October 18, 2012
Even though millions of Americans who receive Social Security benefits will see an increase in payments in the coming year, many believe it will still be hard to live on the amount they’re allotted. WRAL News reports the increase will be 1.7 percent, one of the lowest increases in more than thirty years.
The meager increase means the roughly 56 million Americans who collect Social Security benefits will see an average of an extra $21 per month. This means the average income for a recipient will be $1,240 per month, but many live well below this amount.
A 73-year-old Raleigh Social Security Disability benefits recipient says she is facing some of the greatest financial burdens of her life while trying to live on the $920 per month she receives since retiring as a mental health worker. She explained that with gas and food prices skyrocketing and no signs of slowing, her budget often leaves her penniless.
Only five times in the 37-year history of the automatic cost of living increases has the increase for Social Security been below two percent.
The North Carolina Personal Injury Lawyers with HensonFuerst understand how confusing and frustrating the processes of the Social Security system can be. That is why the firm is here to help by answering any questions you may have in regards to a claim you are preparing to file or that has been denied.
The Social Security Administration (SSA) publishes monthly performance statistics for each regional ODAR (Office of Disability Adjudication and Review). At HensonFuerst, we monitor those statistics so that we can better assist our clients. Over the past year, we’ve noticed a disturbing trend: Approval rates in the majority of ODARs across the country have been going down, which means fewer people are qualifying to receive payments.
This is bad news for claimants who are waiting for a hearing. But it is also not good for anyone currently receiving disability benefits because all cases are periodically audited, which means that disability claims get re-evaluated and are subject to repeated scrutiny. The SSA hasn’t given specific reasons for this decline in approval rates. Based on our experience and knowledge of the Social Security Disability system, we believe that it could be due to the recent economic downturn—just when the Social Security program is at its financial worst, more people are applying for disability benefits.
To give you an idea of how widely the approval rates vary from office to office, here are some current local statistics:
• For the ODAR in Raleigh, NC, the average wait time from the date a claimant demands a hearing is 11 months, or 335 days. Average approval rate is 46%. The office has 8,430 cases currently open and pending, and judges are making decisions in about 2.5 cases per day.
• For the ODAR in Fayetteville, NC, the average wait time is 12.5 months, or 375 days. Average approval rate is 42%. The office has 5,589 cases open and pending, and judges are making decisions in about 2.73 cases per day.
• For the ODAR in Greenville, SC, the average wait time is 10 months, or 292 days. Average approval rate is 66%. The office has 5,063 cases open and pending, and judges are making decisions in about 2.61 cases per day.
• For the ODAR in Columbia, SC, the average wait time is 14 months, or 398 days. Average approval rate 53%. The office has 5,423 cases open and pending, and judges are making decisions in about 2.48 cases per day.
So, you can see that where your case is heard can make a significant difference for the likelihood of approval. To make things more complicated, each judge has his or her own approval rate, too, which can be an important factor in your odds for approval. But even more important than these statistical factors is the quality of your medical documentation. This includes proper and adequate medical documentation of symptoms and medical conditions; letters from doctors outlining physical limitations and restrictions; and letters and or testimony from friends, family, and old employers, about how your disability has affected your life.
While we don’t have control over what office or which judge hears a case, we do have control over what ends up in your file. That’s why we encourage all our clients to get medical treatment whenever necessary, and to keep your case manager informed about significant changes in your medical condition. That’s the best way to make sure that proper proof of your medical condition is ready when it’s time for your SSD hearing.
If you have questions about applying Social Security Disability, or if you would like HensonFuerst to represent your interests, please visit our website at www.lawmed.com/SSD/.
First: Don’t worry–you will still receive your Social Security benefits. The only change will be the method of delivery.
According to an article on WRAL.com, the federal government will be phasing out paper checks for all benefit programs, including Social Security, veterans’ benefits, railroad pensions, and federal disability payments. By next year, everyone will receive their payments electronically, either through direct deposit to a bank account, or onto a debit card.
About 90 percent of people who receive benefits already get them electronically. This change won’t affect those payments; it is only a push to get that hold-out 10 percent away from paper payments. The Treasury Department says that the switch will save the U.S. government about $120 million per year; Social Security will save about $1 billion over the next decade.
Some senior advocates claim that the change will pose a hardship to older people who are accustomed to dealing with a check:
“Treasury acknowledges they have a lot of education to do for people about how these things work,” said David Certner, legislative policy director for AARP. “We’re a bit concerned about how easy it’s going to be to provide education, particularly for some in this older population who are not familiar with debit cards and don’t have bank accounts.”
On the other hand, the director of the Treasury Department’s electronic funds transfer division, Walt Henderson, says that electronic payments are safer and more efficient:
“You think of that paper check floating out there in the delivery system, with personal information on it, it’s much more susceptible to fraud versus an electronic payment,” Henderson said.
Indeed, in 2010, about $540,000 in benefit checks were reported lost or stolen.
While the government is hoping for universal adoption of electronic payments, there is a recognition that some people may not be in a position to easily make the switch. People who are 90 years old or older won’t be required to change, and people can get a waiver if they can demonstrate that using a debit card would impose a hardship.
