Articles Posted in Social Security Disability Insurance

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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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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Getting approved for Social Security in Boston is no easy process. It is also not a quick process.  The first thing any prospective claimant must do is to file an initial application with the U.S. Social Security Administration (SSA). Once this application has been submitted, it will likely be rejected without any real regard for whether claimant can work and whether claimant is genuinely disabled. Following this initial denial, claimants must file an appeal of their initial denial with SSA.  This appeal will almost certainly be denied as well.  We know this because any reversal at this stage would be a complete shock since the system is set up in such a way where no medical professionals are involved in making an appeal determination. At this point, claimants can apply for a hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ) and wait at least one hearing for that hearing to occur.  Congress has just passed a major spending bill with funds to address the backlog of claims and cut the wait down to something more reasonable.

New Omnibus Spending Bill Allocates More Money for Fixing Maligned SSDI and SSI

SSDI attorney BostonAccording to a recent news article from the Washington Post, the hotly-debated omnibus spending bill, which was approved by congress and signed by the president, contains funding allocations to cut the backlog of federal disability claims substantially.  This is the same bill which President Donald J. Trump, signed, but then said he would never sign such a bill again. Continue reading

The Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits program has not been around as long as the Social Security Old Age and Retirement benefits program, but it has been around for more than six decades.  Despite its fairly long history and real data showing how many millions of Americans with disabilities would not be able to make ends meet without it, those who apply for disability benefits, and the system itself, are both easy targets for politicians on the campaign trail.

Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits in Boston is Not an Entitlements Program

Boston SSI casesThe trouble mainly stems from an effort to label all public assistance programs as “entitlements” and to call all those who seek these benefits lazy, and say there is no reason they can’t be working.  As discussed in a recent news article from Vox, contrary to the popular myth being pushed by politicians, those on disability generally wish they were not disabled and could go to work.  As also discussed in this article, one of the main proponents of this myth is Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky.  Mr. Paul has made inflammatory statements including that more than half of those who receive Social Security disability benefits are either “anxious” or their “back hurts.” Continue reading

Whenever a claimant files for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) benefits in Boston, there are various things that must be established in order for claimant to receive an award of benefits.  In the case of SSDI benefits, the first thing is claimant must establish he or she is disabled within the meaning of the statute, and the second is he or she has a long enough work history to have earned a sufficient number of quarterly credits pursuant to Social Security Administration (SSA) guidelines.

Five-Step Disability Analysis in Boston Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits Cases

SSDI Claims BostonAs discussed in Hargress v. Social Security Administration, a case from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, claimant applied for both Supplemental Security Income benefits and Social Security Disability Insurance benefits. With respect to both claims, her initial application was denied. On appeal, she was granted a hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ) where her claim was again denied. At the hearing, she was denied again by ALJ based upon a finding she was not disabled. Continue reading

Once an application for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits has been rejected by the U.S. Social Security Administration (SSA), the next thing which will happen in the appeals process is claimant must complete and submit what is known as a Request for Reconsideration. This is done by filing form SSA-561, and there is a very decent chance this written request for reconsideration will also be rejected as nearly all of them are.  At this point in the long process, claimant can request an hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ).  While it may take a year or even two for this hearing to occur, ALJ will likely hear testimony from a Vocational Expert or “VE” as they are often called by SSA.

SSDI Cases BostonA Vocational Expert is an employee of SSA who is supposed to be an expert on what jobs people are capable of working when they have various disabilities or a combination of disabling conditions. The VE becomes an expert by being trained in how to use and interpret a guide book called the Dictionary of Occupational Titles.  This book, which was written decades ago and not updated all too often contains what the drafter believed to be nearly every job in Boston and the rest of the nation (they use the terms local or national economy), and whether people with mental and physical disabilities can attain and hold those jobs, with or without accommodations.  Continue reading

As 2017 ended and another year began we found ourselves watching congress fight over the federal budget to the point of months without a finalized budget, a series of temporary continuing resolutions and at least one relatively short partial government shutdown and the possibility of future shutdowns to come. Many people are wondering what happens if the government is shut down and whether they will be paid Social Security disability benefits during a time when the government is far less than fully operational.

SSDI and SSI Benefits During A Government Shutdown

Boston SSDI Cases While people often use the term government shutdown, what we really have is a partial government shutdown. This means while most federal employees will be on a furlough, others will be required to work as they are considered essential employees. This may sound like good news for those employees still on the job, but since they do not get paid until after the government reopens, it’s not all great news. These essential employees work on essential functions and this includes the military and some aspects of the U.S. Social Security Administration (SSA).  Continue reading

Applying for Supplemental Security Income, or “SSI,” seems like it should be a quick and easy process. The reality is most cases involve a long, drawn-out process during which an unrepresented claimant is at a major disadvantage. Seeking help from a dedicated SSI attorney in Boston can give you an edge and help guide you through what is often a confusing bureaucracy.

The process begins with filling out an application for Supplemental Security Income benefits with the U.S. Social Security Administration (SSA).

SSI BostonThe requirements for applying for Supplemental Security Income are that you must fit into one of the following categories:

  • A disabled adult
  • A disabled child
  • A person over the age of 65

In the case of a disabled child, it will be a parent or other guardian who actually completes the application and handles the matter on the behalf of the child during the entire process.  This does not mean that they cannot not also obtain an attorney, which is a good idea and there is no reason no to do so. Continue reading