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January 2015 Archives

Why has there been an increase in Social Security Disability Claims?

The Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program is an integral part of the Social Security system that provides vital economic security to workers and their families. Media coverage has painted a highly inaccurate picture of this program, in an effort to encourage damaging changes that would hurt people with disabilities.

Growth in the SSDI program has long been predicted by the Social Security Chief Actuary and is due almost entirely to two demographic factors: the aging of the baby boomers and women entering the workforce. According to the SSA, program growth has peaked and is projected to level off.

Notably, Congress has not uncovered any evidence of fraud in the SSDI program beyond the cases SSA itself uncovered, after several years of investigation. Nor has Congress found any evidence that people who should not be eligible are wrongly approved. Senator Coburn has been quoted on the topic and appears to mischaracterize what his 2012 investigation actually found. That investigation reviewed only 300 appeals decisions from just 3 counties, and his staff questioned the quality of about 25% of the written decisions but did not claim the decisions were wrong. In fact, the investigation did not find that a single individual was approved who should have been denied.

The Social Security Administration does a good job of identifying potential fraud in the program, despite its woefully inadequate recent funding levels and resources. SSA’s administrative budget is only about 1.4 percent of benefits paid out each year. However, Congress has provided nearly $1 billion less than requested over the past three years. SSA’s program integrity work has suffered too, receiving $421 million less than authorized over the last two years. The result? SSA has lost more than 11,000 employees since 2011 – a heavy blow to the agency’s ability to serve the American people.
 
Eligibility criteria for the SSDI program are extremely strict and only people with the most significant disabilities qualify for benefits. An applicant must prove with medical evidence the inability to engage in “substantial gainful activity” (defined as earning less than $1,070 monthly in 2014), due to a physical or mental impairment expected to result in death or last for at least one year. Most applicants are denied; only about 40% are approved, a fact which belies claims that there is a “systematic bias” toward approving applicants who are not actually disabled.

People with disabilities turn to the program as a last resort, often having attempted to continue working after it is no longer healthy to do so and having spent down their savings before applying. There is no evidence that people are leaving the labor force to receive SSDI. While it is true that SSDI applications increased during the recent economic downturn, approval rates also declined. In fact, the current approval rate is the lowest it has been in 40 years. It is very difficult to get these benefits and there is more myth and misunderstanding about the process than you could ever imagine.

Learn more about this by visiting the website of the National Organization of Social Security Claimants Representatives of which I am a member.

William Wombacher, your Central Illinois Certified Elder Law Attorney (CELA) and Social Security Disability Specialist. I'll help you!   http://www.wombacherlaw.com
Serving Peoria, East Peoria, Peoria Heights, Pekin, Dunlap, Chillicothe, Morton, Washington, Metamora, Canton, Galesburg, Lacon, Henry, Bloomington, Normal and surrounding cites and counties of Peoria, Tazewell, Woodford, Fulton and  Knox Counties in Central Illinois.

2015 Ideas and Advice

Since we are at the beginning of new year now is a great time to review some basic ideas concerning Elder Law, Estate Planning and Social Security Disability. So I will start a series of blog articles which will explore some things we need to review.

Let's begin. About a year and a half ago, I had a client come in because he wanted to make some changes in this estate plan. I had not seen the client in about 7 years.  I had originally prepared a revocable living trust as the primary means for transferring his property to his children. First, he was confused about what changes he wanted because he apparently had a conversation with his children and they had some ideas as to their vision as to how the property should come to them. He really couldn't explain it to me because he was not focusing on what needed to be accomplished. 

My most important two question are "What are you trying to accomplish? and "Why?". Tell me that and I will give you advice and ideas on different ways of accomplishing what you want. Focus on the big picture and don't get consumed by the details like my client. We made some changes but we had a flexible plan. 

My client had another problem. When the stock market dropped in 2008 he cashed and put his money into CD's. The only problem is that he put the CD's in his name alone instead of the trust we had created. In using a revocable living trust you want your assets in the trust. I didn't discover this until I started asking him about how his assets had changed in the past 7 years. The client had undone much of the good we had done by creating and funding the trust. I told him he needed to get those assets back in the trust in order to avoid probate which was one of the primary purposes in creating and funding the trust originally. A month later he unexpectedly died. He never got it done. Now we needed to open a probate estate and then also deal with the administration of the trust termination.

There are a couple of lessons. Focus on what you want to accomplish. Your children may have ideas but unless there lawyers they probably are operating under some false impressions. They may have gotten their advice from cousin Louie, the used car salesman. Next lesson, every 3 years pull out the documents and review them. If you are not sure what they mean and how they work because you have forgotten the explanation you received from your lawyer, make an appointment and go over them again. Finally, if you are going to change how title to assets is held discuss it first with your attorney.

William Wombacher, your Central Illinois Certified Elder Law Attorney (CELA) and Social Security Disability Specialist. I'll help you!   http://www.wombacherlaw.com
Serving Peoria, East Peoria, Peoria Heights, Pekin, Dunlap, Chillicothe, Morton, Washington, Metamora, Canton, Galesburg, Lacon, Henry, Bloomington, Normal and surrounding cites and counties of Peoria, Tazewell, Woodford, Fulton and  Knox Counties in Central Illinois.

As Medicaid Rolls Swell, Cuts in Payments to Doctors Threaten Access to Care

The Affordable Care Act provided a big increase in Medicaid payments for primary care in 2013 and 2014. But the increase expired in 2014— just weeks after the Obama administration told the Supreme Court that doctors and other providers had no legal right to challenge the adequacy of payments they received from Medicaid.

For the last two years, the federal government has required state Medicaid agencies to pay at least as much as Medicare pays for primary care services. Family doctors, internists and pediatricians have thus received Medicare-level payments for primary care, with the federal government making up the difference in costs.

In his budget request in March, President Obama proposed a one-year extension of the higher Medicaid payments. Several Democratic members of Congress backed the idea, but the proposals languished, and such legislation would appear to face long odds in the new Congress, with Republicans controlling both houses.

Concern is that doctors will restrict the number of medicaid patients they will service because the payments will be much smaller. Read more about thiis in the New York Times at http://nyti.ms/1xqqRJc

William Wombacher, your Central Illinois Certified Elder Law Attorney (CELA) and Social Security Disability Specialist. I'll help you!   http://www.wombacherlaw.com
 
Serving Peoria, East Peoria, Peoria Heights, Pekin, Dunlap, Chillicothe, Morton, Washington, Metamora, Canton, Galesburg, Lacon, Henry, Bloomington, Normal and surrounding cites and counties of Peoria, Tazewell, Woodford, Fulton and  Knox Counties in Central Illinois.