- Reducing SSDI retroactive payments to six months rather than 12 months before the protected filing date. This will take an estimated $9.9 billion over the next ten years from disabled workers.
- Reinstating the reconsideration step in the disability process in ten “prototype” states. This is expected to result in more claimants being denied, dying, or becoming discouraged with the wait time and quitting the appeal process.
- Creating an “expert panel” to recommend program changes to SSI and SSDI, with the goal of a 5% reduction in benefits by 2027. The budget proposal suggests requiring claimants to receive specific medical treatments, prove they looked for work, or limiting the amount of time they can receive disability benefits. These are possible changes.
- Reducing SSDI benefits when an individual attempts to work, is laid off, and then receives unemployment benefits. This kind of change keeps those with disabilities from trying to work.
- Changing workers’ compensation laws to save the DI trust funds money at the expense of state workers’ compensation programs.
- Establishing a one-year probationary period for new ALJs, which could interfere with their decisional independence.
- Limiting SSI payments for individuals living with other SSI recipients. This would interfere with families’ choices about living arrangements, add complexity to the SSI program (increasing overpayments), and increase poverty.
- Excluding Social Security overpayments from discharge in bankruptcy proceedings, and increasing the minimum withholding to repay overpayments from $10 a month to 10% of benefits - which makes significant impact upon a disabled person's ability to pay their monthly living expenses.
Trump's 2018 has been released and it includes significant cuts to Social Security Disability benefits. According to the National Organization for Social Security Claimant's Representatives, the cuts amount to $72 billion over the next ten years. The proposed cuts would mean that working people who have become disabled would have $72 billion less to use for basic needs like food and shelter, even though they paid for those benefits when they worked and paid taxes. The cuts include:
With #Trumpcare passing the House, millions of people are in jeopardy of losing their medical care for serious medical conditions. The Republican plan to eliminate the Affordable Care Act proposes to eliminate the provision that protects those with pre-existing conditions. #Trumpcare allows insurers to charge people with pre-existing conditions more for health insurance - this is banned under the ACA or Obamacare. This would allow insurers to hike up premiums to unaffordable amounts. AARP recently reported that premiums for those with pre-existing conditions or those who are "high-risk" could reach as high as $25,700 per year. Many articles have posted a list of the pre-existing conditions that will not be covered. Here is a list of some of them:
AIDS/HIV, lupus, alcohol abuse/drug abuse with recent treatment, severe mental disorders such as bipolar disorder or an eating disorder, Alzheimer's/dementia, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia and other inflammatory joint disease, muscular dystrophy, cancer, severe obesity, cerebral palsy, organ transplant, congestive heart failure, paraplegia, coronary artery/heart disease, bypass surgery, paralysis, Crohn's disease/ulcerative colitis, Parkinson's disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease/emphysema, pending surgery or hospitalization, diabetes mellitus, pneumocystis pneumonia, epilepsy, pregnancy or expectant parent, hemophilia, sleep apnea, hepatitis C, stroke, kidney disease, renal failure, transsexualism.
What needs to be made clear is that although Republicans claim these conditions will still be covered, #Trumpcare essentially places those with pre-existing conditions in a position where they will be unable to afford coverage. While technically that isn't the same thing as not covering pre-existing conditions - pricing people with serious illness out of the insurance market gives them no coverage. This change affects millions of people in the United States. #Trumpcare now heads to the Senate and it remains to be seen what the Senate will do with the bill. As of today, thirteen Republican senators are writing a new version of the bill. That group doesn’t include a single woman, or any moderates. Once again, the most conservative, white, male Republican members of Congress will be deciding who deserves medical care and who does not. Unfortunately, it is exactly these people who the insurance companies have in their pockets.
