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One-third of all Americans between the ages 35 and 65 will become disabled for more than 90 days and 1 in 7 workers will be disabled for more than five years

Over the years, we have handled tens of thousands of disability claims for injured workers. The one thing they have in common is that none of the clients planned on having a disability. According to the American Council of Life Insurers, one-third of all Americans between the ages 35 and 65 will become disabled for more than 90 days and one in seven workers will be disabled for more than five years. Short Term/Long Term Disability policies can be purchased through an employer from companies like Aetna, MetLife, New York Life, etc. This type of policy can provide more immediate financial relief than...

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New proposed rule sets a “floor” for social security benefits at 25% above the poverty level, among other pro-claimant recommendations.

Congressman John Larson of Connecticut is again making the rounds with Social Security 2100, a set of proposals he has been making for a few years to both protect the Fund and to ensure the meaningfulness of the benefits for our lowest earning neighbors:

  • Immediate increase in Social Security benefits equal to about 2% of the average benefit amount.
  • Adoption of a new way to adjust for inflation for determining annual cost-of-living adjustments to benefit payments, based on the CPI-E, an inflation benchmark that incorporates goods and services that are more appropriate for the older and low income Americans.
  • A minimum benefit set at 25% above the federal poverty line to ensure that low-income workers avoid poverty in retirement.
  • Higher income thresholds for tax-free benefits, with the income levels at which a portion of Social Security can become included in taxable income rising from $25,000 to $50,000 for single filers and from $32,000 to $100,000 for joint filers.
  • Collection of Social Security payroll taxes on wages and self-employment above $400,000 ($132,900 currently).
    phase-in of higher payroll tax rates for Social Security, which would eventually take the current level of 6.2% up to 7.4% by 2042.

The bill would ensure that any increase in benefits under its provisions wouldn’t affect eligibility for other key federal programs, including Supplemental Security Income, Medicaid, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program.

 

The Congressional Budget Office Recommends Cuts to Social Security Benefits

The Congressional Budget Office’s recommendation for reducing the deficit includes cuts to Social Security Disability, including eliminating Child's SSI benefits altogether. Among the CBO's recommendations are six "mandatory spending" options, as well as a taxation option: Eliminate Supplemental Security Income Benefits for Disabled Children Link Initial Social Security Benefits to Average Prices Instead of Average Earnings Make Social Security’s Benefit Structure More Progressive Option 31 Raise the Full Retirement Age for Social Security Require Social Security Disability Insurance Applicants to Have Worked More in Recent Years Eliminate Eligibility for Starting Social Security Disability Benefits at Age 62 or Later Tax Social Security...

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LTD Benefits: What You Need To Know

 

Erik Berger, OBL Partner and Long Term Disability Specialist, recently wrote an article for The National Association of Disability:

“According to a 2016 survey, approximately 40% of Americans have a privately purchased disability insurance policy or a disability policy offered through their employer. Since Social Security disability benefits, on average, provide approximately one third of the amount of the average disabled worker’s paycheck, and since many people live paycheck to paycheck without substantial savings, the successful presentation of a Long Term Disability benefits claim (LTD) is absolutely critical to maintaining the worker’s financial and personal stability. For instance, a 2017 study of bankruptcy court records demonstrated that over 40% of mortgage foreclosures are attributed, at least in part, to disability.

LTD benefits obtained as a benefit of employment (and usually paid for by the employer), somewhat like Social Security benefits, are paid to beneficiaries whose disability is expected to last more than a few months; although the terms of the LTD contract control, generally speaking most workers may be entitled to LTD benefits for up to 2 years if they are unable to work at the job they were performing when they became disabled, and even permanently if the worker’s disability results in an inability to perform any gainful employment. In almost all cases involving a disability policy purchased by the company, the worker will be required, as a condition of receiving LTD benefits, that they also apply for Social Security disability. However, if the LTD policy is bought privately most of these policies provide disability benefits on the sole basis that the policyholder is unable to perform their past job.

