Social Security Disability Insurance Becomes Subject of Reform

Small changes to Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) are expected, but are just not going to be enough, according to U.S. Senators James Lankford (R-Oklahoma) and Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia). In a letter they wrote last week, the alterations in the budget agreement constructed last year will only be like “band-aids” for the program’s fiscal problems. The senators argue that fundamental changes need to be made in order to provide a system that will help those in need.

Those in agreement with Senators Lankford and Manchin believe some of the issues with SSDI are fraud, overpayment, the weaknesses of the application process, and the relationship between SSDI benefits and other federal programs in place. Supporters of this view believe the remedies for these issues include the reorganization of the determination process to be more efficient and accurate, and recipients of SSDI could be given more support to find other sources of income and employment. Furthering this view, the Social Security Trustees stated that “reallocation of resources in the absence of substantive reforms might, on the other hand, serve to delay DI (Disability Insurance) reforms and much needed corrections for OASDI (Old Age, Survivor and Disability Insurance) as a whole.”

Others point to how the U.S. government has historically “borrowed” money from Social Security without paying it back. It is reported that former President George W. Bush withdrew approximately $708 billion from the Social Security Trust Fund while he was in office and it has not yet been replenished. Additionally, the trust fund is managed by the Department of the Treasury by investing in special issue government bonds. Some question if the government can make good on these bonds, which if cashed in, may lead to social security solvency.

Additional ideas on how to improve solvency with the Social Security Trust Fund include increasing social security taxes (from the current 6.2%), lifting the payroll cap (so that social security taxes apply to total income instead of the current $118,500.00), raising the retirement age (67 for people born after 1959), and a means-test phasing out retirees depending on their income.

The issue of probable insolvency is of concern to residents of New York in addition to the already daunting application process. Approximately fifty-seven percent of New York disability claims are denied by the Social Security Administration. Once there is a denial, an applicant in New York moves on to the hearing stage, directly bypassing a reconsideration request. In most states a reconsideration request is the first step after the initial denial. A “reconsideration” is a request for a claims examiner at Disability Determination Services to review the denial. This step has been eliminated in the state of New York. Having the hearing, though, typically takes between 274 to 612 days. The timeframe depends on the applicant’s filing location. For example, in Brooklyn offices, the average is 274 days, whereas, in the Bronx office, the average is 532 days. In Jericho it is 284 days and in Queens it can be 370 days.

Considering the fiscal constraints facing the program, along with the length of the application process, it has never been more important to have an attorney assist you with disability benefits applications from the time of filing. The Law Offices of McIntyre, Donohue, Accardi, Salmonson, & Riordan, LLP handles social security and disability claims throughout the five boroughs of New York City, including Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, and Staten Island, in addition to both Nassau and Suffolk Counties on Long Island. For more information please call (866)-557-7500 or click here to speak with our office.

National Institute of Health Reports Millions of Americans Suffer Pain Every Day

According to a recent finding based on research conducted by the National Institute of Health (NIH) in 2012, it is estimated that 25.3 million Americans suffer from chronic pain on a daily basis.  Additionally, those who suffered from such severe pain were more likely to have worse health, use health care more and suffer from more disability than those who did not experience severe pain.

The survey was conducted on a sample set of 8,781 adults and asked participants to answer questions concerning the frequency and intensity of pain that was experienced in the prior three months.  The results of the survey also found that many of those who experienced chronic pain turned to other health approaches such as yoga, massage, and meditation.

In order to qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), you must be able to prove that your pain is so severe that it physically or mentally impairs you.  This is determined through medical evidence that includes documented symptoms and lab tests.  Additionally, to qualify, it must be proven that the condition is expected to last twelve months or more.  Although chronic pain is not a condition in and of itself to qualify a person for SSDI, such pain may be caused by another qualifying condition.

To read more about the NIH survey, click here.

If you suffer from pain so severe that you cannot work, and have medical evidence attesting to your condition, you may be entitled to receive Social Security Disability Insurance.  Contact an attorney who is experienced in helping clients obtain the benefits they deserve.  Call The Law Offices of McIntyre, Donohue, Accardi, Salmonson, & Riordan, LLP at (866)557-7500.

Three New Bills Aimed at Improving SSDI Program

Two senators have recently introduced legislation that is aimed at improving the quality of the Social Security Disability Insurance Program. As it is expected that the reserve fund will be depleted by next year, the purpose of these bills is to ensure that funds are being used legitimately. A 20% cut is currently scheduled for next year which would adversely affect the 11 million Americans rely on SSDI. If passed, the proposed legislation could positively reform the current state of the program.

The intent of the Promoting Opportunity for Disability Benefit Applicants Act grants the Social Security Administration the power to provide those who were denied SSDI benefits with information on other support services. As the application process typically takes 100 or more days, workers are forced to wait for a decision regarding benefits when they could be re-entering the workforce. The goal of the Act is to ultimately help workers successfully re-enter the workforce and avoid the application process cycle.

Another bill introduced, The Improving the Quality of Disability Decisions Act of 2015, requires the Social Security Administration to review decisions made by Administrative Law judges in order to guarantee that they are complying with the law, as well as SSA’s policies. While the bill does not have a direct effect on spending, it does ensure uniformity in the consistency and quality of decisions that are made.

