Tuesday

There Will Be No More Updates

Thank you for visiting the Social Security Disability Law Blog.

This will be the last blog post as I no longer will be practicing Social Security Disability law.

I will leave the blog up because I think there is a lot of valuable information on here for anyone who is currently applying for either Social Security Disability and/or Supplemental Security Income.

As I wrote about previously, in addition to the information available on this blog I published a Book that is available on Amazon in the eBook format for the Kindle and in paperback through Createspace. The Book is titled "Applying for Social Security Disability (SSD) Benefits or Supplemental Security Income (SSI)? 33 Commonly Asked Questions Answered."

The book provides very detailed answers to 33 commonly asked questions related to the SSD and SSI processes by an experienced disability lawyer. 


Monday

My Book Now Available For Kindle & Paperback via Amazon

Buy The eBook
I published an eBook through Amazon titled "Applying for Social Security Disability (SSD) Benefits or Supplemental Security Income (SSI)? 33 Commonly Asked Questions Answered."

A long title, but it leaves no doubt for the reader what the book is about.

If you have a Kindle then you can get the book at this link and in paperback through Createspace.

About The Book:

Have you applied for or are considering applying for either Social Security Disability Benefits (SSD) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI)? If so, then you likely have many questions that need answering. This book provides very detailed answers to 33 commonly asked questions related to the SSD and SSI processes by an experienced disability lawyer.

The following questions are answered in detail:

1. What Social Security Disability Benefits Are There?
2. What Is The Difference Between SSD And SSI?
3. What Is Social Security's Definition Of Disability?
4. What Is Substantial Gainful Activity?
5. What Is The Five Step Sequential Evaluation Process?
6. What Can A Social Security Attorney Do For Me?
7. What Is Sheltered Work?
8. How Far Back Can I Receive Back Payment?
9. What Does Date Last Insured Mean?
10. How Do I Find Out My Date Last Insured?
11. How Long Does It Take To Receive A Decision?
12. Are There Any Disabilities That Social Security Awards Benefits Faster To?
13. If I Don't Have Enough Work History Credits, Can I Still Get Benefits?
14. I Have A Private Long Term Disability Policy, Should I Also Apply for Social Security Disability?
15. How Important Are Medical Records When Applying For Social Security Disability?
16. What Is Reconsideration?
17. Do I Have To Pay Taxes On Social Security Disability Benefits?
18. I Was Recently Awarded SSD, When Do I Get Medicare?
19. I Was Recently Awarded SSI, Do I Get Medicare or Medicaid?
20. How Long Are Doctors Or Hospitals Required To Keep My Medical Records?
21. Social Security Sent Me A Direct Express Card, What Is It?
22. What Is A Common Mistake Claimants Make That Is Easily Fixed?
23. Where Is My Local Social Security Office?
24. I Received Mail From Social Security, What Should I Do?
25. Can I Receive SSI If I Leave The United States?
26. I Worked On The Books, Why Does Social Security Say I Don't Have Enough Work History Credits?
27. My Doctor Is Not Willing To Cooperate With Social Security or My Lawyer, What Should I Do?
28. I'm A Veteran and Receiving Veterans' Benefits, Do I Also Get Medicare If I'm Disabled?
29. My Doctor Says I Am Disabled, Why Did Social Security Deny Me?
30. What Happens At The Social Security Disability Hearing?
31. If I Inherit Money Will That Affect My Social Security Disability Benefits?
32. Can I Apply For Both Early Retirement And Disability Benefits At The Same Time?
33. What Questions Does The Judge Ask At The Social Security Hearing?

How Facebook, Twitter & Social Media Can Affect Your Social Security Disability Application

Administrative Law Judges are not allowed to google the name of clients and find out information about them. But, just because they are not allowed to do it, doesn't mean that they don't do it. Maybe that's just the cynic in me. But, I don't assume that just because it's been banned that Social Security judges and disability examiners that work for Social Security don't ever use the internet to look up a claimant's name.

This Delaware Disability law firm has some useful advice:
What I suggest that you do if you are applying for Social Security Disability or Supplemental Security Income payments is do a Google search for yourself and know what is viewable if you aren’t logged into any websites. If you are not sure if information you have posted would be viewed negative, then you probably should not have it publicly available. After you have deleted (or made private) anything you think could be viewed negative, ask a family member or close friend to view your public page to determine if they think anything is still negative. Even consider removing information from your private page that could be viewed negative. You would be shocked how often friends or family report possible fraud in disability claims because of things they see or hear.
Just because you are applying for disability doesn't mean you have to live like a hermit or that you have to be miserable 24/7. But, it's all about perspective. You don't want to somehow give someone the wrong impression based on a comment or picture you post on a social media website.  Especially if that person is responsible for deciding whether or not you get disability benefits.

Saturday

Social Security Makes $24,000 Mistake

A Buffalo woman has an interesting story about a mistake with her Social Security disability monthly benefits. According to WIVB.com:
Cheryl Smeal's monthly disability benefit is about $400. So when Social Security sent a letter saying her next month's benefit would be more than $24,000... it got her attention. So did another letter she received the same day, saying it was a mistake.

"I'm like, 'Oh my God! I've got some moolah coming to me and things will be a little bit better.' But I opened the next letter and it said that, 'we overpaid you $24,760,'" Smeal recalled.
And the correspondence says Smeal would have to pay the money back. But the money is electronically transferred to her government debit card and Social Security won't take it back.
It's important to always pay attention to how much Social Security has sent you and compare that to what you are supposed to be receiving. In this instance it was obvious with the huge amount of money involved that it was a mistake. However, there are times when the mistakes are much smaller amounts of money but over a period of months the money can add up. If Social Security notices the error, which they likely will, they will be asking to be reimbursed for the overpayment.

Trust me, it's better to let Social Security know as soon as you are aware that there's a mistake. If they pay you $100 per month more than you are supposed to get and they don't notice for three years, you're going to owe them $3,600.  That's a headache you'll want to avoid if at all possible.

Tuesday

What Questions Does The Judge Ask At The Social Security Hearing?

Chances are that if you are reading this, you currently are waiting for your hearing in front of an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) to be scheduled or your hearing was recently scheduled. You've applied for Social Security Disability (SSD) and/or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and have been denied at least once or possibly twice (if your state has the Reconsideration stage).

In general Social Security hearings are pretty informal, nothing like you're accustomed to seeing on Court TV or the news. Typically, the only people in the hearing room are the judge, a court reporter who types what is being said, the claimant and if you are represented, your representative. It's also common for the Administrative Law Judge to request that a vocational expert and/or a medical expert testify at the hearing.

The main purpose of the hearing is for the claimant to testify. The majority of the time spent in the hearing room is spent with the judge asking the claimant questions and if you are represented by someone, having your representative ask you questions to inform the judge of important details.

