August 29th, 2014
There are currently almost 11 million people in this country who receive Social Security disability payments every month and are dependent on those benefits to survive. According to the Social Security Administration (SSA), the average monthly disability payment is $1,146.
The trust fund that pays those disability payments is separate from the fund that pays retirement benefits. However, that trust fund is due to run out of money sometime between the end of 2016 and 2017.
However, if the trust fund runs out of money, then only 80 percent of approximately 8 million recipients would receive checks. Congress is expected to act to ensure that benefits are not cut, however, when that will happen is unclear. Some analysts say they may wait until the very last minute to protect benefits. Other analysts point out that because 2016 is an election year, Congress just may rectify the serious situation some time in 2015.
The question remains what they will do to keep the payments going out to recipients. One option they may choose is to take some of the funding that is earmarked to go into the Social Security retirement trust fund and instead have it go towards the disability fund.
As of today, the 12.4 percent of a worker’s pay goes to Social Security with the employee paying half and the employer paying the other half. Of that 12.4 percent, 10.6 percent goes to the retirement fund and 1.8 percent goes to the disability fund.
There are critics of any re-allocating plan, who point to the fact that Social Security trustees estimate that the Social Security retirement fund will be exhausted by the year 2033. Those critics say an overall increase in the Social Security payroll tax is needed to protect recipients of both funds.
If you have been injured or struggling with an illness that has left you unable to work, you may be entitled to Social Security disability insurance. The process for applying for benefits can be long and complicated. Contact experienced Illinois Social Security disability lawyer Marshall W. Conick, Attorney at Law, for a free consultation today.
August 23rd, 2014
In 2008, the Social Security Administration began the process of replacing its outdated computer systems. The system that was in place was unable to handle the sharp increase of disability claims that were being filed. It was projected that it would take two to three years for the new system to be in place.
Today, six years and $300 million later, the new computer system is still not even close to being ready. And according to a new independent analysis, it will take at least another three years before the project will be complete.
The system is called the Disability Case Processing System (DCPS), one computer system that would do the work and replace the 54 other computer systems that are currently used by the agency to process claims.
The report, prepared by management consulting company McKinsey and Co., says the whole process has been besieged by mismanagement and poor execution.
At this point, the project is still in the designing and testing phase, as the waiting time for people waiting for their claims to be processes continues to grow. It can currently take over one year in some states for a claim to be processed.
The report found several issues that have caused the delays in implementing the new system. One of the major problems was that there was never anyone appointed to be in charge of the project. Therefore, there was no one overseeing a completion date.
Several members of Congress are requiring an investigation and have demanded that the acting director of the Social Security Administration turn over all documents and any communications pertaining to the project from the last six months. Top agency officials had decided to withhold the report until after Congressional confirmation hearings to permanently appoint the director were held within the next few weeks. But “whistleblowers” contacted members of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and told them about the report.
In their letter to the director, demanding the documents, the committee members wrote, “It is concerning that while you and other agency officials routinely testify that the agency needs more funding from Congress, the agency wasted nearly $300 million on an IT boondoggle.”
Errors in an application or not providing the correct documentation can cause even longer delays to processing a disability claim. If you are unable to work and need to file for disability in Illinois, contact Marshall W. Conick, Attorney at Law, for a free consultation.
August 20th, 2014
According to information released by the Social Security Administration, the Social Security Disability Insurance approval rate is at the lowest it has been in five years.
To qualify for SSDI, a person must be younger than the age of retirement and are unable to work because of an injury or disability. The length of time the disability will last and prohibit working must be 12 months or longer.
Only one-third of applicants were approved with their initial application and only 48 percent of claimants had their application approved at the hearing level.
The latest report show that the 33 percent claims approval rate is even lower than the 38 percent it was in 2008. In 2008, hearing rate was 68 percent.
According to the latest workload reports, it will take 445 days for an SSDI application filed in the Chicago office to go through the process – from receipt of application to its disposition.
