social security reform

Social Security Disability benefits system to undergo a review in 2012

by Staff | December 21st, 2011

The Social Security Administration (SSA) has commissioned an independent review of the federal disability system, reports the Wall Street Journal.

The Administrative Conference of the United States, which studies government policy in Washington and is one of the most respected institutions on matters of administrative law, will undertake the review. A draft of the study is due in August 2012 and the final recommendations are to be released in November 2012. The recommendations could serve as a blueprint for changes by either the SSA or Congress.

“It’s healthy, when something appears not to be ideal, to get some fresh eyes to see if there can be improvements,” said Harold Krent, the lead researcher for the project.

This year, the Wall Street Journal identified significant inconsistencies in the process for awarding disability benefits.

One such inconsistency concerns a judge, in Houston, Texas, who awarded benefits in 13 percent of his cases last year, while another judge, in Kingsport, Tennessee, awarded benefits in 99 percent of his decisions. The average approval rate is around 60 percent.

The administrative-law judges, who work for the SSA, weigh appeals of applicant who have been twice denied before at the state level.

The disparity between how many Social Security Disability benefits clients are awarded and how much time judges spend in hearings will be part of the study’s review.

Read more.

If you need help with your Social Security Disability benefits, contact the Social Security Disability lawyers at Fleschner, Stark, Tanoos & Newlin.

6 tips for baby boomers turning age 66 in 2012–part 2

by Staff | December 19th, 2011

At age 66, baby boomers can claim the full amount of Social Security that they have earned, and the penalty for working while claiming Social Security benefits disappears, reports US News.

Let’s continue with those six Social Security planning tips for those turning age 66 in 2012:

(4) Don’t forget about Medicare. Retirees can sign up for Medicare beginning three months before the month that they turn age 65. It’s important to sign up as soon as you are eligible because premiums may increase by 10 percent for each 12-month period that you delay enrollment. People who are still working and are covered by a group health insurance plan must sign up within eight months of leaving the job to avoid penalty.

(5) Protect what you have. It is important to protect the nest egg that you have built for retirement. “Make sure you are continuously tracking and monitoring how you are spending your money and the types of returns you are generating from your portfolio,” says Gordon Tudor, a certified financial planner for Wealth Analytics. “It’s not about return—it’s about reducing your risk and avoiding losing money.”

(6) Plan your new life. Retirement isn’t just about meeting your financial needs. You also need to plan how you will spend your days after you leave the workforce. Perhaps you’ll want to begin that part-time dream job.

Do these tips help you to make a decision about your Social Security benefits?

Read more.

If you need help with your Social Security Disability benefits, contact the Social Security Disability lawyers at Fleschner, Stark, Tanoos & Newlin.

6 tips for baby boomers turning 66 in 2012–part 1

by Staff | December 16th, 2011

In 2012 the oldest baby boomers will turn age 66, an important age for Social Security eligibility, according to US News.

Many of the rules for claiming Social Security change when you hit age 66. Here are six planning tips for those turning age 66 next year:

(1) Delay and get more. If you delay claiming your benefit up to the age of 70, you can further increase your monthly Social Security payments. “Financially speaking, it makes more sense to wait until later when you can get more money per year, especially if you are healthy and think you will live a long time,” says Daniel Goldie, president of Dan Goldie Financial Service. “You will get more money per month and that money will continue at that higher level for the rest of your life.”

(2) Claim twice. Those married at least 10 years are eligible for Social Security payments based on their own work record or payments equal to up to 50 percent of the higher earner’s benefit, whichever is higher.

(3) Work without penalty. Once you turn age 66, the earnings limit disappears. “Unlike people who take early Social Security, you can work and earn as much as you want without reducing your Social Security,” says Tim Maurer, vice president at the Financial Consulate.

Do you need to know more about when to collect your Social Security?  Then check out our blog on Monday for three more tips.

Read more.

If you need help with your Social Security Disability benefits, contact the Social Security Disability lawyers at Fleschner, Stark, Tanoos & Newlin.

Congress debate over payroll tax in limbo–part 2

by Staff | December 14th, 2011

A ticking reminder–a countdown clock–for the looming tax increase is kept on the White House website, according to the Birmingham News.

But it does not seem to be making Congress move any faster. Nothing has yet come close to a bipartisan compromise.

So far the payroll tax debate has centered on how to help the government make up for the revenue that would be lost by continuing the tax cut.