Typically the judge will ask questions in order to better understand your case and obtain the required information to determine if you meet Social Security's definition of disability.

For the most part the the questions you are asked by the judge will fall into four categories:

Background Information
The judge will ask you questions about your education, who you live with and where you live. Basically, the simple questions that you shouldn't generally have to think twice about.

Work History
You will be asked about your work history from fifteen years prior to your alleged onset date up to the last job you held. You should be able to briefly explain where you worked, what you did on a daily basis, be able to explain what you were responsible for doing, whether the job was a physical job, whether you spent most of the day sitting down/standing up, whether you interacted with customers or the general public and what if anything you were responsible for lifting. If you have any earnings since your alleged onset date you may be asked to explain what this money is for.

Medical Condition(s)
Obviously you will be asked many questions about your disabilities and how they affect you on a daily basis. You will be asked what doctors you have seen, how often you visit the doctor, what medications you've been prescribed, what body parts are affected, how often you are in pain, how often you feel the side effects of your disability, what causes your pain or symptoms to get better or worse.  You may be asked if the medication helps your problems, if the medication has side effects or if you have ever been hospitalized. You should also be prepared to explain any gap in medical treatment (for instance if you no longer had medical coverage).

Be prepared for the one question that I believe every single judge I've ever appeared in front of has asked -- "In your opinion, what prevents you from working?"

Daily Activities 
This may be the most important portion of the hearing because it gives the judge an idea about into how you are affected on a daily basis by your disabilities. It gives them insight into what your limitations are. It's here where the judge will typically be able to determine whether he/she thinks you are a credible person or whether he/she believes you are exaggerating.

It's important to make sure the judge understands your limitations and how your disability prevents you from doing daily activities. But, at the same time, you do not want to lie or exaggerate. The judges who appear at Social Security disability cases hear hundreds of disability cases each year and literally thousands of cases in their lifetime. They can usually tell if someone is lying to them or if the person testifying in front of them is exaggerating their limitations.

The judge will ask questions about what your typical day consists of, what you do from when you wake up in the morning until when you go to bed at night, what chores you are able to do, whether you can drive, whether you can go out by yourself, whether you can cook/shop/do laundry. 


If you are preparing for your Social Security Disability hearing then you may want to read my blog post "What Happens At The Social Security Disability Hearing?" and "common Social Security disability mistakes that are easily fixed."

Friday

Can I Apply For Both Early Retirement And Disability Benefits At The Same Time?

If you are between 62 and 65 years old and currently have either a physical and/or mental disability that is preventing you from working you may want to consider Social Security Disability. Many individuals who have reached 62 or are approaching 62 years old never even consider applying for disability benefits. They know that they have to stop working due to their disabilities so they simply apply for early retirement through Social Security.

If you want to know your full retirement age, then you can view that on the Social Security website.

According to Social Security:
You can retire at any time between age 62 and full retirement age. However, if you start benefits early, your benefits are reduced a fraction of a percent for each month before your full retirement age.
It's important to note that if you receive early retirement, the reduced monthly benefits that you receive are the benefits that you will receive for the rest of your life. So, if you receive 25% less benefits than you would at full retirement age, you will receive 25% less until the day you die. Some people think that the penalty is removed once they reach full retirement age but that is not the case. 

Those who are between the ages of 62 and 65 years old have the ability to file for Social Security early retirement benefits and also apply for Social Security disability benefits at the same time. What happens is you start receiving the reduced monthly benefits through early retirement and if you are eventually awarded Social Security Disability benefits your monthly benefits will be increased to your full retirement amount. (If your Social Security Disability application is denied however you are stuck receiving the reduced early retirement benefits).

If you apply for early retirement while waiting for your disability application to be processed then if you are eventually awarded disability you may be able to recover the difference in benefits retroactively for the months that the disability application was being processed by Social Security.

Thursday

What Is The Difference Between SSD And SSI?

There are several different types of Social Security Disability benefits/programs. The two most common types are Social Security Disability Benefits (SSD) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). When most people refer to Social Security Disability benefits they are referring to SSD.

To qualify for Social Security Disability Benefits (SSD), an individual must have enough work history credits which are acquired by paying into the Social Security system while you work. In general, in order to have enough work history credits an individual needs to have worked in five out of the ten years prior to becoming disabled.

In addition to having enough work history credits, an individual must prove that they are disabled. An individual must have a medical condition(s) that meets Social Security's definition of disability. It must be expected that you will be unable to work for at least a year due to your disabilities.

A common misconception is that in order to be eligible for any disability benefits from Social Security that you must be poor, or have very limited assets. This is not true. If you are disabled and applying for SSD, how poor or rich you are is completely irrelevant. I tell my clients that the "D" in SSD stands for "Donald," because even Donald Trump (if he were disabled) could qualify for SSD benefits as long as 1) he has earned enough work history credits, and 2) he meets Social Security's definition of disability.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a separate Social Security program. The major difference between SSD and SSI is that SSI does not require work history in order to qualify. SSI is for individuals who have limited income and resources who are either older than 65, blind or disabled.

For the purposes of this blog, if you are a disabled individual with limited income and resources you may qualify for SSI, even if you have little or no work history.

After Social Security determines that you meet their financial criteria, they will decide whether or not you meet their criteria for disability. Social Security has the same definition of disability for those applying for SSD and SSI.

Social Security looks at the total income, finances and resources of the household when determining whether an individual meets the eligibility criteria for SSI. If a person is married, Social Security will take their spouse's income into consideration. SSI is the only disability benefits program available for children under age 18.

Sticking to the Donald Trump analogy, Mr. Trump certainly would not be eligible for SSI, no matter how disabled he was.

Wednesday

How Much Back Pay Can I Get From Social Security?

When you are awarded disability benefits by Social Security you will receive a set amount of money each month for as long as Social Security considers you to be disabled. Those who are receiving SSD benefits receive an amount of money each month based on their work earnings record and those receiving SSI benefits receive an amount equal to the maximum amount allowed by Social Security minus set amounts for income or resources.

If you apply for Supplemental Security Income benefits today, then today is the first day that you could possibly receive any back payment once you are awarded. So, if you apply for SSI on December 1, 2011 and you are found to be disabled by Social Security on June 1, 2012 you will receive a check for those months while you waited for your case to be decided. In this example, if Social Security determines that your onset date was December 1, 2011 and you meet the other criteria that the SSI program has (financial component), then you will receive back payment for six months. You will not receive back payment for any months that you do not meet the financial criteria for SSI. Since you first applied for SSI on December 1, 2011 that is the earliest month that you could receive benefits for. This is the case even if your disability began in December, 2008.

