Social Security Disability Cuts: How Future Generations Will Be Affected

SS Disability Cuts

Social Security policies have been in constant flux almost since their creation. The first SS laws were passed under Roosevelt’s New Deal and the first changes were made only four years later. Cuts, tweaks, and rearrangements to the process of Social Security are nothing new.

However, the last few years have heralded changes which could drastically change the way Social Security works. Here are the basics of how these changes will affect future generations.

Circumstantial Changes

When Social Security was created, the ratio of beneficiaries to workers was about 15 to 1. Now, with the Baby Boomers beginning to retire and claim benefits, the ratio is more like 3 to 1 and likely to decrease even further (source: Nolo). And life expectancy is also increasing, meaning within the next few decades there will be an unprecedented amount of SS beneficiaries.

This creates some obvious issues: less income is being collected via payroll taxes than is being awarded to retirees with Social Security benefits. This increases the nation’s deficit, forcing the Labor Bureau to cash in unbacked Social Security bonds.

Legislative Changes

These circumstantial changes have required an overhaul of how Social Security operates. The overhaul started during the Regan administration, when the full retirement age was raised to 67. The two most recent proposed changes are cost of living adjustments and a chained CPI system.

Cost of Living Adjustments (COLA): COLAs were introduced to Social Security legislation in 1973 to allow adjustment according to the changes in inflation and living cost. The latest COLA increased Social Security benefits by 1.5%. The exact amount this affects an individual beneficiary depends on their Social Security status.

Chained CPI: COLAs are increased each year to compensate for inflation. The calculations are based on the Consumer Price Index, or CPI. Chained CPI is a form of COLA which, if passed, would factor in each beneficiary’s ability to choose the lowest priced food and clothing options, regardless of inflation changes.

How these Changes Affect the Future of Social Security

If you are about to retire and apply for Social Security benefits, your benefits will likely remain intact. Some experts predict that most strategies for maximizing combined benefits will be obsolete within the next few years, decreasing your options.

For those who have several decades before they apply for Social Security benefits, the picture is even bleaker. Unless drastic changes are made, 25-35 year olds will likely see a 25% decrease in their benefits by the time they reach retirement.

This grim prospect is the subject of current government debate. Unless the source of funding, the restrictions on beneficiary qualification, or the amount of benefits changes, the system will not continue to support all the individuals in need of Social Security benefits. Some believe the system will bottom out if no systemic changes are made, while others believe that minor adjustments will allow the program to recover (albeit slowly).

The debate and resulting legislation may change the way that Social Security disability cases are handled in the future, making it more difficult to maximize or protect your benefits (source: Kitchen Simeson Bellieau LLP., a lawyers firm in Cobourg).

It is difficult to tell at this point what the future of Social Security will be. The suggested legislative changes could prolong the existence of the system, or prevent a dying program from being replaced by a more efficient one. Luckily, politicians from both parties are dedicated to developing a working system that works as proficiently as possible.

This article is from Erika Remington. Originally from San Jose, California, Erika is a recent graduate of the University of California, Berkeley. She enjoys spending her time with her husband and 18 month old daughter. She also enjoys rock climbing and outdoor activities.

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Seven Reasons to Push a Lawsuit After Being in an Accident

7 Reasons to Push a Lawsuit After Being in an Accident

An individual who is injured in an accident because of the negligence of someone else needs to seriously consider the prospect of filing a lawsuit against the negligent individual. In fact, seven fundamental reasons exist for a person to pursue a lawsuit in the aftermath of an accident.

Effectively Take on Insurance Company
During the initial claims settlement process, an insurance company attempts to pressure an injured person to settle a claim for a dollar amount that may very well fall below that which is necessary to provide adequate or appropriate compensation for injuries. By pursuing a lawsuit, an injured person has the ability to take on an insurance company on a bit more level playing field.

Access to Discovery Process

By filing a lawsuit, an injured person gains access to what is known as the discovery process. Through this process, a person is able to collect other evidence and information regarding the accident and the claim for compensation, with the support of the court.

