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Monday, May 23, 2016

Improving Your Chances of Being Approved for SSDI Benefits

What can you do to reduce the chances of an SSDI denial?

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is a benefit provided by the government to those that are unable to engage in any substantial gainful activity due to an impairment or illness. That is, make more than a certain amount of income in a month. These cash benefits are not provided automatically, and those seeking them must undergo a rigorous application process and prove that they meet certain requirements. But, not everyone meets these requirements. In fact, most claims for SSDI are denied.

Read more . . .

Monday, May 16, 2016

Need Social Security Disability Benefits? Get in Line

Why are the wait times so long for obtaining disability benefits?

Nothing is for certain, or so it's been said, and anyone can become disabled at any time and not be able to work. Fortunately, the Social Security Administration provides disability benefits to those who have a medical condition that is expected to last at least a year or result in death. That's the good news.

The bad news is that the system is plagued by a backlog of cases that cause significant delays for those who have applied for disability benefits. There have been cases where some individuals have died before their cases were even heard; and others who are suffering with debilitating physical and mental disabilities are often forced to wait in agony.

Read more . . .

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Claiming Social Security and Medicare

Can I receive Social Security and Medicare benefits simultaneously?

The Social Security Administration recently celebrated "National my Social Security Week" which was aimed at raising awareness for individuals to set up online accounts with the SSA. By so doing, they can be provided with access to their annual statements and information about their projected retirement savings, as well as their eligibility for disability benefits. By having a "my Social Security" online account, these and other questions can be readily answered.

For many retirees and disabled individuals, a common question is whether or not they can claim Social Security and Medicare at the same time. The programs combine to provide a significant amount of the financial support to retired and disabled individuals.

Read more . . .

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Applying for SSI or SSDI

How does one apply for the government benefits of Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)?

If you are disabled and unable to work you may feel hopeless, but there are a number of government-administered benefits offered to help those in your situation. Two of these, the SSI and SSDI programs, provide cash benefits to those in need. SSI is a program for those who are low income and disabled, while SSDI provides benefits to those who are disabled with a relevant work history. If your situation fits into either of the above categories, you may be entitled to monthly benefits. In this article, we will cover the basics of the Read more . . .

Thursday, March 31, 2016

NYC Mayor De Blasio Signs Bill Expanding Accessibility Laws for Disabled New Yorkers

At Seelig Law Offices, we fight tirelessly to ensure equal access and opportunities for all New Yorkers, regardless of physical limitation. Along the same lines, New York City’s Mayor De Blasio recently enacted several mandates ensuring the same equalities for residents across all five boroughs -- specifically with regard to access to services and events within New York City.

Interestingly, the first set of laws pertains to equal access to websites run by the city and state governments. The directives essentially mimic federal standards, and require municipalities to contract with web development experts to ensure everyone can access the important information found on government web pages. According to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines followed by the federal government, city and municipal sites must be accessible to those with visual and hearing impairment, as well as those with limited cognitive ability.
Read more . . .

Monday, March 28, 2016

Interesting Facts about Social Security Disability Insurance

What groups benefit the most from Social Security Disability Insurance?

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is a government run program that helps millions of people across the country. If you are disabled, according to the Social Security Administration’s definition, and you cannot work, you are likely entitled to a monthly cash benefit. The program covers a multitude of physical and mental disabilities.
Read more . . .

Monday, February 22, 2016

Fighting for Job-Related Disability Payments -- an NYPD Cop's Long Struggle

Being injured on the job may not guarantee a full disability pension without a fight.

Newspapers often seize upon scandalous stories of policemen or firefighters who, while receiving a full disability pension, perform feats of physical strength, such as running a marathon. Less often do they focus on the struggles of those who, while injured on the job, must fight for years to get a disability pension approved.

An exception is a recent account of how retired NYPD Detective Sara Salerno of the Bronx has waged an eight-year battle against the Police Pension Fund and the City of New York, which have opposed her request at every turn.