It is not as straight forward for those who are applying for SSD. If you have applied for SSD, Social Security allows you to receive retroactive payment for up to twelve months prior to the date that you filed your SSD application (assuming you can prove you were disabled that far back). However, Social Security regulations require that the first five months that you are considered disabled you do not receive any retroactive pay, there is a waiting period.

Using the same dates as above, assume that someone has been disabled since December 1, 2008 but does not apply for SSD until December 1, 2011. If Social Security agrees that the person's onset date is December 1, 2008 it is possible for the applicant to receive retroactive benefits from December 1, 2010 (one year before the initial application was filed). In this situation, the applicant does not lose five months of payment, because their onset date was more than five months before the person was first eligible to receive retroactive back payment.

In both examples you can see why it is very important to file for benefits with Social Security as soon as you know that you are expected to be out of work for at least a year.

This is a complex topic and can be even more confusing if you are applying for both SSD and SSI at the same time.

Onset dates can be a confusing but important issue in any Social Security disability case. If you are applying for SSD and/or SSI and are unsure what date you should use then you should contact an experienced disability lawyer.

Thursday

Do Attorneys Slow Down The Social Security Disability Process?

I've had clients say to me before that they felt that their prior lawyer was slowing down the process to delay a decision from Social Security in order to increase any fee that they would receive if the client were eventually to be found disabled. I've also had clients ask me if our firm ever stalled the Social Security Administration in order to obtain larger retroactive benefits and therefore increase the fee that we received for assisting the client obtain either Social Security Disability benefits or Supplemental Security Income.

Tomasz Stasiuk, a Social Security Disability attorney in Colorado wrote an excellent blog post on this a few months back.

I agree with his opinion wholeheartedly that:
there is lot a lawyer can do for you: obtain evidence, file briefs, perform analysis, prepare you for your hearing. However, one thing a lawyer cannot do for you is make Social Security move faster than it wants to. No one can force SSA to make a decision before it is ready. The reason Social Security cases take so long is that there an enormous backlog of cases waiting to get through the system.
When you hire a representative, you are hiring someone to stand in line with you and help get you ready while you wait to get to the front. However, they cannot make the line move faster. If you change the person you’re waiting with just before you get to the front, it’s not the change that caused you to get to the front of the line. It is that your turn finally came up! The problem is that you don’t see the line in a Social Security case. You don’t know how many people are in front of you. All you know is that you waited a year with the old attorney, and only a couple of months with the new one.

 Related posts:

What Can A Social Security Disability Attorney Do For Me?
How Long Does It Take To Receive A Decision?


Monday

If I Am Awarded Social Security Disability, Do I Still Have To Pay Child Support?

Typically this is the type of question that I would direct a client to ask a family law attorney, especially if they already have one for a prior divorce or for child support issues.

However, as a New Jersey Social Security Disability attorney I like to keep up on news that relates to Social Security Disability. A recent New Jersey Superior Court decision (Gilligan v. Gilligan) states that an SSD award alone is not enough in itself to automatically relieve a parent of paying any child support.

The New Jersey Court held that a prior decision (Golian v. Golain) does not hold that an "SSD award letter itself is automatically sufficient for the family court to conclude that the party cannot work in any capacity or earn any income to pay child support or arrears."

In addition to the Notice of Award  from the Social Security Administration:

when a party alleges a post-divorce disability that renders him or her unable to work at all and pay any child support, that party must provide more evidence to the court than simply the SSD award letter itself to prove his or her case.

A parent who claims that a disability prevents him or her from paying child support or arrears has an obligation to provide the other parent with the opportunity to review the underlying medical reports upon which the in the SSD award was based, along with any additional medical reports regarding the nature and extent of the disability, diagnosis, and prognosis relative to engaging in employment."

When the SSA declares a person disabled and eligible for SSD benefits, such a finding cannot, without further inquiry, automatically be considered tantamount to a finding by the SSA that the person cannot work or earn any money at all.To the contrary, under the SSA’s own definitions and regulations, a disabled person may work and earn up to a maximum amount of income each year whiles till qualifying for benefits and maintaining his or her disabled status.

A declaration of disability by the SSA is a determination that the applicant cannot engage in substantial employment or gainful activity (SGA), which is distinguishable from being unable to work and earn any money at all. If a person claims that he or she cannot work at all, as opposed to being onl yunable to engage in any substantial work activity, it is that party’s burden o fproof to produce supporting and substantiating evidence of the validity of this claim beyond mere submission of the SSD award itself.

While some persons may be unable to engage in any income-producing work at all due to the nature of their disabilities, not every disability is the same. Other disabled persons may in fact be able to earn some degree of income under SGA levels and generate supplemental income, which can be used to help support a dependent child and pay back existing child support arrears. A family court may consider a disabled obligor’s potential ability to earn additional income under SSA regulations in determining the level of his or her ongoing child support obligation and schedule for repayment of accrued arrears.
This recent New Jersey decision basically means that if you are awarded Social Security disability, you are not automatically released from the obligation of paying child support. The family court will have to make a decision because it is a fact sensitive issue that will vary based on each individual's disabilities and ability to earn any amount of money.

To read the full Gilligan v. Gilligan decision click here.

Friday

What Does Social Security Consider An Acceptable Medical Source?

As mentioned in another post, medical records are extremely important in your attempt to prove to Social Security that you are disabled.

According to Social Security, the following are acceptable medical sources:
  • licensed physicians (medical or osteopathic doctors);

  • licensed or certified psychologists including school psychologists (and other licensed or certified individuals with other titles who perform the same function as school psychologists in a school setting) only for purposes of establishing mental retardation, learning disabilities, and borderline intellectual functioning ;

  • licensed optometrists only for purposes of establishing visual disorders (except in the U.S. Virgin Islands where licensed optometrists are acceptable medical sources only for the measurement of visual acuity and visual fields);

  • licensed podiatrists only for purposes of establishing impairments of the foot, or foot and  the ankle, depending on whether the State in which the podiatrist practices permits the practice of podiatry on the foot only, or the foot and the ankle; and

  • qualified speech-language pathologists only for purposes of establishing speech or language impairments. For this source, “qualified” means that the speech-language pathologist must be licensed by the State education agency in the State in which he or she practices, or hold a Certificate of Clinical Competence from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.

Monday

I Requested A Hearing, What's The Wait Time?

So you've now been denied at initial application and possibly Reconsideration and have requested a hearing in front of an Administrative Law Judge. Now you want to know how long you're going to have to wait until your case is heard.

Depending on where you live in the United States that wait time is going to vary drastically. Social Security routinely releases statistics that show the average wait time across their 165 hearing offices. The shortest wait time for a hearing once it's been requested is at the Mayag├╝ez hearing office in Puerto Rico where the average wait time is 175 days. At the opposite end of the spectrum, if you live in the St. Louis area the average claimant waits 472 days for their hearing to be scheduled.

