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Can I get both worker’s compensation and Social Security disability benefits?

Can I get both worker’s compensation and Social Security disability benefits?

Workers’ compensation pays benefits to employees who suffer an injury at work or experience a work-related illness. Benefits for workers’ compensation include medical treatment and money for the partial replacement of lost wages. For an employee who cannot work while recovering from an injury or work-related illness, workers’ compensation can pay temporary total disability benefits. In cases in which the injury or work-related illness has long-term or permanent consequences, an employee can receive permanent disability benefits. When an employee dies as the result of an injury or work-related illness, then the employee’s dependents can receive survivor benefits. In general, workers’ compensation is a program run by state governments.

Similarly, Social Security Disability Insurance (“SSDI”) provides benefits to insured workers with disabilities, or in other words, to those who: (1) have been employed for at least five of the last ten years; (2) have paid FICA (“Federal Insurance Contributions Act”) taxes; and (3) have a “disability” as the Social Security Administration defines the term. A disability, for purposes of Social Security, is a serious medical condition that lasts (or has lasted) for more than a year and prevents someone from being gainfully employed. In addition, SSDI will provide benefits to the disabled children of insured workers, so long as the children became disabled before they reached the age of 22, as well as to the disabled surviving spouses of insured workers who have died. Generally, SSDI is administered by the federal government.

A person can receive workers’ compensation and SSDI benefits at the same time, but workers’ compensation benefits might reduce the amount of SSDI benefits. Under the Social Security Administration’s rules, a person who receives workers’ compensation benefits and Social Security disability benefits at the same time may not receive combined benefits that amount to more than 80 percent of the person’s average current earnings before the person became disabled. For example, if a person earned $4,000.00 per month before becoming disabled, then the person would be eligible to receive $2,200.00 per month in SSDI benefits after becoming disabled. If that same person were also to receive $2,000.00 per month in benefits from workers’ compensation, then the person’s SSDI benefits would be reduced to $200.00 per month to comply with the Social Security Administration’s 80 percent rule.

If you have a current or potential worker’s compensation claim and are interested in applying for SSDI benefits, or if you simply want to be sure that you are receiving the maximum SSDI benefits for which you are eligible, then you should consider speaking with an attorney who has experience with Social Security law in order to minimize the off-set. Call the Nationwide Law Offices of John T. Nicholson at 1-800-596-1533 for a free consultation today.

Posted in Personal Injury, Social Security SSD/SSI | Tagged , , , | 9 Comments

Does my income affect my child’s ability to qualify for Social Security Benefits?

How much income can parents have before their children no longer qualify for Supplemental Security Income benefits?

Disabled children can qualify for benefits under the Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) program, which is administered by the Social Security Administration, depending: (1) on the nature of their disabilities; (2) on how much income they have (if any); and (3) on their available resources. Children’s “available resources” include the income (and assets) of their parents and guardians. Therefore, many parents and guardians of disabled children wonder how much income they can have before their children no longer qualify for SSI benefits.

The Social Security Administration (“SSA”) defines a child as someone who is not married; is not head of a household; and is under age 18, or is under age 22 and regularly attending school. This discussion only applies to SSI benefits for disabled children, as the SSA defines the terms “disabled” and “children.”

1. Nature of disability. According to the definition established by the applicable laws and regulations, a child is “disabled” if the child “has a medically determinable physical or mental impairment, which results in marked and severe functional limitations, and which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months.” In other words, a child is disabled for purposes of SSI benefits if the child has a very serious medical condition that will last (or has lasted) for at least one year. For example, a child who suffers from cystic fibrosis could qualify for SSI benefits. A child with a minor broken leg, but who did not otherwise have a serious medical condition, would probably not qualify.

2. Child’s income (if any). In terms of a child’s income, a child may not earn more than $1,000.00 per month from employment and still qualify to receive SSI benefits (in 2011; the limit on a child’s total monthly income changes every year). On the other hand, a child who is unemployed, or who is employed but earns less than $1,000.00 per month (in 2011), would meet the income limit.

3. Income and resources (i.e. assets) of parents or guardians. The determination of a child’s eligibility to receive SSI benefits also takes into account

Income, in this context, comes in two varieties: “earned income” and “unearned income.” Earned income consists of “wages from employment, net earnings from self-employment, certain royalties and honoraria, and sheltered workshop payments.” Unearned income consists of money received from other sources, “such as Social Security benefits, pensions, state disability payments, unemployment benefits, interest income, and cash from friends and relatives.” Some income is exempt and does not count toward the applicable limits. The following chart illustrates the income limits currently applicable in many (but not all) circumstances.

Number of Ineligible Children in Household

All Income is Earned

All Income is Unearned

One Parent in Household

Two Parents in Household

One Parent in Household

Two Parents in Household

0

$2,821

$3,495

$1,388

$1,725

1

$3,158

$3,832

$1,725

$2,062

2

$3,495

$4,169

$2,062

$2,399

3

$3,832

$4,506

$2,399

$2,736

4

$4,169

$4,843

$2,736

$3,073

5

$4,506

$5,180

$3,073

$3,410

6

$4,843

%5,517

$3,410

$3,747

By “resources,” the SSA essentially means property. For instance, resources include bank accounts, cash, life insurance, real estate, stocks, U.S. savings bonds, vehicles and other property belonging to a child’s parents or guardians that could be exchanged for cash and used for food or shelter. Some resources, such as a home, household goods and personal effects, and money in pension funds, are exempt and do not count toward the applicable limits. Currently, the applicable resource limit (for non-exempt resources) is $2,000 for a single parent or guardian, and $3,000.00 for a couple.