Ability to Take Depositions
Within the discovery process is the ability of an injured person to take what are called depositions. Depositions represent testimony, taken under oath and in front of a court reporter to make a permanent record of the process.

Obtain Information from Insurance Company
Also through the discovery process, and a reason why an injured person should consider pursuing a lawsuit if necessary, is the ability to obtain information and evidence directly from the insurance company.

Question Negligent Party Under Oath
According to attorneys that work for Tony Zuber & Paul Brioux, another key benefit associated with pursuing a lawsuit in the aftermath of a personal injury is that the injured individual is able to question under oath the person who caused the accident. (This can be done through a deposition.) Oftentimes, during the settlement process and before a lawsuit is filed, the person who caused an accident may fail to provide accurate information.

Maximize Compensation
Insurance companies strive mightily to limit the amount of compensation paid to an injured person. Through a lawsuit, an injured person has the ability to attempt to maximize the amount of compensation he or she obtains.

Access Punitive Damages
In addition, by filing a lawsuit, an injured person has the opportunity to seek what are called punitive damages. Punitive damages represent an additional amount of compensation assessed when a negligent person was particularly reckless in causing an accident.

Legal Representation
An injured person is best able to take advantage of the different benefits that are available through a lawsuit by retaining the services of a qualified and experienced personal injury attorney.

This article is from Lizzie Weakley, a freelance writer from Columbus, Ohio. She went to college at The Ohio State University where she studied communications. She enjoys the outdoors and long walks in the park with her three-year-old husky Snowball.

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Social Security Defines Policy for Same-Sex Married Couples

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News release from the Social Security Administration:

Agency Extends Benefits Broadly, Subject to Legal Constraints

Social Security has published new instructions that allow the agency to process more claims in which entitlement or eligibility is affected by a same-sex relationship. These instructions come in response to last year’s Supreme Court decision in U.S. vs. Windsor, which found Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional.

This latest policy development lets the agency recognize some non-marital legal relationships as marriages for determining entitlement to benefits. These instructions also allow Social Security to begin processing many claims in states that do not recognize same-sex marriages or non-marital legal relationships.  We have consulted with the Department of Justice and determined that the Social Security Act requires the agency to follow state law in Social Security cases. The new policy also addresses Supplemental Security Income claims based on same-sex relationships.

“As with previous same-sex marriage policies, we worked closely with the Department of Justice,” said Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner of Social Security. “We are bound by the law within the Social Security Act, and we have to respect state laws.  We remain committed to treating all Americans fairly, with dignity, and respect.”

If a person believes he or she may be entitled to or eligible for benefits, they are encouraged to apply now.

To learn more, please visit www.socialsecurity.gov/same-sexcouples.

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Texas Nursing Homes Rank 49th in Quality of Care

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Texas is near the bottom among the states in the quality of nursing home care, according to a study released by AARP. This is a terribly sad situation for the elderly, the disabled, and their families.

Details were in an article recently in the Dallas Morning News. Here are excerpts:

Although the report gave Texas an overall ranking of 30th in long-term services and support systems for those in need, the state was 49th in the quality of care in nursing homes.

That low ranking stemmed in large part from high staff turnover and the unusually large number of nursing home residents who receive antipsychotic medications.

In 2010, the most recent year for which employment numbers are available, Texas nursing homes had a staff turnover rate of 72 percent. The national turnover rate for nursing homes was 38 percent.

The study also showed that nearly 28 percent of Texas residents were administered antipsychotic drugs last year. Texas also was found to have a high percentage of nursing home residents who had pressure sores.

“When families make the difficult decision to place a loved one in a nursing home, they do it with every expectation that they will be well cared for and safe,” said Bob Jackson, AARP Texas director. “What this scorecard tells us is that for some Texas nursing homes, quality of care and safety are issues. This is unacceptable for a proud state like Texas — not to mention dangerous.”

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Challenging Your Brain Keeps It Sharp As You Age

Seniors, want to keep your brain as “young” as possible? Challenge it with new tasks as you age.

