2016 Social Security Changes

2016 Social Security Changes Fact Sheet

At McIntyre, Donohue, Accardi, Salmonson, and Riordan, LLP., one of the legal services we provide to clients is helping them obtain Social Security Disability benefits. With changes in the law occurring yearly at best, its hard to monitor what you are qualified for and how much you are paying.

Linked above is a downloadable PDF of the most current Social Security Changes Fact Sheet, provided by the Social Security Administration’s website. It addresses Cost of Living, tax exemptions, disability thresholds, and retirement benefits. According to the fact sheet, the tax rate for employed and self-employed individuals has not changed; however, the disability threshold has gone up. This is particularly important to what we do and what our clients need. According to the SSA website, a worker as young as 20 has a 25% chance of becoming disabled before fulfilling the 40+ years of work they would have before retirement. What could happen as this individual’s experience grows in their line of work and they perform more complicated tasks? One would think that the more complicated the task, the risk for an accident becomes greater.

If any of this applies to you, this would be extremely helpful to read. Related content can also be found in our Delegate Handbook linked on our homepage.

Delegate Handbook-Your Source For Workers’ Compensation Information

Linked below is our recently updated Delegate Handbook-a resource for all employees, and those who help give those employees a voice. This is also on our home page for quick and easy downloading.

This downloadable handbook breaks down general information and topics of Workers’ Compensation, Social Security Disability, and NYCERS pensions. This will be updated on a regular basis, as the legislation and environment around workers’ compensation and SSD changes. The most recent update to the handbook has been information surrounding the recent extension for filing WTC12 claims. The section contains information about the extension, an updated WTC 12 form as well as registration of participation form, and helpful tips on how to file WTC 12 related claims. This is also supplemented by several other forms a claimant will need to when filing forms such as the C-3 Employee Claim form and the C-3.3 Limited Release of Health Information form, located in the first section of the PDF. This handbook also contains a section for PBA members, with Bureau of Justice Assistance Factsheet and bulleted information about PSOB death claims and disability claims. This was made available to website visitors just this month! Previously only available as a hard copy, it is now available to the public.

This was made with you in mind.

Delegate Handbook-September Edition

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From New York to Illinois, Solutions For Understaffed Jails

Teamsters Local 700 in Lake County, Illinois have stepped up for the areas overworked correctional officers. Too often are jails understaffed leaving their correctional officers working a recently mandated and regulated over time, putting themselves at more of a risk then they all ready do. Correctional officers also bear the weight of gender-specific duties. In a quote from the article from PRnewswire.com, “The female correctional officers are excessively impacted by the overtime regulation because of their specific assignments that only female officers can attend to.” This also applies in the case for male correctional officers. As much as this is a risk for the CO’s, its also a risk for the inmates-less officers on duty means a higher probability of something bad happening to either party, and both need to be protected.

This problem is also evident here in New York. At the beginning of this year, Mayor Bill de Blasio made a plan to spend more than $100 Million to improve the conditions of the Rikers Island NYC Department of Correction. This would be effective July of 2017. The push for funding was a response to a federal lawsuit that addressed violence in jails-which in turn means violence in working conditions for correctional officers, and violence in living conditions for inmates. Close to $60 million of the budget is being put to staffing the facility. It’s also not as if understaffing versus overcrowding isn’t an issue either. The two are not necessarily mutually exclusive, and statistics do show that prisons and jails are overcrowded as well as they are understaffed.

Read the articles linked below for more information.

Union: State Prisons Dangerously Understaffed

Teamsters Local 700 Continues to Fight for Lake County Correctional Officers

Rikers Island Will Have More Officers Than Inmates Under Proposed Budget

Timeline of Tug of War for Graduate Student Unions

For over 15 years, graduate assistants have fought for their right to unionize. In the past, graduate students who work as adjunct professors or research assistants were under no legal obligation to be afforded the same rights as their academic colleagues. That is, until Columbia University’s students stepped up to plate in August and petitioned for workers rights. In a vicious cycle of expiration and re-authorization, these contracts between private institutions have rarely lasted. However, these academic employees are now protected under federal labor law as of August of 2016. Just in time for classes.

