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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Contrary to conventional wisdom of many in politic, the clear majority of those who are disabled are not sitting at home collecting a check when they could be working. It is really quite hard to prove to Social Security Administration (SSA), you are disabled within the very narrow regulations the law allows.  The reality is most people would much rather be working if they are able to do so.  The problem is when you try to go back to work, you run the risk of losing what benefits you do have, and somewhat more importantly in many cases, you will also lose Medicaid benefits, which are often critical to dealing with medical expenses.

Ticket to Work Program in Boston Social Security Disability Insurance Cases

Boston SSDI Lawyer There are several programs in place aimed at allowing those who are able to work, to get back in the workforce. One of those programs is the Ticket to Work program. This program allows those who are medically able to start working again to do so without facing an immediate loss of benefits. This can be a good thing for some in the program. But if things do not go well, it can result in a termination of benefits, and claimants will find themselves back in the same position as they were before they first applied for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits. Continue reading

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

Even the best Boston SSDI attorneys know an extended wait time for a disability determination hearing can be inevitable. In Boston, the average is 10 months, according to the latest data from the Social Security Administration. That’s actually one of the shortest lengths in the country, but that doesn’t make it any less painful for those who are disabled and can’t work but are still trying to make ends meet. SSDI attorney

Now, the newest budget proposal released by the Trump administration indicates these wait times may stretch even longer as staff positions will be slashed and individuals will be tasked with greater caseloads than ever. Denial of initial applications for Social Security Disability Insurance are commonplace, but we may see them in even higher numbers if this budget is passed. People complaining about the rate of assistance through SSDI now may soon be reminiscing on these as “the good old days.”

The fiscal 2019 Social Security Administration Budget would significantly reduce staffing, which in turn is going to mean longer waits in agency offices and on the phone for those trying to navigate the often complex world of disability benefits.  Continue reading

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