A Democratic representative said that she supported an extension of the payroll tax cut and the extension of unemployment that is likely to go along with it.

“I think the people of my district are hurting, and I think we should stay here and not go home for the holidays until we’ve done both,” she said.

One Republican representative insists that the payroll tax cut must be offset by some other new revenue or spending decrease.

“Now, with people losing their jobs last year, you could make an argument that it helped Americans at the right time. But you also have to admit that we’ve dug Social Security in a deeper hole.”

Another Republican representative said that he thinks this should be the last extension of the payroll tax cut because Social Security needs to be protected.

“We have to all agree a year from now that this is not going to happen again,” he said.

Read more.

If you need help with your Social Security Disability benefits, contact the Social Security Disability lawyers at Fleschner, Stark, Tanoos & Newlin.

Congress’s debate over payroll tax in limbo–part 1

by Staff | December 12th, 2011

Yet another polarizing debate over the economy, entitlements, taxes, and debts is underway. In the next few days, Congress will make a decision about the payroll tax, which goes toward Social Security, according to The Birmingham News.

The payroll tax was trimmed from 6.2 percent to 4.2 percent for 2011 as a temporary way to boost the economy. For the average household living on $50,000 a year, the cut meant an extra $1,000.

Next year the after-tax income will either go down, stay the same, or go up.

The first option of letting the payroll tax cut expire and shrinking take-home pay appears unlikely. Both Republicans and Democrats generally seem to favor avoiding a tax increase.

In the second option of extending the existing cut for another year, taxpayers would see no change.

The third option is cutting the tax even more so that workers pay only 3.1 percent. The cut would let the average household keep an extra $1,550 a year.

“Most immediately, we need to extend a payroll tax cut that’s set to expire at the end of this month,” Obama said last week. “If we don’t do that, 160 million Americans will see their taxes go up, and it would badly weaken our recovery.”

In Wednesday’s blog, we will discuss the pros and cons of these three payroll tax options and how they affect Social Security. Join us!

Read more.

If you need help with your Social Security Disability benefits, contact the Social Security Disability lawyers at Fleschner, Stark, Tanoos & Newlin.

Governor defends son’s Social Security benefits

by Staff | December 9th, 2011

Arizona’s governor says that she is troubled that her adult son’s mental illness is again in the news, reports The Republic.

She had recently been told by her lawyer that the investigation was closed. A U.S. Justice Department spokeswoman declined to confirm or deny that the U.S. Attorney’s Office had investigated payment of $75,000 of benefits to her son.

The governor “has been in regular communication with the Social Security Administration [SSA], and the governor has actively filled out paperwork, emailed and called at every step,” a spokesman said Thursday. “Because of that, she has no doubt that the SSA has always had full knowledge of [her son’s] circumstances, whereabouts and resulting eligibility status.”

Her son, now 48, has been hospitalized in the state mental hospital for most of the past two decades. The federal law was changed in 1995 to bar Social Security payments to anyone institutionalized after being found not guilty by reason of insanity.

A chart on the agency’s website related to benefits for people acquitted by reason of insanity was not clear on how it might apply to the governor’s son’s case.

To the family’s knowledge, the governor said, “my son has never received any Social Security benefits to which he was not entitled.”

Read more.

If you’re having trouble getting the Social Security Disability benefits you deserve, contact the Social Security Disability lawyers at Fleschner, Stark, Tanoos & Newlin. We may be able to help.

6 reasons to get help with Social Security Disability

by Staff | December 7th, 2011

An experienced Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) lawyer can alleviate stress and give you the time to focus on your recovery and well-being, according to the Wall Street Journal’s Market Watch.

“Becoming disabled brings on a multitude of new experiences for most people, and applying for Social Security benefits is a challenging one to face,” says a SSDI lawyer. “A lack of experience can make this process extremely difficult to organize and understand, especially when you’ve recently become disabled.”

Here are six reasons why you may need help to navigate the SSDI process:

(1) SSDI lawyers can help organize, file , and complete all of the overwhelming paperwork on time.

(2) They can translate the language and legal issues that might seem foreign to you.

(3) Lawyers have the technology needed to assemble and maintain your difficult-to-gather medical  information.

(4) If your initial SSDI application is denied, lawyers can help expedite the appeals process.

(5) Mistakes in the government’s records can be made, and it is your lawyer’s job to fix them.

