Category Archives: Dennis’ Blog

Dennis Teachout’s Blog about Social Security Disability

More Americans receiving government assistance

According to the Census Bureau report, analyzing data from the fourth quarter of 2011, 49.2 percent of Americans live in a household where someone receives “food stamps Medicaid or other programs.” There was a slight uptick in households with the elderly receiving Social Security and Medicare, but the largest increases went to the poor.

With the very weak job market, many people misinterpret the data that shows increases to Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) in the last few years as meaning the unemployed are applying to SSDI after their unemployment benefits are exhausted and using it as an extended unemployment insurance program.

The only cases where that could happen would involve someone who had suffered a physical or mental impairment and been out of work for 12 months or more. And this may happen, for instance, where an individual has worked in a manual labor trade, like health-care aid or landscaper, and injured their back by years of heavy lifting.

Because they do not have training for sedentary work, with their injury, they will be unlikely to find any work. Their injury will leave them disabled and would allow them to obtain SSDI benefits. Of course, they would need to apply for SSDI and have their application approved.

With many office workers out of work, those with less training and experience have little chance of obtaining employment in a less strenuous line of work.

A new program designed to help SSI children

A challenge for any government benefit program is to control costs. The Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program is a case in point. The program offers financial support for low-income individuals who are blind or disabled.

Children are eligible for the SSI benefits and it can provide an essential supplement for parents and caregivers who often face many difficult struggles while coping with the costs of doctors and hospital visits, prescription drugs and other healthcare equipment.

From an administrative point of view, these programs can see ever increasing expenses due to beneficiaries being added to the program when they are young (children can be eligible for SSI from birth), and spending their entire life receiving benefits. And allegations of fraud are always being raised as the costs for the programs increase.

One way to help children on SSI become capable of no longer needing the program is to provide them with the education and job training that enables them to obtain work as adults.

A new demonstration initiative, PROMISE (Promoting Readiness of Minors in Supplemental Security Income), was announced by the Department of Education, the Social Security Administration (SSA) and the Departments of Labor and Health and Human Services and will take place in 11 states.

The program will attempt to coordinate services for children on SSI and improve their education, training and eventual job prospects.

If successful, these demonstration projects could be rolled out in all the states and help children nationwide. It would also provide a benefit to the Social Security Administration by slowing the growth and the expense of the program.

What do you mean a paralyzed arm is not severe?

A 2-year-old may be many things, but disingenuous is generally not one of them. Aside from not really understanding the concept, they are typically the opposite, saying aloud what many people may think, but would never utter. So, with all the allegations of fraud within government disability programs like Social Security disability insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental security income (SSI), one would not suspect that a 2-year-old would present a questionable case for benefits.

In Philadelphia, a 2-year-old girl suffered damage to the nerves of her arm during birth. A condition known as Klumpke’s palsy, it results from an injury to the shoulder of a child, often by being wrenched during birth. It causes paralysis in the arm and is usually permanent.

She is an otherwise a happy, active child, but she is beginning to become frustrated with her disability. She should seemingly qualify for a disability program like SSI, as her parents earn less than the federal poverty guidelines for a family of three, in spite of her mother working two jobs as a health care aid.

Their application for SSI has been denied three times and they are now appealing the decision to a federal court. While reports often surface regarding fraud and abuse with disability programs like SSI, a professor of disability policy from Brandeis University noted that “SSI rules are byzantine and too strict,” and that families that should be able to obtain benefits from SSI are denied.

It is always unfortunate when people with genuine disabilities and needs are denied benefits because the system has been made so complex by efforts to prevent fraud.

Doctor proposes extreme measures to combat obesity epidemic

For many people, obesity is a lifelong problem. Try though they might — often due to genetic or hereditary factors — people fail to lose weight. For these and many other people, obesity is not a choice, it’s an unfortunate condition to be dealt with. In some cases, people’s physical condition don’t allow them to work a regular job. For these people, applying for Social Security disability benefits might be a viable option.

