
One well-known regressive feature comes from the rule that benefits must be annuitized, paid out over time in monthly installments rather than as a lump sum. This means that richer people who tend to live longer will get a bigger benefit than poorer people with shorter life spans. Survivor benefits redistribute money from the singles — who don’t get the benefit — to the married, who do.
Eugene Steuerle, Karen Smith and Caleb Quakenbush of the Urban Institute in Washington just discovered another unsuspected regressive...
[Click here to see the rest of this post]

Monday, September 2, 2013

Media Portrays Social Security as an Avenue to Benefits for the Unemployed - WRONG! It's Not That Simple...

The Social Security Administration turns down many worthy applicants when they first apply.
Photo credit: Thomas Hawk / Foter.com 
Today's post comes from guest author Susan C. Andrews, from Causey Law Firm.

There is a lot in the news these days about the Social Security Disability Program, with some pundits suggesting people are getting on benefits simply because they are unemployed, or because they claim to be injured or ill when in fact they are able-bodied and fully capable of working. Every day, all day, I work with people filing for Social Security Disability benefits. 

So I work with the program’s rules - yes, there are rules for deciding these cases – it is not enough just to claim to be disabled. And I come face to face with individuals who are struggling, sometimes with a major health issue such as cancer, or rheumatoid arthritis, or Multiple Sclerosis

Other folks have multiple health problems that have combined to force them from the labor market. All of them have medical records, often reams of them, documenting diagnoses, chronicling surgeries and other treatment regimens. This is one big thing I think the general public does not know: a person must have one or more diagnoses from a qualified physician that could account for the symptoms and limitations he or she is reporting to Social Security. 

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Social Security to be Depleted by 2033

The Social Security Board of Trustees today released its annual report on the long-term financial status of the Social Security Trust Funds. The combined asset reserves of the Old-Age and Survivors Insurance and Disability Insurance (OASI and DI) Trust Funds are projected to become depleted in 2034, one year earlier than projected last year, with 78 percent of benefits payable at that time. 

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Media Portrays Social Security as an Avenue to Benefits for the Unemployed - WRONG! It's Not That Simple...

The Social Security Administration turns down many worthy applicants when they first apply.
Today's post comes from guest author Susan C. Andrews, from Causey Law Firm.
     There is a lot in the news these days about the Social Security Disability Program, with some pundits suggesting people are getting on benefits simply because they are unemployed, or because they claim to be injured or ill when in fact they are able-bodied and fully capable of working. Every day, all day, I work with people filing for Social Security Disability benefits. So I work with the program’s rules - yes, there are rules for deciding these cases – it is not enough just to claim to be disabled. And I come face to face with individuals who are struggling, sometimes with a major health issue such as cancer, or rheumatoid arthritis, or Multiple Sclerosis. Other folks have multiple health problems that have combined to force them from the labor market. All of them have medical records, often reams of them, documenting diagnoses, chronicling surgeries and other treatment regimens. This is one big thing I think the general public does not know: a person must have one or more diagnoses from a qualified physician that could account for the symptoms and limitations he or she is reporting to Social Security. There must be convincing medical documentation. Much of my day is spent obtaining and reviewing the medical records of my clients, and ensuring that the decision-makers at Social Security also see them.
...the medical condition must be not only serious, but also prolonged.
     Many people are not familiar with Social Security’s definition of disability or the program’s rules, so they do not realize that the disabling medical condition or conditions must be serious enough to have prevented the person from working for AT LEAST 12 continuous months. If the individual has not yet been out of the labor market for a period of at least one year, it must be very clear that this will be the case. In situations where there is doubt about this, Social Security typically turns down the claim. I have had callers who have been unable to work for a few months while going through chemotherapy treatment for cancer, but have been able to get back to work in less than one year. They do not qualify for Social Security Disability benefits. So the medical condition must be not only serious, but also prolonged.
     One broadly held belief about Social Security Disability is, in fact, true: The Social Security Administration turns down many worthy applicants when they first apply. It is necessary to appeal (the first appeal is called a Request for Reconsideration). Often, a second denial follows. Then it is necessary to request a hearing in front of a judge. For a person who is too sick to work, not feeling well, and home alone trying to navigate this system, it can be daunting. One of the joys of my practice is our capacity to lend support to such individuals, to take the reins of the case and drive it forward, so my client can concentrate on taking care of herself or himself while I and my staff handle the legal stuff.
     We are able to offer representation to people at any stage in the process, including initial application. We are happy to talk with callers who are weighing their options, and simply need information in order to know whether to apply for benefits in the first place. There is no charge for such calls, so do not hesitate to contact us if you have questions about Social Security Disability.
Photo credit: Thomas Hawk / Foter.com / CC BY-NC

