Articles Posted in Social Security Administration (SSA)

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Fibrolamellarcancer, a rare type of liver cancer, was added to the Compassionate Allowances program in August 2018. This program by the Social Security Administration (SSA) outlines a list of conditions and diseases that warrant an accelerated processing of claims.

The Compassionate Allowances program currently includes 233 conditions, including five new conditions added in August 2018. Fibrolamellaris one of the rarest types of cancers, and it is believed that less than 1,000 patients are diagnosed with fibrolamellar cancer every year. Adults and young adults may be at a much higher risk of a diagnosis. However, there have been some diagnoses amongst those up to 74 years old.

What makes this type of cancer especially dangerous is that it often occurs in people who have no prior history of liver disease, making it harder to diagnose. Also, many of the symptoms with this cancer are similar to other diseases, making a diagnosis especially challenging. This, unfortunately, frequently leads to diagnoses of cancer when it is already in an advanced state. Early symptoms of the condition may include shoulder pain, back pain, abdominal pain, weight loss, and jaundice. Currently, the only treatment option available for this type of carcinoma is liver resection surgery. Even this may be effective only before the spread of cancer.

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Tetrasomy 18p is a very rare chromosomal disorder that can lead to neurological impairment, muscular abnormalities, and a number of other complications that can severely impair the quality of a person’s life. The Social Security Administration recently added this condition to its Compassionate Allowances program.

Typically, persons have two 18 chromosomes, and both of these will have a short arm and a long arm. However, when a person suffers from Tetrasomy 18p, there are 4 short arms present instead of the typical 2. That can cause a number of complications, including abnormalities of the skull and craniofacial area, and disabilities of the spine. The person may also suffer from hypotonia or low muscle tone, neuromuscular disabilities, abnormal reflexive reactions, and kidney problems that can lead to renal failure. They may also have difficulty coordinating physical movements.

Moderate to severe mental disabilities are not uncommon among those who suffer from Tetrasomy 18p. They may also suffer from moderate to severe speech or language difficulties, and cognitive and behavioral abnormalities.

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The Social Security Administration (SSA) recently added Megacystis Microcolon Intestinal Hypoperistalsis Syndrome to conditions covered under its Compassionate Allowances program. Megacystis Syndrome is a severe condition that impairs the functioning of the bladder and intestines. This syndrome mimics a physical obstruction of the intestine, causing partially digested food material to be blocked inside the intestine. This can cause symptoms that include vomiting and severe abdominal swelling. Bladder dysfunction can also cause impairment in urinary function.

This is a relatively rare condition, and the prognosis for the condition is not very good. The condition is strongly associated with impaired digestion, and therefore, malnutrition is a common consequence of the condition. This, in turn, leads to a lower life expectancy for those suffering from this condition. Survival of the patient over the long term will depend on intravenous (IV) feedings or parenteral nutrition, accompanied by urinary catheterization or diversion. Long-term use of parenteral nutrition, however, is associated with liver problems, leading to further complications. There is currently no complete cure for this syndrome.

If your loved one has been diagnosed with Megacystis Syndrome, contact Lisa Siegel, Georgia Disability Attorney, about filing a claim for disability benefits. 

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The Social Security Administration (SSA) provides disability beneficiaries a number of tools to help them take charge of their benefits, including the Social Security Disability Calculator. This detailed calculator can be used not just to determine past benefits you received but also to estimate the benefits that you may be eligible for in the future.  This calculator is available in two versions. One works on IBM PCs and is compatible running on Windows 7, 8 or 10. The other version runs on older versions of the Mac operating system.

You can use the calculator to determine benefits for any claim dating back to 1940 when the first Social Security benefit was paid out. It can also be used to estimate future benefits until the year 2095. Also, the 2018.2 version takes into consideration all legal amendments made by Social Security law, as well as automatic adjustments right through 2017.

There is no doubt that gaining a fairly accurate idea of your estimated benefits in the future is a critical tool for disability beneficiaries who want to understand what their financial situation may look like in the future. However, the SSA warns that although this calculator is designed to be as accurate as possible, this calculator can only provide you an estimate of how much you will receive in benefits. Therefore, the calculator results may differ from one’s actual disability benefits earned.

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To qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), applicants must be unable to perform any “substantial gainful activity” that pays $1,180 a month or $14,160 annually. This is roughly the income a minimum-wage American worker makes per year. Also, their condition must be expected to last at least a year or until death.

The analysis of the data from the Census Bureau by economist Ernie Tedeschi shows that the number of Americans ages 25-54 out of the workforce because of a disability has declined 7% since 2014. With 10.3 million people out of the workforce as of May 2018, this reverses an upward trend that had been in place for decades. This can possibly be explained by the growing economy over the last few years, which has allowed companies to hire more workers. University of Maryland economists Katharine G. Abraham and Melissa S. Kearney studied situations where individuals applying for disability benefits were assigned to judges who varied in their leniency. This allowed researchers to compare the outcome of similar applicants when they given or denied benefits. They found that for individuals whose cases for SSDI were questionable due to the acuteness of their condition, 28% of those people decided not to work who otherwise would have. This means that 28 out of 100 individuals decided not to work for fear of this interfering with their ability to successfully win disability benefits.

