The Social Security Disability system in the United States is very complicated. Whether you are a recently disabled father trying to provide for your family, a single mother who can no longer work because of an illness, or the parent of a child who needs extra help because of a challenging condition, obtaining benefits is not easy. The “system” involves a complex set of rules and requirements that make it very hard for the average person to successfully receive payments.

There is hope, however, and we appreciate you looking for help here. Our law firm provides unique benefits to clients just like you, which include:

  • A singular focus on representing the injured and disabled.
  • Having all important work performed by an experienced disability attorney.
  • A guarantee that you pay no fees unless you obtain social security disability benefits.
  • A proven track record of success in both routine and difficult cases.

Regardless of whether you are considering filing for benefits for the first time, or have been denied numerous times in the past, please call our office at (404) 255-9838. We will discuss your options free of charge, and help you make an informed decision about what to do next. We look forward to talking with you.

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The Social Security Administration proposed a rule change to its regulations in February 2023.  SSA proposes to remove food from the calculation of In-kind Support and Maintenance (ISM).  Supplemental Security Income (SSI) applicants and recipients would no longer need to provide information about their food expenses for consideration of ISM.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a safety net program for adults and children either blind or with disabilities and adults age 65 or older.  Recipients must meet resource and income eligibility requirements. For an individual, the limit for eligibility is $2000; for a couple, $3000.  A home that you reside in and one car are exempt from calculation.  Resources are cash or other liquid assets or any property that can be converted to cash.  Income is anything the recipient receives in cash or in-kind support that can be used to meet food or shelter needs.  Resources affect SSI eligibility.  Income can affect both eligibility and payment amounts.

Once a claimant is eligible for SSI, the person’s monthly payment is determined by subtracting countable income from the Federal Benefit Rate (FBR) which is the monthly maximum SSI payment.  In 2023 the FBR is $914 for an individual and $1371 for an eligible individual with an eligible spouse.

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Last year Wellstar Health System closed its 450 bed Atlanta Medical Center, one of only two Level 1 trauma centers in metro Atlanta.  A Level 1 Trauma Center provides the highest of trauma care to critically ill or injured patients and can provide complete care for every aspect of an injury through to rehabilitation.  Wellstar also announced the closing of Atlanta Medical Center South in East Point.  AMC was considered a vital health care provider for many low-income residents.  Wellstar blamed the closure on decreasing revenue and inflated costs.

Wellstar claimed to have invested $350 million since 2016, yet cited losses of $107 million in a 12 month period.  Still, Wellstar had $5.7 billion in assets and announced construction plans to expand Kennestone Hospital in Marietta, Georgia.   Wellstar subsequently entered into negotiations with Augusta University Hospital System to purchase two hospitals there.

Last week Georgia Democratic lawmakers, Fulton County officials and the Atlanta NAACP filed complaints with the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Justice and the IRS alleging violations of its tax-exempt status and civil rights violations for closing a hospital in communities of color.  Wellstar receives a significant amount of income from federally funded Medicare and Medicaid programs.  Both complaints concern Wellstar’s funding and status as a non-profit hospital that receives federal funds.

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Mass incarceration takes its toll on the health of inmates and former inmates.  At any one time in this country more than 6.9 million people are on probation, in jail, in prison or on parole.  Each year more than 600,000 individuals are released from state and federal prisons.  Roughly 1 in 28 children has a parent behind bars.

Recently, Supreme Court Justice Michael Boggs reported on the state of the Judiciary .  Currently state-wide in Georgia one in 33 adults is behind bars.  Since 1980 in Georgia the number of people going to jail has tripled, and the length of the sentence has increased by 160%.  Twenty five percent of these inmates enter with mental health issues.    Mental health inmates tend to stay 4-8 times longer in jail and at seven times the cost.  They are 10 times more likely to be incarcerated than hospitalized and 19 times more likely to find a bed in the criminal justice system than in a state hospital.

The intersection of mental health and law enforcement creates a situation where more mental health care occurs in jails and prisons than in state-wide treatment facilities, taxing the law enforcement community and underserving those with mental health impairments as their primary condition.

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In 2021, The American Rescue Plan (ARP) implemented a One Year Child Tax Credit Expansion.   The ARP increased the credit from $2000 per child and it raised the age limit from 16 to 17 years.  The plan provided a credit for all working families earning up to $150,000 per couple or a single parent family earning $112,500.

President Joe Biden’s proposed budget for fiscal 2024 includes a reinstatement of the expanded child tax credit.  The Republicans and Senator Joe Manchin blocked the expansion of the child tax credit at the end of 2021.  The current child tax credit provides for $2000 per child.

The Brookings Institute  reported that the 2021 expanded child tax credit cut poverty in half across southern states.  The report noted that states with low cost of living and a high poverty rate had the most significant reduction in child poverty.  The tax credit had the most impact in states with large shares of historically vulnerable demographics, such as single mothers, rural families and Black communities.  The U.S. had a record low child poverty rate in 2021 down to 5.2% of the population, down 46% from the prior year.

