Category Archives: social security disability

overpaid_disability

Overpaid Disability Benefits by Social Security: Now What?

Today’s post comes from guest author Roger Moore, from Rehm, Bennett & Moore.

What can I do if the Social Security Administration (SSA) says I have been overpaid disability benefits?

This is a very common problem, unfortunately. There are a number of factors that cause these issues to come up so frequently.

First, the rules about how much one can make differ, depending on what type of disability benefit is received. Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) recipients can earn over $1,000 per month without jeopardizing their monthly benefit. But almost every dollar earned by Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipients can affect the amount of their monthly benefit, as this benefit is partially based upon a recipient’s financial situation. These amounts can change over time.

Second, there are many different rules about when you can earn money from working above what is called the substantial gainful employment level and not jeopardize your continued entitlement to disability benefit. It’s difficult to summarize all of the circumstances, yet alone know all of the rules, for a claimant. What’s more, simply providing the SSA your wages doesn’t absolve you from having to repay overpayments. The SSA doesn’t look at this information on a regular basis. Years later, you may get a “Dear John” letter advising you that you were overpaid thousands of dollars.

Finally, you may simply get wrong or bad information from someone when you meet with or speak with the SSA. It’s important to document when you spoke with the person and who that person was. If possible, get them to put their advice in writing.

When faced with an overpayment, there are two things you should always do. First, Continue reading

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Shortcuts at the Social Security Administration Mean Mistakes

Today’s post comes from guest author Roger Moore from Rehm, Bennett & Moore.

Recently, the Wall Street Journal reported that the Social Security Administration (SSA), frustrated by the backlog of applications for disability benefits, started pressuring the 140 doctors the agency uses to help evaluate some of the claims. In an effort to encourage the quick processing of claims doctors were paid a flat rate of $80/case in stead of the previous $90/hour to review the cases. Many times these cases have hundreds of pages of records to be reviewed and can turn on a few sentences.

In this setting it’s every more important to seek the help of a treating physician in offering a supportive report.

Also, doctors were assigned to evaluate conditions that were not in their areas of expertise. One of the more interesting quotes came from Neil Novin, former chief of surgery at Baltimore’s Harbor Hospital, who worked for Social Security part time for about 10 years. He said “People who shouldn’t be getting [disability] are getting it, and people who should be getting it aren’t getting it”. In my experience Continue reading

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What Does The Supreme Court’s Striking Down Of The Defense Of Marriage Act Mean For Your Social Security Disability Benefits?

The United States Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act

Today’s post comes from guest author Barbara Tilker from Pasternack Tilker Ziegler Walsh Stanton & Romano.

On June 26, 2013, the Supreme Court ruled that Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) violated the Fifth Amendment and is therefore unconstitutional. While DOMA was in effect, the federal government did not recognize same-sex marriages that were performed in states where they are legal, such as New York.  This meant that the Social Security Administration was unable to pay certain benefits to individuals who would have otherwise been entitled to them if they were married to someone of the opposite sex. As this part of the law has been struck down, validly married same-sex couples should be treated identically to opposite-sex couples by the Social Security Administration.

There are several Social Security benefits that married individuals are entitled to that unmarried individuals are not.  The two largest programs are survivor benefits and disabled widow(er)s benefits. A surviving spouse can now be entitled to benefits on a deceased spouse’s earnings record once they attain age 60 or are disabled and age 50. These benefits, once only available to opposite-sex couples, should now be extended to same-sex couples as well. Stepchildren may now also be entitled to benefits on a worker’s earnings record, if the worker is either deceased or receiving Social Security retirement or disability benefits.

The Social Security Administration relies on state law to determine if a person was legally married. Social Security looks at the law of the state where a person was living at the time of their death to determine if their marriage was valid. It’s possible that a same-sex couple could be married in New York (or another state where same-sex marriage is legal) and then move to a state that does not recognize same-sex marriage.  According to Social Security’s current rules, the Administration would look to the rules of the state where the person lived at the time of their death to determine if the marriage was valid.

