New Year’s Resolutions

January 3, 2018

Like many Americans, I have lots of resolutions this year!  And I think, for once, they are resolutions that are manageable.

  • Spend more time with colleagues; I always learn something valuable
  • Attend more conferences; the break is nice and I also learn valuable things
  • Leave work at the office
  • Stay calm in the face of chaos
  • Remember why I do what I do – to help people

I hope you all are making resolutions that you can keep.

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2017 Roundup

December 27, 2017

The end of the year always makes me contemplate the year as a whole.  Hearing waits still seem endless, but I am buoyed by the recent initiative to have pre-hearing conferences, which allow me to request a meeting to present a client’s case for disability in an effort to obtain a decision without a hearing.

As always, I am happy that so many attorneys, financial planners and doctors trust me to such a degree that they send their clients or patients to me.  Of course, the greatest honor is when they trust me with their friends and family members.

I am grateful that Tiffany has continued to soldier on with me despite the frequent frustrations with a system as large and complex as the Social Security Administration has become.

And once again, I think of the many colleagues who area always willing to lend a hand to me with both quick questions and the more difficult ones.

I am hoping that 2018 brings similar joys to me and many favorable decisions for my clients!  Happy (Almost) New Year!

For those of you that don’t keep up with the press releases from SSA:

In October of each year, the Social Security Administration announces adjustments that take effect the following January that are based on the increase in average wages. Based on the wage data Social Security had at the time of the October 13, 2017, announcement, the maximum amount of earnings subject to the Social Security tax (taxable maximum) was to increase to $128,700 in 2018, from $127,200 in 2017. The new amount for 2018, based on updated wage data reported to Social Security, is $128,400.

This lower taxable maximum amount is due to corrected W2s provided to Social Security in late October 2017 by a national payroll service provider. Approximately 500,000 corrections for W2s from 2016 resulted in changes for three items based on the national average wage: the 2018 taxable maximum, primary insurance amount bend points–figures used in the computation of Social Security benefits–and family maximum bend points. No other items based on national average wages were affected.

The change to the taxable maximum does not take effect until January 2018, and the updated bend points in the benefit computation only apply to people who initially become eligible for Social Security benefits in calendar year 2018. This does not affect current beneficiaries.

For more information about the updated 2018 taxable maximum amount, please visit www.socialsecurity.gov/oact/COLA/cbb.html. Additional information about the new 2018 bend points may be found at www.socialsecurity.gov/oact/COLA/Benefits.html and www.socialsecurity.gov/oact/COLA/bendpoints.html.

SSA Hold Times

December 6, 2017

In other discouraging news, the hold time to talk to someone at the Social Security Administration has risen from 3 minutes in 2010 to over 16 minutes in 2017.

On the upside, they do let you leave a call back number and are remarkably reliable about returning a call.

As many of you know, have a personal connection to MS, I work closely with the North Florida MS Society and many of my clients have MS.  So, it was with with interest that I read the recent article in the New York Times Science Section that shows that concussions in adolescents (aged 11 to 20) has been shown to have a link to a later MS diagnosis.

 

Specifically, adolescents who had experienced one concussion were about 22% more likely to later develop MS than those who had not had such a head trauma.  The risk rose by about 150% of a young person and sustained multiple concussions.

 

For the full article, written by Gretchen Reynolds, go here

 

Happy Thanksgiving!

November 22, 2017

Once again, the year has flown by and I am thankful for the opportunity my clients give me to assist them.  Filing for disability benefits is a difficult decision to make.  The process is typically long and needlessly complicated.  I am happy that so many individuals trust me to guide them through this process.

 

I am also grateful to the many helpful people within the Social Security Administration, physicians’ offices and other attorneys from whom I seek advice.

 

I hope everyone takes a much-needed break to enjoy the holiday with friends and family.

The Backlog

November 15, 2017

A favorite topic of all Social Security attorneys is the hearing backlog.  Right now, it is taking upwards of 20 months to move from a Request for a Hearing to a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge.  Recent information from SSA suggests that part of the problem is that funding to SSA has been cut at the same time there are more applications being filed.

 

Specifically, the core operating budget is down 11% and the SSA staff has been cut by 10%.  Disability insurance beneficiaries are up by 5% and Retirement and Survivor insurance beneficiaries are up by 17%.  That is not a formula that will help decrease the wait time for a hearing.

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