Obesity is considered by some to be an epidemic in this country. In fact, as many as two-thirds of Americans are considered to be obese or overweight. Researchers have spent billions of dollars trying to find ways to implement meaningful solutions for a mass audience, but haven’t had much luck.

That’s why some researchers are proposing extreme measures to fight the obesity epidemic. One scientist at the Rand Corp. wants to force restaurants, for example, to standardize portions so that a meal in one establishment has the same number of calories as another. This would likely be extremely problematic; among other reasons, it would diminish the individuality of restaurants and, consequently, their appeal.

Another suggestion is to limit the number of fast food outlets permitted to be in a particular city or neighborhood. This would make it less convenient for people to get fattening food, but it seems as though other unhealthy options would pop up in their place.

Regardless of potential solutions to obesity as a medical condition, people who are affected may be eligible to receive Social Security disability benefits. An experienced SSDI attorney can be a big benefit to someone in this situation.

Study uncovers why disability rolls are climbing

In recent decades, the number of people who receive Social Security disability benefits has climbed dramatically. In 2008, there were about 900,000 new disability claimants; back in 1970, there were only 250,000. Does this mean that there are far more disabled people today than 40 years ago? Does it mean that a number of able-bodied citizens are gaming the system? A lot of people would have you believe the latter.

The truth is, however, that there are more people obtaining disability benefits today than in previous decades due to changing demographics.

A study that has recently been released by two Social Security Administration economists illustrates this fact. The study found that aging baby boomers, population growth, and an influx of women in the workforce account for the majority of the increase in the disabled population. In fact, those factors account for up to 94 percent of the increase. The most significant factor appears to be aging baby boomers.

This study illustrates that many of the stereotypes about people with disabilities and about the Social Security disability insurance program are completely untrue.

SSDI is not a handout, and in fact it is often very difficult for deserving disabled Americans to obtain disability benefits. As its name suggests, Social Security disability insurance is an insurance system that provides benefits to Americans who become disabled prior to retiring. In order to qualify for benefits, a person must have worked enough years to have paid a sufficient amount in Social Security taxes. Those who have not paid enough into the system may be eligible for Supplemental Security Income.

Unfortunately, those who are in need of SSI or SSDI in the Midwest often find themselves facing red tape. It can be important to seek guidance from a disability representative if you are navigating this process.

Only 14 percent of low-income kids with disabilities receive SSI

Raising a child with a disability in the Midwest is no easy task. Parents of children with disabilities face a number of challenges in order to provide their children with the best quality of life possible. One undertaking that is often much more difficult than it ought to be is obtaining federal disability benefits.

Many children with disabilities in the Midwest are eligible for Supplemental Security Income benefits. SSI is a disability need-based program that is designed to provide disability benefits for those who have never worked or have not earned enough work credits to obtain Social Security disability insurance benefits.

SSI benefits are only available to children if their family income and assets do not exceed certain levels. However, many children and families who do meet the SSI requirements are denied benefits.

According to a recent news report, a mere 14 percent of low-income families with children with disabilities currently receive SSI. The National Organization of Social Security Claimant’s Representatives also reported that in 2012 less than one-quarter of all children with disabilities in the U.S. received SSI.

There are a number of complex factors that lead six in 10 child SSI applicants to be denied benefits.

A recent news report chronicled the case of a young girl who suffered paralysis in her arm due to a birth injury. The girl, now 2, cannot change her own clothes, climb stairs or be potty-trained due to the injury. Her parents bring in only $17,000 annually, which is far below the poverty level, but this family has been denied SSI benefits for reasons that are not clear.

This family is not alone, as there are many SSI claims that are turned down when, in fact, the child and the family are eligible for benefits.

When families are considering applying for SSI benefits for a child with disabilities, it can be beneficial to seek advice. After receiving a denial, it is also wise to seek a disability representative regarding filing an appeal. Contact Disability Professionals Llc regarding questions and dedicated representation.

VA says it’s committed to reducing benefits claims backlog

We have shared how delays in processing have led to many veterans having to wait months or even years to see their veterans’ disability claims acted on. While progress has so far been slow, there is news that should be welcomed by disabled veterans in Minnesota and around the country.

