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 Senate Budget Reconciliation Bill, known as the Inflation Reduction Act, passed the Senate last Sunday.  The bill reduces drug spending by the federal government on Medicare.  The bill allows Medicare to negotiate the price of certain high-cost medications, caps out of pocket costs for Medicare beneficiaries, and penalizes drug manufacturers who increase drug prices faster than inflation.

The bill allows Medicare to negotiate the price of some costly drugs.  Medicare pays for drugs through Medicare Part D and Part B programs.  Consumers are either billed by physicians for drugs administered or they purchase drugs directly.  In both events, prior legislation prevented Medicare from negotiating for lower drug prices with the pharmaceutical manufacturers.  In this bill, price negotiation will begin in 2026 and will limited to 10-15 high cost drugs each year.  Consumers may not notice a price reduction if their prescription drug is not up for a negotiated lower rate.  Negotiated prices for 10 of the costliest drugs for Medicare will begin in 2026.  Cost negotiation caps out at 20 drugs per year in 2029.  The provision also introduces a $2000 annual cap on out of pocket costs for those on Medicare.

What the bill was unable to do, despite efforts by Democrats, is to cap the cost of insulin for diabetics at $35 per month.  Using a parlimentary rule, Republican Senators, argued this part of the bill was not technically a federal budget item as it impacted private manufacturers.  Efforts to help Americans faced with costly drug items will have to pass a filibuster proof Senate.  Meanwhile, the Congressional Budget Office (“CBO”) estimates that the price negotiation will result in a savings of $101.8 billion over ten years.

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Catching COVID-19 a second or more time heightens one’s risk for contracting Long COVID.  A recent Veterans Administration Health Study found that the risk of Long COVID increased with each subsequent re-infection.  Long COVID symptoms include malaise, fatigue, pulmonary problems, neurological issues, cardiovascular abnormalities, gastrointestinal pain and mental health impairments.  The Kaiser Family Foundation reports that Long COVID may affect 10 to 33 million working age adults in the US.

The correlation between Long COVID and re-infection rates is concerning given that the newest Omicron subvariant – BA.5 — readily infects the vaccinated, the boosted and people with prior immunity.  BA.5 currently accounts for 82 percent of all infections in the U.S.  Subvariant BA.5  is particularly proficient in dodging vaccination and prior immunity guardrails.  The swift mutation of the COVID-19 virus and its mutated sub-variants alarms medical professionals attempting to get infections rates under control.  To add to this concern, experts report that subsequent infections may be causing extensive cumulative damage to the body even when the symptoms are mild.   Multiple infections can contribute to death, hospitalizaiton and long term damage to major organs

Long COVID symptoms impact a person’s ability to work.  Over 15 percent of unfilled jobs are now related to Long COVID.  Claims for Long COVID are affecting employer provided disability insurance, worker’s compensation and health insurance.  For those industries particularly prone to employee COVID infections, such as healthcare or manufacturing, they may be disproportionately affected by absenteeism and rising healthcare costs.

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This week marks the 32nd anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, signed into law on July 26, 1990.  According to data from the CDC, approximately 61 million Americans live with disabilities.  This means one in four Americans live with a severe medical impairment that impacts their mobility, cognition, hearing, vision, independent living or self-care. The ADA legislation has been ground-breaking in providing physical accessibility and non-discrimination in employment.  Still, the unemployment for persons with disabilities remains high.  The unemployment rate for a disabled person is 14.4 percent compared to 9.5 percent in the general population.  Today many in the disabled community continue to live in poverty.

Many adults with disabilities who were never able to enter the workforce receive Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”).  The SSI maximum benefit is currently $841 a month.  This computes to an annual income of $10,092.00.  The federal poverty level for 2021 for a household of one is $12,880.     Income eligibility for SSI has not been adjusted since 1989.  It remains at an asset and income limit of $2000 for an individual and $3000 for a couple.  Excluding a home used a residence and one car, all other income/assets must place the individual below the poverty level.

The average benefit for an SSDI (Social Security Disability Income) individual is $1236 per month.  These benefits are earned from working and paying FICA payroll taxes over a period of time.  This average benefit translates to $14,832 per month.

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Injuries like those that occur in a fall, a car accident or a work accident or even a sudden chronic severe medical condition can prevent a person from returning to work full-time.  Private long-term disability insurance can offset this loss of income.

According to the Council for Disability Awareness, as many as one in four 20 -year -olds today will find themselves unable to work for as long as a year because of a disability before they reach retirement age.  Long term disability insurance is private insurance that compensates for the loss of income that due to a disabling condition.

Most American workers are not equipped for this kind of financial hardship. In fact, less than half of all American workers have three months worth of income saved to sbustitute for the loss of income in the case of a sudden illness or injury.  Short term and long term disability insurance can  be used to offset the income loss for such persons.

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Next year, Social Security disability beneficiaries may be able to earn a higher amount per month without it having an effect on their eligibility for benefits.  This and other changes could be coming to the Social Security Administration as early as 2023.

Experts predict that income thresholds (known as “substantial gainful activity” or “SGA”) for Social Security disability beneficiaries will increase in 2023. Currently, the SGA threshold is $1,350 for disabled individuals.   Social Security observers predict the threshold will increase in 2023 making it possible for beneficiaries to earn more and still remain on benefits.

