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Will the SSA Seize Tax Refunds?

According to an audit by the SSA’s Inspector General, the agency has confiscated around $75 million in tax refunds without giving much of an explanation to many of these individuals.

Last year, when the SSA seized tax returns due to benefit overpayment (overpayment to a lot of these individuals’ parents, no less), officials said they would cease this kind of action. Yet it appears some 300,000 Americans have been affected this year, too—often as the result of overpayments from years ago.

The audit further reveals that the majority of the confiscations occurred for individuals 21-40 years of age. At least eight thousand received no notification before their tax refund was taken.

While this is unfortunate for those who lost their tax refund, especially due to their parents’ overpayments, we hope the SSA will at least provide proper notification in the future so those affected can anticipate and prepare accordingly. If this has happened to you, you should contact the SSA for a detailed explanation.

At Jan Dils, Attorneys at Law, our experienced Social Security Disability Lawyers can guide you through the process of applying for SSA benefits or appealing a denied claim. Contact us to schedule your free initial consultation – we will fight for the benefits you deserve!

Does the SSA Send Emergency Payments for Supplemental Security Income (SSI)?

If you’re eligible for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and need an emergency payment, it would unfortunately take a very unique set of circumstances to qualify.

For one, those who are only eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance cannot receive emergency payments. Only those with low income and few assets to their name will be considered by the SSA.

But in addition to an individual’s financial status, he or she must qualify for presumptive disability benefits – having a disability on the SSA’s list of conditions so severe that someone who has them can pretty much be guaranteed to qualify for compensation.If you’re not sure whether your condition could be eligible, you can ask when you first apply for benefits.

If you wish to have your claim expedited, you may request an expedited hearing due to dire need. Having a dire need means that you are unable to provide yourself with food, shelter, medical care or you have a terminal illness. However, keep in mind that dire need requests are seldom approved unless the latter is the reason.

One route to explore is temporary assistance from the state. If you meet the public assistance criteria and have a condition that severely disables you, it’s definitely worth looking into.

If you or a loved one believe you may be eligible for Supplemental Security Income, contact us today for a 100% free and confidential legal consultation, either by phone or at one of our five West Virginia offices — in Parkersburg, Charleston, Logan, Huntington or Beckley – and Charlotte, NC.

You can call toll free, 1.877.526.3457, or send us an e-mail<http://www.jandils.com/contact/> for a prompt response.

How Cars, Boats and ATVs Impact your SSI Claim

I take a lot of pride in the work that I do. March will be my six-year anniversary with the firm, and I still find this work rewarding. Something that a lot of my fellow coworkers will tell you is that we often get stopped outside the office by citizens who have questions. Many of us own garments that read “Jan Dils Attorneys at Law.” So, we get stopped a lot. We are always happy to answer questions. Recently while shopping at a grocery store, I was approached by a woman who had questions about her son receiving Social Security. Naturally, I was happy to help her.

She mentioned that her son was in his mid-thirties and had some developmental disabilities. He never really worked for a company or paid taxes. He lived on her property but in a trailer of his own that was recently given to him. A few months back he hurt his back while working on a car. She said she didn’t think that he’d ever be able to work.

When an individual comes to us to seek representation, we will complete a formal review asking a series of questions. However, when someone stops you in the middle of Kroger, you have to use your knowledge of the process. Two things immediately stuck out to me. For one, since he never had a traditional job, he wouldn’t have any work credits. Thus, Social Security Disability Insurance would not likely be a route he could pursue. Instead, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), a needs-based program, would be his best option. However, when she stated that he hurt himself working on a car I asked a follow-up question. “Did he enjoy working on cars?” She responded that he did, and he had several old vehicles on their property that he had restored. This was a big red flag for me. It actually pertains to a rule with the SSA that I am not a fan of, but I understand why it is in place.

Under the SSA’s rules for assets, an individual may own one vehicle, regardless of value, and not be required to count that vehicle as an asset. However, if he or she owns two vehicles, one will, in most cases be counted as an asset. In the eyes of the SSA, you can own a brand new $90,000 Cadillac Escalade, and face no penalty, but if you own two 2004 Toyota 4Runners valued at $20,000 you will face a penalty.

SSDIWhen you call us or come see us in person regarding a Social Security claim, we discuss everything regarding assets in more detail. However, I want to focus on vehicle ownership because this one impacts a lot of our clients. It’s not just a car that can be counted against you, though. Many people here in Parkersburg, and really, most of the people in West Virginia, like to ride ATV’s. Thus, a lot of people own them. Well, an ATV can be counted as a vehicle, and it can be counted as an asset if you’re applying for SSI. The same can be true for certain types of motorcycles, RVs, and even animals.

