social security

Wonder if your condition is not in the SSA Blue Book?

by lmallernee | January 2nd, 2013

As mentioned in our last blog, there are a number of impairments that will automatically qualify you for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits (SSDI), according to DisabilitySecrets.com.

The Blue Book for the Social Security Administration (SSA) lists these impairments, but a condition does not necessarily need to be listed in SSA’s Blue Book to qualify for disability benefits.

A disability claimant does not have to have an impairment that is listed in the Blue Book to be awarded disability benefits. For instance, migraine headaches are not included in the Blue Book, but if a claimant’s migraines are severe enough and the migraines make it impossible for the disability applicant to work a full-time job, the SSA may still grant disability benefits.

The keys are that the condition be a medically determinable impairment and that it either reduces your residual functional capacity, so that you cannot do your prior job or it qualifies you for a medical-vocational allowance.

An individual filing for SSDI benefits does not necessarily have to satisfy the exact requirements listed in the Blue Book for a particular illness or condition (such as rheumatoid arthritis) to be awarded disability benefits. You may also be awarded disability benefits if SSA considers your condition medically equivalent to the criteria listed in the Blue Book.

If you or someone you know needs help with Social Security Disability benefits, contact the Social Security Disability lawyers at Fleschner, Stark, Tanoos & Newlin.

Certain Medical Conditions Automatically Qualify You for SSDI

by lmallernee | December 28th, 2012

There are a number of impairments—both physical and mental—that will automatically qualify you for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits (SSDI) or for Supplemental Security Income (SSI), according to DisabilitySecrets.com.

The Blue Book for the Social Security Administration (SSA) lists impairments under the following categories: musculoskeletal problems, such as back injuries; cardiovascular conditions, such as heart failure or coronary artery disease; senses and speech issues, such as vision and hearing loss; respiratory illnesses, such as COPD or asthma; and neurological disorders, such as multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, Parkinson’s disease, and epilepsy.

Also included in the list are mental disorders, such as depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, autism, or retardation; immune system disorders, such as HIV/AIDS, lupus, and rheumatoid arthritis; various syndromes, such as Sjogren’s Syndrome and Marfan Syndrome; skin disorders, such as dermatitis; digestive tract problems, such as liver disease or IBD; kidney disease and genitourinary problems; and cancer.

Provided an individual’s condition meets, or is equivalent to, the specified criteria for one of the above listings, s/he will automatically qualify for SSDI or SSI. If your particular condition or illness is not on the SSA’s Blue Book list or if you are impaired but not by one of the conditions listed, what do you do? Our next blog on Monday will discuss this eventuality with you.

If you or someone you know needs help with Social Security Disability benefits, contact the Social Security Disability lawyers at Fleschner, Stark, Tanoos & Newlin.

“Ticket to Work” Helps SSI Recipients

by lmallernee | December 28th, 2012

December 21, 2012

Millions of Americans who receive Social Security Disability benefits want to work, reports Picket News. Ticket to Work is a free, voluntary program that helps people find employment. Those who receive Supplemental Security Income or Social Security Disability can begin jobs while keeping some of their benefits.

For one woman, it was more than just a ticket to work. After being diagnosed with cancer and losing her job due to downsizing, she had gone on Social Security Disability Insurance.

A year later, with her cancer in remission, she learned about the Iowa Development Workforce Center and her local American Job Center.

The staff was able to provide her with advice about disability benefits and employment and “Work Incentives,” which are intended to help people who receive disability benefits transition to the workforce.

The woman also found out that during the Trial Work Period, recipients of SSDI can keep their Medicare coverage and their cash benefits. She also learned that if she has to stop work because of her disability, she may be able to restart her Social Security benefits without a new application.

Eventually, the woman did find work. Grateful that Social Security helped her “get through the storm,” she acknowledged that she was pleased to take control of her life, to become financially self-sufficient, and to leave the benefits behind.

If you or someone you know needs help with Social Security Disability benefits, contact the Social Security Disability lawyers at Fleschner, Stark, Tanoos & Newlin.

Social Security Disability fast tracking

by lmallernee | December 10th, 2012

To address the chronic backlog of the Social Security Administration, the agency is working to streamline the application process.