Now that we have a new Supreme Court Justice, it is time to worry about his opinion regarding disabled children and their rights to a free and appropriate education under the IDEA. You may recall that during Gorsuch's congressional hearings, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned his decision in the Luke P. case, in which he held that a school district complies with the law to educate disabled children, so long as they provide educational benefits that “must merely be ‘more than de minimis.’” “De minimis” is a Latin phrase meaning “so minor as to merit disregard, ” and when this phrase is used in the law it mean the lowest possible standard. In his decision, Gorsuch essentially concluded that school districts comply with their obligation to educate disabled students so long as they give disabled students little more than nothing. Thank goodness the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously rejected Gorsuch’s approach. Chief Justice Roberts wrote that the standard for educating children with disabilities under the IDEA “is markedly more demanding than the de minimis test applied by the Tenth Circuit.” Roberts also stated that Gorsuch’s approach would effectively strip disabled students of an appropriate education. The IDEA was designed to help educators teach disabled students on an individual basis and help them learn the skills they need to become contributing members to society. It remains to be seen whether or not Grosuch will respect the disabled community in his future decisions.
Trump promised he was going to “save Social Security without any cuts” during his campaign and he, and the Republican party, are looking at a proposal that might sound good, but is potentially devastating for the program.
The Social Security program, which the majority of Americans rely on for retirement and disability benefits, is currently funded by a 12.4 percent payroll tax that is shared between the employer and employee. Trump wants to eliminate the 12.4 percent payroll tax and replace it with a new tax which is similar to a Value Added Tax. The tax money raised by the new tax would be used to fund the Social Security program. The Republicans and Trump will present it as if it is a tax cut - where a worker earning $60,000 a year would take home an additional $3,720 in pay. While that may sound good to the average worker, this kind of tax impacts lower income workers more than higher income workers. Why? Because income earned in excess of $127,200 is not taxed for Social Security benefits. Since middle and lower-income workers use a greater share of their paycheck for daily expenses, they will bear the burden of the the “new” tax.
There is, however, another serious problem with Trump’s proposal. Because the money used to fund the Social Security program will no longer be coming from a worker’s paycheck, it can be argued that the worker is no longer entitled to benefits. In essence, because you are not paying for it, it is not yours. This kind of proposal, if accepted and promoted by Trump, will destroy the Social Security program, which over half of American over age 65 rely on almost exclusively for retirement. The Republicans have longed to eliminate or change the Social Security program and Trump appears to be their ticket to do so. If accepted, this proposal will be carried on the backs of the average working American and negatively affect our future. Further information about Social Security disability benefits and retirement can be found at www.cannondisability.blogspot.com.
Under Social Security's new mental health listings, the listing for intellectual disability has changed. In order for an individual to be found disabled under an intellectual disability they must have significantly subaverage general intellectual functioning evidenced by a full scale (or comparable) IQ score of 71-75 accompanied by a verbal or performance IQ score (or comparable part score) of 70 or below. Additionally, an individual may meet the new listing by having a full scale IQ score of 70 or below on a standardized test of general intelligence. There is a significant difference between the new listing and the old listing. The old listing was not as clear that disability could still be found with IQ scores above 70. Additionally, it is easier to determine that an individual has an intellectual disability now that an IQ of 70 is a clear defining line in the regulations.
It is important to understand that intellectual disability must be documented by psychological testing and that the individual may also need to show significant deficits in adaptive functioning in the ability to concentrate, persist, or maintain pace, interact with others, understand, remember or apply information, or the evidence about intellectual and adaptive functioning supports the conclusion that the disorder began prior to the attaining age 22. Hopefully, the changes in the regulations will encourage Judges to apply the rules in a fair manner to all people with intellectual disabilities.
Anxiety and Depression are often said to be two sides of the same coin. Some people who have severe depression have severe depressive symptoms, such as crying spells, sadness, loss of interest in activities or hobbies, wanting to stay away from friends and family members, and thoughts of suicide. Anxiety can also be manifestation of Depression. Anxiety presents symptoms such as racing thoughts, inability to sleep, irritability, lack of focus, confusion, and panic attacks. An individual can have one or all of these symptoms and be diagnosed with a Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Depression, or even Bipolar Disorder. Bipolar Disorder includes high and low symptoms. Sometimes the individual may be very depressed and unable to leave the house and other times they may be manic, buying things they can't afford or staying up all night cleaning.
How can we help you if you have symptoms of either Anxiety and/or Depression? One of the main things that we can do if you have severe mental health impairments that prevent your from working is we can help you apply for disability benefits. Many people think that applying for disability benefits means that you can never return to work again. However, oftentimes, people who receive the proper treatment and medications are able to return to the workforce after a period of time. Even if you plan on receiving treatment for your mental health issues and then returning to work, we can help you apply for the benefits that are rightfully yours during a period of disability. As long as you have been off work for 12 months due to your disabling mental health impairments, you are entitled to be paid benefits during that time period.
