Cost of Living Increase

December 31, 2013

Earlier this year, SSA announced a 1.5% cost of living increase.  Recipients of benefits should have received a letter entitled “Notice of Change in Benefits” which details the increase in benefit payment.  If you have not received a letter, you should call the SSA toll free number at 1-800.772-1213 and ask about your change in payment.

Payments to Same Sex Couples

December 25, 2013

Carolyn Colvin, the Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, recently released the following statement regarding SS payments to same sex couples:

“I am pleased to announce that, effective today, Social Security is processing some widow’s and widower’s claims by surviving members of same-sex marriages and paying benefits where they are due. In addition, we are able to pay some one-time lump sum death benefit claims to surviving same-sex spouses. As I stated shortly after the Supreme Court decision on Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act, our goal is to treat all Americans with dignity and respect.

We ask for continued patience from the public as we work closely with the Department of Justice to develop policies that are legally sound so we can process claims.

If you believe you may be eligible for Social Security, I encourage you to apply now to protect against the loss of any potential benefits. We will process claims as soon as additional instructions become finalized.”

This is excellent news for same sex couples who have applied for benefits!

You can apply online for Medicare benefits even if you are not able to retire if you meet the following qualifications:

1.  You are within four months of turning 65;

2.  You want to sign up for Medicare and you do not currently have any Medicare coverage; and

3.  You do not want to apply for monthly Social Security retirement benefits at the same time.

An online application will let you start the application immediately and avoid a trip to your Social Security office.  You do not have to complete the application in one sitting; you will be given the opportunity to take a break and not lose any of the information entered into the computer.

Go online to and select “Apply online for Medicare.”  Once the receipt on the screen is generated, print it and keep it for your records.  Be sure to keep the application number so that you can check the status of your application.  Online applications are available:

Monday- Friday 5:00 a.m. – 1:00 a.m.

Saturday 5:00 a.m. – 11:00 p.m.

Sunday 8:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m.


Disabled and Blessed

December 11, 2013

My client’s son has written a book for lay people about the disability process.  He has found a publisher in Lake Mary, Florida and is now seeking funding on where you can learn more about his project.  I can’t say enough wonderful things about it!




After several years of improvement in hearing office average processing times and reduction of the backlog, the new numbers release reflect an average increase of nearly one month between 2012 and 2013 even though the number of requests for hearings dropped by nearly 25,000.  Part of this is likely due to budget reductions.  The federal government shut down did not help matters.  In Jacksonville, Florida, it is taking 469 days to process a request for a hearing.  The office ranks #142 out of 165 offices nationally.   Honolulu, Hawaii ranks first in the nation, taking an average of 220 days to process a request for a hearing.  Seems like living in Hawaii would have a benefit other than the weather and beaches.  Interestingly, five other Florida hearing offices are ranked even lower than Jacksonville:

St. Petersburg, FL #148 with 480 days

Tampa, FL #148 with 480 days (tie with St. Pete)

Tallahassee, FL #154 with 500 days

Miami, FL #164 with 589 days

Fort Meyers, FL #165 with 618 days


Why We Need SSI for Kids

December 4, 2013

Read about Maziah Mills-Sorrells looks like any other 2-year-old, an animated sprite, all bounce and spirit but who is afflicted with a rare condition known as Klumpke’s palsy.
Maziah has had a paralyzed arm since she was injured during childbirth. Doctors say it’s permanent.  Her parents have applied for and denied benefits.  They have tried and failed to get child-disability benefits from the Social Security Administration. Officials won’t comment on why.

Soon the family will be be going to federal court in Philadelphia in yet another attempt to obtain benefits they say they need to live life with a seriously disabled child.

“I won’t give up,” said Mills, 24, who works 50 hours a week at two health-care jobs and lives with Maziah’s father, Raashid Sorrells, also 24, who was just laid off from a fast-food job. Family income is now at $17,000, well below the poverty level.

The Mills-Sorrellses have been attempting to negotiate an opaque and little-understood federal bureaucracy created to help low-income parents pay for the costs of raising a child with severe disability.

The Supplemental Security Income (SSI) childhood disability program, part of the Social Security system and created during the Nixon administration, gives around $10 billion a year in benefits to low-income families with children under age 18. Maximum monthly checks are $710.

To receive SSI benefits, a family with two parents can’t have more than $3,000 in assets, and can’t make more than double the poverty level, experts say. (The poverty level for a family of three is $19,530.)


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