Wrongful Dismissals

January 28, 2015

About 19,000 claimants will be offered another chance to receive an ALJ hearing after wrongful dismissals.  SSA failed to send hearing notices to claimants’ correct addresses after claimants advised SSA of new addresses.  These claimants never received hearing notices or orders to show cause for missing their hearings.  SSA advocates brought this issue to the attention of SSA.  A random sampling of 400 cases from different hearing offices found that about 15% of the hearing notices were sent to incorrect addresses despite SSA having current contact information.  SSA then studied the program nationwide and discovered 19,000 claimants whose cases were dismissed after the notices were sent to old addresses.  SSA now plans to send notices to reopen their cases and have new hearings.

Claimants will need to indicate their wish to have their cases reopened; new hearings will not be automatically scheduled.

A multigenerational study finds that a majority of study participants, of all political affiliations are willing to pay more for Social Security, if necessary, to keep the program strong, because they value the security if provides.  Large majority of participants, both Democratic and Republican, largely agree on ways to strengthen the program including options such as:

–a gradual elimination of the cap on earnings taxed for Social Security;

–raise the tax rate that workers and employers each pay from 6.2% to 7.2% (this would result in about 50 cents a week for employers and workers); and

–raise the minimum benefit so that a worker who retires at age 62 can live above the federal poverty line.

Majority participants of both parties believe the following measures should not be implemented:

–increasing the retirement age; or

–reducing the cost-of-living adjustment that beneficiaries receive.

Interestingly, over 1/3 of the participants were unaware that Social Security taxes create eligibility for Social Security Disability benefits and were not aware of the types of benefits that SSDI provides for disabled individuals, adult disabled children and disabled widows.

Back Benefits

January 14, 2015

One of the most common questions that I am asked by disability claimants is, “how far back will the Social Security Administration pay back benefits for disability?” The answer depends on the type of disability claim. For the most common disability claim for Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB) filed under Title II of the Social Security Act, benefits cannot began until five months have passed since the person became disabled. The adjudication of “disabled” is at the heart of any disability claim because this is the determination that the SSA or the Administrative Law Judge must make to entitle the claimant to benefits under the law. Additionally, disability benefits cannot be paid on these claims back more than one year prior to the date of the claim. This rule also applies to claims for Disabled Widows and Widowers Benefits.

For SSI claims filed under Title XVI of the Social Security Act, there is no five month waiting period, however, SSI benefits cannot be paid prior to the start of the month following the application date.

Disabled Adult Child (which refers to individuals who become disabled prior to age 22) benefits also do not have a five month waiting period, but benefits cannot be paid for more than six months prior to the date of the claim.

As an attorney who practices in Social Security disability claims (SSDI) I have seen first-hand the impact becoming disabled has on the individual’s life. The loss of a job – the source of income, ability to provide for one’s self and his or her family, and the satisfaction of self-determination can be a crushing blow to working class individuals and their families. I regularly see that the small disability payments that my clients receive are usually the only lifeline between them and becoming fully destitute.

A recent study by the Urban Institute details what I have seen first-hand in a graphic manner. The report, “How Important Is Social Security Disability Insurance to U.S. Workers?”, by Melissa M. Favreault, Richard W. Johnson, and Karen E. Smith is in the June 2013 publication available at: http://www.urban.org/uploadedpdf/412847-how-important-is-social-security.pdf.

The authors found that the SSDI program provides a “critical lifeline” for some of our nation’s most vulnerable citizens. Some key findings that SSDI plays a vital role in the nation’s social safety net:

  • Nearly half of the SSDI beneficiaries rely on the program for at least half of their family income
  • SSDI benefits account for virtually all of the income received by 20% of the beneficiaries and by 33% of the unmarried beneficiaries
  • SSDI beneficiaries are twice as likely to live at or near poverty levels

Clearly, SSDI benefits provide an important social safety net for some of America’s most desperate citizens. Hopefully, this report will help others better understand the plight of our disabled population and the SSDI program designed to help them when they need the help the most.

%d bloggers like this: