Social Security

Archive for Social Security

How Do Auxiliary Benefits Work in Social Security?

Social Security disability is often confusing. Further, there are a ton of special programs and rules that many people don’t realize exist. Recently, while talking Lawyer and Clientwith one of our senior employees, one of these common situations came up. She asked me if I knew anything about “auxiliary benefits.” I must have had a confused look on my face because she immediately started to explain them to me. As I returned to my desk later I realized that if I was confused by this, then surely a lot of our clients were confused by the term too. So, I did what I always do in a situation like this, I turned to Google.

Let’s get the easy part out of the way. What are auxiliary benefits? Essentially, auxiliary benefits are paid to dependent spouses and children of individuals receiving social security.

Who is eligible? This program is only for those individuals pursuing SSDI, not SSI. SSI applicants are not eligible for auxiliary benefits. For a dependent spouse to receive auxiliary benefits, they must be at least 62 years old or have a child who is either under the age of 16 or disabled. For a child to receive auxiliary benefits, they must be a minor (under 18) be found completely disabled before turning 22 or be a high school student under the age of 19.

You may also wonder how much a person will receive when they are granted auxiliary benefits. For the most part, an eligible dependent can receive up to 50% of the disabled person’s benefits. For instance, if a mother was granted SSDI at a rate of $800 per month, her dependent child could likely receive $400 per month. It’s important to note that there is a cap on how much a family can receive. This is referred to as a family maximum. Traditionally, auxiliary benefits are payable to spouses and children of disabled aware that these benefits are limited. The family maximum for the family of a disabled worker is 85 percent of the worker’s Average Indexed Monthly Earnings (AIME). However, it cannot be less than the worker’s PIA (primary insurance amount) nor more than 150 percent of the PIA.

Auxiliary benefits can be very beneficial for a large family, a single parent, or really anyone with dependents. It’s important to remember that these benefits can be altered if your family size changes. For instance, if you have a child, your benefits may go up. If your child leaves for college or reaches an age higher than the set limit, your benefits may go down.

If you weren’t aware that you could receive auxiliary benefits, or if you did, but need assistance with your claim, give us a call. We’d love to talk to you. Our consultation is free. Just call via our toll-free number, 1-877-526-3457. Or, if you can’t call right now, fill out this form, and we will call you at a better time.

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.

What Role Does DDS Play in a Social Security Claim?

Sadly, last week we said goodbye to one of our long time employees. Jackie Roberts has been with us for 14 years. Jackie is a kind soul and has been a great part Why does Social Security Have a 5 Month Waiting Periodof this firm for a long time. Her daughter Shannan works for us a Non-Attorney Rep, and together they helped build this firm to where we are now. It’s hard to see such a good employee go. While I always liked Jackie, I can honestly say I haven’t the slightest idea what she did here. Don’t get me wrong, I know she is very hard working. She is usually here before I arrive in the morning, and she is often still working after I leave for the day. I Also know that Jackie’s job dealt with DDS. I just have no idea what DDS, what it means for social security, and how someone adequately performs a DDS task. With Jackie retiring, I thought it might be a good time to figure out what DDS means, and how it impacts a social security claim.

You might be wondering why I am even writing for a social security blog if I don’t know what DDS means. Well, my background is in VA disability. The VA does not really have a DDS equivalent. I am currently expanding my knowledge of social security. Did you know that Social Security is really confusing? I’m going to assume that if you filed a claim, you are already aware of that.

The first thing I had to do was figure out what the letters DDS mean. Acronyms really irritate me. They don’t save that much time, and if people didn’t use them, I wouldn’t have to be writing this blog. But, the world isn’t perfect. It turns out DDS stands for Disability Determination Services. According to the social security website, Most Social Security disability claims are initially processed through a network of local Social Security Administration (SSA) field offices and State agencies (usually called Disability Determination Services or DDS). The field office is responsible for verifying non-medical eligibility requirements, which may include age, employment, marital status, or Social Security coverage information. The field office then sends the case to a DDS for evaluation of disability.

PI 2 040Further, the social security website states that DDS tries to obtain evidence from the claimant’s own medical sources first. (Your private medical records.) If that evidence is unavailable or insufficient to make a determination,  DDS will arrange for a consultative examination (CE) to obtain the additional information needed. The claimant’s treating source is the preferred source for the CE, but the DDS may obtain the CE from an independent source. After completing its development of the evidence, trained staff at the DDS makes the initial disability determination.

So, that can be a little confusing. In other words, DDS makes your initial decision for social security disability. One issue a lot of our clients see with DDS is a denial. Actually, it’s not just our clients; it is social security as a whole. Approximately 90% of all claims get denied through DDS.

Now that we have a better understanding of what DDS is, how does one work in a “DDS” position in a law firm? That was actually interesting to learn. Jackie role was essentially a liaison between DDS and our office. Anytime DDS needed additional information for a client, Jackie would handle those requests for individuals we represented. During her time with us, Jackie made a lot of great relationships with the individuals at our local DDS office, and her work helped thousands get the benefits they deserve.

