Tuesday, November 26, 2013

SSDI: Annual Adjustments Affecting Benefits in 2014 Compared with 2013

Cost of Living Increase. There is a 1.5% cost of living increase for benefits payable in 2014. There was a 1.7% cost of living increase in 2013. This increase applies both to Social Security Disability Insurance benefits, and Retirement benefits.

Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA). Earning While Disabled. Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) beneficiaries in 2014 will be able to work and earn up to $1,070 a month without forfeiting their monthly checks. Effective January 1, 2014, if earnings exceed this amount the Social Security Administration (SSA) will consider the earnings to show "substantial gainful activity" or "SGA". (A higher SGA amount - $1,800 a month - applies to blind individuals.)

In 2013 the SGA amount is $1,040 a month ($1,740 for blind individuals). SSA Fact Sheet: 2013 Social Security Changes, http://www.ssa.gov/pressoffice/factsheets/colafacts2013.htm.
Why is this important? If a beneficiary earns more than the SGA amount for a sustained period, this could trigger a continuing disability review and could cause SSA to stop benefits. Or if one is applying for SSDI benefits and earning at the SGA level, this could lead SSA to deny the benefit application. For more information see the SSA publication, How Work Affects Your Benefits, SSA Publication Number 05-10069, www.ssa.gov/pubs/10069.html; and the SSA Redbook, http://www.ssa.gov/redbook/eng/definedisability.htm#a0=1

Trial Work Month. A "trial work month" in 2014 will be any month in which earnings exceed $770. The 2013 amount is $750. SSA says:

“The trial work period allows you to test your ability to work for at least nine months. During your trial work period, you will receive your full Social Security benefits regardless of how much you are earning as long as you report your work activity and you continue to have a disabling impairment.”

A trial work period may be several stints of occasional work that add up to a total of nine months over a five year period, or may be a continuous nine months in a five year period.
See Working While Disabled, SSA Publication Number 05-10095, http://www.ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-10095.pdf

Monday, September 30, 2013

SSA Online Video Resources for SSDI & SSI

SSA Video Resources                                                          
SSA offers free video instruction on applying for SSDI and SSI. Viewing these requires Microsoft® Silverlight® software that is  available free online. Silverlight® is available for Windows® and Mac®. Silverlight® works on the Safari®browser installed on our Mac® but not on Firefox®. Others have noted this on the Mac®.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

SSDI moochers - NOT!

People who want a good capsule summary of the workings of the Social Security Disability decision process can find it (without political hogwash) in the article “Law Firms That Specialize in Social Security Disability,” by ex-Social Security representative Tom Morgenau.

Torrents of hostile criticism are falling on recipients of Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits these days. Much is political and grossly uninformed.

Critics should reflect on the meaning of the term “insurance” before criticizing legitimate SSDI recipients. SSDI is insurance. Most workers and former workers have paid for it by payroll withholding.  If they qualify for benefits they should receive them – they paid for them. Some people believe they are moochers. Try mooching off this program and you will receive a different impression.

The program has solvency problems. Therefore we should aim criticisms at its architects, administrators, and overseers (Congress).  Better still, we should go to them with suggestions for a sounder more stable system that will not further impoverish people with disabilities. 

Mr. Morgenau provides a good starting point for self-education and building an informed view. It’s worth getting on his email distribution list. It not only has much useful information, but keeps readers oriented toward reality more than the politics of SSDI.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Outline gives quick overview of SSDI and its relationship to other programs

Did you ever wonder what the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program looks like from the top down - "from 30,000 feet" as the Air Force would say?

Pds Third Floor Publishing offers a free downloadable Social Security Disability Outline 2013 on its website.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

First understand your disability – then fill out the Social Security forms

Let's assume you can't work and must apply for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits. To win benefits you must explain to the Social Security Administration (SSA) in practical terms the things about your illness that keep you from working. And you must provide evidence. If you want benefits it won't do to only say things like "my heart attack keeps me from going back to work".