I understand why the SSA has to have certain limits for assets. It wouldn’t be fair to let someone who has 10 cars worth over a million dollars draw SSI. Once again, it is a needs-based program. Then again, it’s not fair that a person with an $8,000 truck and a $3,000 ATV are penalized. I wish the SSA would simply set a monetary limit for all vehicles. For instance, why not say all vehicles can’t exceed $50,000?

Overall, it’s important to be educated about how all assets can impact your claim for SSI. If you are interested in learning more about the process, call us today for a FREE consultation. Our toll-free number is 1-877-526-3457. If you can’t talk now, fill out this form so that we may call you at a later time.

Reporting Changes in SSI

Last week we discussed what changes need to be reported to the Social Security Administration (SSA) if you are receiving social security disability insurance (SSDI) and how to report these changes. This week we’ll take a look at what changes you need to report if you receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

People you live with
It’s very important to report income or living changes to the SSA if you’re receiving any kind of social security benefits. If you have a roommate that moves in or moves out the SSA will need to know about it. This includes children, so be sure to alert the SSA if your roommate has a baby. Even if one roommate moves out and one moves in, a report is still necessary.
The SSA needs to know this because the people you live with can affect how much “in-kind” income you have.
Living arrangement
The SSA needs to know if you move into a nursing home or any kind of assisted living facility. In some states you will need to report if your cooking facilities or share of living expenses changes.

Income
If you start or stop receiving benefits other than SSI you must notify the SSA. Also, you need to report if you begin to collect money from any kind of employment. Changes in your spouse’s income will need to be reported as well.

Assets
By law, you are limited to only having access to $2,000 in assets if you are single and receiving SSI. If you are married you can have $3,000. Assets include any cash or money you have in checking, savings, stocks or bonds. If there are any new financial accounts made with your name on it, a report must be filed with the SSA, even if you do not receive money from the account.

Marital status
Getting married or divorced are both changes that need to be reported to the SSA.

Consequences
Failure to report changes to the SSA could result in your benefits being stopped until you pay back the amount of overpayment or work out a payment plan with the SSA.A penalty between $25-$100 may also be enforced for failing to report changes.

If you purposely mislead the SSA about your living or income situation, you might become ineligible for benefits for six months. You can be ineligible for up to 12 months if you are caught misinforming the SSA twice. For a third offense you can be ineligible for 24 months. In some cases you could be convicted of fraud and face jail time.

If you have questions about what changes you need to report or how to report it, call Jan Dils Attorneys at Law. Call today for a free consultation 1-877-526-3457.

How to document migraine headaches for your doctor

I am one of the lucky ones in life because I’ve never broken a bone. It’s possibly the result of being an overly cautious child, and the fact that I always drank my milk to ensure healthy bone growth. While other kids in my elementary school were coming to class with casts and fun stories to impress strangers, I was preserving my bone health for later in life. Broken bones are painful, and I’ll be ok with the way my life turns out if I never experience a broken bone. That may not happen, though. However, as an individual who likes to look on the bright side, it’s usually easy to tell if you have a broken bone. A simple x-ray will determine if your bone is broken, and how severe it is too. If you tell people you have a broken bone, most people won’t question if you are suffering or not. That’s not the same for every condition, though. This can cause an issue for some Social Security Claims.

When the other kids were having issues with their broken bones, I was suffering from a quite a different type of pain, migraine migraines. Migraines aren’t as easy to detect as a broken bone. First of all, you don’t get a colorful cast for your classmates to sign. Second, there isn’t really a good way to diagnose a migraine condition, especially in situations in which head trauma does not occur. Trust me, I know this from experience. I had to have x-rays on my head to make sure I didn’t have a TBI. There I was, a first grader, suffering from excruciating pain.  Twenty-five years later I’ve only experienced pain worse than that once in my life. However, that we will be something I talk about when we cover kidney health. So, stay tuned.

With extensive testing over the course of the year, my doctor said that I would simply “grow out of the condition.” He was right. Eventually, the migraines went away, and I could live like a real boy again. If you’re reading this, you’re likely an adult suffering from migraines and have had issues getting your Social Security claim approved. You likely relate to my struggle to find a cause. There is also a good chance that you are struggling to convey the gravity of your pain to your doctor. If so, one thing we encourage our clients to do is document all their migraines in a log.