The third bill, The Disability Fraud Reduction and Unethical Deception (FRAUD) Prevention Act, imposes monetary penalties on those who attempt to defraud social security. The bill expands upon Social Security’s ability to protect the taxpayer’s money by exposing and punishing fraudulent activity. In addition to increasing the monetary penalty of a misstatement to $7,500, those who defraud could also incur a felony conviction and a sentence of ten years in prison.

Especially considering the pending legislation, if you are unable to work due to illness, mental or physical disability, contact an attorney who is experienced in obtaining Social Security benefits for their clients. Call The Law Offices of McIntyre, Donohue, Accardi, Salmonson, & Riordan, LLP at (866)557-7500.

Recent Survey Indicates Large Percentage of Fibromyalgia Patients Not Receiving Disability Benefits

Anyone with fibromyalgia knows how debilitating the condition is, and how difficult it is to perform job functions that you may have been able to previously. While the condition affects 5 million adults, only 25 percent are receiving disability benefits. A recent survey conducted by ProHealth.com has found that out of the 316 participants, 60% had fibromyalgia. 68% of the participants were not receiving disability benefits at all. The two most popular responses as to why the survey participants were not receiving disability were that they either felt guilty asking for it, or could not afford to be out of work for two years while awaiting approval. For those who did make claims, 75% had not involved a lawyer.

Even for those who apply for social security disability for fibromyalgia, the outcome is uncertain. The Social Security Administration issued new standards in 2012 to determine disability eligibility based on fibromyalgia symptoms. Previous to the new guidelines, a fibromyalgia claim was not necessarily viable. In determining the eligibility for a claim, the Social Security Administration will look at whether:

• There is at least a 3 month history of widespread pain
• At least 11 of the 18 tender points are found on examination
• Evidence from other disorders were excluded

The SSA also requires medical documentation for a period of 12 months prior to the application date. Documents should include medical evaluations from a physician, and possibly a psychologist. The SSA will also take into consideration evidence of a person’s day to day functioning as reflected by the statements provided by friends, neighbors, clergy, past employers, counselors, or teachers. The SSA will also have their personnel evaluate you in a multiple step process considering:

• Work history
• Severity of symptoms
• Whether the impairments meet medical criteria
• Whether you are capable of performing past work
If you are capable of doing past work, then you do not qualif
y for disability. If you are denied your claim, you may appeal. Many people have found more success with the appeals process.

Navigating through the Social Security Disability system is often frustrating and confusing. If you are experiencing the debilitating pain of fibromyalgia and can no longer work, it is best to contact an attorney who is experienced in handling such claims. Call The Law Offices of McIntyre, Donohue, Accardi, Salmonson, & Riordan, LLP at (866)557-7500.

Executive Seeks Fund Reallocation to Address Social Security Disability

The United States Social Security Disability Insurance program, which provides benefits to over 11 million Americans, could be cut by nearly 20 percent. According to reports from the Social Security Administration Board of Trustees released in July 2014, the Social Security trust fund, which finances the federal program, is projected to be depleted by the end of 2016.

To address potential shortfalls in the past, Congress has reallocated payroll taxes from Social Security’s Old Age and Survivors Insurance fund to the disability trust. Similarly, while recognizing the need for a congressionally crafted long-term solution, the White House has proposed reallocating payroll taxes from the social security retirement fund to the social security disability trust fund to prevent the looming depletion.

Specifically, the White House’s proposal would shift $330 billion from retirement accounts over the next five years. However, according to the White House, the proposed reallocation will not affect the overall health of the retirement and disability trust funds on a combined basis. It is important to note that it is still unclear whether such measures will be adopted.

If you or a loved one have any questions regarding your Workers’ Compensation, social security, or New York State disability benefits, contact our experienced attorneys at McIntyre, Donohue, Accardi, Salmonson & Riordan, LLP. For a consultation, call (866)557-7500.

NY Senator Introduces Bill to Help Alleviate Financial Burden on Americans with Disabilities

Senator Charles Schumer has recently introduced a new piece of legislation to the United States Senate. The proposed bill aims to assist New Yorkers with disabilities and their families in their preparations for the future. The bill, titled, Achieving a Better Life Experience Act (ABLE) creates a tax-advantage savings account for people with disabilities.

According to reports, the bill would authorize the creation of a savings account similar to an Individual Retirement Account. The saving account would allow parents to put away more money for their disabled child, without paying taxes on those contributions. Furthermore, the deposits would not put them over a threshold for what they stand to receive for social security disability.

Individuals that have been diagnosed with a mental or physical disability can create an account. Those individual’s beneficiaries can also establish an account. Anyone would be able contribute to the account. More importantly, the funds would be able to be withdrawn tax-free and used for expenses such as education, medicine, and transportation.
According to the CDC, there are more than 43,000 people with disabilities in western New York alone, which includes but is not limited to Autism, Down Syndrome, and Fragile-X.

In short, Senator Schumer’s bill seeks to alleviate the difficult proposition which many families of disabled Americans face: Choosing between paying for daily living expenses and saving for their child’s future.

For more information on ABLE or for any information on Social Security disability, contact an experienced social security disability attorney at The Law Offices of McIntyre, Donohue, Accardi, Salmonson, & Riordan, LLP. Our firm handles social security and disability claims throughout the five boroughs of New York City, including Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, and Staten Island, in addition to both Nassau and Suffolk Counties on Long Island. For more information please call (866)-557-7500 or click here to speak with our office.