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Medicaid is the federal government health insurance program for people in poverty.  Before the Affordable Care Act (ACA) individuals qualified for this program if they lived at about 64% of the federal poverty level.  In 2023 the federal poverty level is $13,590 for an individual.  The ACA allowed states to expand eligibility for Medicaid to 138% of the federal level (about $18,754 for a single individual in 2023).

To date, forty states have expanded Medicaid.  The states that did not adopt Medicaid are:  Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.  South Dakota has adopted but not implement Medicaid expansion.

The American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) of 2021 provided financial incentives for expanding Medicaid. The coronavirus pandemic adversely affected health outcomes through lack of access to healthcare and increased mortality.  Coverage options for many low-income adults are limited in non-expansion states.

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January marks the 52nd anniversary of National Blood Donor Month.  Roughly three percent of the U.S. population donates blood each year.  A blood transfusion occurs every two seconds in America.  National Blood Donor month celebrates those who donate regularly and the lives saved as a result.  The winter months are the leanest for donations due to weather and seasonal illnesses.

The nation’s blood supply has dipped to concerning levels and could force hospitals to delay essential blood and platelet transfusions.  Blood donors of all blood types – particularly type O, the type hospitals need the most – are needed to meet hospital demands.

Around 5.6 million donations are collected by the Red Cross every year.  There are approximately 3.3 million people who donate blood which creates over 8 million trans-fusable blood products.  Every year 4.5 million Americans need blood transfusions.

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In honor of Mental Wellness Month in January, Georgia has made positive improvements in access to care.

The Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities (DBHDD) hosts a crisis line 24/7 at 1 800 715 4225.  House Bill 9 will continue to maintain the access line through the DBHDD.  The purpose of the DBHDD is to assist Georgians with diagnosed mental illness and/or co-occurring substance use disorder.   They can assist with assessment and recovery planning, physician and nursing services, community resources and therapy.

Last year the Georgia legislature passed the Mental Health Parity Act which expanded access to affordable mental health treatment across the state.  The Act required that all health insurance plans must cover mental health conditions the same as physical conditions; and that patient can no longer be denied medically necessary treatment.  The Act provided for training for law enforcement in mental health and established loan forgiveness to encourage students to become mental health professionals.  This bill passage was the primary legislative goal of House Speaker David Ralston who died in November 2022.

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This week marks National Healthy Weight Week.  The National Foundation for Cancer Awareness suggests American celebrate Weight Loss Week with these eight steps:  find an enjoyable form of exercise; take smalls steps to weight loss goals; drink more water; get plenty of sleep; alleviate stress with yoga or meditation; cut back on alcohol; eat more fruits and vegetables and finally, set a weight loss goal.

A normal Body Mass Index (BMI) is between 18.5 and 24.9.  A BMI between 25 and 29.9 is considered overweight.  A BMI over 30 is considered obese.  Currently, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) reports that about 74% of Americans are overweight or obese.  Adults ages 40 to 59 have the highest rate of obesity.  About 40% of children and adolescents are overweight or obese.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in American.  Stroke is the fifth leading cause of death.  Cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer are prominent in adults who are overweight or obese.   Health specialists opine that sedentary work lifestyles and a fast food culture contributes to unhealthy weight gain.  Dieticians suggest that healthy weight loss of one to two pounds per week is recommended.

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In 1966, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave a speech, covered by the Associated Press, before the annual meeting of the American Medical Association convention.  As the AP reported, he said:  “Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health is the most shocking and inhumane”.

Dr. King pointed out that hospitals in receipt of federal funds and bound by the recently passed Civil Rights Act still covertly or overtly discriminated against Blacks, particularly in the South.  Officials at the Department of Health, Education and Welfare (HEW) threatened to cut off aid to hospitals found guilty of practicing discrimination.  A government survey of health and welfare services desegregation in the South had revealed wide-spread non-compliance with the law in federally supported programs.  A survey sponsored by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights found that almost all Southern state hospitals remained segregated, with the exception of mental hospitals.

Over fifty years later, health care disparities by race continue.  The Health Equity Tracker defines “health equity” as a status when all people, regardless of race, sex, sexual orientation, disability, socio-economic status, geographic location, or other society constructs have fair and just access, opportunity, and resources to achieve their highest potential for health”.

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Drops in COVID masking, testing and vaccination are continuing to create the perfect conditions for a new variant to emerge.  Experts warn that a new variant could cause significant mortality.

The U.S. is experiencing its highest levels of influenza hospitalizations in a decade.  Also, hospitalizations for respiratory illnesses such as RSV and COVID-19 are rising.  COVID-19 cases rose  following the Thanksgiving holiday, and COVID-related hospitalizations have increased over the past week.   However, the rate of weekly deaths from COVID-19 have decreased by 17%.  New cases of COVID-19 continue to be reported at a rate of 3 million per week nationally.  Experts worry that the combination of stable COVID-19 with other respiratory illnesses on the rise may spur a new variant resistant to vaccinations.

As respiratory cases rise and COVID precautions fall, the World Health Organization warns that a perfect storm may arise for a more deadly COVID-19 variant.   The CDC continues to encourage COVID-19 and flu vaccinations for personal protection and for public health reasons.


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