A migraine log, or journal,  is quite easy to keep. Simply get yourself a small notebook and keep track of all of your migraines or migraines. Be sure to make note of when a migraine occurs, how long it lasts, the pain intensity, and what you did to alleviate the pain. A log like this can be used to help prove that your condition is disabling. This is especially true if your migraines interfered with your work performance. In other words, if you ever missed work or had to leave early because of your migraines, that will also help your argument. If you take prescription medication for your migraines, note that in your log as well. Our office can also provide you with a migraine log that it already set up.

While I mostly discussed migraines today, a log is a great way to document other conditions too. If you have issues with panic/anxiety attacks a log will be a great way to show your doctor how frequently they occur. This is also true for individuals who have seizures. I’ve even been told to use a log to document my blood pressure.

Simply put, a log is just another piece of evidence that can be used to help your case. Medical evidence is what wins cases, and this is one of the small ways you can provide more evidence to support your claim. If you’d like to know more about our services, or if you’d like to sign up for a free consultation, call our toll-free number now. It’s 1-877-526-3457. If you can’t talk now, fill out this form so that we may call you at a better time.

Presumptive Disability

Anyone who has applied for any kind of Social Security benefits will be quick to tell you that waiting is part of the process. At almost every step of the process you can expect some sort of a wait time. This can be problematic for applicants who have a serious and immediate need of help. To assist people in this situation, the SSA created a presumptive disability program.

This programs lets the SSA give temporary benefits to applicants who the SSA presumes will be approved. Presumptive benefits are only available for the first six months of the application process and only through the supplemental security income (SSI) program, not social security disability insurance (SSDI).

To qualify for this program you must meet all the criteria for presumptive disability. Your condition must be so severe that the SSA automatically assumes you are disabled. Here are some conditions that usually qualify for presumptive disability.

  • symptomatic HIV infection or AIDS
  • amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a.k.a. Lou Gehrig’s disease
  • low birth weight
  • confinement to bed and required use of a wheelchair, walker, or crutches due to a longstanding condition
  • spinal cord injury with inability to walk without walker or similar device
  • stroke, more than three months ago, with difficulty walking or using a hand or arm
  • muscular dystrophy, cerebral palsy, or muscular atrophy, with difficulty walking, speaking, or using hands or arms
  • severe mental retardation (seven years old or older)
  • end-stage renal (kidney) disease (ESRD) requiring chronic dialysis
  • terminal illness, in hospice, with six months or less to live
  • total deafness
  • total blindness
  • Down syndrome
  • amputation of two limbs or of one leg at the hip

If you’re applying for SSI benefits and are in need of immediate help, you should consider applying for presumptive disability benefits. You can contact your local SSA office for more information or call the Jan Dils Attorneys at Law.

What happens when I apply for Disability Benefits?

On a daily basis we are asked by clients, “What happens once I apply for disability benefits?” They have many questions and concerns about the process and how long it will be before they get a decision. There are no sure-fired answers to give them, but we can explain the system and help them understand the process.

I try to explain that, once you have filed your application with the Social Security Administration, they will start to gather your medical records from the doctors you listed. You can speed this along by contacting your medical providers and making sure that they send your records back as quickly as possible. Once all of the records are gathered, your file is reviewed and a medical decision is made. This generally takes three to four months or more. If you are not approved at this level, you can appeal the denial by filing a Request for Reconsideration and then a Request for Hearing before an Administrative Law Judge. This entire process may take up to two years or more from start to finish.

Can I Speed Up the Social Security Process?

I did an intake for a client today and she really made me think. She was in need of an approval very quickly due to her circumstances and she asked what she could do to get her favorable decision sped up.

This is really a hard question to answer because it generally takes quite a while to get a decision. The process is complicated and hard to understand, but there are several things that you can do to help your claim:

  1. Seek medical treatment and be consistent with your allegations.
  2. Keep the Social Security office updated on any major changes in your condition, especially an MRI, x-rays, scans, etc.
  3. Make sure that they have requested and received your medical records.
  4. Keep any appointments that they set up for you with their doctors.

Remember that the decision will be based on the medical evidence in your file. This evidence must substantiate your allegations of disability.

How Long Does it Take to Process My Initial Claim?

JennySo, you filed your initial application for your SSD or SSi, and the next question you are likely asking is: “How long will it take to receive a decision from this application?” Unfortunately, there is not a quick response after you apply.