The VA says it has reduced the claim background by more than one-third since March of this year. The stated goal of the department is to completely eliminate the backlog in 2015. There is still much work to be done to get there, however.

One of the overarching goals is to transform the claims and appeals process from one that is weighed down by forms into one that is paperless and handled on computers. This also reduces the chances that a particular file might be misplaced or lost. One of the department’s other initiatives is to make sure that there are enough claims processors to do the work in a timely matter. Many employees received overtime this year to help catch up with the backlog. Officials say that if they receive full funding, then they will continue doing so next year as well.

The undersecretary of veterans affairs for benefits said recently that 99.9 percent of claims that had been pending for more than two years have now been completed. While that represents a great majority of claims, there are still disabled veterans who need assistance. They might consider working with an experienced Social Security Disability benefits representative for help.

Filing for SSI benefits can be a stressful process for parents

Parents who have children who have severe disabilities might want to consider applying for Supplemental Security Income benefits. Often referred to by its initials, SSI is a need-based program designed to aid low-income families with the expenses associated with having a disabled child.

How does one go about applying for SSI benefits, then? As with many government programs these days, at least some of the process can be completed online. Parents are required to complete both a Child Disability Report and an Application for Supplemental Security Income. Only the Child Disability Report can be completed online; the Application for SSI must be handled in person or over the phone.

To help them determine if their child might be eligible for SSI benefits, parents can download a disability starter kit from the Social Security Administration website; the kit includes a fact sheet, a checklist and a worksheet parents can complete to help them with the process.

Of course, parents or guardians of disabled children do not need to tackle this process by themselves. Attorneys who specialize in dealing with Social Security benefits — both SSI and Social Security disability insurance, or SSDI — can be a valuable resource when it comes to applying. After all, parents who are speaking with or meeting with an SSA representative might be experiencing the process for the first time, while the SSA agent has been through it many times. A representative can help an applicant or potential applicant reach more even footing when dealing with this potentially cumbersome government agency.

Eight Former Commissioners of Social Security Voice Support for Disability Programs

An Open Letter from Former Commissioners of the Social Security Administration

As former Commissioners of the Social Security Administration (SSA), we write to express our significant concerns regarding a series recently aired on This American Life, All Things Considered, and National Public Radio stations across the U.S. (“Unfit for Work: The Startling Rise of Disability in America”). Our nation’s Social Security system serves as a vital lifeline for millions of individuals with severe disabilities. We feel compelled to share our unique insight into the Social Security system because we know firsthand the dangers of mischaracterizing the disability programs via sensational, anecdote-based media accounts, leaving vulnerable beneficiaries to pick up the pieces.

Approximately 1 in 5 of our fellow Americans live with disabilities, but only those with the most significant disabilities qualify for disability benefits under Title II and Title XVI of the Social Security Act. Title II Old Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance (DI) benefits and Title XVI Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits provide critical support to millions of Americans with the most severe disabilities, as well as their dependents and survivors. Disabled beneficiaries often report multiple impairments, and many have such poor health that they are terminally ill: about 1 in 5 male DI beneficiaries and 1 in 7 female DI beneficiaries die within 5 years of receiving benefits. Despite their impairments, many beneficiaries attempt work using the work incentives under the Social Security Act, and some do work part-time. For example, research by Mathematica and SSA finds that about 17 percent of beneficiaries worked in 2007. However, their earnings are generally very low (two-thirds of those who worked in 2007 earned less than $5,000 for the whole year), and only a small share are able to earn enough to be self-sufficient and leave the DI and SSI programs each year. Without Social Security or SSI, the alternatives for many beneficiaries are simply unthinkable.

The statutory standard for approval is very strict, and was made even more so in 1996. To implement this strict standard, Social Security Administration (SSA) regulations, policies, and procedures require extensive documentation and medical evidence at all levels of the application process. Less than one- third of initial DI and SSI applications are approved, and only about 40 percent of adult DI and SSI applicants receive benefits even after all levels of appeal. As with adults, most children who apply are denied SSI, and only the most severely impaired qualify for benefits.