It's fairly safe to assume that if you recently requested a hearing, you should expect to wait at least seven months and it could take up to fifteen months.

Friday

What Is This Consultative Examination That Social Security Is Sending Me To?

In most cases, claimants for either Social Security Disability benefits (SSD) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) are scheduled for Consultative Examinations by Social Security. Social Security may request that you go to an examination by a medical doctor for physical impairments and/or a psychologist for mental impairments.

In my experience, almost every client who has been denied on their initial application and at Reconsideration has been sent to a Consultative Examination in relation to the impairments that they are alleging. If a claimant is alleging both mental and physical impairments, then it is possible that Social Security will schedule both a mental and physical examination; or they may schedule one or the other.

The majority of the time these doctors are not helpful to the claimant's case (at least this is my opinion on physical examinations). But, it's in your best interests to attend these examinations. If Social Security schedules you for a Consultative Examination and you fail to attend then it's likely that your application for disability benefits will be denied. If you have to re-schedule the appointment, that can usually be done by contacting the claim's adjudicator in advance. However, I always suggest to my clients that they try their best to attend the examination when it is originally scheduled unless absolutely necessary to re-schedule.

If you confirm your attendance for the examination and then fail to show up for the appointment, Social Security is not obligated to re-schedule the appointment. Often, if you fail to appear and do not have a valid reason, Social Security will deny your application. If you fail to attend the examination, if the case goes to hearing, the judge is likely going to want to know what your reasons for failing to attend the examination are.

It has been my experience that the mental examinations are much more helpful and through than the physical examinations. Physical examinations, from what I have been told, seldom last longer than 10 minutes.

Thursday

The Doctor Social Security Sent Me To Told Me I Was Disabled, Why Was I Denied?

From time to time a client tells me that they went to the Consultative Examination that Social Security requested that they go to and the doctor told them that they were disabled. Of course the client then is expecting the next correspondence from Social Security to be a Notice of Award. But, unfortunately that is not always the case.

I've had more than a few clients tell me that the doctor told them that they were disabled only for Social Security to turn around and deny them either at the initial decision or Reconsideration. Why does this happen? In my opinion it boils down to one of several possible reasons; either the doctor said one thing and wrote another thing in his report, the doctor may have said something which was misunderstood or the doctor did state that the claimant was disabled but Social Security - who is the ultimate decision maker - decided that the claimant did not meet the Social Security definition of disability.

The good news is that if the doctor at the Consultative Examination, whether it be a medical doctor or a psychiatrist, did include favorable evidence for you in their report that this may help you at the Social Security hearing.

Wednesday

If I Inherit Money Will That Affect My Social Security Disability Benefits?

Very simple answer.

If you are collecting Social Security Disabilty benefits (SSD), then your monthly benefits will not be affected by any inheritance. Since SSD is based on your work history credits, you can collect SSD benefits as long as you are disabled, even if you are a multi-billionaire.

However, if you are receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI) then your benefits most likely will be affected. Since SSI is a needs based program, not only must you meet the Social Security criteria for disability, you must also meet the financial requirements. Depending on the amount that you inherit, these assets may disqualify you because of the financial component of the program.

Monday

What Happens At The Social Security Disability Hearing?

So you've applied for either Social Security Disability benefits and/or Supplemental Security Income and you've been denied at the Initial application, and possibly a second time at Reconsideration (if your state has this stage of the process). You've requested a hearing (likely about a year ago) and now you've been scheduled for a Social Security hearing in front of an Administrative Law Judge.

Here are a few things to prepare you for what to expect at your hearing:
  • If you do not already have an experienced Social Security disability attorney, it's time to strongly consider getting one. If you have an experienced representative, they should be able to answer all of your questions; from what to wear to the hearing, to what type of questions to expect from the judge. Not to mention, they will hopefully present your case in an organized manner that shows the judge that you meet the Social Security definition of disability.
  • Unlike most other legal proceedings, Social Security's new rules prohibit claimants from knowing who the Administrative Law Judge is ahead of the hearing.
  • Social Security hearings are pretty informal, nothing like you're accustomed to seeing on Court TV or the news. Typically, the only people in the hearing room are the judge, a reporter who types what is being said, the claimant and if you are represented, your representative. It's also common for the Administrative Law Judge to request that a vocational expert and/or a medical expert testify at the hearing.
  • In my experience, most hearings last about 45 minutes to an hour. I've had hearings that have lasted much less and hearings that have lasted much longer. But, in general, if you are represented by an experienced representative or Social Security attorney, you should expect your hearing to last close to an hour. From my experience of sitting in Social Security waiting rooms, hearings where the claimant is unrepresented rarely last longer than 30 minutes.
  • The Administrative Law Judge rarely issues a decision the day of the hearing. This doesn't mean it never happens, but it's not common practice. So, don't go to the hearing expecting to have a final answer to whether or not your application for disability is being approved or denied. If you do not receive a bench decision (a decision the day of the hearing), you will have to wait to receive your written decision in the mail. The time frame to receive a decision varies by judge, some judges get their decisions sent out within a few weeks and unfortunately I've had judges that take up to three months to issue their decision.
  • The main purpose of the hearing is for the claimant to testify. The majority of the time spent in the hearing room is spent with the judge asking the claimant questions and if you are represented by someone, having your representative ask you questions to inform the judge of important details.

  • If you've been scheduled for a hearing, then read this article about common Social Security disability mistakes that are easily fixed.
If you are scheduled for a hearing then you likely have already waited at least eighteen months since the day you first applied for disability benefits. That's why I will repeat my suggestion that if you do not already have an experienced Social Security disability attorney, it's time to strongly consider getting one.

Sunday

Is My Social Security Statement Available Online?

About two years ago Social Security stopped sending annual Social Security statements to those who are under the age of 60. In all honesty, it wasn't a bad idea since most people usually ignored these statements and treated them similar to the typical junk mail you would get each day.

However, your Social Security statement includes lots of useful information if you intend on filing for retirement or Social Security Disability benefits.

According to Social Security your online statement provides:
  • Estimates of the retirement and disability benefits you may receive;
  • Estimates of benefits your family may get when you receive Social Security or die;
  • A list of your lifetime earnings according to Social Security’s records;
  • The estimated Social Security and Medicare taxes you’ve paid;
  • Information about qualifying and signing up for Medicare;
  • Things to consider for those age 55 and older who are thinking of retiring;
  • General information about Social Security for everyone;
  • The opportunity to apply online for retirement and disability benefits; and
  • A printable version of your Social Security Statement.
To get your Statement online, you must first create a my Social Security account. Once you have an account, you can view your Social Security Statement at any time. 

Monday

My Doctor Says I Am Disabled, Why Did Social Security Deny Me?