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Collecting Both Social Security Disability Insurance And Workers’ Compensation Benefits Generates Inequality of Benefits

A recent study by the federal government reports that some disabled workers who receive workers' compensation or public disability benefits may receive less money than their counterparts. The reason why this phenomenon occurs is because the Social Security benefit computation is designed to replace more of the lower earner’s pre-retirement or predisability earnings than a higher earner’s.
“The Social Security benefit computation is designed to replace more of a lower earner's preretirement or predisability earnings (average indexed monthly earnings) than a higher earner's. This is done by "bend points" in the primary insurance amount formula, which create three earnings brackets. Earnings up to the first bend point are replaced at 90 percent; earnings between the first and second bend point, at 32 percent; and earnings above the second bend point, at 15 percent, up to the taxable maximum. The three brackets are a convenient way to group workers by income (represented here by AIME). This grouping also helps distinguish differences in replacement rates, which are largely determined by the earnings bracket in which the worker belongs.”

The Social Security disability system was established in 1956 to pay cash benefits to those workers who sustained long-term disabilities and were insured for coverage. On the other hand, state workers compensation systems had been in place since 1911 and may be combined with other public disability benefits in addition to Social Security benefits.

The Social Security system, unlike state workers compensation programs, provides a nationally distributed benefit to over 8 million disabled-worker beneficiaries. State public disability benefits are paid under numerous laws including federal, state or local government were plans that provide compensation for medical conditions that are not work related. Some of them may be short-term such as state temporary disability benefits.

As of December 2005, the date that the study utilized for collection of data, there were 8,305,702 disabled-worker beneficiaries in the Social Security program. Of those beneficiaries, 1,440,772 had some past or present connection to workers compensation or public disability benefits and 798,476 at a current connection to workers' compensation or public disability benefits.

In 1984 Congress amended The Social Security Amendments of 1956 and required that workers’ compensation benefits were to be offset against the federal Social Security disability insurance benefit. In 1985 the offset was eliminated and it was again reinstituted in 1989 by Congress. Further amendments in 1996 to The Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act Of 1981 extended the offset provision to public disability benefit programs. However, Congress excluded the offsets of workers’ compensation and public disability beneficiaries who are receiving Social Security disability benefits in those states where the State took the offset. These have been named reverse offset states. The state law needed to be in effect as of February 18, 1981. Presently there are 16 states and Puerto Rico that are reverse offset states.

The recent study involving 18 month period from January 2003 through June 2004, identifies that a proximately 11% of all Social Security disability beneficiaries were also entitled to receive state workers compensation for public disability payments. It reported that those who receive combined benefits were most likely to be male, high earners, older it retirement and from the Western states.

The report concludes that the earnings replacement rate for disability insurance beneficiaries under the Social Security system, as measured by the ratio of the monthly disability insurance benefits to the average indexed monthly earnings, demonstrates that disabled workers without workers’ compensation or public disability benefits had higher replacement rates. Therefore, collecting multiple benefits may create an economic disparity.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

NJ Senate Passes Increase to Supplemental Benefits for Injured Workers

The NJ Senate adopted legislation (S.1967) to increase supplemental benefits to certain injured workers receiving workers' compensation. On October 29, 2018 the NJ Senate voted (26-12) to pass the legislation. The Assembly version A3635 awaits action.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Social Security Disability Trending Downward


click on graph to see underlying data

Both Social Security Disability Applications and Social Security Disability Awards are now trending downward. Additionally, terminations from Social Security Disability Awards are now trending upward (8.62%) according to November 2016 statistics released by the Social Security Administration.

Monday, July 22, 2013

WHEN IS THE RIGHT TIME TO APPLY FOR SOCIAL SECURITY DISABILITY?

Today's post comes from guest author Susan C. Andrews from Causey Law Firm.

     We get many calls from folks who have been off work for a while, and are wondering if the time is right to place an application for Social Security Disability benefits. There are several program rules that should be kept in mind in making this decision.