“…A recent ruling by the National Labor Relations Board now requires private universities to bargain with graduate-employee labor unions over compensation and working conditions.”, as quoted from an article on nytimes.com linked below. This now grants them more than just the previous annual stipend. Graduate assistants are now federally protected and are given healthcare, a salary subject to raise, and all other rights available by graduate labor unions.

These petitions have normally come down from private and ivy league institutions, and whether or not it will effect public graduate schools remains to be seen. N.Y.U was the first private university to let their graduate students unionize in 2001, and then it trickled down to other ivy league colleges. After the revocation of this right by the NLRB in 2004, the legal yo-yo bounced back in the favor of graduate students this summer.

Unions Knocking on the Academy’s Doors
Unions in the Ivory Tower
Grad Students Win Right to Unionize in an Ivy League Case
GRAD STUDENT UNION: Ruling from NLRB clears the way

Progresso To Close Plant In Vineland, NJ-Measures Made To Protect Workers

General Mills announced recently that its Vineland, New jersey location will be closing by the summer of next year. The General Mills/Progresso Plant closure is going to greatly effect the Vineland area-close to 400 jobs will be lost in an already stricken by high unemployment. The United Food and Commercial Workers Local 152, a union that represents the plant, has made sure workers effected by this will be protected. Severance packages have been agreed upon between General Mills executives and union members. “The severance packages include improved pension accruals and a stipulation that General Mills/Progresso will continue to contribute to the workers’ health care trust fund after the plant closes at the end of summer 2017. 
Local 152 represents 270 of the 370 workers at the plant.”, states an article from Laborpress.org. Several sources assure workers that this was not a result of labor costs, but instead was a result of relocating the plant. “We never believed this was a decision made on labor costs,” String said. “And based on numbers we’ve seen, again, I believe that now.”, String says in another article posted in TheDailyJournal.com. The Local 152 is also taking further measures to help its workers, such as setting up job fairs and looking for potential businesses to by the plant.

Please see the links below for sources and more information.

UFCW Negotiates Progresso Plant Closure
Progresso Facility Officially Leaving Vineland, Taking 370 Jobs With It
It’s Official: Vineland Progresso Plant to Close Next Summer

Struggles & formalities for 9/11 Responders

“Far too many people are being denied when they’re truly sick or injured,” said Sean Riordan, an attorney specializing in New York State and New York City disability law. “The biggest problem is most of these municipal employees have already been found disabled by their employers … Most of these people are going to end up being out with no income other than workers’ compensation.”

A conviction on behalf of all workers said by one of our very own-Mr. Sean Riordan, in an article written on NBCNews.com. The article is the story of Sal Turturici, a man who has been diagnosed with terminal liver cancer as a result of working at the Ground Zero site after 9/11. The former EMT wants to speak out for those who don’t get the proper coverage they need. Even though there is legislation in place that is supposed to help those who got sick in the line of duty during or after 9/11, some are still not being given the proper care.The article below concerns some of the details in the WTC Disability Law-particularly the dates of an individuals time working during the aftermath of the attacks.

Another similar story is that of Thomas McHale. He is a former member of the FBI, CIA, and Detective for the NYPD who has been waiting almost a year and a half for his disability pension. 9/11 would not be his first brush with death, or even his first encounter with a terror attack. Upon submission of his medical documents, it was found that McHale needed to provide further medical information for his illnesses. Although submitting his paperwork close to a year ago, his case is still pending.

Both of the stories mentioned are linked below. On top of the well over 2,000 lives that were lost that day, countless survivors are still suffering from illnesses resulting form their bravery at Ground Zero. The complexities of the various laws that were put in place to help survivors and their families make it even harder for them to get the care and coverage they need.

Endless Attack: Sick 9/11 Responders Still Struggle to Get By

“Slap in the face:’ 9/11 hero who fought terror overseas is now ill, but state won’t grant disability pension

LIU Brooklyn faculty lockout ends successfully for professors

In the aftermath of a faculty lockout that took place the Brooklyn campus of Long Island University, the faculty and the university’s administration have come to an agreement regarding a union contract renewal. The lockout ended Wednesday, September 14th, although classes were supposed to start the first week of this month. With thanks to professors, students, and the American Federation of Teachers, classes have begun and their rights as a union have been exercised and protected.