Salerno had a 12-year career with the NYPD, making more than100 arrests while working in patrol, anti-crime and internal affairs. She tore her meniscus during training for a bicycle patrol at the 40th precinct in the Bronx.

In addition, according to court filings, she served at Ground Zero, responding to the attacks and working there for many days.Technically she was on restricted duty, so her name was not recorded in the roll call. The city's Law Department contests her claim that she was there and says she cannot show that her disabling respiratory ailments and immune system problems are connected to working at the WTC site. Her supervisors and fellow officers, however, have confirmed in writing that she was there.

The case is on appeal. Meanwhile Salerno receives a regular disability pension, which is 50 percent of her salary and is taxable. A full disability pension would mean 75 percent of her last salary, tax-free.

The case is a reminder that recovering one's rightful pension can be an obstacle course. Even with a strong claim, retirees with job-related injuries need a vigorous legal advocate in their corner to receive appropriate disability payments.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

FAQ: Understanding Recent Changes to Social Security Claiming Strategies

What changes were made by Congress to Social Security "files and suspend" claims?

In 2015, Congress voted to make some sweeping changes to Social Security laws – primarily those impacting retiring Baby Boomers and their portfolios. The following answers some general questions about the changes.

What are the two major areas impacted by the new legislation?

Under the new Social Security laws, two concepts known as “file and suspend” and “restricted application” will be eliminated as of May 1, 2016. These are known as “claiming strategies,” and are alternatives for retirees who do not wish to fully engage their benefits immediately upon reaching the age of eligibility.

What is “file and suspend?”

File and suspend is a claiming strategy in which one claimant files for full benefits at age 66, but opts to suspend the receipt of the first payment until some point thereafter – accruing retirement credits in the meantime. The option was popular with married couples, as it allowed one spouse to receive heightened monthly benefits while the other’s benefits lingered in suspension. Once the suspended benefits entered distribution, the second spouse would be eligible for a higher monthly payment.

What is a restricted application?

A restricted application is one in which a spouse files for full benefits at age 66, but opts only to receive spousal benefits only – thereby allowing the filer’s personal benefits to grow until age 70.

Are these options totally eliminated?

Anyone having already elected the “file and suspend” claiming strategy is safe, as the rules do not go into effect until May 1, 2016. At that time, file and suspend claims will no longer be an allowed; however, anyone who has reached full retirement age (66) by May 1 may still elect this option, provided the application is submitted by April 29, 2016.

With regard to restricted applications, claimants born on or before January 1, 1954 will still be eligible to elect this option, whereas all others will be prohibited as of May 1, 2016.

If you have questions or need assistance with filing for social security benefits, you should consult with a qualified attorney.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Social Security Projections Miss the Mark

Is the Social Security Administration giving inaccurate projections?

Now that Congress has punted on any serious measures to reform the Social Security System, critics continue to question the accuracy of the Social Security Administration's funding projections. The concern is that the SSA's figures make the retirement and disability trust funds appear to be healthier than they actually are. One would think that because Social Security is the government's largest program that extra care would be taken by the agency to ensure that their figures are realistic.

The program is funded by payroll taxes and income taxes on benefits and these proceeds pay benefits and administrative costs. Further complicating the issue is the fact that more and more members of the Baby Boomer generation are retiring and this is putting a strain on the system. The result is a widening gap between revenue going into the funds and the amount of money being paid out.

In 2015, about 60 million people received benefits totaling $877 billion. Of those recipients, 40 million were retirees who received an average of $1,335 per month. The programs' Board of Trustees has released reports of different projections, but the long and short of it is that the asset reserves of the retirement and disability funds will be depleted by 2034.

As for the accuracy of the projections, a recent independent study outlined a number of problems with the Agency's methods. One is that The SSA does not meet the same standards in scientific evaluation procedures that other government agencies and private sector businesses employ. The errors in forecasting most likely occurred because the agency lacks formal statistical methods used to create forecasts.