For the 52 percent of applications that are denied at the initial hearing, reports show the average waiting time for an appeal hearing in Chicago is almost 14 months from the time appeal is filed until the hearing date is set. Nationwide, for 2014 year-to-date, there have been approximately 311,000 requests for appeal hearings. Of those requests, over 160,000 are still pending.
The exception to this process is the agency’s Compassionate Allowances List (CAL). These are conditions that Social Security has already determined meet their disability standards. Applications with one of these conditions will be expedited through the process.
However, for an Illinois resident who has a disability not on the CAL, Social Security’s own numbers show it can take over three years – 37 months – to go through the application and appeal process, with not guarantee of approval. That is why it is important to contact an experienced Illinois Social Security disability attorney to make sure that all documentation for your claim is done correctly. Mistakes could cause your claim to be denied.
Disability Benefits for Veterans
August 14th, 2014
Social Security Disability benefits are available to disabled veterans, regardless of in which war he or she served and how long ago it was. Many wounded or disabled veterans will also be eligible to receive VA benefits, and if this is the case, VA benefit income may actually put the veteran over the income limit to qualify for Social Security Disability benefits. If you are a disabled veteran, it is imperative to speak with a lawyer immediately so he can help you determine the best way to maximize the benefit payments you deserve.
According to the Social Security Administration (SSA), there are several reasons why a veteran may qualify for Social Security Disability benefits. Because, as the SSA points out, “the effect of military service can be profound and lasting,” any number of emotional, social, health and financial issues may mean that a veteran could qualify for Social Security Disability with more ease than a civilian. In certain situations, in which a Wounded Warrior or veteran has a 100 percent permanent and total (P&T) rating, the case is often expedited so that the applicant can begin receiving benefits within a timeframe that works best for him.
Both the SSA and the Veteran’s Administration pay disability benefits to veterans. Qualifications for each fund are different, however, and “a VA compensation rating of 100 percent Permanent and Total does not guarantee that you will receive Social Security disability benefits,” states the SSA. Receiving VA compensation will not affect whether or not you are able to receive Social Security benefits. To qualify for SSA payments, a veteran must:
- Be unable to do substantial (enough for a livable wage) because of the medical condition;
- Have a condition that has lasted for more than 12 months or is expected to do so.
- Receiving VA disability benefits is additional to any other VA benefits a service-member can qualify for, such as $400,000 in life insurance, home-related benefits, and education benefits, according to the VA.
Just because there are more options available to veterans does not mean that a person applying for Disability benefits should do so without the assistance of an experienced Illinois Disability attorney. Contact Marshall W. Conick, Attorney at Law, for a free consultation today.
Necessary Work Credits to Qualify for Social Security Disability
July 31st, 2014
The most important factor in qualifying for Social Security Disability benefits is to have paid into the Social Security Administration fund. That is, to qualify for disability payments, you must have worked and paid a portion of your paycheck to the Administration. Even if you have worked, if you have not made a minimum amount, you may not qualify. According to the Social Security Administration (SSA), in 2014, an applicant must have earned at least $1,200 to receive one Social Security work credit. For the maximum four credits, a person must have earned at least $4,800.
According to the SSA, how credits are awarded has continued to change in recent decades. You cannot earn credits for pension payments, interest, or dividends on investment or savings accounts. It does not matter at which time of the year the work was done or money earned—the minimum earning requirement can have been achieved at any point during the calendar year.
Having earned enough money is not the only basic qualifying factor to receive Social Security Disability benefits. “The older you are, the more work credits you need to qualify for benefits,” reports say. That is, if you become disabled younger, you will have had to have worked fewer years before being able to qualify. For example, if you become disabled at age 21, you will need six work credits and will need to have worked at least 1.5 years to qualify. If you are 44 when you become disabled, you will need 22 work credits and to have worked at least 5.5 years to qualify for disability benefits.
If you do not have enough work credits to qualify for disability, you may be able to receive benefits through the Social Security Income (SSI) program. To qualify for SSI payments, your income and assets must fall below the SSI limit. The SSI limit is $721 per month for individuals and $1,082 for couples.