To ease the burden of debilitating conditions, the Social Security Administration is expanding a program that fast-tracks disability claims by people who have contracted serious illnesses, according to the Herald.

The Compassionate Allowances program approves many claims for a select group of conditions within a few days, Social Security Commissioner Michael Astrue said.

The program was expanded Thursday to include 200 diseases and conditions such as advanced breast cancer, early-onset Alzheimer’s, and Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Started in 2008, the Compassionate Allowances program is designed to render decisions in 10 to 15 days to claims that could have taken months or years to approve in the past. It was begun after the agency did an internal review of how it handled initial applications from people with serious but rare conditions.

Two hundred thousand people have received expedited benefits since the Compassionate Allowances program was started.

Last week, the agency added 35 more diseases and conditions to the program, bringing the total to 200.

While providing faster benefits to the seriously ill, the program is also designed to ease the workload of an agency that has been swamped by disability claims since the economic recession.

If you or someone you know needs help with a claim, contact the SSD benefit lawyers at Fleschner, Stark, Tanoos & Newlin.

Lawmaker accused of Social Security fraud

by lmallernee | November 28th, 2012

Yesterday a former Missouri lawmaker was indicted on charges of theft and Social Security fraud, reports the News Tribune.

While still getting paid as a House member, the 65-year-old former Democratic House representative received nearly $60,000 in federal disability payments

“An elected official who is entrusted to make the law must also follow the law,” said the acting U.S. attorney for the Western District of Missouri. “This kind of deceit and illegal double-dipping from the public coffers is nothing less than theft.”

The man served as a representative from the Kansas City suburb of Sugar Creek from January 2003 until January 2011, earning an annual salary of more than $30,000. He failed to notify the federal government that he was employed as a legislator.

Because he said he was unable to work due to a neck injury sustained in a farm accident, the man began receiving Social Security disability benefits in February 2000. He failed to report his new employment when he completed a form in May 2003, stating again that he was unable to work because of his disability.

The U.S. attorney’s office in Kansas City said that the Social Security Administration sent him a bill in 2008 seeking reimbursement for $58,917 of benefits that he had not been entitled to receive from January 2004 through February 2008.

If you or someone you know needs help with a Social Security Disability benefit claim, contact the Social Security lawyers at Fleschner, Stark, Tanoos & Newlin.

How can you get SSI?

by lmallernee | October 24th, 2012

According to DisabilitySecrets.com, if you have not worked long enough when you become disabled and have low income and assets, you can apply for Supplemental Security Income (SSI), instead of applying for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI).

SSI is available to individuals who have either never worked or who have not accrued enough work credits to qualify for SSDI.

SSI is also available to individuals who once worked and were eligible to receive SSDI but are now no longer eligible because they haven’t worked in a long time.

If you’re not capable of returning to your previous work, you’ll be evaluated to determine if you’re able to perform other work, given your age, education, and skills.

Except in the most clear-cut cases, the SSI disability process is a fairly difficult one. Most SSI applications are initially denied.

To win most SSI claims, you have to be willing to appeal the initial decision and go to a hearing. Having a lawyer can make a difference.

If your SSI case has been denied by the Social Security Administration, you should probably consider finding a lawyer to represent you at the hearing. The lawyer will help organize your medical records and get the evidence you need to prove that your medical impairments are disabling.

If you or someone you know needs help with Supplemental Security Income benefits, contact the disability lawyers at Fleschner, Stark, Tanoos & Newlin.

70 Percent of SSDI claims denied

by lmallernee | October 22nd, 2012

Applying for Social Security Disability benefits can be difficult due to how long a claim can take and the high chance of being denied, according to DisabilitySecrets.com.

Statistically, 70 percent of all Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Social Security Insurance (SSI) claims are denied after the initial application.

What does this mean for SSD and SSI applicants who are disabled and need help?  It means that you need to learn everything you can about the system to better your chances of winning on an appeal.

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is a program that pays monthly benefits to you if you become disabled before you reach retirement age and aren’t able to work.

To qualify for the SSDI program, you must have worked a certain number of years in a job where you paid Social Security taxes (FICA) taxes and where you have earned a certain number of work credits.