Managing the eligibility process for the disability system is a challenging task, and errors will always occur in any system of this size. But the SSA makes every effort to pay benefits to the right person in the right amount at the right time. When an individual applies for one of SSA’s disability programs, the agency has extensive systems in place to ensure accurate decisions, and the agency is home to many dedicated public servants who take their ongoing responsibility of the proper stewardship of the programs very seriously. Program integrity is critically important and adequate funds must be available to make continued progress in quality assurance and monitoring. In the face of annual appropriations that were far below what the President requested in Fiscal Year 2011 and Fiscal Year 2012, the agency has still continued to implement many new system improvements that protect taxpayers and live up to Americans’ commitment to protect the most vulnerable in our society.

It is true that DI has grown significantly in the past 30 years. The growth that we’ve seen was predicted by actuaries as early as 1994 and is mostly the result of two factors: baby boomers entering their high- disability years, and women entering the workforce in large numbers in the 1970s and 1980s so that more are now “insured” for DI based on their own prior contributions. The increase in the number of children receiving SSI benefits in the past decade is similarly explained by larger economic factors, namely the increase in the number of poor and low-income children. More than 1 in 5 U.S. children live in poverty today and some 44 percent live in low-income households. Since SSI is a means-tested program, more poor and low-income children mean more children with disabilities are financially eligible for benefits. Importantly, the share of low-income children who receive SSI benefits has remained constant at less than four percent.

Yet, the series aired on NPR sensationalizes this growth, as well as the DI trust fund’s projected shortfall. History tells a less dramatic story. Since Social Security was enacted, Congress has “reallocated” payroll tax revenues across the OASI and DI trust funds – about equally in both directions – some 11 times to account for demographic shifts. In 1994, the last time such reallocation occurred, SSA actuaries projected that similar action would next be required in 2016. They were right on target.

We are deeply concerned that the series “Unfit for Work” failed to tell the whole story and perpetuated dangerous myths about the Social Security disability programs and the people helped by this vital system. We fear that listeners may come away with an incorrect impression of the program— as opposed to an understanding of the program actually based on facts.

As former Commissioners of the agency, we could not sit on the sidelines and witness this one perspective on the disability programs threaten to pull the rug out from under millions of people with severe disabilities. Drastic changes to these programs would lead to drastic consequences for some of America’s most vulnerable people. With the lives of so many vulnerable people at stake, it is vital that future reporting on the DI and SSI programs look at all parts of this important issue and take a balanced, careful look at how to preserve and strengthen these vital parts of our nation’s Social Security system.

Rising Disablility Claims

Social Security Disability Insurance claims and qualifying Americas has substantially risen due to many reasons but it is not isolated to one circumstance.

Yes, America’s high unemployment rate has influenced amount of individuals seeking Social Security Disability Insurance but this, alone, is not the primary source for the increase.

The major reason the number of applications have increased in the last couple of years is because the number of Americans that now qualify for Social Security Disability has reached it’s peak. Why?

The Baby-Boomer generation  is getting older and suffering from more disabilities, making Social Security Disability Insurance a necessity. In addition to the population growth, medical advancements are saving the lives of people with serious medical conditions. While we are thankful that our loved ones are living longer, these advancements are also directly affecting the number of Social Security Disability Insurance applicants.

It is important to Disability Professionals Llc to not let individuals with disabilities become victims of misinterpreted information or corporate America political arguments over the federal budget.  We believe that if you pay into the Social Security system, you have earned the right to receive benefits. The refusal or extreme delay of benefits to those who qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance is an injustice and Disability Professionals Llc wants to help you!

Protecting your Social Security Disability benefits is Disability Professionals Llc’s main objective, regardless of means, age or disability. Social Security Disability Insurance is a vital lifeline for American citizens who once held full-time jobs but have become too ill or injured to work.

Dennis Teachout  specializes in Social Security Disability and is a representative that knows how difficult illness, injury, and chronic pain is for Social Security Disability clients. To schedule a free no-obligation consultation and preliminary case review by an experienced representative, call or email Disability Professionals Llc, your action advocate!