Applications for Social Security Disability
now can be filed online.
      The first thing to know about Social Security Disability is that it is a program for people who have one or more health issues that prevent the person from working for a period of at least 12 continuous months. If you have not yet been off work for that length of time, but anticipate that may be the case, you may want to go ahead and apply, since the entire process can take months and, in some cases, a year or more, before a final decision is made. On the other hand, if you are fairly confident you will be able to get back to work before 12 months has passed, then holding off makes more sense.
  ...benefits can go back no more than one year from the date of the application. This is a matter of concern for those who hold off too long and, as a result, lose out on benefits to which they are entitled.
      To collect any benefits at all, one must satisfy the above-described 12-month duration requirement. That said, once a person has satisfied the 12-month rule, it also is helpful to know that benefits cannot begin until five full months after the date of the onset of disability. So, for example, if I am diagnosed with a cancer and, because of my treatment, I must stop working on June 7, 2013, (and I know, because of the course of proposed treatment, that I am likely to be off work for more than 12 continuous months), then I could apply right away, but benefits would not begin until December of 2013. The five full months that I must wait for benefits to begin (in this example, July through November) is called the waiting period. The month of June cannot be counted because it is not a full month.  Thus, if there is some possibility I might be able to return to work before 12 months has passed, depending on how my treatment goes, then I might want to hold off initially, to see how it goes.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

“Lamestream Media” Enables Right-Wing Talking Points About Social Security Disability

Today's post comes from guest author Jay Causey, from Causey Law Firm.
By Jay Causey from Causey Law Firm
- - Screen Shot from Fair.org
     Just in time for a scheduled meeting of the Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs to discuss the status of the Social Security Disability program (SSDI) on October 7th, on Sunday, October 6, CBS’ popular “news” show, 60 Minutes, aired "Disability USA" - a sensationalized program full of misleading and largely anecdotal information designed to convince viewers the program is riddled with fraud and on the brink of collapse.  If you watched this program, and it is your sole source of information about Social Security Disability, you know essentially nothing about the actual operation of the program.  You heard not a single word from disability recipients, their advocates, or from officials who administer the program, none of whom were invited to participate in the 60 Minutes piece.
...the 60 Minutes segment focused on some fraud in the program in one impoverished area of the country in order to paint disability recipients generally as the undeserving poor, slackers and frauds.
     First, listening to the program you might not have understood that the average monthly benefit of about $1100 is not tax-payer money but earned credits for money paid into the system by the disabled worker.  Then, in terms of the “shocking” growth of the disability rolls you heard CBS’s Steve Kroft and Senator Tom Coburn, R-Oklahoma natter on about, you didn’t hear that the statistical growth of the program is a direct function of the increase in population over the past 30 years, the aging of the baby-boomer population into their higher disability years, the entry of women into the work force in greater numbers, and similar demographic factors.  Finally, you likely came away from the program thinking that qualifying for SSDI is a cakewalk, when the actual standards for disability result in denial of two-thirds of all applications, only 10% of those denials being reversed on appeal, and an overall figure of about 41% of applicants ultimately qualifying.
     Completely ignored in this puff-piece for the right wing (Coburn is the lead Republican on the Senate Subcommittee for Investigations and has a long-standing, well-documented hostility to Social Security) is the shifting of responsibility for disability from workers’ compensation systems, where it properly belongs, to the Social Security Disability program because of the rollbacks in coverage and benefits in states’ workers’ comp programs across the country, all driven by right-wing and corporate interests.  So, while SSDI faces potential exhaustion of its funds in the next few years (although this can be – and in the past has been – remedied by shifting funds from the Social Security old-age program), the liability insurance industry, which includes workers’ compensation carriers, is enjoying record profits over the last two years.
     Similarly unmentioned was the impact of the worst economy in decades, shrinking the ability of disabled workers to find less physically challenging work.
     As is typically the case with these types of “news” pieces, the 60 Minutes segment focused on some fraud in the program in one impoverished area of the country in order to paint disability recipients generally as the undeserving poor, slackers and frauds. CBS could have moderated the potential negative impact of its program by including interviews of SSA program officials or of spokespersons from some two dozen national disability advocacy organizations who asked to be heard on this show.  It shamefully chose to ignore all such requests, and has diminished itself accordingly as a news organization.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Chaos for Workers' Compensation Programs--The Elimination of Social Security Numbers?

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is readying a fraud prevention initiative that removes Social Security Numbers (SSN) from Medicare cards to help combat identity theft and safeguard taxpayer dollars. The question remains whether the elimination will cause chaos in state workers' compensation programs since the SSNs have historically been utilized as personal identifiers.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

THE TRUTH ABOUT CHEATIN’ AND LYIN’

Today's post comes from guest author Susan C. Andrews, from Causey Law Firm.