It happens at least a couple of times a week. A person calls and is perplexed as to how Social Security could deny their SSD or SSI application even though their doctor, or doctors say that they are disabled.

The truth is, although it's certainly helpful to have a doctor on board and willing to support your assertion that you are unable to work, the majority of doctors do not know Social Security's definition of disability.

There are certainly doctors out there who understand the Social Security disability process, but there are also a lot of doctors who do not know the slightest thing about Social Security, what the requirements are to qualify for Social Security disability and many that do not even know that such a program exists. Unfortunately, often these doctors tell their patients information that is inaccurate and then the disabled individual is left with misconceptions about the Social Security disability process.

My recommendation is if you have a disability or disabilities that prevent you from working go to your doctors for medical treatment. But, when you are prepared to apply for either Social Security Disability or Supplemental Security Income you should reach out to an experienced Social Security disability lawyer in your area.

Wednesday

I'm A Veteran and Receiving Veterans' Benefits, Do I Also Get Medicare If I'm Disabled?

If you are a Veteran and already receiving health benefits from the VA (Veterans Affairs) then you may be wondering what happens if you are awarded Social Security Disability benefits and become eligible for Medicare.

When you receive Social Security Disability benefits (SSD) you automatically become eligible for Medicare two years from the date you become eligible for benefits. I've had clients who are worried that this will affect the medical treatment that they have been receiving from the VA or affect their eligibility to continue receiving treatment from the VA Hospital or VA clinic.

This Medicare pamphlet has a lot of useful information that may answer many of the questions that you have. The chart on pages two and three of that pamphlet explains who pays first when you have another form of health coverage; whether it be Medicaid, a group health plan through work, VA benefits, Workers' Compensation or several other forms of medical insurance coverage.

According to the information provided by Medicare, if you are entitled to VA benefits and Medicare then you are entitled to both:
If you have or can get both Medicare and Veterans’ benefits, you can get treatment under either program. When you get health care, you must choose which benefits to use each time you see a doctor or get health care. Medicare can’t pay for the same service that was covered by Veterans’ benefits, and your Veterans’ benefits can’t pay for the same service that was covered by Medicare. To get the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to pay for services, you must go to a VA facility or have the VA authorize services in a non-VA facility.
Medicare also gives this example:
Bob, a veteran, goes to a non-VA hospital for a service authorized by the VA. While at the non-VA hospital, Bob gets other non-VA authorized services that the VA won’t pay for. Some of these services are Medicare-covered services. Medicare may pay for some of the non-VA authorized services that Bob got. Bob will have to pay for services that Medicare or the VA doesn’t cover.

Sunday

How Do I Find Out My Date Last Insured?

If you plan on filing for Social Security Disability benefits then an important thing to know is your date last insured.

The easiest way to find your "date last insured" or "DLI" is to call Social Security by calling 1-800-772-1213.

If you are unsure what Date Last Insured is, then you can read what date last insured means.

Saturday

Do I Have To Pay Taxes On Social Security Disability Benefits?

This really is a question that you should be asking an accountant or whoever assists you in filing taxes each year.

According to Social Security:
You will have to pay federal taxes on your Social Security benefits if you file a federal tax return as an individual and your total income is more than $25,000.  If you file a joint return, you will have to pay taxes if you and your spouse have a total income of more than $32,000.
Depending on the state you live in you may not have to pay state income tax for the benefits that you receive from Social Security.
Social Security has no authority to withhold state or local taxes from your benefit.  Many states and local authorities do not tax Social Security benefits.

Friday

What Is Reconsideration?

In most states if you want to appeal Social Security's decision to deny you disability benefits at the initial application you must "request reconsideration."

Several states, including New York, have eliminated this stage of the process. If you receive a denial notice from Social Security at the initial application then the letter from Social Security will inform you whether your next level of appeal is requesting reconsideration or, if you can request a hearing in front of an Administrative Law Judge.

In most states, including New Jersey, if you want to appeal Social Security's decision at the initial application, then you must request reconsideration. What does this mean? Basically, a different disability examiner employed by Social Security will review your case and determine whether or not you are disabled. Unfortunately, the overwhelming majority of the time, the result at Reconsideration is the same as the initial decision. Only about 20% of applicants are successful in getting approved for Social Security Disability benefits at the Reconsideration level.

If you have been denied Social Security benefits at the initial application and want to appeal that decision in most states you must file for reconsideration. It is important if you are not represented by an attorney that you read the letter from Social Security very carefully and submit the appeal within the required time frame. Social Security requires that if you are filing for reconsideration that your request must be returned within 65 days from the date on the denial letter. It is important to know that filing a new application is very different than filing an appeal.

Monday

Disabled New Jersey Homeowners May Be Eligible For Tax Deduction & Property Tax Freeze

Are you a homeowner in New Jersey and have been awarded either Social Security Disability benefits or Supplemental Security Income? If so, you may qualify for a special $250 annual tax deduction.

In order to receive the deduction you must show proof that you meet the requirements under New Jersey law.

In addition, you may also qualify for property tax reimbursement. This is essentially a property tax freeze.

If you are not a New Jersey resident you should review your home state's tax website or consult a tax lawyer or accountant in your area who is familiar with local state tax regulations.



Related post:  Do I Have To Pay Taxes On Social Security Disability Benefits?

Can A Lawyer Help Me File For Supplemental Security Income (SSI)?

Yes, an attorney can assist you with your application  for Supplemental Security Income (SSI). However, unlike when applying for SSD, the attorney cannot do your initial application online.

The reason why Social Security does not allow applicants to file their SSI application online is because before they review your disabilities and analyze your case from a disability standpoint, they determine whether you meet their financial criteria.

For this reason, most attorneys will require that if you are not eligible for SSD, that you apply for SSI on your own before they begin working on your case for you. The reason being, if you do not meet the criteria financially for SSI, there is nothing that your lawyer can do for you. You hire an attorney to assist you in proving to Social Security that you are disabled. If you do not meet the financial component, then Social Security never actually analyzes your case from a medical point of view.

If you intend on filing for Social Security disability benefits then I recommend you contact a lawyer in your area that is experienced in handling Social Security cases. They will inform you what their policy is on assisting with SSI applications if that is what you are applying for.

Friday

My Doctor Is Not Willing To Cooperate With Social Security or My Lawyer, What Should I Do?

Medical records are a crucial component of any Social Security Disability benefits (SSD) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) case.

Unfortunately from time to time I have a client that tells me that either their doctor is unwilling to fill out paperwork stating that they are disabled or the doctor is unwilling to assist them in anyway. This isn't usually a deal breaker. Most of the time, if you've been treating with a doctor, then that doctor will have medical records for you.  Those records include office visit notes, blood work results and any number of other test results that were forwarded back to that doctor's office.