On August 31st the faculties union contract expired, and they did not agree with terms of the proposed renewal. A vote to accept or decline the contract took place, and the faculty rejected the new contract 226 to 10. Another outcome of the disagreement ended with professors not being able to get into their offices or emails. During the 12 day lockout the American Federation of Teachers, a labor union that represents education and teachers, was there in support of the faculty. The Long Island Faculty Federation is also represented by the AFT. Randi Weingarten, the AFTs current president, was there to speak on behalf of the faculty and students. This ultimately ended with a contract the administration and the faculty both agreed upon. The successful end to this is due to the efforts from the American Federation of Teachers and the hard working professors who knew the rights they had as a union.

L.I.U.-Brooklyn Locks Out Professors Amid Contract Dispute

Faculty Lockout at L.I.U.-Brooklyn Ends With Contract Agreement

Deadline extension for Zadroga Act claim

Those effected by the catastrophic events of September 11th, 2001 were just given an extension to file for a claim under the Zadroga Act. This legislation was reauthorized on December 18th, 2015. According to the 9/11 Veterans Compensation Fund, filing deadline has been extended from October 3rd, 2016 to December 18th, 2020. The extension was put into effect this past week. This update to the Zadroga Act also results in the Veterans Compensation Fund getting an additional $4.6 billion in funding, available in October 2016. These are just some of the updates made to this bill. This new deadline also applies to all supplementing documents a claimant will need to include in the process of filing. Please see the link below for further information.

This act was made in remembrance of James Zadroga, a New York Police Department officer. The late officer tragically passed away in 2006 of a respiratory disease he contracted as a result of his bravery in the immediate aftermath of September 11th, 2001. After the bill passed into State Government in 2006, it officially passed as Federal law in 2011. As we remember to hold in high esteem those who protect our nation and communities, we cannot forget the importance of taking care of them as well. We must continue to take care of those who take care of us.

James Zadroga Act update
James Zadroga Wikipedia

Information for Tier 4 NYC Workers

Most employees of the City of New York are members of the New York City Employees’ Retirement System, or “NYCERS”. Most workers think of NYCERS in terms of their “Service Retirement”, when they have enough years of credited service and are the necessary age to retire from their positions. However, there is a special retirement benefit available to those that can no longer perform their full duty position as a result of an injury or illness. This “Disability Pension” is an economic life saver for many injured workers, allowing them to meet their financial obligations while facing the debilitating nature of their injury/illness. Read below for information concerning information on Tier 4 eligibility for New York City workers.

When is a Disability Retirement Available?
Disability Retirement is available to workers that that can no longer perform the full duties required of their specific title. This legal standard means that you must no longer be able to perform your job, it does not require that you be disabled from all jobs in the United States like Social Security Disability. If you, and your treating doctors, believe that your injury/illness will not allow you to return to your previous work an application for Disability Retirement should be filed.

When Should I file a Disability Retirement Application?
The Retirement & Social Security Law has various filing deadlines for disability retirement depending on the pension “Tier” the member has been assigned. Tiers are determined based on one’s original membership date with NYCERS. Although the law sets guidelines on the latest date a member can apply for a disability pension, the basic rule of thumb is that an injured worker should apply for a disability pension as soon as they and their physician determine that they are no longer able to return to their prior work, but not later than 6 months after an injured worker has been absent from work on an approved medical leave.
The need for early application in disability cases emanates from the New York State Civil Service Law (“CSL”). Section 71 of the CSL allows a municipality to “medically separate” (a nice phrase for “terminate”) an employee who has been out of work for 1 year due to a workers’ compensation injury/illness. Section 73 of the CSL allows for the medical separation of an employee when they have been out of work for that same 1 year period. This means, as soon as you miss one day of work due to an injury or illness the one year clock for return or termination begins to run. The NYCERS disability process generally takes approximately 6 months to fully adjudicate a disability application and render a decision. Therefore, in order to avoid medical separation and possible interruption of medical insurance coverage and other benefits, it is in a workers’ best interest to file as early as possible.