     You hear it all over the place these days: there are lots of people out there who lied and cheated to get Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits. I’m here to tell you that is a myth. You don’t have to drill down very far to find out differently. I should know, from where I sit, as an attorney who handles SSD cases. Where I sit most days is in front of a big pile of medical records—I mean HUNDREDS of pages of medical records, all belonging to the same person. You see, some of my clients have just one great big medical issue—like cancer, or Multiple Sclerosis, or Parkinson’s, and many of my clients have multiple medical problems. Either way, they have spent more time in doctors' offices and hospitals than any of us would ever choose to do.
 There is a mistaken notion floating around out there that a person can just waltz into Social Security, claim to be disabled, and voila—he’s granted benefits!
     There is a mistaken notion floating around out there that a person can just waltz into Social Security, claim to be disabled, and voila—he’s granted benefits! Nothing could be further from the truth. The burden of proof is on the claimant (the person claiming benefits) to show that he or she is disabled from engaging in substantial gainful activity (SGA) for a period of at least 12 continuous months. More about SGA in a bit. That proof starts with medical records, and diagnoses made by doctors. Self-diagnosing just doesn’t cut it, even if you’ve read up on your condition all over the internet, and you’re absolutely positive you know what’s wrong with you! Sometimes we get calls from people who do not have health insurance, and even though they have a serious medical condition, they have been unable to access much in the way of health care. Sadly, some of those folks who should be able to qualify for benefits do not, because they simply do not have the necessary treatment records to document the seriousness of their conditions.
     As mentioned above, Social Security’s definition of disability is the inability, due to one or more medical impairments, to engage in substantial gainful activity for a period of at least 12 continuous months. Social Security defines SGA in part by a dollar figure that usually goes up a little every year. In 2013 it is $1,040. Social Security looks at a person’s GROSS earnings, not net earnings or take-home pay. So if I’m able to gross $1,040 or more per month, I can engage in substantial gainful activity and I do not qualify for SSD. This concept is important especially for individuals with progressive conditions.
     Take, for example, a person diagnosed with Parkinson’s. One famous example is the actor Michael J. Fox. His Parkinson’s affects his functioning, but he is still working. Many people with progressive conditions continue to work for some time after receiving their diagnosis. At some point, progression of the disease may force some of them to go to part-time work. When the hours worked decrease, their earnings may no longer qualify as SGA. Or—and I see this a great deal in my practice—some people begin to have more bad days than good days, and work performance is impacted. There are days so bad that they really have no choice but to call in sick. Then this begins to happen more frequently than a couple of days a month. In my experience, at that point most employers become very unhappy campers. Not only are the employees taking sick leave faster than they are accruing it, they can’t tell their employers ahead of time which days they will wake up with an exacerbation of symptoms that keep them in bed, or at least in their bathrobe, all day.
     Which brings me to my final point: Many of my clients look okay to the casual passer-by. Take the guy with a serious heart problem. Well sure, if I followed him around for half a day, I’d see that he can barely exert himself without getting out of breath. But if I just passed by, he might look fine. And the day he spends at home in his bathrobe because he can hardly catch his breath—I’m not going to see him at all when he’s having one of those really lousy days. His condition may be largely invisible.
     To sum it up, I’d say there’s a bit of wisdom in being slow to judge. Thank goodness we take our good health for granted—it’d be a miserable existence if I spent too much time worrying about getting sick before it actually happened. But, of course, serious illness can strike any of us when we least expect it. And on the other side of that defining moment, the world can look a whole lot different.
 Photo credit: Gemma Grace / Foter / CC BY-NC

Saturday, June 25, 2016

The Social Security Financial Report: An Insight Into the Future

Change is coming to the Social Security Disability program based upon the The 2016 Trustees Report that was published this week. It projects that the future finances of the Social Security Disability Trust Fund will require additional funding to remain solvent.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

NJ Senate to Vote on S613 - Workers Compensation Cost of Living Benefit Increase

On Thursday, January 9, 2014, the NJ Senate is scheduled to vote on S613, which is proposed legislation to increase workers' compensation benefits by implementing a cost of living allowance for some beneficiaries.
On December 19, 2013 the following amendments were adopted by the NJ Senate:
These Senate amendments provide:
1. That the periodic cost of living supplement that the bill
provides to an individual for total permanent disability or survivor’s
benefits under workers’ compensation will be reduced by the original
amount of that individual’s periodic Social Security survivor’s or
retirement benefits, but not reduced by subsequent cost of living
increases in those Social Security benefits; and
2. That, in the case of an individual who initially received Social
Security disability benefits and later receives Social Security
retirement benefits, or who dies and has dependents who receive
Social Security survivors’ benefits, the workers’ compensation
supplement will then be reduced by the amount of the Social Security
retirement or survivor benefits, exclusive of any cost of living increase
in those Social Security retirement or survivor benefits
S613:
1/9/2014 1:00:00 PM Senate
1000 AM  Committees at the Call of the Senate President
200 PM  Voting Session
Senate Chambers

http://www.njleg.state.nj.us/bills/BillView.asp?BillNumber=S613