As long as the doctor is willing to turn over those records then there should be no issue. If the doctor is not even willing to give you access to your records then it is critical to get your attorney involved. If it has reached this stage, then I strongly suggest beginning the process of looking elsewhere for a new treating physican.

This is not something that I like to advise and it should be a last resort. However, applying for Social Security can be a stressful process and more often than not a difficult process. There is no reason why you should have to stress out even more or make the process even more difficult. If you have a medical condition(s), either physical or mental that truly prevents you from working, then there are plenty of other doctors in your area who will treat you and are willing to assist you by providing the records needed to help prove to Social Security that you are in fact disabled.

Obviously, as an attorney, it is always much more helpful if a doctor is willing to complete forms that I send to him or her to complete. But, this isn't always necessary and often even if a doctor isn't willing to fill out additional forms as long as they are willing to provide your medical records this will not be an issue.

At some point at the beginning of the process, or preferably, before you have even applied for Social Security disability, you should discuss with your doctor your plans to apply for disability. Often this conversation will give you a better understanding how your doctor truly feels about your condition(s). If the doctor seems on board with you applying for Social Security disability then he or she is likely to be more cooperative when Social Security or your attorney requests information about your medical condition. If the doctor seems skeptical about the process then this could be a hint that in the future that particular doctor may not be of much assistance to your application for disability.

The truth of the matter is, many doctors have no idea what the criteria for Social Security disability is and some are much more reluctant than others to assist you through the process.

Thursday

I Receive A Social Security Check, Why Must I Sign Up For Direct Deposit?

Truthfully, you do not have to sign up for direct deposit. But, you also will not have the option of receiving a paper check beyond March 1, 2013. If you do not want to set up direct deposit then you can elect to receive your monthly Social Security benefits via the Direct Express prepaid debit card.

Social Security is moving to an entirely electronic payment system because they claim it will save them $1 billion over the next ten years. According to the Social Security Administration, it costs 92 cents more to issue a payment by paper check then it does by direct deposit.

Read more about the change in the Senior Journal.

Tuesday

I Worked On The Books, Why Does Social Security Say I Don't Have Enough Work History Credits?

As you probably know, in order to qualify for Social Security Disability benefits (SSD), you need to have enough work history credits. If you do not have the work history credits, then it is possible you could still qualify for SSI or still qualify for SSD if you can prove that you were disabled prior to your date last insured.

Unfortunately, not everyone pays into Social Security while they are working. Sadly, this is not even something that you may have realized while you were working. Most people assume that if someone hasn't paid into Social  Security that means they were working off the books or not paying taxes. But, there are certain jobs, where the employee pays taxes but they do not pay into Social Security.

It's becoming less frequent, but there are still jobs, mainly within the federal or local government that have their own pension plans that have decided not to require their employees to pay into Social Security. According to the National Association of Government Defined Contribution Administrators, about 30% of government workers do not pay into the Social Security system. Unfortunately those workers who have not paid into the system may end up not having enough work history credits when they retire or if they intend to file for disability benefits.

In dealing first hand with New Jersey public employees, I know that it is not even a generalization that can be made across the board for all of the  public employees of one state. There are certain divisions or job titles within each of New Jersey's major government pension systems; Public Employees' Retirement System (PERS), Teachers' Pension and Annuity Fund (TPAF) and Police and Firemen's Retirement System (PRFS), that do and don't pay into Social Security.

Of course, even if you have a government job that does not withhold Social Security taxes from your paycheck, it is possible to qualify for SSD or retirement benefits if you have acquired enough work history credits from a previous job or a part-time job that you have.

If you are unsure whether or not you have enough work history credits then you should contact your local Social Security office.


Related post:  Do I Have To Pay Taxes On Social Security Disability Benefits?

Monday

Montclair, NJ Social Security Office Closing

According to The Bergen Record:
As part of its belt-tightening, the U.S. Social Security Administration will be closing its walk-in office on Bloomfield Avenue, consolidating that facility with its office in Clifton, officials said Friday.
The closing of the 7,100-square-foot facility will take place in early March, Shallman said. At that point, employees and operations from Montclair will be shifted to the Social Security office at 935 Allwood Road, Clifton, which is within five miles of the Montclair facility.

Sunday

Can I Receive SSI If I Leave The United States?

Under Federal Regulations
You lose your eligibility for SSI benefits for any month during all of which you are outside of the United States. If you are outside of the United States for 30 days or more in a row, you are not considered to be back in the United States until you are back for 30 days in a row.

You may again be eligible for SSI benefits in the month in which the 30 days end if you continue to meet all other eligibility requirements.
By United States, we mean the 50 States, the District of Columbia, and the Northern Mariana Islands.

Saturday

What Is The Five Step Sequential Evaluation Process?

In order to meet the required definition of disability under the law, an applicant "must have a severe impairment(s) that makes you unable to do your past relevant work or any other substantial gainful work that exists in the national economy."

If you do not have an impairment that meets one of Social Security's listings, then Social Security will analyze your Residual Functional Capacity under the five-step sequential evaluation process.

The five-step sequential evaluation process is a series of steps that Social Security uses to analyze your condition to determine whether or not you are disabled.

According to Social Security, "if we can find that you are disabled or not disabled at a step, we make our determination or decision and we do not go on to the next step. If we cannot find that you are disabled or not disabled at a step, we go on to the next step."

1. Are you working? 
This is usually fairly straight forward, if you are engaged in substantial gainful activity then Social Security determines you to be working.

2. Is your medical condition "severe"?
Your disabilities must interfere with basic work related activities. Additionally, your disabilities must meet the Social Security duration requirement. This means "unless your impairment is expected to result in death, it must have lasted or must be expected to last for a continuous period of at least 12 months."

3. Does your disability meet a listing? 
If your condition meets one of  Social Security's listings or your condition is of equal severity to one of the listings then you will be found to be disabled.

4. Can you do past relevant work?

Social Security looks at the work that you did over the past 15 years to determine whether or not you can still do that work. If Social Security determines that you can still do this past work, then you will be found to be not disabled. If Social Security determines that due to physical or mental impairments that you cannot do your past relevant work, then they will proceed to the final step in deciding whether you are disabled.

5. Can you do any type of work?
If Social Security determines at Step 4 that you can no longer do your past relevant work, then they will look at whether you can adjust to another type of work. Social Security will consider your medical impairments (if any), physical condition along with your age, education, past work experience and any transferable job skills that you may have. 

If Social Security determines that you can make an adjustment to another type of work then they will find that you are not disabled. However, if Social Security determines that you can't adjust to another type of work you will be found to be disabled. 

According to the Regulations, if Social Security finds that you are capable of adjusting and doing other work, they are "responsible for providing evidence that demonstrates that other work exists in significant numbers in the national economy."
 

Friday

What Is Social Security's Definition Of Disability?

