If you’re receiving Social Security Disability Insurance benefits (or plan to apply) and are also weighing a divorce or in the midst of one, you should know there may be an impact if you are to receive spousal support. Marriage, too, can have an impact.SSDI divorce

No one gets married presuming they may get divorced, just as no one anticipates suffering an injury that will leave them unable to work. Yet 40 to 50 percent of U.S. marriages end in divorce, according to the American Psychological Association, and roughly 130 workers out of every 1,000 are injured on-the-job or become sick as the result of workplace conditions.

(Although workers’ compensation benefits require proof that an injury/illness occurred in the course and scope of employment, the same is not true of SSDI. As our Boston SSDI attorneys can explain, one needs to show they paid into the system for a period of time AND that their condition is disabling for a year or more or terminal.) Continue reading

Like clockwork, the politicians are trotting out plans to address solvency of the Social Security retirement and disability trusts, just in time for a presidential election year. However, for millions of Americans, the solvency of these funds, and the availability of the benefits for which they paid throughout their working lives, are of critical importance to their lives.

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Taken at Fairfield Waters Townsville Qld,© I retain copyright.

Media reports about various plans to address solvency of the Social Security retirement and disability trusts is ramping up as the Presidential election year approaches. Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachsuetts, has been among those at the forefront of the issue. Warren says she vehemently opposes any reductions in benefits for the disabled, something proposed by the Trump Administration as part of a Republican plan to cut disability benefits and raise the retirement age.

A U.S. appeals court issued a ruling recently that rejected a disabled worker’s rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act. It’s the latest court ruling to undermine the rights and protections under federal law that are afforded to employees with disabilities who have been forced to apply for financial assistance from the federal government.

In Pena v. Honeywell International, Inc., No. 18-1164 (1st Cir. April 26, 2019), the First Circuit court ruled a Honeywell machine operator who claimed total disability on her Social Security Disability Insurance application failed to show she qualified for protection under the Americans with Disabilities Act 42 U.S. Code § 12101. The First Circuit hears appealed cases from Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut.

The court ruled plaintiff failed to meet her burden of proof in showing that she was disabled under the American with Disabilities Act. The appeals court affirmed a district court’s summary judgment in favor of Honeywell, ruling that plaintiff’s insistence she was “totally disabled” did not support her ADA claim, for which she needed to prove she was capable of doing her job, with or without special accommodations.

Experienced Boston work injury lawyers know there are important and essential differences between protections offered by SSDI and those afforded under the ADA. As the U.S. Supreme Court has pointed out, the definition for SSDI “does not take the possibility of ‘reasonable accommodation’ into account,” as the ADA does. In the 1999 cases of  Cleveland v. Policy Management Systems Corp., U.S. Supreme Court #97-1008, the Supreme Court ruled an employee who is receiving SSDI benefits can still sue an employer for violating rights under the ADA for refusing to make adequate accommodations under the law.

In that case, Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer wrote judicial estoppel does not automatically apply to an SSDI claimant who pursues a claim under ADA. Judicial estoppel precludes a party from taking a legal position that is contrary to a previous position maintained at an earlier judicial proceeding. However, the court ruled the burden rests with the plaintiff to prove a disability claim under SSDI is not inconsistent with the special accommodations afforded under the ADA.

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Advocates for the disabled are watching the current federal budget process closely amid increasing evidence that cuts to some of the nation’s most critical social programs are on the agenda in Washington. disabilitybenefits-300x200

Last year, Social Security spending reached more than $2.5 trillion for the first time, accounting for 60 percent of the federal budget. However, the vast majority of this spending went to retirement benefits, for which recipients spent their careers paying via federal payroll taxes. SSDI benefits totaled just $143 billion, or about 4 percent of the federal budget. The Medicare program, primarily meant to provide health care to retirement beneficiaries, cost $707 billion, while Medicaid, which provides health care benefits to the disabled and economically disadvantaged, cost a little less than $400 billion.

While politicians derisively refer to these programs as “entitlement benefits,” it’s important to realize each of these programs are entitlements precisely because they have been completely funded by involuntary federal taxes deducted from your paycheck and earmarked specifically for these programs over the course of your lifetime.

Our SSDI lawyers in Massachusetts urge you to carefully consider the motivations behind the political rhetoric targeting these critical benefits primarily relied upon by aging employees nearing retirement age.

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When it comes to your Massachusetts disability claim, what you post on social media could be used against you.

The New York Times is reporting Uncle Sam is taking an increasing interest in what those who are receiving federal assistance are posting to Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and other social media accounts. Social media evidence is increasingly making it into the courtroom. We tell all of our clients never to post anything to social media they would not be comfortable discussing in court. Avoiding social media is the best policy, although we recognize it as a lifeline for the injured and disabled. keyboard-300x225

As the American Bar Association reported last fall, the ubiquitous nature of social media has made it an unrivaled source of evidence in the courtroom. In many ways, the law is still catching up to today’s technology, with landmark decision being handed down on an almost monthly basis. Discovery and preservation of social media evidence also continues to evolve, but in the majority of cases where validity of the evidence can be proven it is being allowed into courtrooms, where it is having an outsized impact on judges and jurors.