If you’ve been denied, call us today for a free consultation. Our toll-free number is 1-877-526-3457. If you’d rather be contacted at a later time, fill out this form now, and we’ll have someone contact you at a better time.

How Long after Your Social Security Claim is Approved Should You Expect Payments?

Your Social Security Claim is finally approved after years of waiting. You’re probably relieved because the past few years have likely been stressful. So you’re DSC_0175finally ready to relax. But, it’s been a while since you received your approval and you still haven’t received compensation. So, what’s going on?

Don’t forget that you’re dealing with a government agency, and they have to deal with a lot of red tape. Granted, if you filed a social security claim, you are probably well aware of that by now. I hate to waste time, and I love simple things. In my mind, if you are approved for your benefits, a few clicks of the mouse should send a check your way, but that is not how the SSA does things. In fact, there are a number of things you should know about the payment process after you’re approved.

First of all, the way in which payments are process starts our confusion. SSI payments are processed at your local SSA office. On the other hand, SSD payments are processed by way of National Processing Centers. These are generally pretty far away from people in rural areas. For instance, our firm is based in Parkersburg, West Virginia. We frequently deal with the processing centers in Philadelphia and Baltimore. Obviously, they aren’t local, and they can have issues that we might not be aware of back here.

It’s also important to note that the SSA is a large organization housing many different departments. These departments are usually not in sync. So, it makes total sense that you could receive a favorable decision, and not receive payment for 30 to 120 days. It also possible, but uncommon, that you could get a payment before you actually receive the decision. We see this more so in our VA Disability practice, but it is possible with social security too.

With social security, like most things in life, the less complicated the situation, the quicker it will be. If you just have a normal black and white social security claim, you likely won’t see many issues.  However, if you have a workers comp claim or retirement, or even if you’re getting both SSD and SSI, you’re more likely than not going to see delays.

We know how frustrating it can be at a time like this, but we’ve seen it a lot before, and we’ll likely see it more in the future. Once the processing is complete, the claimant will receive a Notice of Award letter detailing all the payment information such as monthly benefit amount, back pay amount owed, when monthly checks will start and how much was paid to the attorney, if you made use of one.

Finally, there are some miscellaneous items that can cause delays. For instance, if you were married or divorced during the time your claim was pending, this will likely cause a delay. The same is true if you returned to work during this same process. Delays should be expected there as well.

The disability process as a whole is very frustrating. It’s best not to fight it alone. That’s why so many people turn to the team at Jan Dils Attorneys at Law to get the benefits they deserve. From start to finish we have the people and the passion for getting you the benefits you deserve. Call us today for a free consultation. Our toll-free number is 1-877-526-3457. If you can’t talk right now, fill out this form, and a representative will call you at a more convenient time.

What is the Most Important Element of a Social Security Case?

What is the most important aspect of a Social Security case? Depending on who you ask, you’re going to get a lot of different answers. The Social Security Administration will probably tell you that work credits are important. They aren’t wrong, work credits are very important, and can make a big difference in your West Virginia Medical Malpractice Attorneycase. Lawyers will probably tell you that evidence is the most important aspect of any social security case. Can’t really argue with them, they’re lawyers, and they make a good point; the evidence is very important to prove a disability. But I don’t work for the SSA, and I’m not a lawyer, so what do I think is the most important part of a Social Security case? A disability case, like every aspect of life, can’t exist without communication. Today I am going to argue my point.

Before we really start, I must admit I have a biased view. There’s a piece of paper hanging in my living room from West Virginia University that says I think communication is so important, that I decided to study it at the graduate level. While learning about cultivation theory was a lot of fun, studying communications has helped me in numerous ways in my everyday life. Communicating effectively to me is almost like a super power. While I feel that I am an excellent communicator, I recognize that it’s a huge problem in the world of social security. So, why is communication so important to a social security case? Let’s find out.

DSC_0111When I started writing this blog I did a quick impromptu poll of my coworkers who work in our social security line of business. Most of them are non-attorney reps and have at least 4 years experience. About 90% of them stated that evidence was the most important aspect of a case. They’re so passionate about evidence that I’m afraid they may beat me up once this blog goes live. I will agree that medical evidence is the most important tangible aspect of a case. Medical records, written reports, and so on will make or break a case. However, the greatest medical evidence in the world means nothing if we can’t communicate with our clients. We will dive deeper into this aspect of effective communications later in this blog, but let’s break down the medical evidence argument first.

So, you say the medical evidence is important? Ok, how does an individual get medical evidence for a case? They have to visit a medical doctor or healthcare professional. Even if you go to the best doctor in the world, he or she can’t effectively treat you if you can’t communicate your problems to them. One of the fascinating things I studied in graduate school pertained to communication apprehension. Simply, communication apprehension is fear or anxiety associated with communication with another person or group of people.

Are you like me; do you hate going to the doctor? Do you also downplay your pain, injuries or disabilities? That is a textbook example of communication apprehension. It makes sense to fear to discuss medical issues with a doctor. After all, these are the people who diagnose individuals with life-threatening diseases and perform surgery. A lot of us allow this fear we have with doctors to keep us from telling them the extent of our pain or injuries. So, if you aren’t communicating with your doctor properly, then your medical evidence isn’t going to be that strong, and you’re likely going to have a harder time getting a favorable decision then if you were completely honest.

Not communicating with a doctor is one way in which I can argue that communication is the most important part of a Social Security case, but I want to further my argument. Speaking of arguments, can you guess which profession, besides doctors, has a big issue with communication apprehension? People view attorneysPi Photo Shoot 1 099 the same way they view doctors. That means that a lot of people, especially individuals pursuing social security, are going to be apprehensive when interacting with their attorneys or with their support staff. The reason for this comes from the media. When most of us think of attorneys, we think of the characters we see on TV. Most people recall scenes from A Few Good Men, or Law & Order. Those productions tend to be highly dramatic and exaggerate the courtroom setting. In reality, the attorneys you deal with in a social security case are far more approachable than you would find in a murder trial. It’s a completely different type of law. After all, we are trying to help people. Eventually, our clients realize this after they’ve interacted with us a few times, but it can be difficult at first.

Communication apprehension can be an issue for us if a client is hesitant to inform us about their disabilities. Here is an example that many can relate to: Let’s say that you’re filling out your initial application with your intake specialist. In this situation, you’re stating that your back is the reason you can’t work. When the intake specialist asks you to describe how your back affects your ability to work, you downplay your pain or give very short answers about your work history. We especially see this with male clients. We understand that you are likely nervous about your claim, but the more we know about your case, the better we can assist you.

DSC_0175Let’s now look at how communication impacts a social security case from the opposite end of the spectrum. You can have the best evidence in the world, but if you choose not to communicate with your attorney or the SSA, you’re going to lose. Too often we have issues getting in touch with our clients. This is especially true when it gets close to time for a hearing. We need clients to show up to hearings so that we can effectively argue their case. If we can’t get in touch with you, and if you don’t show up, then you’re going to lose.

What if you needed one great evaluation from a doctor to get approved by a judge, and didn’t let us know that you had received it recently? We can’t request records if you don’t let us know that you went to the doctor. So that great evidence is rendered useless if it can’t be submitted. Jan Dils Attorneys at Law has been representing individuals for social security claims since 1994. In that time we have learned a few things about client services. We try to make the process on our end as easy as possible. Clients can stay in touch with us numerous ways. Of course, you can call or stop by the office. But you can also email us, you can leave a message with our after-hours answering service, and you can even report updates directly to our website. We even make use of outlets like Facebook and Twitter to stay in touch with our clients.

In conclusion, I will agree that evidence is one of the most important aspects of a case. However, if you aren’t communicating with your representative, your evidence may never make it to the SSA. If you’d like to know more about what the team at Jan Dils, Attorneys at Law can do for you, call us today for a free consultation. Our toll-free number is 1-877-526-3457. If you’d rather be contacted at a later time, fill out this form, and a representative will contact you at a more convenient time.

SSA Announces Later Office Hours

Beginning March 16, 2015, local Social Security branches across America will be open to the public for an additional hour on weekdays from 9-4 p.m.

This includes Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, as these Social Security offices will continue to close at noon on Wednesdays to allow employees to catch up on their current work projects.

This certainly looks like a positive step for the Social Security Administration in its attempts to reduce backlog and be more available and efficient to current and future Social Security beneficiaries.

They have also stepped up their online and phone efforts recently, so if these hours don’t work for you for an in-person visit – especially if your best day is Wednesday – they can also help you online through the website or by phone at 1-800-772-1213.

If you have a disabling condition and believe you may be eligible for Social Security Disability benefits, the expert team of Jan Dils, Attorneys at Law, can help you get the benefits you deserve. Contact us toll-free at 1.877.526.3457 or by e-mail to schedule your free initial consultation today.

Social Security’s Cost-of-Living Adjustment

Last month, the 64 million recipients of Social Security benefits were slated to receive a 1.7% cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) to their monthly check. Announced by the SSA in late 2014, this should equate to around an extra $264 per year for beneficiaries to help with rising costs of living.

While for many individuals receiving Social Security Disability payments, this money will go directly into their groceries and other bills, if your budget affords any leeway to invest the extra money, this could be helpful in the long run. In fact, financial experts have recommended putting the money toward stock or property investments or allocating it for something practical such as writing a will.

Though the cost-of-living adjustment wasn’t as high as some advocates had hoped, it offers a much-needed cushion to support the rising costs of groceries and other necessities. Hopefully, between this and the cheaper gas prices of late, Social Security Disability beneficiaries will find their needs met when they are unable to work.

If you’re considering applying for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits or have questions about the process, the experienced lawyers of Jan Dils, Attorneys at Law, can help. (Please keep in mind, you must have medical evidence that shows your condition will last longer than 12 months or could result in death.)

To schedule a free initial consultation with our expert staff, call toll free: 1.877.526.3457. Or you can click here to fill out our online contact form.