At first glance, this seems to mean that validly married same-sex couples could be denied benefits they would have been entitled to if they didn’t move. However, Social Security also recognizes a “deemed marriage” provision. In simple terms, if both partners believed themselves to be married, and acted like a married couple, and the only reason they are not validly married is “a legal impediment not known to the applicant” at the time of the marriage ceremony, Social Security will consider the marriage to be valid for benefit purposes.

We don’t know yet how Social Security will enact these provisions or what the end result will be. However, it appears clear to us that many people who were being denied benefits because of who they love will now be entitled to them.

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How Does Social Security Help Me Get Back to Work?

The SSA has programs to help disabled people rejoin the workforce.

Today’s post comes from guest author Barbara Tilker from Pasternack Tilker Ziegler Walsh Stanton & Romano.

As I discussed in a previous post, you don’t have to be on Social Security Disability (SSD) forever. Many people find that their medical conditions improve and they want to try to get back to work. However, it’s hard to get back into the workforce after being out of it for a long time, and people are worried about losing their eligibility for benefits if they try to go back to work but are unsuccessful.

Social Security recognizes that it can be difficult for people to get back into the labor market and that people would be reluctant to go back to work if they would automatically lose entitlement to their disability benefits. To address these concerns, Social Security runs several programs to help people transition back into the workforce while maintaining financial eligibility.

Social Security has many programs and policies to help people return to work, but I will discuss two of these programs in some detail. These are the Ticket to Work program and the Trial Work Period.

The Ticket to Work program gives disabled individuals access to a network of services that offer retraining and vocational rehabilitation. This is a free, completely voluntary program. Once you reach out to them, you will Continue reading

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When Should I File for Social Security Disability?

Today’s post comes from guest author Barbara Tilker from Pasternack Tilker Ziegler Walsh Stanton & Romano. Causey Law Firm can assist you with your application for Social Security disability benefits if you are in the Puget Sound region.

Filing for Social Security Disability (SSD) can be a lengthy process. Every case is different, and some are processed faster than others. However, we’ve found that it takes the Social Security Administration (SSA) between four (4) to six (6) months to make an initial decision.  If that decision is unfavorable (and about 70% of initial decisions are denials), it can take between eight (8) to twelve (12) months to have a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) scheduled. A year to a year-and-a-half wait is not uncommon.

You should file as soon as you know that you will be out of work for at least twelve (12) straight months OR if your condition is expected to result in death.

Due to the lengthy process, you should file for SSD as soon as possible. You should file as soon as you know that you will be out of work for at least twelve (12) straight months OR if your condition is expected to result in death. If you will not be out of work that long, you should not apply for SSD, unless your condition is expected to result in death. You should talk to y our doctor to see how long he/she expects you to be unable to work.  Your doctor’s support is incredibly important to your case – something we’ll talk more about in the future – so talk to him/her before making the decision to apply.

In order to make sure that you get the maximum amount of benefits you’re entitled to, your application must be filed within 17 full months from the time that you become disabled and unable to work. If you’ve already been out of work for a year or more, consider putting in an application right away to prevent any loss of benefits you would otherwise be entitled to.

Once you’ve spoken to your doctor and made the decision to apply, contact our office to schedule an appointment.

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Social Security Disability: Get the evidence you need

Today’s post comes from guest author Roger Moore from Rehm, Bennett & Moore.

Social Security Disability applicants sometimes have trouble getting the evidence needed to demonstrate that they have a disability.

PROBLEM 1: You haven’t had regular medical care because you don’t have health insurance.

Without regular medical care, it’s difficult to develop a relationship with a doctor that is strong enough that the doctor can complete a report on your health. Even if your disability is very real, proving it in Court can still be a hard thing to do. However, without medical insurance, most doctors won’t see a patient.

SOLUTION: In Nebraska there are some free clinics where you can be seen by a doctor even if you cannot afford to pay. To find a free clinic near you, contact your local health department. Anyone planning on applying for Social Security Disability should try to develop a relationship with a doctor by seeking regular medical care as often as possible.

PROBLEM 2: Many applicants don’t have the right kinds of conversations with their doctors about their disabilities.

Doctors are mainly concerned with your symptoms and how they can help you get well. They aren’t necessarily focused on the kinds of things they’ll need to know to help you with your Social Security Disability claim. To fill out a report for your claim, they’ll need to know exactly how much you can and cannot do. Continue reading