From NBC in Philadelphia:

Good news for those who are collecting Social Security: Your monthly checks likely will be bigger next year.

The Social Security Administration generally announces its cost-of-living adjustment in October.

The Senior Citizens League, a nonpartisan organization, keeps an ongoing estimate of what that increase could be. The latest estimate — excluding September — pegs that increase at 2.8 percent. For those collecting the average Social Security benefit of about $1,400, that would mean an extra $39 a month.

If that does not change between now and October, that will be the highest bump retirees have seen in recent years.

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Postive Feedback

September 12, 2018

Many thanks to my clients who have recently posted positive reviews on Avvo, Google Business, and the Yellow Pages sites.  It is very gratifying to work to help people and have them express their appreciation for me.

I am grateful for each one of you.

Recent Case

September 5, 2018

In 2016, a nice man named Tom came to see me.  Tom was a younger man – in his 40s – with severe foot issues that were related to his diabetes.  The bones in his foot had begun to collapse.  I helped him file an application for Social Security benefits.  Almost immediately, SSA agreed that he was disabled as of June 2016, but it took years to get a hearing on the issue of whether he was disabled prior to June 2015.  Because he had been having problems, he hadn’t had much money and security medical care in 2015 had been difficult.

At the hearing, a very nice judge listened to what had happened and together we agreed that I should contact his current physician and ask him to explain the current nature of his problem and provide an opinion as to his level of functioning prior to 2015.  The physician was able to explain that the foot problems were progressive and given the level of abnormalities in 2018, he was more likely than not very limited in 2015.  The judge accepted the doctor’s opinion and Tom was awarded retroactive benefits amounting to over $10,000.00.  These are benefits he paid for via his Social Security taxes.  He also became eligible for Medicare.

The case is interested for several reasons:

  1. Judges often try to work AGAINST attorneys instead of with them.  They will try to find a way to discredit a doctor instead of believing their opinions.
  2. Tom was so grateful–he couldn’t believe he got TEN THOUSAND DOLLARS.  So many people are disappointed in the sum they receive, not realizing that Social Security benefits are more of a safety net than a way to support yourself the way you did when earning an income.

In all fairness, I should tell you that Tom is one of my and Tiffany’s all time favorite clients.  Tom loves comic books and he gave us the best compliment ever, which is an email telling us that we are his AVENGERS!

I think the judge was an AVENGER as well.

Backlog Improving

August 29, 2018

There were 947,377 claims pending in hearing offices the end of May 2018. This is a reduction of 108,576 claims since the start of Fiscal Year 2018 and 198,857 fewer claims than the peak backlog of over 1.14 million claims in December 2016.

One reason for the decrease in claims pending is a reduction in the number of hearing requests. There have been 381,047 requests so far this fiscal year, compared to 409,910 at the same time last year. This is more than a 7% reduction. In addition, there were approximately 40 more ALJs available in May 2018 than in May 2017, and ALJ productivity has increased as well, from 1.92to 2.03 claims per workday per available ALJ.

Processing time in May 2018 was 594 days. This is a significant reduction from the peak average processing time of 633 days in September 2017. However, it illustrates how far SSA has to go before reaching its goal of a 270-day average processing time.

The Press Release reads, in full, as follows:

The Social Security Board of Trustees released its annual report in June on the long-term financial status of the Social Security Trust Funds. The combined asset reserves of the Old-Age and Survivors Insurance and Disability Insurance (OASDI) Trust Funds are projected to become depleted in 2034, the same as projected last year, with 79 percent of benefits payable at that time.

The OASI Trust Fund is projected to become depleted in late 2034, as compared to last year’s estimate of early 2035, with 77 percent of benefits payable at that time. The DI Trust Fund will become depleted in 2032, extended from last year’s estimate of 2028, with 96 percent of benefits still payable.

In the 2018 Annual Report to Congress, the Trustees announced:

  • The asset reserves of the combined OASDI Trust Funds increased by $44 billion in 2017 to a total of $2.89 trillion.
  • The total annual cost of the program is projected to exceed total annual income in 2018 for the first time since 1982, and remain higher throughout the 75-year projection period. As a result, asset reserves are expected to decline during 2018. Social Security’s cost has exceeded its non-interest income since 2010.
  • The year when the combined trust fund reserves are projected to become depleted, if Congress does not act before then, is 2034 – the same as projected last year. At that time, there will be sufficient income coming in to pay 79 percent of scheduled benefits.

“The Trustees’ projected depletion date of the combined Social Security Trust Funds has not changed, and slightly more than three-fourths of benefits would still be payable after depletion,” said Nancy A. Berryhill, Acting Commissioner of Social Security. “But the fact remains that Congress can keep Social Security strong by taking action to ensure the future of the program.”

Other highlights of the Trustees Report include:

  • Total income, including interest, to the combined OASDI Trust Funds amounted to $997 billion in 2017. ($874 billion from net payroll tax contributions, $38 billion from taxation of benefits, and $85 billion in interest)
  • Total expenditures from the combined OASDI Trust Funds amounted to more than $952 billion in 2017.
  • Social Security paid benefits of more than $941 billion in calendar year 2017. There were about 62 million beneficiaries at the end of the calendar year.
  • The projected actuarial deficit over the 75-year long-range period is 2.84 percent of taxable payroll – slightly larger than the 2.83 percent projected in last year’s report.
  • During 2017, an estimated 174 million people had earnings covered by Social Security and paid payroll taxes.
  • The cost of $6.5 billion to administer the Social Security program in 2017 was a very low 0.7 percent of total expenditures.
  • The combined Trust Fund asset reserves earned interest at an effective annual rate of 3.0 percent in 2017.

The Board of Trustees usually comprises six members. Four serve by virtue of their positions with the federal government: Steven T. Mnuchin, Secretary of the Treasury and Managing Trustee; Nancy A. Berryhill, Acting Commissioner of Social Security; Alex M. Azar II, Secretary of Health and Human Services; and R. Alexander Acosta, Secretary of Labor. The two public trustee positions are currently vacant.

From The New York Times:

The number of Americans seeking Social Security disability benefits is plunging, a startling reversal of a decades-old trend that threatened the program’s solvency. It is the latest evidence of a stronger economy pulling people back into the job market or preventing workers from being sidelined in the first place.

The drop is so significant that the agency has revised its estimates of how long the program will continue to be financially secure. This month, the government announced that the program would not run out of money until 2032, four years later than its previous estimate last year. Two years ago, the government had warned that the funds might be depleted by 2023.

In addition to stronger economic growth, the drop reflects newly tightened standards for eligibility and the increasing number of baby boomers who are leaving the program because they have become eligible for Social Security retirement benefits and Medicare.

Go Bernie Sanders!

August 8, 2018

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