To understand your disability the SSA decision maker (a disability examiner or administrative judge) needs to know the specific limitations your health imposes that keep you from working. For example, describe things like severe leg pain when you walk more than a few feet, difficulty concentrating and remembering, and taking multiple medications with side effects that take away your energy and ability to complete tasks.

You, yourself, need to understand and practice explaining in practical terms the changes that your health limitations have imposed on your previous lifestyle since you became disabled. You need to have this understanding BEFORE you fill out the SSA forms. 

The SSA forms don’t help you organize your thinking about your changed lifestyle. For this you need a resource like the Worksheets in the Disability Workbook for Social Security Applicants. Completing the six detailed Worksheets helps you think this through. They also become a valuable reference any time you talk with SSA and when you complete SSA forms like the SSA 3368 BK (Disability Report-Adult), SSA 3373 BK (Function Report-Adult), and SSA 3369 BK (Work History Report).

While practicing law I created the Worksheets because people I represented told me how hard it was to understand and complete SSA disability forms. To help my clients I developed a set of Worksheets much like those included in the Disability Workbook.

Before designing the Worksheets I sent a survey to disability examiners throughout America, and received replies from examiners in 14 states. From these replies and SSA laws, regulations, and policy I developed the Worksheets. The Worksheets have received approving comments from disability examiners and administrative law judges when filed along with official SSA forms. They have helped SSDI applicants win benefits.

When you buy the Disability Workbook in print or in Adobe Acrobat® ebook format you get the Worksheets and an Internet address for downloading additional copies.

We think the Disability Workbook and Worksheets bring disability applicants better understanding, better organization of their evidence, and greater confidence than SSA materials. In our mind that means better prospects for winning disability benefits.

Friday, July 12, 2013

How to access SSA’s fast track QDD and CAL disability decision processes

The Social Security Administration (SSA) recently adopted two fast track processes for deciding well-documented disability claims: the Quick Disability Determination process (QDD) and the Compassionate Allowance process (CAL). The agency boasts about the speed of these processes but publishes little guidance on how to gain access to them. Therefore many applicants for Social Security disability benefits are in the dark about practical ways to assure their selection into one or both processes.

Our Disability Workbook for Social Security Applicants offers a Medical Profile Sheet and Functional Checklist that assure that SSA considers a claim for fast track processing. We base this unofficial medical summary form and checklist on SSA policy directives and agency reports.

You gain access to QDD by showing SSA in your initial claim papers that evidence to substantiate your disability is readily available. (In SSA jargon, this means the claim papers show “a high degree of probability that the claimant is disabled and that evidence of the claimant’s allegations is expected to be easily and quickly obtained and the case can be processed quickly in the disability determination services . . .”) QDD uses a computerized evaluation process to move selected cases to the head of the line. Our Medical Profile Sheet and Functional Checklist help you show SSA that you have evidence of disability readily available. (fn 1)

You gain access to CAL by showing in your initial claim papers that you have one or more of 200 diagnoses that SSA considers to “invariably qualify” for disability benefits under the SSA Listing of Impairments. (fn 2) New conditions are added to the CAL list from time to time. Our Medical Profile Sheet helps you do this.

Together, the Medical Profile Sheet and Functional Checklist help doctors quickly outline the basic medical facts and show SSA the desirability of selecting the claim for fast-track QDD or CAL handling.

SSA decides a claim much faster under QDD or CAL than it does in the standard disability evaluation process which may take three to five months to produce a claim decision. (fn 3) In contrast, QDD processing may take two weeks or less. SSA says: “On average, the State DDSs’ determine allowances on those cases identified as QDD in about 9 days.” (fn 4)

We invite comments by users of the Disability Workbook about their success in obtaining Social Security benefits quickly (for example, in less than three to five months) when employing our Medical Profile Sheet and Functional Checklist.

1. http://www.ssa.gov/disabilityresearch/qdd.htm
2. http://www.ssa.gov/compassionateallowances/