Friday, March 27, 2015

VA IU and Social Security Disability

What is the difference between VA IU and Social Security Disability?  Many veterans ask this question and I will try and give a basic explanation.  The main difference is that Social Security will look at all your medical conditions to determine if you are unable to work.  With veteran's IU the VA will only look at your service connected disabilities to determine if you are disabled.  You can get a better understanding of how each agency determines disability by reading my web pages on Social Security's 5 steps to determine disability and how the VA determines if you are unable to work under VA IU.  What most veterans need to know is that if you have been found disabled for VA IU there is a real good chance you will be able to get SSDI.  Also if you are getting SSDI mainly due to your service connected disabilities, there is also a good chance you can get VA IU as well.  This is a very simple explanation of the difference between these two programs and the website links above should help explain further.  If you are unable to work because you are disabled and you are not sure what you may qualify for then one of the best things you can do is speak to an attorney to see if you may qualify for IU and SSDI or both.  If you would like to ask me feel free to call me at 1-877-527-5529.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Social Security Medical Listing of Impairments

The medical listing of impairments comes into play at the third step of Social Security's 5 step process for determining disability.  If your medical condition meets or equals a listing you will be found disabled.  If you do not meet or equal a listed impairment then you would move on to next step of the process.  To meet or equal a listed impairment it takes a doctor saying you do and explaining why it is your condition meets all the requirements for the listing, or at least why your condition equals the severity of the listing.  If there is a medical expert at your ssdi hearing, one of the first questions usually asked of the expert is if the claimant meets or equals a listed impairment.  You should read the medical listing of impairments as it applies to your medical condition and if you think you meet the listing you can take a copy to your doctor and ask them if they think you meet the listing.  If they think you do ask them to write you a report saying this and it should include why and be backed up with all evidence that supports this conclusion.  If you do not meet or equal a listing it is not the end of the world since you simply move on to next step in the process.  The majority of social security disability cases that win are not based on meeting or equaling a medical listing since these listings were made very hard to meet by design.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Veterans Disability Claims and The Long Wait Times

Most Veteran Disability claims take an extremely long time before they are resolved.  There are many reasons for this.  The Veterans Administration is underfunded, under staffed and has a huge case load.  This can be very frustrating for veterans trying to get their VA disability benefits.  Changes are being made at the VA that I think will start to help with this but I do not expect it to ever be a quick process.  It is important to know this so you can try not to become too frustrated with the process.  VA lawyers, veterans, Congressman and VA employees all wish the process was faster.  One thing the VA is doing to help with this problem is they are trying to get all VA files and claims into electronic format.  This will probably take a while longer before this is a reality but it is a step in the right direction.  Electronic records have helped make an improvement in the Social Security Disability wait times and I would expect it would help the VA disability wait times as well.  The VA has also received more funding to help with staffing issues.  So as frustrating as it can be hopefully things will slowly get better.  If nothing else I hope this article will help you understand you are not alone in your frustrations with the long wait times in Veterans disability claims.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Veterans and Social Security Disability

In November, the Nation celebrated Veterans Day, honoring all those who served in the military. Social Security doesn’t just honor these dedicated men and women on one day of the year—we have made it our daily mission to help service members who have defended our country.

Through the Wounded Warrior program, Social Security expedites processing of disability applications of current military service members or veterans disabled while on active duty on or after October 1, 2001. Also, service members and veterans who have a Department of Veterans Affairs compensation rating of 100% Permanent and Total (P&T) may receive expedited processing of applications for Social Security disability benefits. Keep in mind this expedited process applies only to the application for benefits. To be eligible for benefits, you must meet Social Security’s strict definition of “disability,” which means:

Applicants must be unable to do substantial work because of medical condition(s); and
Applicant’s medical condition(s) must have lasted, or be expected to last, at least one year or to result in death.
Tell any veterans with disabilities you know that they can apply online at www.socialsecurity.gov/applyfordisability or by calling our toll-free number, 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778).

ou can find more information for veterans at www.socialsecurity.gov/people/veterans.

Monday, December 01, 2014

VA Expands Eligibility for VA Health Care Related to Military Sexual Trauma

VA Expands Eligibility for VA Health Care Related to Military Sexual Trauma
Expansion closes a gap in health care eligibility
Washington, DC – The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), under authority from the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2014 (“VACAA”),  today announced expanded eligibility for Veterans in need of mental health care due to sexual assault or sexual harassment that occurred during their military service. This trauma is commonly known as military sexual trauma (MST).
This expansion, which primarily pertains to Reservists and National Guard members participating in weekend drill, gives the authority to offer Veterans the appropriate care and services needed to treat conditions resulting from MST that occurred during a period of inactive duty training.  
“VA simply must be an organization that provides comprehensive care for all Veterans dealing with the effects of military sexual trauma,” said VA Secretary Robert A. McDonald.  “Our range of services for MST-related experiences are constantly being reexamined to best meet the needs of our Veterans.”
Secretary McDonald met last week with Ruth Moore, a Navy Veteran and MST survivor for whom the Ruth Moore Act of 2013 is named. Ms. Moore will be working with VA to ensure that survivors are treated fairly and compassionately, and that Veterans with MST can access fair compensation exams and access health care practitioners who are trained in understanding and working with MST issues.
VA works closely with trauma survivors to ensure a full continuum of health care services are provided to assist Veterans recovering from experiences of MST. Recognizing that MST survivors may have special needs and concerns, every VA health care facility has an MST Coordinator who serves as a contact person for MST-related issues. Every VA medical center and Community-based Vet Center offers MST-related outpatient counseling.
Currently, all VA health care for mental and physical health conditions related to MST is provided free of charge. Veterans do not need to have a service-connected disability or seeking disability compensation to be eligible for MST-related counseling and care. Veterans also do not need to have reported such incidents to the Department of Defense or possess documentation or records to support their assertion of having experienced such trauma. The determination of whether a Veteran’s condition is MST-related is strictly a clinical determination made by the responsible VA mental health provider. Finally, Veterans need not be enrolled in VA’s health care system to qualify for MST-related treatment, as it is independent of VA’s general treatment authority.
In addition to treatment programs, VA also provides training to staff on issues related to MST, including a mandatory training on MST for all mental health and primary care providers. VA also engages in a range of outreach activities to Veterans and conducts monitoring of MST-related screening and treatment, in order to ensure that adequate services are available.
Veterans can learn more about VA’s MST-related services online at www.mentalhealth.va.gov/msthome.asp and see video clips with the recovery stories of Veterans who have experienced MST at http://maketheconnection.net/conditions/military-sexual-trauma.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Agency Resumes Mailing Social Security Statements


Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, today announced the agency will resume the periodic mailing of Social Security Statements—once every five years for most workers-- while encouraging everyone to create a secure my Social Security account to immediately access their Statement online, anytime. The Statement is a valuable financial planning tool providing workers age 18 and older with important individualized information regarding their earnings, tax contributions, and estimates for future retirement, disability, and survivors benefits.

“We have listened to our customers, advocates, and Congress; and renewing the mailing of the Statement reinforces our commitment to provide the public with an easy, efficient way to obtain an estimate of their future Social Security benefits,” Acting Commissioner Colvin said. “I encourage everyone to create their own secure my Social Security account to obtain immediate access to their Statement online, anytime.”

Beginning this month, workers attaining ages 25, 30, 35, 40, 45, 50, 55, and 60 who are not receiving Social Security benefits and who are not registered for a my Social Security account will receive the Statement in the mail about 3 months before their birthday.  After age 60, people will receive a Statement every year.  The agency expects to send nearly 48 million Statements each year.

The Social Security Statement helps people plan for their financial future.  In addition to providing future benefit estimates, the Statement highlights a person’s complete earnings history, allowing workers to verify the accuracy of their earnings. This is important because an individual’s future benefit amount is determined by the amount of their earnings over their lifetime.  To date, more than 14 million people have established a personalized my Social Security account at www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount.

With a my Social Security account, people may access the Statement from the comfort of their home, office or library whenever they choose. Individuals who currently receive benefits should sign up for a my Social Security account to manage their benefit payments and, when the need arises, get an instant benefit verification letter, change their address and phone number, and start or change direct deposit of their benefit payment.

Acting Commissioner Colvin reinforced that “whether conducting business with Social Security via the Internet, mail, telephone or face-to-face, we will continue to provide convenient, cost-effective, secure and quality customer service to meet the needs of the public we serve.”

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Social Security Board of Trustees: No Change in Projected Year of Trust Fund Reserve Depletion

The Social Security Board of Trustees today released its annual report on the long-term financial status of the Social Security Trust Funds. The combined asset reserves of the Old-Age and Survivors Insurance, and Disability Insurance (OASDI) Trust Funds are projected to become depleted in 2033, unchanged from last year, with 77 percent of benefits still payable at that time. The DI Trust Fund will become depleted in 2016, also unchanged from last year's estimate, with 81 percent of benefits still payable.

In the 2014 Annual Report to Congress, the Trustees announced:

The combined trust fund reserves are still growing and will continue to do so through 2019. Beginning with 2020, the cost of the program is projected to exceed income.
The projected point at which the combined trust fund reserves will become depleted, if Congress does not act before then, comes in 2033 – the same as projected last year. At that time, there will be sufficient income coming in to pay 77 percent of scheduled benefits.
The projected actuarial deficit over the 75-year long-range period is 2.88 percent of taxable payroll -- 0.16 percentage point larger than in last year's report.
"The projected depletion dates of the Social Security Trust Funds have not changed, and three-fourths of benefits would still be payable after depletion.  But the fact remains that Congress can ensure the long-term solvency of this vital program by taking action," said Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner of Social Security.  "The Disability Insurance Trust Fund's projected depletion year remains 2016, and legislative action is needed as soon as possible to address this financial imbalance."

Other highlights of the Trustees Report include:

Income including interest to the combined OASDI Trust Funds amounted to $855 billion in 2013. ($726 billion in net contributions, $21 billion from taxation of benefits, $103 billion in interest, and $5 billion in reimbursements from the General Fund of the Treasury—almost exclusively resulting from the 2012 payroll tax legislation)
Total expenditures from the combined OASDI Trust Funds amounted to $823 billion in 2013.
Non-interest income fell below program costs in 2010 for the first time since 1983. Program costs are projected to exceed non-interest income throughout the remainder of the 75-year period.
The asset reserves of the combined OASDI Trust Funds increased by $32 billion in 2013 to a total of $2.76 trillion.
During 2013, an estimated 163 million people had earnings covered by Social Security and paid payroll taxes.
Social Security paid benefits of $812 billion in calendar year 2013. There were about 58 million beneficiaries at the end of the calendar year.
The cost of $6.2 billion to administer the program in 2013 was a very low 0.7 percent of total expenditures.
The combined Trust Fund asset reserves earned interest at an effective annual rate of 3.8 percent in 2013.
The Board of Trustees is comprised of six members. Four serve by virtue of their positions with the federal government: Jacob J. Lew, Secretary of the Treasury and Managing Trustee; Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner of Social Security; Sylvia M. Burwell, Secretary of Health and Human Services; and Thomas E. Perez, Secretary of Labor. The two public trustees are Charles P. Blahous III and Robert D. Reischauer.

The 2014 Trustees Report will be posted at www.socialsecurity.gov/OACT/TR/2014/ on Monday.