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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The Social Security Administration has announced the edition of five conditions to its Compassionate Allowances program.

The five new health conditions added to CAL are:medicalrecords-200x300

  • Fibrolamellar Cancer
  • Megacystis Microcolon Intestinal Hypoperistalsis Syndrome (MMIHS)
  • Megalencephaly Capillary Malformation Syndrome (MCAP)
  • Superficial Siderosis of the Central Nervous System
  • Tetrasomy 18p

Fibrolamellar Cancer is a rare liver cancer that usually occurs in adolescents; Megacystis Microcolon Intestinal Hypoperistalsis Syndrome (MMIHS) is a rare congenital condition characterized by abdominal dissension; Megalencephaly Capillary Malformation Syndrome (MCAP) is a disorder characterized by overgrowth of several tissues in the body; Superficial Siderosis of the Central Nervous System is a rare condition that involves brain bleeding; Tetrasomy 18p is a genetic chromosome condition characterized by multiple medical and developmental concerns.

The Compassionate Allowances (CAL) program allows victims of severe health conditions to apply for expedited benefits. The CAL program began in 2008 and now lists 233 eligible conditions. The fast-track approval process allows patients suffering from severe conditions, including brain disorders and many types of cancers, to obtain benefits more quickly. Approval of SSDI benefits can happen in weeks, instead of the months or even the years that it often takes to secure disability benefits from the federal government.

The Social Security Administration provides a complete list of CAL qualifying conditions, which include leukemia, ALS, lymphomas, early onset Alzheimer’s, liver cancer, pancreatic cancer, mesothelioma, and thyroid cancer.

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Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits are supposed to be available for any worker who has paid into the system through withholdings in their paycheck, or through payment of quarterly taxes, and then becomes disabled in a manner that it makes it very difficult to continue workers.

Boston SSDI LawyerIf the disabling condition was due to an on-the-job accident, the only course of action may be to file a workers’ compensation claim, but sometimes you can do both.  For this reason, it is helpful to speak with a lawyer at a Boston area law firm that represents clients in workers’ compensation cases as well as in Social Security Disability Insurance benefits cases. Continue reading

When the Social Security Administration (SSA) was first created, it was done to provide retirement benefits to workers who had earned money and paid into the system for their whole working lives, and then needed income on which they could retire.

SSDI Benefits This was a valuable program, which has helped millions of Americans. The problem was there was no money in the system when it was first established, and the president and congress did not want to make people pay into the system while those at retirement age were not receiving any benefits, so the program required a loan from the general fund to fund current retirees. Continue reading

Many people suffer from one or more medical conditions that make it very difficult if not impossible for them to keep their current job. In many cases, even going back to any similar type of work is problematic.  When this occurs, a person will typically go to their treating physician for a letter of opinion to submit along with a written application for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits. The claimant’s doctor may have very little question claimant cannot work and will often have no issue with writing these opinion letters.

SSDI BostonIf the particular doctor is at all familiar with the requirements of the U.S. Social Security Administration (SSA), he or she will often include a series of limitations on claimant’s ability to work including some of the following:

  • Claimant’s ability to stand for any long period of time.
  • Claimant’s ability to sit for any period of time.
  • Claimant’s ability to squat or crouch while at work.
  • Claimant’s inability to lift objects of a certain weight, and if they can lift them all, for how long they can do so over the course of a workday.
  • Claimant’s mental ability to concentrate and perform the tasks necessary for claimant to go back to work.

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