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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McIntyre, Donohue, Accardi, Salmonson & Riordan, LLP Successfully Appeals Case for Injured Correction Officer

McIntyre, Donohue, Accardi, Salmonson & Riordan, LLP (MDASR) has announced that the firm successfully won an appeal on behalf of a Nassau County correction officer who was initially denied disability retirement benefits, despite being injured on the job, which forced him to retire.

On March 14, 2011, Ronald DeMaio assisted in breaking up a fight between an inmate and a fellow correction officer who was searching the inmate for contraband. Officer DeMaio subsequently escorted the inmate down a stairwell by holding the inmate’s arm. The inmate pulled away from Officer DeMaio, causing him to injure his lower back.

When Officer DeMaio applied for disability, he was denied and requested a hearing and a redetermination. The Hearing Officer upheld the initial decision, stating that Officer DeMaio failed to meet his burden of proof because he had failed to show that the inmate intentionally caused his injury. Officer DeMaio then retained MDASR to represent him on an Article 78 appeal. The firm argued that the Hearing Officer’s determination misstated the applicable legal standard and that the firm’s client needed to prove the injuries came from “any act of an inmate,” but the hearing officer wrongfully found that Officer DeMaio needed to prove that the inmate deliberately caused him harm.

On March 31, 2016, the New York State Supreme Court, Appellate Division, Third Judicial Department, ruled that the hearing officer did not properly apply the legal standard for review during the hearing process and committed an error of law in her determination.

Sean Riordan, a Partner with the firm, represented Officer DeMaio during the appeal. “Despite what many of the Hearing Officers have recently ruled, the ‘act of an inmate’ that causes the correction officer’s injury does not need to be an intentional act. These rulings are no longer valid,” Mr. Riordan said.

The Appellate Division also found that the Hearing Officer failed to provide the proper standard of review, finding that a redetermination is a de novo review, not a substantial evidence review. Mr. Riordan said the Hearing Officer did not take into account all of the evidence before making the determination. “In pension hearings, the Hearing Officer must review the totality of the evidence before it and make a new decision, not merely adjudicate whether the prior application decision was supported by substantial evidence,” he said. “While this procedural ruling appears to be legal semantics, Hearing Officers frequently justify denials on the basis that the Comptroller’s initial determination is supported by substantial evidence without giving the CO a full and fair review of the evidence. This is now also invalid reasoning.”

For more information, call (631) 665-0609 or visit www.licomplaw.com.

* A copy of the decision is attached.

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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.

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Lack of Inflation to Affect Social Security Benefits for 2016

Recipients of social security benefits will not receive a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) in 2016 due to lack of inflation. Many blame a correlation between low gas prices and the inflation rate concerning the absence of a COLA for next year. The COLA is based on the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers which is computed in accordance with statistics provided by the Bureau of Labor which measures price changes in items such as food, clothing, housing, transportation, etc. Fuel prices have dropped by 23% since last year, lowering inflation. This is only the third time in forty years that there has not been an increase, including in 2010 and 2011.

The COLA affects 70 million Americans, with Social Security benefits being provided to 1/5th of the population including Social Security Disability (SSD). The beneficiaries include federal retirees, disabled workers, their spouses and children, and disabled veterans. Additionally, 8 million people receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI)- a financial needs-based program for the disabled. This program would also be affected as the program recipients will also see no COLA increase.

While benefits will not be increasing this year, SSI/SSD are important benefits to disabled workers. 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.

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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.

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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.

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Proposed Legislation Would Allow Uniformed Workers 75% of Their Salary for Retiring on Disability

If passed, de Blasio’s amended disability pension legislation could be a triumph for disabled workers. The changes made to the original bill would allow three-quarter pensions for uniformed workers hired after 2009 retiring on disability, as well as workers who suffered severe injuries on the job. The original proposed plan gave uniformed workers only 50% of their salaries and was met with backlash from critics who said that 50% was too low for workers who risk their lives on a daily basis to perform their duties.

The proposed changes to the bill also leveled the field by giving newer hires the same disability benefits as those who were hired prior to 2009. Under the original bill, uniformed workers hired post 2009 would have been forced to live on $27 a day if they were injured in the line of duty. Uniformed workers covered under the proposed bill include sanitation workers and corrections officers, as well as police officers and firemen. However, in order to receive the disability benefits, workers would have to qualify for social security first, which has also been a source of contention for union advocates backing the NYPD and NYFD.

It is estimated that the 75% pension plans would cost the city $342 million between 2015 and 2019. De Blasio’s original disability pension plan was calculated to cost the city $47 million.

Uniformed workers are subjected to physical harm daily in the workplace, and risk their lives for the public. In addition, due to the conditions of their employment, they face a number of work related health conditions such as the risk of developing various cancers, stress, sleep deprivation related conditions, depression issues, and heart attacks. According to statistics, firefighters have significantly higher rates of testicular cancer, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, prostate cancer, and multiple myeloma, than the general population. Additionally, due to hectic work schedules and stress, and other factors affecting metabolism, studies have shown that police officers are 8% more likely to develop obesity issues than their civilian counterparts.

If you have been injured during the course of your employment, contact an attorney who is experienced in dealing with disability benefits. 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.

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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.

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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.

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