One way that claims for LTD benefits is vastly different from Social Security claims is that they are adversarial cases, where the employer and/or insurance company has claims adjusters, doctors, vocational experts and other experts who provide evidence against the worker’s interest. So, even though the “HR person” at the company may be, in fact, a very nice person, this should not lull the worker into forgetting that, in the end, the employer/insurance company will always look out for itself first. “

OBL Applauds AALJ Statement Regarding Hearing Scheduling

The Association of Administrative Law Judges (AALJ) is the professional association that 80% or more of Social Security ALJs belong to, and carries as part of its mission statement a commitment to the "independent and honorable administrative judiciary as indispensable to justice in our society." In the President’s Newsletter dated November 16, 2018, the AALJ responded to a new regulation proposed by SSA to give sole discretion in how hearings are scheduled (in person or by video) to the Agency, thereby taking away the claimant's ability to opt for an in-person hearing with the ALJ who is going to decide...

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Pennsylvania Reinstates General Assistance Program

OBL is delighted to forward the following message from Richard Weishaupt, the Director of Community Legal Services in Philadelphia: It is with great thanks that I can say that Pennsylvania has reinstated the General Assistance program. As you may recall, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court unanimously held that Act 80, which eliminated the GA program, had been enacted in a manner that violated the Pennsylvania Constitution. It has taken several months for the state to revise their computer programs and retrain their staff, but they have been accepting applications while they were reprogramming. Finally, eligible Pennsylvanians began getting benefits today, just in...

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Osterhout Berger Disability Law Files Brief Before the Supreme Court

In Biestek v. Berryhill the Supreme Court will consider whether a Social Security judge erred when she failed to require the vocational expert to produce evidence that, in part, formed the basis for her testimony that there were a significant number of jobs the claimant could perform despite his limitations. Specifically, when asked on cross-examination by the claimant’s representative (we did not represent this claimant at his hearing) to explain the basis for her opinion that there were a significant number of jobs the claimant could perform, the vocational expert explained that she based her opinion on a combination of...

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Cigna Awards Benefits after Osterhout Berger Disability Law File a Lawsuit in Federal Court

Our client, a Patient Services Representative, was forced to stop working in 2016 because of medical conditions to include fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, neuropathy, lumbar radiculopathy, and rheumatoid arthritis. She filed a claim with Cigna for Long Term disability benefits and was denied these benefits in early 2017. The former Patient Services Representative then hired Osterhout Berger Disability Law and following a review of Cigna’s claim file, Attorney Berger obtained medical treatment records and medical opinions from our client’s treating doctors revealing the severity of her impairments. Attorney Berger filed an appeal but Cigna failed to issue a decision in a timely...

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Software Engineer’s Long Term Disability Benefits Reinstated by The Standard

Our client, a Software Engineer, began receiving long term disability benefits in 2015 because of difficulties with his back. In October 2017 his long term benefits were terminated after The Standard determined that he could return to his own occupation. The former Software Engineer immediately contacted Osterhout Berger Disability Law. Following a review of the claim file Attorney Berger noted that The Standard failed to adequately evaluate all of our client’s physical and mental difficulties and obtained detailed statements from his treating physicians as to the severity of his medical problems and the limitations they caused. Following the submission of an appeal,...

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Paralegal whose LTD claim was denied by Hartford gets Approved after Appeal filed by Osterhout and Berger

A paralegal was forced to stop working in June 2016 as a result of a traumatic brain injury, cognitive impairments, and neck, hip and knee pain. She applied for Long Term disability benefits from Hartford but was denied because it was determined that she was never disabled and could perform her own occupation. The former paralegal retained Osterhout Berger and we agreed to represent her on a contingent basis. We immediately order the claim file and after a review noted that it failed to contain evidence from numerous physicians and an inadequate evaluation of our client’s functional limitations. We obtained medical...

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