(6) SSDI lawyers have a wealth of knowledge and can provide information about the different services that you might benefit from.

Our SSDI lawyers will ensure that each client is provided with great service while each case receives close attention.

Read more.

Do you think that you could benefit from the help that Social Security Disability lawyers can offer?

If you need help with your Social Security Disability benefits, contact the Social Security Disability lawyers at Fleschner, Stark, Tanoos & Newlin.

The geography of Social Security Disability payments varies widely–part 2

by Staff | December 6th, 2011

Social Security Disability rates are considerably higher in rural America than in cities, according to the Daily Yonder.

Two of the counties in our nation receiving the highest percentage of Social Security Disability are Harlan County in Kentucky and Buchanan County in Virginia. Harlan, Kentucky, is a coal mining county where more than 17 percent of working age adults are disabled.

In Buchanan County, Virginia, another coal mining county, there were nearly 16,000 working age adults in Buchanan in 2009, and just more than 4,400 were disabled.

As far as states go, with the exception of Maine, the southern states are collecting more Social Security Disability than the northern or western states.

West Virginia, followed closely by Arkansas, Kentucky, Alabama, Mississippi, and Maine, had the highest percentage of working age adults qualified for Disability in 2009. It was 9.6 percent.

Utah, Alaska, Colorado, Hawaii, California, and Maryland have the lowest percentages of adults receiving a Disability check. Utah’s percentage was 2.8 in 2009.

In Washington, D.C. — where Social Security is at the center of a national debate on federal spending — only 3.2 percent of working age adults rely on these kinds of benefits.

Read more.

Was your state mentioned in the blog?  If your state was not mentioned, go to the link under “read more” to find out where it fits in to this Social Security Disability geography.

If you need help with your Social Security Disability benefits, contact the Social Security Disability lawyers at Fleschner, Stark, Tanoos & Newlin.

The geography of Social Security Disability payments varies widely–part 1

by Staff | December 3rd, 2011

The Social Security Disability program was started in 1957 as a way to help people who can’t work because of health problems.

There has been a surge of benefits to the program in the last decade, according to the Daily Yonder. There were 6.6 million beneficiaries in 2000. By 2009, there were 9.6 million.

To qualify, one has to show that he can’t work due to a disability and that the disability is expected to last for at least one year. Disability benefits go to people with persistent physical or mental problems, such as cancer, chronic back pain, persistent anxiety, schizophrenia, and other conditions.

Currently, the Disability fund is kept separate from the retirement benefits.

The percentage of people receiving Disability payments varies widely from county to county. Rural and small town residents are much more likely to receive Social Security Disability payments than those living in urban counties. Rates of disability in rural America are 80 percent higher than in cities.

Disability payments are concentrated in counties where the jobs require manual labor and where unemployment is traditionally high. Mining and timbering are major industries in many of the counties with the highest percentages of Disability beneficiaries.

Read more.

Where do you think your state and county fit in to this Social Security Disability geography? Read our next blog on Monday to find out.

If you need help with your Social Security Disability benefits, contact the Social Security Disability lawyers at Fleschner, Stark, Tanoos & Newlin.

US Senate unveils bill to prevent cases like the Pennsylvania basement captives

by Staff | November 30th, 2011

Legislation was unveiled Monday to close a Social Security loophole that enabled a woman to collect government assistance checks that belonged to a mentally disabled person locked in a squalid basement for years, reports the Washington Post.

The bill would allow Social Security Administration (SSA) access to existing government databases that identify violent criminals ineligible to serve as representative payees. It would also increase the number of SSA fraud investigators so that anyone applying to be a representative payee would undergo a criminal background check.

“The horrors that took place … are deeply troubling, and we must do everything we can to ensure this never, ever happens again,” Senator Bob Casey said at a news conference with Philadelphia police. “This legislation will ensure that the Social Security Administration has the resources and the tools it needs to stop another situation like this in its tracks.”

The woman had been convicted and served prison time in the starvation death of a man nearly three decades ago. Such a criminal past would have legally disqualified her from cashing the victims’ government disability checks.

Set to be introduced by year’s end, the bill will finally give the SSA the tools and resources required to perform a criminal background check on every person who applies to serve as a representative payee, Casey said.

Read more.

Do you think this bill will help resolve cases such as the Pennsylvania basement captives?

If you need help with your Social Security Disability benefits, contact the Social Security Disability lawyers at Fleschner, Stark, Tanoos & Newlin.