In the case Keene v. Workers' Compensation Appeal Board (Ogden Corp.), the Commonwealth Court held that a claimant, who was receiving Social Security Disability, did not remove herself from the work force, because she testified that she stopped looking for employment for a two-year period after a work-related knee replacement. Judge Friedman wrote that before the employer could suspend her benefits, they had the burden of showing that the claimant voluntarily retired. According to previous case law the employer meets this burden of proof by providing: (1) there is no dispute that the claimant retired, (2) the claimant has accepted a retirement pension, or (3) the claimant has accepted a pension and refused suitable employment. Since, the claimant did not accept the retirement pension and could not find suitable employment, there was no basis for voluntary retirement.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced that Medicare Part B Premiums will be lower than projected. The Part B premiums will have a 3.6% increase to coincide with the COLA increase previously decided earlier in the year. For 2012 the Medicare Part B Premium will be $99.90 and the Part B deductible will decrease by $22, however the premiums paid for Medicare's prescription drug plan will remain virtually unchanged.
In an effort to control the amount of backlogged cases and reduce the waiting time for a disability decision, the Social Security Administration has opened numerous National Hearing Centers. These National Hearing Centers allow for Administrative Law Judges (ALJ) to hold hearings through video conference. The hope for these new Hearing Centers is to decrease the amount of backlogged cases in various urban areas, as well as making it easier for people living in rural areas of the country.
Commissioner of Social Security, Michael J. Astrue, recently announced that the agency has ended the year with fewer disability hearings pending than in the prior year. Social Security ended fiscal year (FY) 2009 with 722,822 hearings pending compared to 760,813 hearings pending at the start of the year, a reduction of more than 37,000 cases. Over the same period, the average processing time for these cases improved from 514 days in FY 2008 to 491 in FY 2009.
Law Does Not Provide for a Social Security Cost-of-Living Adjustment for 2010
Michael J. Astrue, Commissioner of Social Security, announced that the agency has begun making offers to 144 of the 175 new Administrative Law Judges (ALJs) it will hire this fiscal year. Due to litigation and budget cuts, the agency has about 10% fewer ALJs than it did a decade ago. During that same time, the number of cases waiting for a hearing decision has more than doubled.
Every year, approximately three months before your birthday, the Social Security Administration will send workers over the age of 25 a Social Security Statement. This Earning Statement, as it is often referred to, is an easy-to-read, personal record of the earnings on which you have paid Social Security taxes during your working years. This form also gives you an estimate of benefit payments that you and your family may qualify for now and in the future. Unfortunately, most Americans pay little attention to this green and white piece of paper, often times discarding it. If you are interested in applying for Social Security Disability benefits, this statement can help determine whether you qualify for benefits. If you did throw your statement away, don't worry! We tell you how to get a new Statement later in this article.