Robert VerBruggen, deputy managing editor of National Review, emphasized that the current SSDI program fails to accommodate disabled individuals who are still able to work in some capacity. He argued that reform to the program is “imperative.”  A long-term plan, he added, should include awarding temporary or partial benefits to those able to work, but limited in their abilities to do so. The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, a bipartisan think tank devoted to reducing the deficit and debt, has published other potential options including subsidizing those with disabilities in their first few months back in the workforce.

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A major issue facing the Social Security program involves a lack of meaningful and current legislation to improve the programs changing and expanding needs.  In 1982, under the Reagan administration, Congress passed a bipartisan series of payroll tax increases in order to ensure funding . Since then, Congress has failed to pass significant changes to the Social Security program, with many lawmakers choosing to sidestep this controversial issue. As time has passed, this program has consistently faced a looming deficit.  The longer lawmakers wait to act, the more difficult it will be “to avoid cutting benefits on current and future retirees.”

Many people ask what is holding Congress back from taking this critical step of implementing reform to Social Security. The answer is relatively simple:  Democrats would like to raise or eliminate the maximum taxable earning cap for Social Security’s payroll tax, requiring wealthy Americans to pay more into the system. Republicans, on the other hand, would like to increase the full retirement age to between 68 to 70, which would save funds for this program in the long-run.

Bipartisanship in Congress is necessary in order for any action to be successful in making changes to the Social Security program. With a bill on this issue likely requiring 60 votes to pass the Senate—due to the filibuster—it is unlikely that any party will in the near future occupy enough seats to pass this legislation alone.

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Some people ask whether immigrants  can be eligible for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI).  First, authorized non-citizens may be eligible for SSI if they fit into one of these categories granted by the Department of Homeland Security:

  • On August 22, 1996, they were lawful residents of the US and were disabled or blind.
  • They were receiving SSI on August 22, 1996, and lawfully residing in the US.
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Today, fewer Americans are applying for disability benefits than in America’s recent history, with a growing economy and an increasing number of retirees leaving the program due to becoming eligible for Social Security retirement benefits and Medicare. In 2017, fewer than 1.5 million Americans applied for benefits through Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). This may be due partially to additional lower-skilled jobs being available in a growing economy which those with modest disabilities sometimes can handle. Additionally, employers may be more willing to accommodate workers with disabilities. Eric Kingson, a professor of social work at Syracuse University, added that when the economy is doing well, “employers are more willing to look to other labor pools and be more accommodating.”

However, getting the disability benefits in the first place has become harder today.  The Social Security Administration hardened their standard for awarding benefits without any major announcement. Overall, the odds of a successful appeal fell from 69% in 2008 to 48% in 2015. Nicole Maestas, a Harvard economist, said that the Social Security Administration analyzed judges who approved disability claims at a higher rate than others and singled them out for special instruction. This action may have been taken as a result of critics in the media exposing some abuse and fraud in the system since 2011, as reported in the Wall Street Journal and 60 Minutes.

As a result, the administrative law judges handling disability cases have become more skeptical of claims and less easily persuaded to approve benefits. Richard Browdie, CEO of the Benjamin Rose Institute on Aging, argues that the process has become “overly restrictive.” However, Torsten Slok, chief international economist of Deutsche Bank, argued that this data contradicts the “post-recession narrative of an out-of-control entitlement program.”  Whatever the reasons are for these trends, it is clear that fewer people are applying for disability benefits and among those, less are being approved.

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With the increased political debate about the future of Social Security in America, many people worry that they or their children will not receive the same benefits in the future.  A recent Gallup poll showed that 51% of pre-retirees aged 50-64, 49% of workers aged 30-49, and 33% of millennial aged 18-29 say they are concerned about their benefits. While many people consider there to be flaws in the American Social Security system, the proposition that this system is in serious danger of closing down, is not true. It is almost impossible that this program could go broke because it is funded by payroll taxes—which are incurred by the working population.

There are good reasons for people to be concerned about Social Security as for many people it is their only guaranteed retired income. This program impacts almost every older American: according to the Social Security Administration (SSA) , 97% of adults aged 60 to 89 currently receive or will receive Social Security. Generally most Americans do not mind paying the payroll taxes towards Social Security because they know this will benefit them when they are old aged and cannot work anymore.

It is important to also clarify how the Social Security system in America works in order to better understand this topic. It is considered a “pay-as-you-go” system, which means that payroll taxes for today’s workers’ pay for those receiving benefits today. When you retire, you depend on receiving your Social Security retirement benefits from the payroll taxes of those working currently. Thus, this does lead to a potential sustainability issue for this program, as the United States is increasingly becoming an older population and in turn, has a higher proportion of retirees.