To read the full article on WRAL.com, click here: Don’t wait for SS check in the mail
To learn more about this issue and how to arrange for direct deposit, visit the Treasury Department’s Go Direct website here: http://www.godirect.org/
March 8, 2012
Recovering from an injury suffered in an accident can be a long process. Take, for instance, the story of a truck driver from Goldsboro, North Carolina, that was recently highlighted by WRAL News. The truck driver was involved in an accident on October 29, 2009, along I-95 near Godwin in Cumberland County.
Reports say that the trucker was heading north when he swerved to avoid a stationary car. The driver of the stopped car was pushing a disabled vehicle off the road. While swerving, the truck driver hit the trailer of another 18-wheeler and ricocheted back into the guardrail of the median. The truck burst into flames, trapping the truck driver inside.
A passing southbound motorist who witnessed the crash jumped into action, running to the burning truck and working to free the trapped driver. He was eventually able to pull the man to safety.
The driver spent the next two months in a coma at a local hospital after suffering third-degree burns to more than 40% of his body, and he now requires daily physical therapy. He says that he will never be able to drive a truck again, but is thankful to be alive.
The Raleigh Truck Accident Attorneys at HensonFuerst Injury Lawyers would like to wish the truck driver a speedy and successful recovery after this terrible accident. His positive attitude toward his recovery is an inspiration to others.
October 27, 2011
North Carolina’s Medicaid program is nearly $140 million short of its budget because of the organization’s inability to save due to the slow process of federal approval and government misspending. According to WRAL News, the lack of funds means the government will have to reduce or eliminate “optional” services.
Both Medicaid and Community Care of North Carolina, a state managed care program, are both failing to meet savings goals because of a slow approval process by the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services for changes set forth in the state budget earlier this year. Also, state legislature failed to set aside $41 million to help pay for a 2008 accounting error that created overpayments. Plus, the state must pay another $42 million in fines for improper billing and inadequate documentation for claims.
The rest of the shortfalls will be made up in cuts to the program, as the General Assembly has already given it’s approval to Health and Human Services Secretary, Lanier Cansler, to get rid of or cut optional services if goals are not met. Some of these services are vital to many of the 1.5 million recipients statewide, including hearing aids, dental care, and organ transplants.
The North Carolina Social Security Disability Attorneys at HensonFuerst want to know what you think about the program cuts. Give us your opinion by posting to our Facebook page.
September 15, 2011
One of the biggest concerns for returning combat veterans is a silent one. It is not visible, like a missing limb. It may only show it’s ugly head from time to time, making it difficult to be diagnosed by a doctor, unlike many more obvious diseases. It’s Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and it is affecting an alarming number of our returning veterans.
The illness has only gained attention in the last few decades, with the return of soldiers from the first Iraqi conflict. Now, it is reported that up to one-third of the half million troops returning home since 2003 have been affected by PTSD. Although this may be a conservative number, many soldiers are in denial about suffering from the condition or don’t seek treatment.
One Army officer is trying to change that. Channel 3 News reported that Sgt. Maj. Raymond F. Chandler III, the top non-commissioned officer in the United States Army, discussed his experience with the disease on Tuesday of this week, with soldiers at Fort Bragg.
He told of the mental anguish he put on himself because of the loss of his soldiers and doubted his ability as a leader. More importantly, he told the soldiers of the rejuvenation he found after seeking help coping with his struggles.
The North Carolina Veterans Disability Lawyers with HensonFuerst support all soldiers returning from combat and suffering from PTSD. We can help you get the veterans benefits you deserve–call 1-800-4-LAW-MED or complete a free consultation form.
An article by attorney Tiana H. Zaebst was published in the May 10, 2010, issue of North Carolina Lawyers Weekly. The topic: How people who have been permanently injured in an accident often overlook a valuable source of long-term protection.
According to Ms. Zaebst, people who have been injured in an accident can benefit from Social Security disability benefits, regardless of whether they have collected money from an injury lawsuit or settlement. Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) can provide income until retirement age, and also provide Medicare medical benefits. Why is this important? By the time a lawsuit is heard in court, an injured person could have been disabled and out of work for several years. And, according to Ms. Zaebst:
“…with the spiraling cost of health care and the exorbitant cost of maintaining health insurance, I have seen firsthand that even a sizable settlement can be whittled down quickly if my client requires continued medical care and treatment after the case is over.”
If you have questions about your personal injury case, including questions about how to apply for Social Security Disability Income, visit the HensonFuerst website at www.LawMed.com. If you have questions, HensonFuerst has answers.
March 18, 2008
Reports showed the Carolinas had about 48,500 pending disability cases, including about 8,700 Charlotte Disability benefits cases. Charlotte ranks 125 out of 141 for the waiting time at its Disability and Adjudication and Hearing office.
The reason behind this issue is because Charlotte administrative law judges decided an average of 375 cases in 2006, while the Social Security Administration asks judges to make around 500-600 decisions a year.