Both Disability and Social Security Income payments are modest. Illinois has a state supplement program, however, which varies based on age and disability.
If you or someone you know has questions about qualifying for Social Security Disability in Illinois with little or no work credits, the most important step is to contact a Disability attorney. Contact an experienced New Lenox Social Security Disability lawyer at Marshall W. Conick, Attorney at Law, today.
Social Security Disability Fund Expected to Run Out By 2016
July 29th, 2014
The Social Security Disability program could be facing serious cutbacks if Congress cannot agree on how to move forward with the program, according to NBC News. In June, the gridlock in Congress was “threatening the already thin lifeline of Social Security benefits,” NBC News reports, affecting nearly 9 million disabled American workers. These workers in large part rely on Social Security Disability benefits to take care of their families, and oftentimes do not have any other source of viable income.
The Social Security Administration, the same program that gives back federal money to retired senior citizens, administers Social Security Disability Income (SSDI). The SSDI fund is expected to run out by 2016 unless Congress is able to reach a decision that allows for the fund to be bolstered. Because 2016 is an election year and many representatives would not win an election on a platform that increases government spending, many lawmakers and policy analysts are worried that it may not happen. Mark Duggan, a professor of economics at Wharton School of Business in the University of Pennsylvania told NBC that he thought the decision to shore up the SSDI fund or not would “come down to the wire.”
In addition to having a qualifying medical condition to apply for SSDI, there are several other qualifications a person must meet before he or she will be able to receive SSDI. According to The Huffington Post, a person must be younger than retirement age, will “need to have accrued enough Social Security credits to pass two earnings test,” and the person must make less than $1,070 per month ($1,800 if she is blind). It does not matter how much a person’s spouse makes. The SSDI amount is calculated based on average lifetime earnings, but the average monthly benefit is $1,148 per month. The maximum amount a person can receive in SSDI is $2,642 per month.
If you or someone you know is receiving SSDI and has questions about how Congressional inaction will affect you, or any other question about SSDI in Illinois, a social security disability attorney can help. Contact Marshall W. Conick, Attorney at Law for a free consultation today.
Adverse Vocational Factors that Could Affect Your Social Security Disability Claim
July 24th, 2014
People who are age 55 years or older may have an easier time when it comes to having their disability claims with the Social Security Administration (SSA) approved.
When determining if a person who is disabled could be trained at a different occupation than the one they had before becoming disabled, SSA considers a person’s age when determining vocational factors. The agency considers anyone who is over 55 years of age as being of “advanced age” and this could mean that learning any new skill or occupation could be difficult.
In order to qualify under SSR 82-63 , there are certain requirements a person must meet:
- You must be age 55 years or older;
- All work experience over the past 35 years must be limited to physical, unskilled labor. SSA defines physical work as any labor that requires a large amount of stamina. Unskilled labor is defined as work that does not require a lot of judgment and can also be learned in a limited amount of time;
- Your disability must be severe enough to prevent you from performing the prior mentioned physical, unskilled labor;
- You must have a marginal education, meaning you do not have the skills that would enable you to find employment in anything but a job classified as unskilled. This is typically an education that ended between the grades of 7th through 11th;
- There is also a requirement that falls under no work experience. If a person has not worked for the past 15 years and becomes disabled, they could qualify for benefits. This lack of employment is considered by the agency as another adverse vocational factor, just as being over 55 years of age is.
If you or someone you know is considering applying for Social Security Disability in Illinois, the most important first step is to seek legal counsel. Contact the law offices of Marshall W. Conick for a free initial consultation today.
Appealing A Social Security Disability Decision
July 21st, 2014
Applying for Social Security Disability benefits is a complex, multi-step process that can be overwhelming for anyone. If you are considering applying for Social Security Disability benefits, the importance of seeking the counsel of a Social Security attorney cannot be overstated. Having an attorney on your side does not guarantee that you will qualify or be approved, but it does help in the process. According to the Huffington Post, last year only 885,000 out of 2.65 million Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) applications were approved. Both the application and the approval process can be slow, and in some cases the qualifying medical condition is no longer a factor by the time the Administration processes your application. So many applications get denied, in fact, that there is a whole process to appeal the decision if you believe you have been wrongly denied.
