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Until the end of last year, we were seeing constant articles about how the Social Security disability program would run out of money and nearly 11 million Americans would lose around 20 percent of their total monthly benefits across the board.

cashMany argued that the program needed major overhauls, and they would not spend another dollar to help fix the cash flow shortage unless and until the overhaul occurred.  This commentary was mainly from Republicans who were running against Donald Trump for the GOP presidential nomination.   For a variety of reasons, including that it would look very bad in an election year if nearly 11 million Americans were thrown into poverty, they agreed to take one year of funding from the Social Security Old Age and Retirement Fund and apply it to the Social Security disability fund. Continue reading →

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Over the past few months, there have been a lot of stories of misconduct by administrative law judges (ALJ) and the agency in general with respect to wait time and claims handling procedures.   We have also seen the chief judge who is charge of the ALJ has resigned and will be stepping down before the end of this year, according to a statement she has released. However, it should be noted that there has been no official link between her resignation and the complaints facing the United States Social Security Administration (SSA), though based upon the timing alone, many are speculating that the two are related.

952313_gavelAs if this was not bad enough for the agency, an ALJ in Georgia has now been accused of bullying disabled workers at the agency, according to a recent news report from NBC News 11.  If true, this is particularly disturbing because it is ALJ’s job to hear from disabled claimant and decide whether they are entitled to benefits. Continue reading →

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The Global War on Terror, including the campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan, resulted in a greater number of disabled veterans than we have seen in many decades.  Even the Vietnam War, which was one of the deadliest conflicts in our nation’s history, did not have as many disabled veterans returning home.  However, this was not because fewer injuries were occurring. Rather, it was because in the 1960s, the military did not have the ability to save many of these brave men and women and bring them home.

armyRegardless of the cause of the disability, there are a lot of disabled veterans in the nation and many are in desperate need of a financial safety net. Many will turn to the Veterans Administration (VA), since it is the obvious first step in obtaining disability benefits for a wounded warrior. While there were many problems that have been well documented at the VA, things have gotten better, but there is still not enough funding to fully provide for the wounded vets.  For this and other reasons, many disabled veterans are turning to the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits as administered by the United States Social Security Administration (SSA). Continue reading →

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In recent months, there have been many various allegations and reports of alleged misconduct in Social Security Administration (SSA) offices around the nation.  We have seen instances where administrative law judges (ALJs) have been accused of delaying hearings in an improper manner and also improperly denying benefits so as to save money.

whistleWe have also seen one case where an ALJ in Wisconsin, who is still employed, had his entire caseload taken away after allegations he was sexually harassing his subordinates and also female claimants who were seeking disability benefits.  This was the judge accused of writing lewd comments about female applicants on their official agency paperwork. Continue reading →

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While many people think of retirement benefits when they think of Social Security, that isn’t the only program run by the U.S. Social Security Administration (SSA).  There are also two disability programs.  The first and most popular, is the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits program, and the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program.  According to a recent article from U.S. News and World Report, it is the combination of all three programs that can help lift people out of poverty, and it is important for Americans to known that Social Security benefits aren’t “just for seniors.”

cashIn terms of Social Security Disability Insurance benefits and Supplemental Security Income benefits, there are roughly 11 million Americans who are able to take care of themselves and their families as a result of these benefits. As the author of this article notes, the vast majority of these disabled adults and children would be impoverished if it were not for these two programs.  However, it is also important to understand that much to the disbelief of those who think we should get rid of the Social Security disability benefits program to save money in our federal budget, nobody is getting rich or even living a lavish lifestyle as a result of these benefits.  They are very modest.  Not only in terms of what people would be earning if they were able to work, but also as compared to the disability benefits programs in much of the developed world. Continue reading →

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In Israel v. Colvin, a case from the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, claimant was injured in 2001 while digging posts for a newly-constructed porch. Immediately following his workplace back injury, he sought treatment.  However, he did not stop working during the time he was receiving treatment.

1115701_black_and_white_crime_2Despite the fact that he had received various treatments for his back pain, his condition was getting worse. The pain had gotten so bad by 2003 that he was no longer able to work. He stopped working at that time and underwent additional medical procedures to help ease his pain.  One of these medical procedures was a lumbar laminectomy with a discectomy. Continue reading →

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As part of the process for applying for Social Security disability benefits, whether we are talking about Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits, or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, the U.S. Social Security Administration (SSA) will likely have an “independent” review of your doctor’s medical records or possibly conduct his or her own independent medical examination.

nurseThe reason we are skeptical about the independent aspect of this medical review is because these doctors are on a panel of doctors in each location that get selected for use in these types of cases and get paid for their medical services.  Due to budgetary concerns, the SSA a least seems like it has an interest in denying claims, so it can pay out less in benefits, so if these doctors want to get more work in the future from SSA, it seems like it wouldn’t hurt to side with the SSA and deny benefits, unless it would be ridiculous not to do so.  It should be noted that what the SSA thinks is ridiculous is not the same as a normal person in terms of when it is appropriate to find someone not disabled. Continue reading →

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In Ghiselli v. Colvin, a disability case from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, claimant applied for disability benefits from U.S. Social Security Administration (SSA) in 2010. Her basis for claiming a disability was after becoming disabled in October 2007.  In her application for Social Security disability benefits, she claimed she was working as a customer service manager at a retail establishment and was responsible for supervising cashiers.  She was injured when a customer hit her in the back with a shopping cart.

workThis occurred in August 2007. Following being hit by the shopping cart, her back began to hurt, and she was later diagnosed with a degenerative disc disease.  She also claimed that having asthma and being obese contributed to her being disabled.  It is quite common for a claimant to have multiple conditions that all contribute to a disability rating. Continue reading →

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Graves v. Colvin, a case from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, involved a claimant who was claiming disability because of anxiety, depression, as well as other types of developmental disorders normally classified as an intellectual disability by the U.S. Social Security Administration (SSA).  She had applied for both Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits.

948188_learning_with_pencilWhen she first applied for SSI and SSDI, her application was denied.  After she submitted her initial application, SSA denied it.  This is basically standard practice for SSA, even though they will never admit to this, but the reality is that at least half of all applications are initially denied, only to be approved later in the process. Continue reading →

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While the United States Social Security disability program has become somewhat of a partisan issue in recent years, it once had a broad base of support from both sides of the aisle.  This was certainly true when it was created, and the enabling act was signed into law by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1956.  When it was first created, there was a six-month waiting period to get benefits, there were no benefits to children or spouses, and the program was only available to adults 50 years of age and older.

stopwatchOver the past several decades, there have been a lot of changes to the program.  Formally, there were two separate programs created.  One is called the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program, and the other is the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program.  The SSDI program is the larger of the two programs and is designed to pay benefits to working Americans who have become disabled and can no longer work and take care of themselves and their families. Continue reading →