At the end of October 2014 the Social Security Administration (SSA) announced a cost-of-living (COLA) adjustment for recipients of Social Security Disability benefits for 2015. The increase, which also applies to recipients of Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Monthly benefits will increase by 1.7 percent beginning on December 31, 2014.
If you currently receive Social Security disability (SSD) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, you need to understand that there is no such thing as permanent disability guaranteeing future payment of benefits. The Social Security Administration (SSA) will periodically review your case to see if your disabling medical impairments ended or improved, and if you can return to work. This review process is called a Continuing Disability Review, or CDR.
Martin law attorney Maria Bermudez-Harris was appointed as Co-Chair of the 2014 Social Security Disability Committee for the Philadelphia Bar Association by the 2014 Chancellor, William Fedulo, Esq. The committee is already off to a strong start as they host their first committee meeting. Maria and her co-chair, David Chermol will honor outgoing co-chairs, Sanjuanita Gonzalez and Jeffrey Lichtman. Area Director, James Riley, III will discuss the consolidation of initial claim online with disability report and attorney Joe Huttemann will be speaking about workers' comp and impact social security has in workers' comp cases, Medicare set aside and a Q&A regarding any potential liability issues for SSD practitioners. Also speaking are Joe Capitan and Marc Vernet on evaluating workers' comp issues, including offset when getting new SSD clients, what the social security administration is looking for in the 546/comp documents that must be submitted to calculate the offset and how to confirm the Social Security Administration considered workers' comp in the NOA.
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.