That was the conclusion reached by a new study that was detailed in an article in the Dallas Morning News. I encourage you to read the article. Here is a brief excerpt:

As people age, the frontal areas of the brain — those associated with learning, reason and memory — shrink. White matter, the tissue that connects different regions of the brain and helps them communicate, grows more porous. The brain compensates by working harder, much like one’s heart when one is out of shape.

Those physical changes in the brain lead to declines such as memory lapses, difficulty learning new things and trouble shifting focus from one task to another.

Many studies have shown that people who stay intellectually engaged throughout life are more likely to maintain their mental acuity. But it’s been unclear which condition causes the other: Is it that the intellectual activity causes people to maintain a healthy mind, or is it that the healthiest people are the ones who stay intellectually engaged?

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Thinking of the Senior Years

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 A time comes in everyone’s life when they start giving serious thought to their senior years, and especially to their life after retirement. The key to ensuring a stress-free retirement is to plan for it adequately.

Planning for retirement

There are various ways of ensuring that you plan for your retirement properly. First and foremost, it is important to start saving and to do so continuously while sticking to your goals. When setting the goals, they should be realistic and should require you to be honest about the life you wish to live during retirement as well as how much it will cost. Based on this, you then calculate the amount of savings to be made on a regular basis to supplement Social Security as well as other sources of projected retirement income. You can never start saving too early or too late, nor can you save too little or too much. You can save through your employer’s retirement or pension plan. The advantage of such plans is that the employer also contributes and there are also some tax benefits that accrue to you as a saver.

Beyond this, you should also look into other investments that you can make. For example, you can invest in the stock market, real estate, or in mutual funds which tend to diversify the investments made. You should also consider opening an Individual Retirement Account (IRA), which provides an easy way to save and has some beneficial tax advantages.

Planning for a retirement accommodation

One other important consideration to make when planning for retirement is whether to opt for in-home care or assisted living after you retire. You will soon discover that assisted living, such as that found in senior communities, ends up being cheaper and more convenient in the long run than in-home care. This is because many recurring services and costs, such as meals, housekeeping, utilities, health aide visits, personal care, home maintenance, security services, entertainment, etc., are included in the package. However, many of these are an additional cost in the in-home care option. Thus, when planning for retirement, you should opt for a retirement residence that will make economic sense over the long term.

When old age sets in, there are usually various challenges to face, including health issues, home maintenance, meals preparation, need for general assistance, and need for medication, among others. Services provided at a senior living residence include access to medical facilities, housekeeping services, security services, memory care, assistance with eating, toileting, walking, etc., and exercise programs, among others. These services can be very beneficial to the senior’s health since he/she is getting appropriate care. Furthermore, such residences provide a community experience to seniors and a chance for companionship, thus helping keep loneliness at bay, and giving them a chance to enjoy their sunset years, all of which has a beneficial effect on their overall health.

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Firms Specialize in Helping Older Adults Into New Homes

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Moving is hard enough when you’re young. For senior citizens it’s even more troublesome. Older people frequently have more “stuff” to move, and usually are moving to a smaller place — whether a downsized house or an assisted living facility.

Fortunately, there are companies that specialize in moving seniors. They take care of many details, in addition to the actual physical moving of furniture and boxes.

These services were detailed in an excellent article in the Dallas Morning News. Here are the opening paragraphs:

Most of us hate moving. The hassles of organizing, packing and finally schlepping the entire haul to a new place is a pain.

For seniors, the experience can be not only a major life disruption but an emotionally painful one as they leave a home where they’ve raised children and created cherished memories, many of which are tied up in their belongings.

Seniors and their families can get help by hiring a senior move manager who specializes in helping older adults and their families downsize and move to a new residence.

Traditional “movers move things and senior move managers move people,” said Jennifer Pickett, associate executive director of the National Association of Senior Move Managers.

“A mover that comes in, they do one thing: They estimate, they pack, they load, they unpack. A senior move manager helps them downsize, helps them go through the process of parting with their possessions without parting with their memories,” she said.

