social security

SSA helps two mentally disabled men

by lmallernee | June 22nd, 2012

In a groundbreaking decision Tuesday, a federal judge in San Francisco ordered the Social Security Administration (SSA) to provide training and assistance to two mentally disabled men, reports the San Francisco Chronicle.

The men said that they lost benefits because they couldn’t understand the rules, forms, and requirements. The two plaintiffs suffer from a variety of impairments, including schizophrenia, autism, severe anxiety, and functional illiteracy.

SSA also agreed to pay $900,000 for the men’s lawyers, who worked on the case for five years.

After nation-wide class action lawsuits, SSA began sending notices to the blind in braille or on audio discs and making similar accommodations for the deaf and hard of hearing.

The SSA doesn’t offer the same assistance to at least two million benefits recipients who have mental or learning disabilities who must decipher the complex eligibility requirements on their own.

Although the settlement in this case applies only to the two plaintiffs and is not a class action lawsuit, it may have a broader effect by raising awareness of the issue.

This case will “ideally pav[e] the way for millions of other mentally and developmentally disabled Americans to actually receive the equal, meaningful access” that is their legal right, said the legal director of the People with Disabilities Foundation, which represented the two men.

If you or someone you know needs help with SSD Basics, contact the Social Security Lawyers at Fleschner, Stark, Tanoos & Newlin.

Children: identity thieves’ new targets

by lmallernee | June 18th, 2012

Children are being targeted by identity thieves 35 times more often than adults, reports Fox Business. Fifteen percent of the victims are under the age of five.

A Social Security number, birthday, address, and parents’ names are all it takes to create a fraudulent identity.

“With children, it’s the crime of opportunity and is often committed by someone in the family or close to the family,” says the senior vice president at Experian’s ProtectMyID.

At birth, children are issued Social Security numbers so that their parents can claim them on tax returns.

The identity thief is usually not noticed until the child reaches 18 and applies for a student loan or car loan. Then they discover that they already have a credit file.

These are the red flags to watch out for and to help parents know that their child’s identity may have been compromised:

(1) Receiving credit card solicitations addressed to your child are a big sign that there has been some activity in your child’s name.

(2) Collection agencies start calling and asking for your child or for someone who has the same last four digits as your child’s Social Security number.

(3) IRS notifies you that someone else has used your child’s Social Security number.

Only you can help protect your child’s identity.

If you or someone you know needs help with Available SSD Benefits, contact the Disability Lawyers at Fleschner, Stark, Tanoos & Newlin.

Making Social Security gender neutral

by lmallernee | June 12th, 2012

Elderly women receive far fewer Social Security benefits than men, according to Huff Post.

In the late 1930s, Social Security was designed by a committee that used the beliefs of the time about men and women and employment.

Some of those beliefs included the following: married women should be discouraged from employment, and men should be compensated for having dependent wives.

Thanks to the efforts of Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the U.S., today Social Security is gender neutral. In the late 1970s, Ginsberg argued a series of Supreme Court decisions which accomplished the following:

(1) Changed the label “wife’s benefit” to “spousal benefit,” which makes men eligible for benefits if they earn less than their wives.

(2) Changed the distribution of benefit checks. Before, the “wife’s benefit” check was in her husband’s name and sent to him. Now they are written in the spouse’s name and sent to that person.

Frequently suggested changes for making the system even more gender neutral include:

(1) Adding a caregiver credit for the number of years a person spends out of the working force caring for children or elderly family members.

(2) Replacing the “spousal benefit” with “earning sharing” for spouses, which would add the two spouses incomes together and credit each half that amount.

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

Vets’ disability pay may be judged by Justices

by Staff | May 23rd, 2012

A disabled vet is asking the Supreme Court to consider whether states violate federal law when they allow divorce courts to count a veteran’s disability toward spousal support, reports the Sun Herald.

His petition also asks if federal law can bar state courts from considering Veterans Administration (VA) disability benefits as communal property or marital assets that may be divided up in divorce court.

After a 20 year marriage, an Air Force veteran and his wife got a divorce. An Oregon district judge considered the value of the veteran’s VA disability payments and awarded his wife $1000/month. Besides his VA benefits, his Social Security Disability Insurance is his only other income.

The veteran agued at trial that including his VA disability pay when calculating spousal support violates federal law. Title 38 Code, Section 5301 (a) makes VA benefits immune “from taxation, claims of creditors, attachment, levy and seizure.” This case brings up the question as to whether this same code protects VA disability pay from spousal support after a divorce?

The 1982 Uniformed Services Former Spouses Protection Act (USFSPA) allows courts to distribute “disposable” military retired pay as marital property, but the law excludes disability compensation from the definition of “net disposable income.”

In some situations, a divorced spouse may qualify for benefits based on Social Security Disability Insurance.

If you or someone you know needs help with Social Security Disability benefits, we have Social Security Disability resources that may help you. Contact the Social Security Disability lawyers at Fleschner, Stark, Tanoos & Newlin.

Children conceived after father’s death do not get SS benefits

by Staff | May 21st, 2012

The Supreme Court ruled that a man’s children who were conceived through artificial insemination after his death are not eligible for Social Security survivor benefits, reports the San Francisco Chronicle.

Because of a requirement that the federal government use state inheritance laws, the justices unanimously agreed that the Florida twins, conceived using their father’s frozen sperm and born 18 months after their father died, did not qualify for survivor benefits.

The mother’s application for survivor benefits was rejected by the Social Security Administration. The agency said that the father needed to be alive during the children’s conception to qualify, and a federal judge agreed.

The father was a Florida resident when he died, and Florida law bars children conceived posthumously from inheritance, unless they are named in the will.