The Code of Federal Regulations defines what disability means in §404.1505.

According the to the Regulations:
The law defines disability as the inability to do any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months.
In order to meet the required definition of disability under the law, an applicant "must have a severe impairment(s) that makes you unable to do your past relevant work or any other substantial gainful work that exists in the national economy."

If you do not have an impairment that meets one of Social Security's listings, then Social Security will analyze your Residual Functional Capacity under the five-step sequential evaluation process.

The Social Security Administration has different rules for those who are blind.


Declan Gourley is a New Jersey Social Security Disability lawyer.

Thursday

I Received Mail From Social Security, What Should I Do?

Once you have applied for Social Security disability or SSI you will begin receiving mail from the Social Security Administration.

Sometimes these letters are just confirmation letters and require no response. But, often the letter will require a response from you in order to assist Social Security in making a decision on your case.

First, I will tell you what you should not do. You should not ignore the letter, throw it in the garbage or put it in a pile of papers to get to "later on."

You should make any correspondence from Social Security your number one priority throughout the entire process. 

If you have an attorney then you should call them to let them know that you received a letter from Social Security and tell them what the content of the letter is. Often your attorney will have already received the same letter. Typically when Social Security has sent you a letter, they have also mailed the letter to your attorney. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. You cannot assume that just because you got the letter that your attorney also got it.

If you do not have an attorney then it is extremely important that you read the letter carefully. If you don't fully understand what the letter is either stating or requesting the first time, then read the letter multiple times. Often the letter will request you to respond within a certain time frame. It is very important that you adhere to these deadlines. Typically Social Security will set a time frame for responding. If you fail to respond within that time frame then they may make a decision on your case without the information that they are requesting. A standard time frame that Social Security often gives an applicant to respond is ten days.

If at any point you are confused or feel overwhelmed by Social Security's request then I suggest that you contact a lawyer with experience in assisting disabled individuals file for Social Security disability.

Wednesday

Where Is My Local Social Security Office?

If you are trying to locate your local Social Security office then all you need to know is your five digit zip code.

If you know your zip code, then go to the office locator on the Social Security website and enter that information.

Tuesday

I Was Recently Awarded Social Security Disability Benefits, What Day Do I Get Paid Each Month?

Social Security has a system in place to determine when you will be paid your Social Security disability benefits each month.

Social Security benefits are paid after the month that they are due. Basically, each month that you receive a check from Social Security, that money is for the month preceding the check. If you receive your check at the end of February, that is your monthly benefits for January.

According to Social Security, if you receive benefits as:
  • A retired or disabled worker, the payment day will be determined by your birth date.
  • A spouse, the payment day will be determined by your spouse's birth date.
  • A survivor, the payment day will be determined by your parent's/spouse's birth date.
  • A retired or disabled worker and as a spouse, the payment day will be determined by the birth date of the beneficiary of the benefit first received.
If the birthday falls on the 1st - 10th of the month then your benefits are paid on the Second Wednesday of the month.

If the birthday falls on the 11th - 20th of the month then your benefits are paid on the Third Wednesday of the month.

If the birthday falls on the 21st - 31st of the month then your benefits are paid on the Fourth Wednesday of the month.

Monday

What Is A Common Mistake Claimants Make That Is Easily Fixed?

One of the most common mistakes that people applying for Social Security disability benefits make is being overly vague. No attorney or Administrative Law Judge expects you to be the next Stephen King, recalling everything in immaculate detail, but in my opinion this is one area where clients hurt themselves and it is very easily corrected if you realize the mistake and the problems that it can cause.

When I meet my client for the first time the interview is very detailed as I want to fully understand what the person's disabilities are, how their daily activities are restricted, how often they are affected by their conditions and basically get an overall understanding as to how this person is affected by their medical condition(s). The overwhelming majority of people answer questions very vaguely. For instance, I may ask a person how often they have difficulty sleeping at night. A common response to a question like this is "sometimes," "often" or "from time to time."

When they do this, I immediately get to work on changing the way that person answers those types of questions. You see, I know that if I really have no idea how often the problem(s) exist then I know that if the case were to go to hearing that there is no way an Administrative Law Judge will know either. You have to prove to the Social Security Administration that you are disabled and unable to work. I am not asking or even hinting that you should lie or exaggerate. But, there's a significant difference in saying "sometimes," and in saying "three times a week," or "five times a month."

The same applies when you complete the initial application to apply for Social Security disability or the forms that Social Security requests that you complete such as the Work History Report or Adult Function Reports. If you answer questions vaguely on those forms then there is no way for a disability examiner to truly understand what limits your ability to work.

When speaking in frequency, you should always try to attach a number of occurrences that the event or problem happens in a day, week, month or year. What often happens is that because you have been living with this impairment or problem for a period of time you begin to get used to it and feel almost like others will understand. The problem is, the majority of time, others do not understand. The definition of "sometimes" to you may mean a few times a week, whereas to someone else it may mean once a month.

It is important to keep in mind when talking to anyone about your disabilities how it affects you and how often it does. Assume that the person (whether it be your attorney, a doctor or an Administrative Law Judge) who is asking you about your disability knows NOTHING about it, what the symptoms are and how often they affect you.

Saturday

Social Security Sent Me A Direct Express Card, What Is It?

Social Security is in the process of making all payment processing electronic, they are eliminating the issuing of checks. As of May 2011 if you are awarded Social Security benefits (either SSD or SSI), you must receive your monthly benefit electronically.

Social Security has stated that "You must switch to electronic payments by March 1, 2013. If you don't, the U.S. Department of the Treasury may send your benefits via the Direct Express® card program to avoid an interruption in payment." We are quite some time away from 2013, but I have already had clients who have begun receiving the Direct Express card.

If you want to avoid receiving the Direct Express card then you should set up direct deposit through your bank account. Obviously this is an issue if you don't have a bank account.

According to Social Security:
The Direct Express card is a debit card you can use to access your benefits. And you don't need a bank account.

With the Direct Express card program, we deposit your federal benefit payment directly into your card account. Your monthly benefits will be available on your payment day—on time, every time. You can use the card to make purchases, pay bills or get cash at thousands of locations. And most transactions are free.

The Direct Express card is both safer and more convenient than paper checks. Anyone receiving Social Security or Supplemental Security Income payments can enroll. No more waiting for the mail or worrying about lost or stolen checks.
Similar to a debit card that a bank issues customers, your Direct Express card has a PIN number. In order to use the card you will have to enter the PIN number, this prevents someone else from using your card if it is lost or stolen.

Despite the convenience this Direct Express card seems to offer, I strongly recommend setting up Direct Deposit through a bank. Despite the advantages the card seems to offer, there are many surcharges associated with the card; to withdraw cash at an ATM, to transfer funds to a bank account, to replace lost cards, monthly paper statements and international usage.