Statute of Limitations for filing Disability Pension Applications Tier 4 Members:
Within 3 Mons of the date a member was last paid on payroll; OR
Within 12 Mons of when the member received notification that their employment has been terminated as long as the member was on an employer approved medical leave of absence immediately prior to termination.

Do I need a Specific amount of Credited Service Time with NYCERS in order to apply for a Disability Retirement?
No, any member can apply for a disability retirement benefit if they are permanently incapacitated from the full duties of their employment. However, if a member has less than 10 years of Credited Service with NYCERS the member must establish that their injury directly results from a “legal accident.” A legal accident varies greatly from what we would generally call an “accident” in ordinary conversation and adds greater burden in establishing entitlement to this benefit.

How Does NYCERS determine if I am Disabled?
NYCERS has established a “Medical Board” to hear each application for disability retirement. This three doctor panel is charged with reviewing all the evidence a member submits in support of their claim for benefits and is also required to psychically examine the injured/ill worker. Once examined, the Medical Board will “recommend” to the NYCERS governing body, the Board of Trustees, whether to approve or deny your claim. By law the Board of Trustees cannot overturn the Medical Boards determination regarding a members fitness for duty, but must make its own determination on issues regarding the “accidental” nature of your injury and “causal relationship”, that is, whether your injury was caused by the specific accident alleged in the application.

If I am Approved, What Benefit Will I Receive from NYCERS?
Your benefit amount depends on your Tier and the benefit a member applies for.
The benefits amounts are:
Tier 4 Members Applying for Article 15, Section 605 Benefits:
1/3 of a Members Final Average Salary; OR
1/60th of a Members Final Average Salary multiplied by the Members Credited Service Time

NOTE – Tier 4 members DO NOT HAVE ¾’s Disability Pensions. Only NYC uniformed personnel have such a benefit.

If I am Approved, Will I Receive Medical Benefits from NYCERS?
Technically, the answer is No because NYCERS does not administer medical benefit coverage. Instead, medical benefit coverage is a contractual issue. Rest assured, almost all contracts today treat disability retirees the same way as “service retirees” and provide the same medical coverage in both situations.

Can I Work in Another Job as a Disability Retirement Recipient?
Yes, however you will be subject to income limitations which change annually. Whenever you decide to take new employment you should contact NYCERS to find out the current income limitation.

Can I Receive a Disability Pension, Social Security Disability and NYS Workers Compensation together, without offset?
Yes, Tier 4 Disability Pension benefits are not offset by the receipt of either SSD or NYS Workers’ Compensation and a member can receive all 3 benefits payments under the law.

New York State Comptroller Announces Decrease in Pension Contribution Rates

The New York State Comptroller recently announced that the contribution rates paid by state and local governments towards New York’s pension funds will decrease. According to the Comptroller’s office the average rate of contribution will decrease to 18.2% for most public workers from 20.1%, the comptroller said. For police and firefighters, the employer rate will drop to 24.7% of payroll from 27.6%.

The decrease in contribution rates is expected to have immediate impact on local governments outside New York City. In New York City, pension contributions will likely remain the same thanks to the city’s separate pension system. In recent years, localities and school districts have faced increases in their pension cost burden, partly due to the projected costs from a boom in retirees. Now, however, the rate reduction announcement comes as the state’s main pension fund reached a record high of $180.7 billion.

Thus, according to State Comptroller Thomas Di Napoli, the healthy state of the fund means local taxpayers won’t have to contribute as much. This is due in part to recent investment gains, which has increased the state’s pension fund to 92.2% from 88.7%.

Though New York’s pension fund is regarded as one of the best-funded in the country, opponents question the fund’s long term outlook. Indeed, skeptics argue that the fund assets, being largely comprised of various investments, presents a high risk for a high reward.

For additional information about state pension information and how it may affect you, please visit the state comptroller’s website. Additionally, if you or a loved one have any questions regarding your workers benefits, social security, or disability benefits contact our experienced attorneys at McIntyre, Donohue, Salmonson, Accardi, & Riordan, LLP.