The third U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia overturned that decision, saying that the twins were the biological children and deserved survivor benefits. The case was heard by the Philadelphia appeals court because the mother had moved the twins to New Jersey, which has different inheritance laws from Florida.

The Supreme Court came to its final decision on this case last Monday.

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

May Is Disability Awareness Month

by Staff | May 21st, 2012

May is Disability Insurance Awareness Month, according to the Houston Chronicle. Most of you are probably aware of the value of health insurance or of life insurance, but many of you may not think about an illness or injury as disabling until one or the other prevents you from working.

You may think that you will work for 30 to 40 years without any significant break. But the Social Security Administration (SSA) estimates that up to one-third of Americans may need disability insurance sometime before their retirement years.

For example, someone in a car accident that requires two or three years for recovery and rehabilitation may need the support of disability insurance until s/he can return to work.

Only about one in three workers have private disability insurance–the majority (100 million) do not. Most (153 million) are insured for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) through their FICA taxes.

More than 200,00 Americans apply for SSDI each month: more than 225,000 applied this past April.

Since the SSA denies two out of three initial applications, you may want to choose an expert such as a Social Security Disability lawyer to help you navigate the process effectively.

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

Online Social Security statements could be illegal

by Staff | May 12th, 2012

Saving $70 million annually in paper, printing, and postage, paper Social Security statements have been eliminated for most participating workers, but is going online legal? asks Reuters.

This Social Security Administration’s (SSA) move to online statements may violate federal law, which requires that personal statements be mailed to all participating workers over the age of 25 under amendments to the Social Security Act that were passed in 1989 and 1990.

Social Security advocates say that the shift to online raises many issues. For example, one in five adults do not use the Internet. Also seniors, non-native English speakers, low-income, and less educated households are less likely to have access.

Being able to access your Social Security statement is important because there is a clear link between the receipt of the statement and understanding Social Security benefits. More than half of those who read their statements report that they increased their saving rate, revised their financial plans for the future, and/or sought the advice of a financial adviser.

In the 1980s, the late U.S. senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan of New York, who first championed the idea of a statement, said, “Every month, in every paycheck, we see money withheld for Social Security, but we hear nary a word from the Social Security Administration.”

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 numbers almost leaked

by Staff | April 27th, 2012

Copies of disks including records for 13 million Texas voters were handed over to the opposing lawyers in the Texas voter ID case, reports My San Antonio. Half of these records inadvertently contained full Social Security numbers.

The voter ID case is a pending law that would require Texas voters to show government-issued photo identification before casting ballots.

Texas was ordered to give the lawyers challenging the voter ID law a voter database for analysis, and that is when the Social Security numbers’ slip occurred.

The State Attorney General’s (SAG) office mistakenly believed the database maintained by the Secretary of State’s office included only the last four digits of voters’ Social Security numbers.

Emphasizing that the copies of the disk were under a protective order, the office gave the records to the opposing lawyers on password-protected, encrypted disks.

The SAG office learned on April 12 that the full Social Security numbers were included on the disks for some voters.  At that point, the office dispatched state police officers to New York, Washington, and Boston to retrieve the disks.

The state has provided new disks to the lawyers.

On Wednesday, the SAG office said that the information never was exposed publicly, “At no time were these Social Security numbers exposed to the public. No one was ever at risk.”

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

Beware: Fraud Extends to Tax Returns

by Staff | April 2nd, 2012

Thieves have found ways to steal Social Security numbers and dates of birth, which are used to file bogus tax returns, reports Trib.com.

The fake returns claim fraudulent deductions and expenses. Victims often don’t know about the identity theft until they receive a notice from the IRS. People also are victimized by unscrupulous tax return preparers, claiming that they can obtain big refunds for clients, and they falsify deductions.

The agency has developed a unit to help people avoid being victimized, said an IRS field media relations specialist. “We tell people not to carry their Social Security number with them,” she said. Requests for Social security numbers over the telephone or via email should be treated with extreme caution.

To avoid bogus tax refund schemes, the IRS says that consumers should beware of scams such as the following:

(1) Unfamiliar for-profit tax services selling refund schemes to members of local churches.

(2) Internet solicitations that direct individuals to toll-free numbers and then seek Social Security numbers.

(3) Flyers and brochures implying that refunds are available without proof of eligibility.

(4) Claims related to the expired Economic Recovery Credit Program or for economic stimulus payments.

Once defrauded, untangling the mess is often difficult. “It’s usually a complicated case. It’s not a quick fix,” said the IRS specialist.

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

In retirement, what can you afford to spend on extras?

by Staff | March 14th, 2012

There is a new taxonomy of aging, reports the Houston Chronicle.

Where once turning 65 made you “old,” demographers now identify three groups:

  1. The “young-old” are those between 65 and 74;
  2. The “old” are between 75 and 84; and
  3. The “old-old” are 85 and older.

The reality is that the young-old tend to have few disabilities; rising disabilities mark the period of being “old”; and being “old-old” is defined by living with disabilities.

Most new retirees have their bucket list of things to do. But many items on their list will require spending money now.

“I want to do these things now, while I can,” retirees say. “I don’t want to have some future disability make it impossible.”

So knowing what discretionary spending can actually be safely done during the young-old stage and how much to save for the future are the vexing questions.

A free program called Basic ESPlanner allows you to enter your household and financial information, assumptions about inflation, and returns on investment, etc. It then calculates a smooth standard of living until you die at an advanced age, such as 95 or 100.

Calculating your annual Medicare premiums (which are rising faster than inflation), your annual income tax bill, and other non-discretionary spending, it can then figure out an amount of discretionary spending for the rest of your life.

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