If you start your application for benefits with us, we can submit the information that is needed in your case upfront, so that you can be awarded benefits, even if you are able to return to work at a later date. Please give us a call and let us help you with your application. We are available to answer your questions about Social Security Disability, Supplemental Security Income benefits, and Depression and Anxiety. Give Cannon Disability Law a chance to put our experience to work for you.
Recently, the Social Security Administration ("SSA") changed the definition of Depression as a disability that qualifies an individual for disability benefits. Millions of people suffer from Depression, yet they still manage to go to work and function in their activities of daily living. Many people are diagnosed with Depression or even Bipolar Disorder, yet their symptoms are controlled with medication and they are able to work. When depressive symptoms become so severe that an individual cannot work or function in daily life, then they have a disability that qualifies for Social Security Disability or Supplemental Security Income benefits.
The SSA divides the symptoms of Depression into three categories in order to analyze the severity of an individual's symptoms. First, after a diagnosis of Depression or Bipolar Disorder, the SSA looks at your medical records to determine if you have five or more the symptoms listed below.
12.04 Depressive, bipolar and related disorders (see 12.00B3), satisfied by A and B, or A and C:
The Part B criteria or the severity of your symptoms should be supported by treatment records from a psychologist or psychiatrist. This is also true of documenting the Part C criteria for a Judge at the hearing level of your case or for Disability Determination Services at the appeal levels of your case. If you are only being treated with medication, it is very important that you seek out the help of a counselor with proper credentials to support your disability claim. The SSA considers a psychologist and psychiatrist to be the best sources of evidence about Depression. However, they also consider medical evidence provided by Nurse Practitioners, counselors, and therapists. Most importantly, having an ongoing relationship with your doctor, nurse, and/or therapist will help you win your case. A Psychological Evaluation is not given as much weight by the Judge as evidence from a treating source who sees you on a weekly or monthly basis over an extended period of time. If you do not have insurance or money to see a treating source, we have provided a list of free and low-cost services on our website. Remember, without medical evidence, you will not be able to win your claim for disability benefits. If you have any questions about whether your Depression qualifies you for disability benefits, do not hesitate to contact us. The best thing you can do to help yourself throughout the disability process, and to help your mental health, is to obtain ongoing mental health treatment for your Depression.
A number of years ago, before the baby boomers started aging, the SSA decided to eliminate "obesity" as a disability. In order for a disease or impairment to be a disability, according to the SSA, it has to be "on the list" or one of SSA's "listed impairments." In the past, for example, if you were morbidly obese and had a severe knee impairment, you could be found disabled under the obesity listing. Since obesity is no longer on the list, the SSA will consider your morbid obesity and how it effects you, but it can no longer be found to be a disability in and of itself.
The SSA has done the same thing with Diabetes Mellitus. Almost six years ago, on April 8, 2011, the SSA published final rules in the Federal Register removing the listing for evaluating Diabetes in adults and in children from the Listing of Impairments. The reason the SSA eliminated Diabetes as a listed disability, in their words, is because the diabetes listing "no longer accurately identified people who are disabled." To put this in context, in order to be found disabled under the old diabetes listing, an individual had to have more than just being diagnosed with the disease. They also had to have severe enough diabetes that they needed an amputation - like an amputation of the leg below the knee. For the SSA to claim that diabetes this severe was not a disability is simply ridiculous. In reality, the SSA feared that aging baby boomers would have diabetes and would apply for disability benefits. By eliminating obesity and diabetes as official listed "disabilities," it has been easier for them to deny millions of disability claims over the last six years.