There are also other problems plaguing the Social Security Disability Insurance Program, and long-term funding has still not been resolved. Currently, more than 10 million Americans are now on SSDI, at an annual cost of more than $140 billion. Some contend that the SSDI eligibility standards need to be updated as they currently rely on data that is 30 years old. In any event, the budget compromise struck between the White House and Congress last December, was only a short-term fix.

Given the fact that Congressional lawmakers have oversight over the Social Security Administration, these elected officials need to insist on greater transparency and accuracy, since their policy decisions are based on the administration's forecasts. In the meantime, if you have become disabled and are unable to work, a qualified attorney can help you secure disability benefits.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

A Safety Net for Society’s Neediest

What does the Social Security Disability Insurance program cover?

Since the 1950s, the federal government has provided a safety net to people who are considered disabled, and are unable to work and support themselves and their dependents. The Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income system provides care for people who are terminally ill or disabled to the point that it is unlikely that they will ever be able to work again.  

Nearly since its inception, the government has worried about how much money this program will cost. Providing financial support to someone for the rest of their life could get quite expensive, especially considering people are living longer today than ever before. In order to control costs, the Social Security Administration (SSA) has put a rather strict definition of “disabled” in place to limit the number of people who can enroll in the program.

The SSA definition of disability is a complex one. In order to be considered disabled by the Administration:

“you must not be able to engage in any substantial gainful activity (SGA) because of a medically-determinable physical or mental impairment(s):

  • That is expected to result in death, or
  • That has lasted or is expected to last for a continuous period of at least 12 months.”

The key to determining if you are eligible for disability usually rests not on the disability part of this definition, but on the substantial gainful activity part.

According to the SSA, “Work is ‘substantial’ if it involves doing significant physical or mental activities or a combination of both.” This definition means even part-time, very low wage/low skill work counts.

“’Gainful’ work activity is:

  • Work performed for pay or profit; or
  • Work of a nature generally performed for pay or profit; or
  • Work intended for profit, whether or not a profit is realized.”

The government looks at what you could expect to earn from the amount of “substantial,” “gainful” work you can do, and compares that to earnings guidelines it has developed. If you fall below a certain amount, presumably an amount necessary to support yourself, you qualify.

The earnings guidelines change each year, and it seems like the SAA’s ideas about what “substantial” and “gainful” do as well (even though the letter of the law does not change). So working with an attorney who has experience dealing with the SSA is advised.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

The Urban Legend of Disability Fraud

Is the number of social security disability fraud claims overestimated?

Rumors of Social Security Disability fraud have been greatly exaggerated. While there are cases of people scamming the system, fraud is not nearly as widespread as some would suggest.

There is a growing narrative that the solution to fraud is to make it more difficult for people to qualify for disability. Currently, however, it is not that easy to go on disability. In fact, about 60 percent of disability applicants are denied, primarily because they have not worked long enough. A person must have worked at least one quarter of his or her adult life and also have worked 5 of the last 10 years to qualify. There must also be bona fide medical reasons: a physical or mental illness severe enough that it will either last for 12 months or end in death.

And it's not as easy to fake a disability as some contend. While some physical disabilities like back problems and mental illness are not easy to see, this is not to say they are being faked. The main causes of disability are chronic physical disorders, and many psychiatric disorders are also debilitating.

Contrary to what some believe, disability claims are not skyrocketing. While the age group of those likely to go on disability is growing (50 to 64 years old), the actual percentage of workers on disability has only slightly increased since the year 2000. Moreover, older women are more likely to qualify for disability than in years past.

Despite the calls for more stringent requirements to qualify for disability, the U.S. already has more stringent requirements than most advanced economies. The real solution to disability fraud is to detect and prevent fraudulent claims. That being said, Congress has not adequately funded the Social Security Administration's fraud prevention unit.

The fact that a person entering the work force today has a one in three chance of dying or qualifying for disability before retirement age is reason enough to ensure that disability funds continue to be available to those who qualify. If you are suffering from a debilitating physical or mental illness, a qualified attorney can help you secure disability insurance.

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