The House Ways and Means Social Subcommittee will hold a hearing on “combating disability waste, fraud and abuse” in the Social Security Disability Insurance program on Tuesday, January 24, 2012, at 10:30 a.m. (EST).

The hearing is the second in a hearing series on “Securing the Future of the Social Security Disability Insurance Program.” The first hearing was held on December 2, 2011, and focused on the history of the SSDI program, the income security it provides and its financing challenges. (See article in December 2011 NOSSCR Social Security Forum.) Future hearings, not yet scheduled, will focus on: the criteria used to determine benefit eligibility; how decisions are made and the appeals process; and current ideas about possible solutions.

In the Hearing Advisory for the January 24 hearing, Social Security Subcommittee Chairman Sam Johnson (R-TX) stated: “Waste, fraud, and abuse in the disability insurance program cheat honest, hardworking American taxpayers. As we work to secure the future of this program, we need to protect the American taxpayer from con artists who are stealing from the system by making sure benefits are paid only to those who deserve them.”

Individuals who receive Social Security benefits need to be reminded that while benefits are typically not able to be garnished, the IRS can garnish benefits in certain circumstances.

The IRS code allows Social Security benefits to be taken to collect unpaid Federal taxes. If your monthly benefit is more than $750, the IRS¬† may garnish fifteen percent of your social security¬† monthly benefit for taxes that are at least six months in arrears. The IRS is required to notify you before it begins to garnish , and you can appeal the garnishment for”hardship.”

Benefits may also be garnished for unpaid child support in certain circumstances.

In starting the new year in a political climate that feels less friendly towards disability claimants, I am striving to find new ways to help my clients establish disability. Part of this process involves spending time thinking about each case individually and finding ways to show the Social Security Administration what is unique about each person. Many claims seem similar — back injuries, depression and arthritis are among the most commonly cited impairments — but the effect of these medical problems hits everyone in a different way. This year, I am determined to demonstrate to the Social Security Administration for each client the unusual impact their medical problems have on their lives and their ability to work.

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