Our Massachusetts disability lawyers know this will stoke the flames for those who continue to cite Social Security Disability fraud in their quest to reduce payments and cut benefits to our most vulnerable citizens. Sadly, by targeting social media use they are attacking what has become a vital lifeline for disabled adults. Dealing with the financial and physical consequences of a disability is difficult even for the most optimistic. But it’s the attendant isolation — away from the workplace, working through physical rehabilitation or often homebound for days or weeks at a time, social media is often the only thing social about the lives of those dealing with disability.

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Rather than reduce the 1.5 year wait for a Social Security Disability Hearing, the Social Security Administration is adding a step to the application process that is expected to add six months to the wait time for most applicants.wheelchair5-300x214

More than 43,000 applicants await a Social Security Disability hearing in Massachusetts, where a backlog of 10,000 cases has created an average wait of more than 450 days for a court hearing, according to the most recent statistics. Unfortunately, most states score even worse, with the average wait time nationwide at more than 530 days.

Seeking early representation by an experienced SSDI lawyers in Boston can best protect your rights and streamline the lengthy application process, which is largely designed to discourage qualified applicants from obtaining all of the benefits to which they are entitled. Funding received last year by the Social Security Administration aimed at tackling the hearing backlog has met with only moderate success, reducing the national average wait time by 67 days.

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We continue to hear a lot about agism in the workforce. Major companies commonly skirt laws aimed at protecting older workers from age-based discrimination. It seems with every downsizing we see a steady stream of “institutional knowledge” leave the workforce after decades of service, only to be replaced by younger, greener, cheaper employees.paperworkdivorce-300x224

But disability remains the chief threat for those who by desire or financial necessity continue to work into traditional retirement age. A rising retirement age for Social Security retirement benefits is another factor impacting an aging workforce, as is the graying of the Baby Boomer generation. The Social Security Administration continues to raise the retirement age, which is currently about age 67.

As the Delaware Daily Times recently reported, health conditions such as heart disease, cancer, arthritis, stroke and Type 2 diabetes are among the chronic illnesses that can interrupt someone’s time on the job as disability among older workers increasingly becomes an issue for the U.S. workforce. Experienced disability lawyers in Boston know Social Security Disability Benefits can help bridge the financial gap for workers whose physical condition has caught up with their desire to remain in the workforce.

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The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments this month in a landmark case that could impact the government’s ability to use vocational experts to determine disability.952313_gavel-300x200

It’s a critical issue with the potential to impact thousands of disabled adults mired in the lengthy fight for the benefits to which they are entitled. While often derisively referred to as an “entitlement program,” Social Security Disability Insurance benefits are available to the vast majority of the U.S. workforce precisely because they are entitled to such benefits by virtue of their payroll withholding taxes, which the federal government deducts throughout your working life regardless of whether you ever need benefits.

The government intentionally makes application for SSDI benefits a complex and lengthy process, rife with delays and routine denials. SSDI lawyers in Boston know the issue of the use of vocational experts and review of their methodology is critical because such testimony is often determinative once a claimant’s case finally makes its way before an Administrative Law Judge, which is often years after an applicant submitted an initial disability benefits application and was denied by the Social Security Administration.

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Determining your rights after a disabling injury can seem an unsurmountable task, particularly when health concerns, rehabilitative care and family finances are the priorities.SSDI Boston

Still, it’s a struggle far too many adults must deal with each year in this country. Nationwide, statistics show 1 in 4 20-year-old employees will miss at least a year away from work due to disability at some point in their career.

Kiplinger Finance calls it an Alphabet Soup in discussing the differences among Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), long-term disability (LTD) and worker’s compensation (WC) benefits.

Investopedia reports the average Social Security Disability Insurance benefit next year is expected to be $1,234, little changed from this year.

Still, Congress is once again aiming drastic cuts and benefit reductions at the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Social Security Income (SSI) programs.wheelchair5-300x214

The Hill recently reported Rep. Todd Rokita (R-Ind.) is among the most recent to introduce a bill, though he is far from lonely. The Making DI Work for All Americans Act of 2018 (H.R. 6352) would also make the program solvent over the long run, while setting the stage for a significant payroll tax cut, according to the press release. Unfortunately, when it comes to the SSDI program and the SSI program, the wolves have long been at the door. The truth is these two programs provide vital lifelines to fewer than 5 percent of the nation’s workforce. Those eligible for SSDI are entitled to such benefits by virtue of having paid into the system via payroll taxes for years before becoming disabled on the job. Those benefits are often so inadequate that they are still eligible for SSI, which is an income-based needs program designed to help the poorest Americans.

In recent years, the disability insurance program has paid about $140 billion annually, or about 0.8 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), in benefits to almost 9 million disabled beneficiaries, with about 2 million of those beneficiaries being spouses and children, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Between 1970 and 2014, the number of claimants more than tripled. The share of working-age people who receive disability insurance benefits as a result of their own disability, and whose disability benefits are calculated on the basis of their own disability and work history,  increasing from 1.3 percent to 4.5 percent, before declining slightly in 2015.

But this is to be expected with an aging workforce. Particularly when you factor in the fact that the Baby Boomer generation was the last to engage in heavy manufacturing and other industries where disability has been more likely because of the long-term physical consequences of such labor.

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