To summarize: A disabled child’s eligibility for SSI benefits depends upon the nature of the child’s disability, the amount of income that the child earns (if any), and the income and resources available to the child—including resources available through parents and guardians. Regarding the resources of parents and guardians, the limits vary from case to case depending on the circumstances. The income limits listed in the foregoing chart, and the resource limits discussed above, might or might not apply in a specific situation because of the many rules and regulations, as well as exemptions, that govern SSI eligibility for disabled children. If you are the parent or guardian of a disabled child and would like to learn more about SSI eligibility, then talk with a lawyer with experience dealing with Social Security issues.

Posted in Social Security SSD/SSI | Tagged , | 39 Comments

Senate Committee Reveals Trouble with the Quality of Disability ALJ Decisions

Senate Committee Reveals Trouble with the Quality of ALJ Decisions

A recent article in the Washington Times discussed the increasing stress that the Social Security Disability system is operating under and how that stress has led to troubling problems affecting millions of Americans.

Investigators working for a Senate subcommittee examined hundreds of cases in which disability benefits were approved and found that those making the decisions frequently ignored warning signs such as incomplete or inconsistent information. Senators have said this review demonstrates the need for an overhaul of the existing system. One Senator said that the decisions from some administrative law judges (ALJs) were so bad that the final verdict seemed almost entirely arbitrary.

Though the first phase of this investigation involved looking over applications that were approved but should not have been, the Senate committee says it will next turn its attention to those cases that were denied and may have been denied wrongfully. Those in charge say they worry that they will discover the system is not helping many of the people it was designed to protect.

For its part, the Social Security Administration says it has work to do to fix problems in the system. However, they claim that outlier decisions occur far less often than they used to and the decisions of many ALJs are affirmed with much more regularity then ever before.

That may sound good, but problems still abound. The massive report showcased one ALJ from Oklahoma who has issued more than 1,000 decisions each year since 2006. Judge W. Howard O’Bryan Jr. peaked in 2008 with 1,846 decisions and regularly approved 90 percent or more of the claims. This compares to an average ALJ approval rate of about 60 percent. The investigation revealed that his decisions were notable only for their “poor quality” and how Judge O’Bryan often regurgitated the same boilerplate language in each case decision.

One case that apparently prompted the investigation, involved a man living as an adult “baby,” meaning he slept in an adult-sized crib and wore diapers. The man was collecting disability benefits despite having demonstrated carpentry skills and his ability to work with a reality TV show and a website for other adult “babies.”

The case of the adult “baby” highlighted another problem according to the Senate subcommittee and that is how out of date the list of jobs given to ALJs are. The list has not been updated since the 1970s and excludes many computer-related jobs that some people (possibly other adult “babies”) with disabilities might be able to perform.

If you think you may be entitled to Social Security Disability benefits and have questions, call The Law Offices of John T. Nicholson at 1-800-596-1533 for a free consultation today.

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Can I get Social Security disability for having sleep apnea?

Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a disorder characterized by moments during which a sleeping person is unable to move their respiratory muscles or maintain airflow through the nose and mouth. In short, this means a person stops breathing for short periods of time. Generally those suffering from sleep apnea stop breathing for 10 to 30 seconds at a time while they sleep. These short periods without air can happen up to 400 times ever evening.

Those who are overweight are at an increased risk of developing sleep apnea, as fat deposits can develop in the neck and then block the airway. Those suffering from the disorder, perhaps unsurprisingly, sleep very badly and wake up most mornings still feeling tired.

There are two types of sleep apnea, first and most common is obstructive sleep apnea which occurs when something blocks the windpipe. Central sleep apnea, by comparison, is rare. Central sleep apnea is related to the central nervous system, and occurs when the brain fails to send the proper signals to the muscles used for breathing. Sleep apnea can be treated or improved by wearing a positive airway pressure device at night. These devices are masks worn over the face to assist with breathing.

While many people who have sleep apnea will have a hard time qualifying for disability, those who have suffered complications from sleep apnea are more likely to qualify. For instance, if you have pulmonary vascular hypertension, or heart trouble such as cor pulmonale, or a severe cognitive impairment that resulted from your lack of sleep, you may be eligible for benefits. The SSA lists certain criteria for sleep-related disorders, and if you fulfill the requirements, you will be approved for disability benefits.

The first thing the SSA looks for is a sign of cognitive impairment. Chronic sleep disruptions caused by apnea can affect daytime alertness, intellectual ability, memory, and mood. But to qualify for disability benefits, your symptoms must be severe. The SSA requires that your sleep apnea has caused cognitive or mood changes that limit your activities, your ability to function socially, or your ability to focus and keep up with work. These can include severe personality changes, memory problems, delusions or hallucinations, emotional instability or a loss of more than 15 IQ points.

Another way that those suffering from the effects of sleep apnea can receive disability benefits is if they have cor pulmonale. This is an enlarged right heart ventricle caused by hypertension which can result from years of sleep apnea. To prove that your cor pulmonale is severe enough to keep you from working, your doctor must have evidence of either: high blood pressure in the pulmonary artery or extremely low oxygen levels in your blood.

If you think you may be entitled to Social Security Disability benefits and have questions, call The Law Offices of John T. Nicholson at 1-800-596-1533 for a free consultation today.

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