Once you’ve submitted your initial application with all the appropriate paperwork, the SSA will contact your doctors and get additional information about your medical abilities. It takes 3-5 months for the SSA to process your initial claim. The great majority of initial claims are denied Due to the fact that so many claims are denied at this initial step, a lot of people get discouraged, and do not appeal the decision.

If you are denied, give our office a call for a free phone consultation. Our attorneys and staff have the knowledge and expertise to help you with your claim. Call us today: 1-877-526-3457

When You’re Pursuing Social Security Disability, the Waiting is the Hardest Part

The Great American lyricist Tom Petty once wrote that “the waiting is the hardest part.” Mr. Petty, who I believe is wise beyond his years, states that this song is Why does Social Security Have a 5 Month Waiting Periodso popular because it applies to many situations. While I believe we are safe to assume Mr. Petty was not actually writing about Social Security Disability when he wrote his song, it does apply. Recently, while talking to some colleagues about Social Security, I was curious about what the hardest part of a Social Security case was for our clients. They responded, almost in unison, by saying that waiting is the hardest part of a Social Security case. Many individuals seeking Social Security disability are aware that waiting is a big part of a case, but they may not be aware as to why. Further, the wait appears to be getting longer. Let’s discuss this in more detail now.

The problem.

When examining the Social Security timeline, it’s important to know that there is not one single issue contributing to the long wait. There are actually several different reasons why cases take so long and why the wait seems to be getting worse. When most people hear that the backlog of cases is getting worse, they assume that there must just be more people filing for disability claims. That is not the case, though. As a firm, we have not seen a dramatic uptick in cases, and the industry as whole backs this up too. New applications are steady, but there is a not a dramatic difference between now and years past.

The Huffington Post reported the following in October of 2015. The number of requests for hearings has increased, the federal judges who hear appeals have become less productive, there are fewer attorneys on staff who could decide cases without going through the lengthy hearing process and fewer judges overall. All of these reasons are contributing to a longer wait for a hearing. Here we are a year later, and not much has changed. It’s still over 430 days for a hearing. For most of the clients we represent, we tell them to expect at least a 12-18 month wait after the hearing request is filed.

Can anything be done?

A lot of people assume that hiring an attorney will automatically get them approved for their Social Security benefits. Trust me, we wish this were true. A lot of people also assume that hiring an attorney means your case will get fast tracked. This is not true either. Hiring an attorney can be beneficial for your case in many ways, but we can’t guarantee a win, and we can’t speed up your case. What we can do is help you file for your benefits, file appeals, review/submit medical records, represent you at your hearings and answer questions you have along the way. We also keep our clients on track by creating follow up letters and help you get secondary opinions when necessary. The development of your case is key and our office has over 20 years of experience to do so.

You may also wonder if the problems are going to be fixed by anyone. Well, it’s complicated. We can’t really speculate on why judges aren’t being replaced. Obviously, the budget is a concern. With our country going through a transition in leadership, it’s hard to tell what the future holds for the SSA. We hope that the problem is resolved soon.

What should I do?

We are very upfront with all our clients regarding the Social Security backlog. We try to keep expectations in check. We’ve been doing this since 1994, so we know what to expect. However, we understand that this is a difficult time for you and there is a lot of uncertainty during this time. With that in mind, there are a lot of things you can do to help your case during the backlog. For one, continuous treatment will be beneficial for your case. Making and keeping appointments with your medical care professional are among the top things you can do help your case. Being up front with your healthcare provider about how your disability is impacting you will also help you with your case.

If you work with an attorney, it’s important to stay in touch with their office. We encourage our clients to let us know if they move, change phone numbers, have changes in their household and any updates regarding their medical treatment. Our offices utilize case managers too. Case managers are great because they can answer questions for our clients and assist in the development of our clients’ claims throughout the entire process. We encourage our clients to contact us if they have any questions. We want our clients to be educated in the claims process and know we are by their side the entire time.

Overall, the backlog does not appear to be going away anytime soon. Once again, we’ve been doing this for over 20 years, and we know there is light at the end of the tunnel. Which reminds me of another Tom Petty lyric, “I won’t back down.” Social Security cases are tough, but you can’t give up. We are upfront with our clients. If we identify obstacles in your case that makes an approval difficult, we will be upfront with you. However, if we took your case, we believe in it. So, don’t give up. We’ll do whatever we can to help you get approved.