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Obtaining Proof of Disability: Understanding and Overcoming All the Challenges

Obtaining Proof of Disability Understanding and Overcoming all the Challenges Involved

According to the Social Security Administration’s Annual Statistical Report on the Social Security Disability Insurance, the average for denied claims is statistically around 53 percent. They also indicate that statistics from 2000 to 2009 show an average of 45 percent of disability claims being awarded. That puts it at about 50/50 when it comes to a federal disability claim receiving benefits or being denied. The number one issue with claims is not so much what is being claimed as a disability, as it is obtaining proper proof of that disability. In a criminal court, the government has to prove guilt. In a disability claim, the obligation is on the applicant to prove disability. Read on to learn about some of the challenges that come with proving disability, and how to overcome them for a successful Social Security Disability claim.

Get Medical Documentation the Moment a Potential Disability Begins

One problem with proving a disability is that these issues don’t always happen in an instant or overnight. Complications from diabetes is one example—it could take time for this disability to really take effect, which will make it harder to prove. From the moment a diagnosis is received, meticulous record keeping should begin. Complications from conditions such as diabetes may take years to develop and time to progress to a point of disability. Thorough medical documentation, including pertinent testing, is necessary to prove a claim. There are doctors hired by the Social Security Administration to examine an applicant for disability benefits, but you want to receive proper documentation from your personal doctor. You can avoid the need to see one of these doctors by providing abundant and up-to-date medical documentation of the condition.

Get Legal Representation, and Keep After Them

There are more than enough law firms out there that advertise heavily to represent people who are filing a Social Security Disability claim. Most will not charge any fees unless an award of disability benefits is received. However, not all of these firms are equal in the quality or quantity of the services they provide when it comes to disability claims. Applicants have been shocked after the fact to discover that the disability lawyers appointed by the firms to represent them actually know very little about them or their claims on the day of the hearing.

Legal assistants in these general firms do much of the paper pushing to gather documentation, and the actual lawyers often spend very little time with the disability applicants. This unfamiliarity can result in denial due to a lack of necessary evidence to prove the disability. A year can go by before a scheduled hearing occurs, which is why it is important for the applicant to go over all documentation received by the law firm and compare it to medical files to make sure everything matches up and all avenues have been explored. By choosing a legal professional who specializes in Social Security and disability claims, you have a better chance of approval than if you go with a general law firm who might be unfamiliar with cases like yours.

Get Copies of Medical Records

Make it a habit to ask for copies of all medical records, especially test results, diagnoses, and imaging results and films. Medical conditions that may result in a valid disability claim often take years to develop. Some are instantaneous due to accidents or other causes, but many are not. Doctor’s offices only keep old patient records for a set period of time before they go into archive storage. Old records can also be lost due to catastrophic events such as fire or flood. Get a copy of everything and keep it in a safe place, or get access to digital records when possible. Patients have a right to copies of their medical records even if medical bills haven’t been paid in full—but you may have to pay for copies of your records in some cases.

Be Prepared to Offer Facts and Show Proof

Typically, your legal representation will present your case and do most of the talking, but they might not recall every test or medical diagnosis that validates the applicant’s disability claim. It is okay to ask for a moment to speak to the lawyer during a disability hearing to get clarification and point to physical proof that can be used to bolster the claim. Don’t rely on your lawyer to know absolutely everything about your medical condition—make sure you are fully aware of the condition so that you are ready to answer any questions that your lawyer or a judge might have for you. This might require you to ask your doctor a lot of detailed questions during your visits, and of course, you need the medical documents to back up your claims.

In the end, it is usually the documented medical proof that holds the most weight in a case and will win the claim. It is no secret that government agencies thrive on documentation. The more a disability applicant has in his or her favor, the better the chances they will have of being awarded a Social Security Disability claim. A proven medical history of a disabling condition that is acceptable to the Social Security Administration goes a long way toward being awarded the disability claim, so when challenges in your case arise, documentation is your best bet for obtaining proper proof. The information for this article was provided by the Littlejohn Barristers legal corporation in Barrie, ON.

This article is from Ms. Dixie Somers, a freelance writer who loves writing for business, finance, women’s interests, and technology. Dixie lives in Arizona with her husband and three beautiful daughters.