For additional information, review the Frequently Asked Questions page on the Direct Express website.

Friday

How Long Are Doctors Or Hospitals Required To Keep My Medical Records?

Clients commonly want to know how long a doctor or hospital is legally obligated to keep their medical records for. This is especially important in "Date Last Insured" cases, when the person may not have seen a particular doctor who has relevant medical records in quite some time.

The law varies by state, so depending on where your doctor's office or the hospital is located, there may be a different length of time that source is required by law to keep the records.

In New Jersey according to Consumer Affairs:
A doctor has to keep a patient’s medical records for seven years. After that, the physician can destroy them. There is no requirement in the law that requires the physician to notify a patient prior to destroying the records. It is recommended that you request a copy of your medical records when you are changing physicians.
Meanwhile, in New York:
Physicians must keep patient records for six years after the last visit. Records for children are kept for one year after the child's 18th birthday.
In saying this, I would not assume just because it is beyond that amount of time that the records have been destroyed. In my experience, often hospitals are more likely to destroy records as soon as they are legally able to. Meanwhile, small doctor's offices are more likely to be less organized with their destruction of documents and may have medical records for several decades still in their filing cabinets.

Since medical records are crucial when applying for Social Security Disability, it is my recommendation to routinely ask doctors or hospitals for a copy of your medical records. It is not always easy to distinguish "important" medical records from the irrelevant records, so if at all possible, you should keep copies of all medical records.

Thursday

Payroll Tax Cuts Not Good For People With Disabilities

You may have recently heard about the payroll tax cuts that were extended for an additional two months by Congress. Many Americans, especially the lower and middle class, have viewed this as a good thing. Anytime less money is taken out of  your pay check it's got to be a good thing, right?

Not necessarily, unfortunately. You see the problem is that the tax cut comes at the cost of not adding funds into the Social Security Trust Fund. Typically, 6.2% of your salary is taxed and added to the Social Security Trust Fund. Additionally, your employer contributes 6.2% of your salary to the same fund. In 2011, many Americans were pleased when it was announced that their contribution would be reduced to 4.2%. Multiply that 2% deduction being paid into the Social Security Trust Fund by every working American's contribution and that's a huge chunk of change (estimated to cost over $33 billion).

Money was taken from the United States general revenue to offset the reduction of money being contributed into the Social Security Trust Fund. But, there is no guarantee that Congress will continue to allow that deficit to be made up by just taking funds from the general revenue or charging fees to banks and mortgage companies and placing it into Social Security. Instead of the Social Security program depending on itself to fund retirement and disability benefits, the program now relies on Congress to direct funds from other places into the Social Security Trust Fund.

This may not seem like a huge problem now. But, there is no doubt the Social Security program is currently under attack by many politicians.

The overwhelming majority of Americans live pay check to pay check and the only income they expect to have when they retire will be their Social Security check. If Social Security disappears, or the funds available are greatly reduced, where will retirees or disabled individuals turn for financial assistance?

Read more about the problems this poses for disabled individuals here.
American workers usually pay a tax of 6.2 percent on their earnings to build the Social Security Trust Fund.

Read more here: http://www.bellinghamherald.com/2011/12/28/2327482/why-the-payroll-tax-deal-is-bad.html#storylink=cpy
American workers usually pay a tax of 6.2 percent on their earnings to build the Social Security Trust Fund.

Read more here: http://www.bellinghamherald.com/2011/12/28/2327482/why-the-payroll-tax-deal-is-bad.html#storylink=cpy

Tuesday

I Was Recently Awarded SSI, Do I Get Medicare or Medicaid?

When you receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) you become eligible for Medicaid immediately.

If you are a low income individual, you can also apply for Medicaid regardless of whether or not Social Security has awarded you SSI benefits.
 
This means that if you have applied for SSI, you should also apply at your local Medicaid office for Medicaid, since it is possible to receive these medical benefits without waiting for a decision on your SSI application.

According to Medicaid.gov:
Medicaid coverage may start retroactively for up to 3 months prior to the month of application, if the individual would have been eligible during the retroactive period had he or she applied then.
The benefits that you will receive through Medicaid varies by state. The list below is a full list of benefits that you may be eligible for, based on the state that you live in.


Note: If you have been awarded SSD then you will be eligible for Medicare. 

Monday

I Was Recently Awarded SSD, When Do I Get Medicare?

When you receive Social Security Disability benefits (SSD) you automatically become eligible for Medicare two years from the date you become eligible for benefits.

For example, you receive your Notice of Award in June, 2011 with your onset date determined to be May, 2009. Due to the five month waiting period, you are eligible for benefits as of October, 2009. Under SSD rules you will automatically be eligible for Medicare two years from the date you first started receiving SSD benefits, you will be eligible for Medicare as of October, 2011.

To see what benefits are available through Medicare, check out Medicare.gov

Note: If you have been awarded SSI but you are not eligible for SSD then you will not receive Medicare, you will be eligible for Medicaid.

Sunday

How Important Are Medical Records When Applying For Social Security Disability?

Image Source
Medical records are very important and play a major role in determining whether or not you will be approved for Social Security Disability Benefits. When you apply for Social Security Disability (SSD) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI), you have to prove to Social Security that you are disabled. You would not believe the amount of people that ask for my assistance in applying for SSD or SSI who have very limited or no medical records. Often, it's because the person has very few finances or has no health insurance. However, even if this is the case, it is essential that you do your best to seek medical treatment.

Why? Well, aside from the fact that seeking medical treatment is a good way to improve your health or get a better understanding of your disabilities it is also critical evidence that can be very useful in proving to Social Security that you are in fact disabled.

When you initially apply for SSD or SSI, you are required to inform Social Security of any doctors, hospitals or clinics you have seen that will have medical records. Social Security also wants a list of all medications that you are currently taking and all tests (X-Rays, MRIs, CT Scans, etc.) that you have done pertaining to your disabilities.

If you are considering applying for SSD or SSI, or have already done so, it would be a good idea to keep track of all doctor and hospital visits. Make sure you document what tests you have done and have a general idea what disabilities you have and any medical conditions that you have been diagnosed with. It's always better to clearly indicate to Social Security what conditions/impairments prevent you from working, rather than assuming that someone at Social Security will read through pages and pages of medical records to understand what your problems are.

If you do not have health insurance or have limited finances you should contact Social Services in your area to see if you qualify for Medicaid or contact local hospitals/clinics to see if they have Charity Care programs. If you apply for Charity Care in one hospital or clinic and are told you do not qualify you should not give up, each individual facility has different size Charity Care programs and different criteria for qualifying.

I cannot stress enough how important a role medical records plays in determining whether a claimant will receive Social Security Disability benefits through the Social Security Administration.