How many work credits you need to qualify for SSDI benefits depends on how old you were when you became disabled. For example, if you are 50 years old when you become disabled, you need 28 work credits, or to have worked for seven years.

On our next blog on Wednesday, we will explain what Supplementary Security Income (SSI) is and how you can qualify.

If you or someone you know needs help with Social Security Disability benefits, contact the disability lawyers at Fleschner, Stark, Tanoos & Newlin.

Man convicted of receiving fraudulent Social Security Disability payments

by lmallernee | October 11th, 2012

Meeting your basic needs when you have little or no income can be a struggle, especially when you are trying to support your family or cope with a medical condition.

The Supplemental Security Income system exists to help when you’re in need, but unfortunately, some people try to cheat the system.

In Baltimore, Maryland, a man collected Social Security Disability benefits while working for the Social Security Administration has been convicted of fraud, reports the San Francisco Chronicle.

Facing up to 20 years in prison at his January 3 sentencing, the 50-year-old man was convicted Thursday in Baltimore of Social Security Disability insurance fraud, federal health benefit program fraud, and health care fraud.

He began receiving Social Security long-term disability benefits in 1996, according to evidence presented at his trial. At that time, he also began receiving Medicare benefits as a result of his disability and a low-income subsidy for prescription drugs.

Then the man went back to work in 1996, and eleven years later in 2007, he actually got a job as benefits authorizer with the Social Security Administration, where he worked on cases pertaining to long-term disability benefits, prosecutors say.

It was determined that the man has been overpaid more than $150,000 in Social Security disability insurance benefits and in federal health care benefits.

If you or someone you know needs help with Social Security Disability benefits, contact the disability lawyers at Fleschner, Stark, Tanoos & Newlin.

Reasons to delay collecting Social Security benefits

by lmallernee | October 8th, 2012

Collecting Social Security at 62 when it pays your full benefit at 65-67—depending on the year you were born—may not be financially wise, according to the Rapid City Journal.

Because no one knows exactly how long they will need their benefits for, it can be difficult to decide when to start collecting.

You may be better off waiting until a few years after eligibility to begin collecting your Social Security for several reasons:

The average monthly check you receive by waiting until age 70 is 66 percent more than what you receive at age 62. If your benefit at full retirement age is $1,000, at age 62, it is around $750, but if you wait until age 70, it is probably closer to $1,250.

If you are alive at age 62 and do not have a terminal illness, the odds are that you will live another 15 years.  Therefore you may want to wait until 70 to start receiving your benefits.

Social Security benefits are also indexed to inflation. This advantage is much greater than it might appear. If inflation averages 3.5 percent a year, then your benefit check will double in 20 years. If your initial monthly benefit at age 66 is $1,000, by the time you’re 86, it will have doubled to $2,000.

If you or someone you know needs help with SSD benefits, contact the disability lawyers at Fleschner, Stark, Tanoos & Newlin.

Report distorts reality of SSD program

by lmallernee | October 3rd, 2012

A September 12 report from the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations identified problems with the Social Security Disability (SSD) program, but many of these problems are the result of the repercussions of the 2008 financial crisis and the inability of Congress to create long term solutions, according to a press release.

The report concluded that in more than 25 percent of the cases, decisions to award benefits “failed to properly address insufficient, contradictory, or incomplete evidence.” Because of the backlog of cases now flooding the SSD program, the administrative law judges were unable to review all the evidence.

After the 2008 financial crisis, many laid off workers and aging boomers applied in unprecedented numbers for SSD benefits.

While 25 percent of the cases contained errors or were insufficiently justified, the errors went in both directions, both awarding and denying benefits.

Senator Carl Levin, the ranking Democrat on the committee, and Ron Miller, the Founder and Managing Director of Disability Group, Inc., the nation’s premier disability advocacy group, both vehemently disagreed with the recommendation in the report that mandates that a “government representative” be present at all disability hearings.

They contend that the presence of an unnamed “government representative” is not necessary to the fair adjudication of disability claims, nor is it a “compassionate and dignified manner to treat disabled individuals.”

If you or someone you know needs help with Social Security Disability, contact the disability lawyers at Fleschner, Stark, Tanoos & Newlin.