To be fair, in 2014, the SSA published Social Security Ruling 14-2p, which gave guidance to SSA employees and judges on how to evaluate diabetes in children and adults. The Ruling discusses the two types of diabetes, Type 1 (typically found in children) and Type 2 (adult-onset - which is often coupled with obesity and/or brought on by genetics). Now, in order to be found disabled due to diabetes, the disease must be evaluated under other body systems that can be impaired by the disease. For example, if a person has undergone an amputation due to diabetes, the SSA will look to listing 1.00, instead of the listing for diabetes. The SSR lists the following body systems that can be effected by diabetes and points the adjudicator to other listings for an evaluation as follows:
In order to be prepared for your ALJ Hearing, you need to think about the answers to some basic questions before you arrive. The hearing is being held to determine not only if you have a disability, but more importantly, to find out how your disability would prevent you from performing a job. The ALJ cannot figure out how severe your physical or mental impairments are unless you tell him or her. So, be ready to tell the Judge how long you are able to do things and how your impairment stop you from doing every day activities.
Chances are good that you will be asked basic questions, like your name, age, marital status, and if you have any children under the age of 18. You will also be asked to describe your physical and mental impairments. For example, if you have a back impairment, you will need to be able to describe in words where you back hurts and how it feels. You will not be able to stand up and show the Judge where it hurts. The Judge is not a doctor and is not qualified to perform a physical examination.
You will also be asked how many pounds you can lift, how long you can sit at one time, stand at one time, and if you need to lie down during the day. These questions are crucial to understanding whether or not your disability allows you to work. If you cannot sit for 8 hours, you cannot perform a desk job. If you cannot stand for six hours at at time, you cannot perform a light job, like cashiering. If you cannot lift more than 50 pounds, you cannot be a construction worker. Be ready to answer questions with numbers. For example, if the Judge asks you how much you can lift with your back pain, you should answer 10 pounds or less and then give an example of what you can lift around your house or at the store. You should never respond to the question of what you can lift with this answer: "not very much." When you give vague answers it doesn't help your case and it doesn't help the Judge understand how your disability effects you. No one knows what "not very much" means. The best thing you can do for your case is be ready to answer the Judge's questions with specific answers.
Most claimants who are seeking disability benefits are not aware they can be investigated by the Social Security Administration. Most investigations are instigated by workers at the local claim's office. Here is what you need to know.
Typically, when the SSA decides to start a #CDI investigation, they will start by following you at your #Consultative #Examination. So, if you are scheduled for a Psychological Evaluation or a Physical Evaluation with a physician, they will either be parked outside the doctor's office in a car or sometimes, they will be in the doctor's waiting room. The investigator may initiate a conversation with you. They will listen to you if you are talking on your phone to someone. They will watch how you act and what you do. They will watch to see if someone drops you off at the appointment or picks you up. And they will write it all down. They may also follow you home or to a gas station or a store. Wherever you go after your doctor's appointment, they may be following you.
Here is the second thing you need to know. They will come to your house.
They will typically pose as detectives. Who knows, maybe they are detectives? You could ask for their identification. They will usually say they are investigating the theft of your identity, or pretend they are investigating an internet scheme, or they will make up some other lie in order to get you to invite them into your house. Most of the time, they say they think someone is trying to steal your identity. Sometimes, they look up complaints you may have filed with the police. For example, let's say you had your laptop stolen within the last year. They will come to your house and say they are there to ask questions about your stolen laptop. This information gives them even more credibility, but they are still lying. The #CDI unit calls it an "investigative technique," but the rest of the world calls it a lie. They are telling you a lie to get you to trust them.
Please remember, just because two people show up at your front door claiming to be detectives with information about identity theft or information about your old laptop - you do NOT need to let them in. You do NOT need to answer their questions. You do NOT need to talk to them at all. In fact, it would be best for you if you refused to speak with them. Why? Because they are writing a report about you even though they do not have any medical training to assess your disability. The investigators are not medical doctors, they have no training in mental or physical medicine, yet they are writing a report about whether or not you "appear" disabled. Does this sound fair or ethical to you?
If you are not at home, they may also ask your neighbors about you, or your roommate, or other members of your family. Explain to your family or roommate that you do not want them to talk to strangers about you, even if those strangers are claiming to be investigating something on your behalf. There are serious constitutional issues with regard to the SSA collecting information about claimants and using it against them in this fashion. Beyond those issues, it is wrong to have people with no medical background making medical assumptions about disabled claimants. Watch out for these investigators. They are not on your side. You have been warned. For further information and articles about Social Security Disability visit cannondisability.blogspot.com
DIANNA CANNON, J.D.