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Dialysis Drug Recalled in Wake of Patient Death

The Tennessean reports that the US Food and Drug Administration issued a notice that a “Fresenius solution used in hemodialysis machines has been recalled because of concerns over bacteria contamination following a patient death.” According to the agency, it has received “one report of death and two reports of injury” that may have resulted from the use of Fresenius NaturaLyte Liquid Bicarbonarte Concentrate. Lab testing “identified Halmonas, a bacteria typically found in water with high salt concentration, in the product during its shelf life, the FDA said.” The article notes that “twenty-six dialysis centers in Tennessee” were among those that received the product.

From the new release of the American Association for Justice.

 

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Long-Term Care Crisis Prompts More Aggressive Collection Tactics

Insurance Industry Expert Shares Tips for Protecting
Your Family from “Filial” Support Laws

Most people do not understand filial support laws, which are spreading to more states – 28 and counting, says insurance industry expert Chris Orestis.

“We’re living longer, but for many of us, that also means we’ll require some type of  long-term health care at some point,” says Orestis, a longtime industry insider and author of “Help on the Way,” (http://ebook.lifecarefunding.com/), which explains the problem of funding long-term care and offers solutions.

“It’s a problem no matter what your age because we’re experiencing a “Silver Tsunami” of retiring baby boomers and the costs of long-term care can be extremely high. Medicaid is the only option for many seniors, and that’s straining the funding for that safety net. Many people are not eligible for Medicaid, but also cannot afford the expense of care.”

As a result, long-term care providers and the federal government are bringing lawsuits and mandating claw-back actions against families, insurance companies and legal advisors, he says. Many are turning to filial support laws, which impose a duty upon adult children for the support of their impoverished parents. Medicaid also has the right to sue families in probate court to “claw-back” funds spent on care.

Just one recent example involved John Pittas, a 47-year-old restaurant owner who was sued by a nursing home company for $93,000 in expenses incurred by his mother over a six-month period after she was denied Medicaid eligibility.

“The court finding even granted discretion to the nursing home company to seek payment from any family members it wished to pursue,” says Orestis.

To avoid a financial catastrophe, he says families should consider these options:

•  Know your and your family’s health-care rights as a veteran. Veterans who have honorably served their country should take advantage of their VA benefits – not only for their well-being, but also for their family’s health. Additional programs that may apply to family members include the VA Civilian Health and Medical Program (CHAMPVA), a comprehensive health-care program in which the VA shares the cost of covered services and supplies for eligible beneficiaries; the spina bifida health-care benefits program for certain Korea and Vietnam veterans’ birth children; and TRICARE, another health-care program serving uniformed service members, retirees and their families.

•  You can convert your life insurance policy for long-term care. There is $27.2 trillion worth of in-force life insurance policies in the United States, according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners – that’s triple the amount of home equity today! Rather than cancel or drop a policy to save on premiums when faced with long-term care needs, you can use it to pay for home care, assisted-living or nursing home expenses. “I’ve been lobbying state Legislatures to make the public aware of their legal right to use this option,” says Orestis, CEO of Life Care Funding, (www.lifecarefunding.com). Seniors can sell their policy for 30 to 60 percent of its death benefit value and put the money into an irrevocable, tax-free fund designated specifically for their care.

•  Don’t be so quick to attempt to qualify for Medicaid. Many people who need significant long-term health care can’t afford it, so they drop life insurance policies that they’ve been carrying for years in order to qualify for Medicaid. Families often turn to Medicaid to pay for nursing home care, but it comes with many restrictions, including choice of facilities. In a situation where one spouse is healthy and the other is not, the spouse living independently will also face restrictions on the amount of assets he or she can retain, for instance, a maximum $2,898.00 for monthly maintenance.

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About Chris Orestis

Chris Orestis, nationally known senior health-care advocate, expert, and author is CEO of Life Care Funding, (www.lifecarefunding.com), which created the model for converting life insurance policies into protected Long-Term Care Benefit funds. His company has been providing care benefits to policy holders since 2007. A former life insurance industry lobbyist with a background in long-term care issues, he created the model to provide an option for middle-class people who are not wealthy enough to pay for long-term care, and not poor enough to qualify for Medicaid.

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