According to the Social Security Administration (SSA), if you believe that you have been wrongly denied Disability benefits, you must first submit a request in writing to the SSA within 60 days of notification. The SSA gives you a five day grace period in which to have received the letter from the day that it was mailed—unless you can show that you in fact received the letter more than five days after the day it was postmarked, you will have 65 days from the postmarked notification letter from the SSA to submit your request.
There are four levels of appeal. The SSA will guide you on which of the appeal levels your case will go to:
- Reconsideration by the same body that initially rejected it;
- A hearing with an administrative law judge;
- A review by the Appeals Council; or
- A Federal Court review.
If you are initially denied, for example, and then denied again after reconsideration, you may request a hearing. If you request is denied at the hearing, you can request a review by the Appeals Council, etc.
If you or someone you know is considering applying for Social Security Disability benefits, contact Marshall W. Conick, Attorney at Law, for a free initial consultation.
Social Security Disability and Severe Back Pain
July 18th, 2014
Back pain is a relatively normal affliction. According to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, the older a person is the more likely he is to experience back pain. It most frequently begins to affect people once they are over 30 years old, and is much more common in people who are not physically fit. Being overweight, a bad diet, and a genetic predisposition to arthritis all contribute to a person’s risk of back pain. Most back pain, while it definitely has the power to negatively affect one’s life, is not considered a disability. Back pain caused by degenerative disc disease, however, is a more serious affliction and often considered as such when it comes to qualifying for Social Security Disability benefits.
Degenerative disc disease, according to WebMD, is a normal change to the interlocking discs in a person’s spine. Spinal discs are soft and compressible, and absorb the shock of the spinal bones rubbing against each other. As a person ages, these discs often deteriorate and the bones themselves rub together, causing a person intense back pain. The condition can vary in terms of intensity, and many people are able to work even after diagnosis. For many whose job requires heavy lifting or steady movement, however, work may not be possible.
For example, in some cases, a person who routinely lifts more than 10 pounds at work and occasionally is required to lift 50 pounds would not qualify for Social Security Disability if he or she were diagnosed with degenerative disc disease. According to the Social Security Administration, a person would qualify if the pain caused from degenerative disc disease is severe enough that non-working conditions have lasted or are expected to last for more than one year. A person’s walking condition must be limited to using a walker, and a person’s ability to carry out normal functions (such as grocery shopping) must be limited.
If you or someone you know is suffering from severe back pain or degenerative disc disease, you may qualify for Social Security Disability benefits. Contact Marshall W. Conick Attorney at Law for a free consultation today.
New Bill Could Remove Income & Savings Limits for SSDI Recipients
July 15th, 2014
In order for someone who is disabled to qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), they must be under the limit on assets and earnings. If they go over certain supplemental security income (SSI) and earnings limits, they lose their benefits. These limits pose great restrictions on the ability for claimants to save for things such as housing, education or other needs. But a current bill before Congress could change all that.
The Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act makes it easier for people receiving benefits to save money. It has been endorsed by numerous disability advocate groups, including the National Disability Institute and the National Downs Syndrome Society.
Under the act, people with disabilities would be allowed to set up a tax-free savings account. The funds in this account would go towards paying expenses such as housing, transportation, education, medical and dental, and other allowable expenses.
Any amount over the $700 monthly limit earned by a claimant would be put directly into this savings account.
The bill was introduced in February 2013, but the legislative session ended before it could be considered. Currently, it has received the support of more than 400 lawmakers in the House and Senate. A petition for the bill on Change.org had just under 250,000 signatures of support, as of this writing.
If you or someone you know has questions about Social Security Disability in Cook County, the most important step is to seek the counsel of a legal professional. Contact Marshall W. Conick Attorney at Law for a free consultation today.