In 2022, the Social Security Administration announced a record cost -of -living adjustment, resulting in more money for Social Security disability beneficiaries. That cost-of-living adjustment may actually increase even further in 2023. Experts suggest that the cost- of -living adjustment will reach 8. 6% in 2023.  This has been confirmed by officials at the Social Security Administration who say that the cost-of -living adjustment increase for next year will reflect the growing inflation in the country. If the 8.6% cost-of-living adjustment goes into effect next year, then it would be the highest such increase on record since 1981.

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Can you invest your Social Security Disability benefits in a Roth IRA?

Roth IRAs are a type of individual retirement account that can allow you to save earned income while allowing that income to grow.  You can withdraw that income at a certain point of time in the future.  Roth IRAs are meant to be used to invest your after – tax  earnings.

Do Social Security disability benefits qualify as earned income to be invested in a Roth IRA?   The simple answer is NO.  Social Security disability benefits are not considered earned income.  However, if you are working part time  and have a source of income in addition to the benefits that you receive every month, this earned income can be invested in a  Roth IRA retirement account.  One caveat to working under substantial gainful employment (the maximum amount you can earn each month and still be considered disabled) is that these earnings might trigger a continuing disability review by Social Security to see if you are actually still medically disabled.  This is a risk undertaken when working while collecting disability.

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Yesterday the 11th Circuit lifted immediately an injunction from the lower courts on Georgia’s Heartbeat Bill – HB 481, making it law in Georgia.  The statute, known as the “Heartbeat Bill” provides that unborn persons have equal rights with born humans.  An unborn child becomes a person upon a detectable heartbeat determined (unscientifically) to be at six weeks.   Oddly, the bill references the 14th Amendment and its substantive due process inalienable rights of “life, liberty and property”.  Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas in his concurring opinion in the Roe v. Wade destruction case Dobbs vs. Jackson Health held that the US Constitution provides no substantive due process rights.  Nevertheless, a fetus now has these rights of equal (actually greater status) than the mother.

Per the statute, abortions after six weeks are illegal.  These exceptions apply.  Abortion is allowed to remove a dead unborn child caused by a spontaneous abortion.  Here is an important word: dead.  Women incurring a miscarriage will not be medically treated to remove the fetus, but rather will continue to have their health weighed against the balance of a heartbeat until death can be determined.  Again, the health of the mother is now, legally, secondary, to a fetus during a miscarriage.

An abortion to remove an ectopic pregnancy is an exception to the abortion rule.  The ectopic pregnancy is a  non-viable pregnancy certain to cause the death of the mother.  Very generous of the legislature.  Wild applause.

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The Trump administration’s anti-fraud program, known as the Civil Monetary Penalty Program, unfairly levied fines against the  poor and elderly.  Without providing due process for the beneficiaries, staff attorneys for the program were directed to assess fines more than the double the amount of the original payment made in error.  Attorneys who objected to the program were fired or demoted.

The program launched investigations into over-payments made to disabilty and retiree beneficiaries.  All of the beneficiaries belonged to a lower socio-economic class.  Many of these beneficiaries were fined outlandish amounts that ran into the thousands of dollars and far exceeded the original overpayment.  The program has recently come under increased scrutiny and criticism, and the Social Security Commissioner has directed the Social Security Inspector General to suspend the program.

It is believed that under the Trump administration’s anti fraud program, approximately 100 beneficiaries were levied fines.  Many of the fines were levied without due process and without enough evidence against these beneficiaries. One woman, who had received about $30,000 in benefits wrongfully, was fined $132,000.   The Social Security Inspector General’s office was aware that many of these beneficiaries would find themselves unable to challenge these fines in court.  Now, an investigation into these fines is on and hopefully, justice will be done to these victims.

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As many as one- third of all Social Security disability beneficiaries are unaware that the Social Security Administration also provides them with the opportunity to access help when it comes to returning  to work after being on disability benefits.

The Ticket to Work program is a free program operated by the Social Security Administration and is aimed at helping individuals who have suffered a medical condition, illness, injury or disability that makes it difficult for them to work full time. When a person who has been on disability benefits feels that he/she is now healthy enough to work again, the individual can use the program to access help.  This program is only applicable to Social Security Disability Income/Medicare beneficiaries and not for Supplemental Security Income beneficiaries.

The Ticket to Work program protects your benefit and healthcare during a nine month trial work period.  The program also may allow for you to continue with Medicare/Medicaid even when your benefits may stop due to earnings.  The platform is specifically devoted to the development of career opportunities for persons who have been on disability benefits and would like to explore work.  In order to be eligible for support under the program, you must be between the ages of 18 and 64. The Ticket to Work program is a step towards complete financial independence and lowered dependence on disability benefits.

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For several years, media sources reported that the Social Security Administration could run out of funds and become insolvent in the next couple of decades.  Now, Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have introduced a new bill that is aimed at preventing exactly that.

According to some estimates, the Social Security Administration will run out of funds by the year 2035.   Bernie Sanders, Independent -Vermont and Senator Elizabeth Warren -Democrat Massachusetts recently introduced a bill targeted at an increase in Social Security funding.

The bill aims at making the agency solvent by 2096, and also targets an increase in the amount of monthly benefits for beneficiaries.  According to the plan, which should be welcomed by all Social Security beneficiaries, benefits will increase by as much as $200 per month or $2,400 per year.  The cost of living in several American cities, including in Georgia, has skyrocketed over the past decade and Social Security benefits haven’t kept pace.

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