Increase In Social Security Disability Benefits For 2014

Social Security Administration (SSA) has announced a cost of living adjustment of 1.5% for 2014.  As a result, monthly benefits for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) beneficiaries will rise next year.

With the increase, the maximum federal benefit for an individual receiving SSI will rise from $710 per month to $721. The benefit for a couple on SSI will grow from $1,066 per month to $1,082. Many states add to SSI benefits for their residents meaning that actual payments could exceed these caps.  Massachusetts is one of the States that adds a supplemental benefit.

Disability For Chronic Migraines

A migraine is a severe headache that often causes debilitating pain.  Although the Social Security Administration (SSA) does not have a listing specific for migraine headaches, you can qualify for disability benefits if your headaches are severe and impact your level of functioning to the point you cannot work.   Migraines are often accompanied or preceded by:

  • Depression
  • Constipation
  • Food cravings
  • Hyperactivity
  • Irritability
  • Neck stiffness
  • Uncontrollable yawning

As migraines are subjective and cannot be detected by standard medical tests, you should document the migraines you have, noting the frequency, severity and intensity.  A good way to document your headaches is to keep a headache diary.  This diary will not only assist you with your application for disability benefits or potential hearing, but may also assist your physician in treating you. [Read more…]

How Will the Affordable Care Act Affect Individuals With Disabilities?

As we are now entering the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”, “ACA”), it will be interesting to see how each State decides coverage for their residents.  Although the Act has several mandates, it appears that each State has some latitude in how the Act is implemented.  The Affordable Care Act requires that health insurance plans sold to individuals and small businesses provide a minimum package of services in 10 categories called “essential health benefits.” These categories include hospitalization, maternity and newborn care, ambulatory care, and prescription drugs, to name a few.  But rather than establishing a national standard for these benefits, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) decided to allow each state to choose from a set of plans to serve as the benchmark plan in their state. Whatever benefits that plan covers in the 10 categories will be deemed the essential benefits for plans in the state.  Although flexibility and State by State choice according to local issues sounds reasonable on the surface, a federal benchmark definition of “essential health benefits” may have been a better choice given the complexity and magnitude of regulation this Act may require. [Read more…]

Can I Qualify For Disability Benefits With Anxiety?

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is a disorder characterized by feelings of stress, tension, worry and apprehension.  To qualify for disability benefits based on anxiety, your condition must be more than general worrying over specific events.  Your condition must be so severe and overwhelming that it affects your activities of daily living and prevents you from working.

Symptoms associated with anxiety often include:

  • Restlessness
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Irritability or explosive anger
  • Muscle tension
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Personality changes, such as becoming less social

[Read more…]

Filing For Disability Benefits With Depression

Depression is one of the leading causes of disability.  If it is not the sole condition or impairment listed on disability applications, it is often one of several conditions or the unfortunate result of longstanding, chronic pain.  The symptoms of depression often include sadness, hopelessness, fatigue and decreased energy, and issues with concentration.  Major depression may include suicidal ideations, suicide attempts and inpatient psychiatric treatment.  Although it’s not know what causes depression, many factors including biological, genetic and environmental may be to blame.  Life events, trauma and stress also contribute to the severity of depression.

To qualify for disability benefits if you are diagnosed with depression, you must either meet or equal a listing published by the Social Security Adminstration (SSA).  The “listings” are published by SSA and set forth the criteria you must meet to be deemed disabled.  If you do not meet or equal a Social Security listing, you can still qualify for disability benefits under the Medical-Vocational allowance.  See our other post for a discussion on the Medical-Vocational allowance.

[Read more…]

Applying For Disability With PTSD

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a disorder which occurs after experiencing a physically or psychologically traumatic event.  Examples may include, but are not limited to, an accident, physical or sexual abuse, or natural disaster.  Veterans may experience events that are both physically and psychologically traumatic in the course of combat during their military career.  PTSD can cause sleeplesness, anger, anxiety, nightmares, flashbacks, hypervigilance and fear.  Treatment for PTSD can include medication, counseling, cognitive-behavioral therapy and pyschotherapy.

As with any Social Security Disability claim, you must ensure that all of your limitations are documented.   This may be accomplished in your medical records, supplemented with opinion or medical source statements by your treating physicians, or by any other means which can prove your inability work.  Some of the limitations associated with PTSD that could impact your ability to work include fatigue, memory loss or concentration issues.  Some claimants may not be able to perform certain types of work if they have issues with concentration, working closely with coworkers or the general public, or would need to take time off due to medical appointments, sickness or counseling sessions.

Please call our office if you have any questions regarding filing for disability benefits with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

How Will The Government Shutdown Affect Social Security?

I have been asked this question several times over the past week.   There have been delays in dealing with the local Social Security office, and services have been limited.  If you have a disability hearing before an Administrative Law Judge scheduled, however, there does not appear to be any delays or rescheduling due to the Government shutdown.   Please refer to the SSA website for a detailed list of the services still provided during the shutdown.

Planning With Special Needs Trusts

When your estate plan includes family or friends with special needs, care must be taken.  As the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program is means tested, beneficiaries are allowed only $2,000 in countable assets to retain eligibility.  Although Social Security allows beneficiaries to have one house and one car, any other assets over $2,000 will be countable and affect eligibility.  Therefore, if you leave money to a loved one who is receiving SSI or Medicaid benefits, there is a good chance it will affect their eligibility.  More importantly, it may affect the medical insurance they receive as part of their benefits.

One option to consider when your estate plan includes special needs family members is a Special Needs or Supplemental Needs Trust.  With this option, instead of leaving your assets directly to your loved one, you leave it to the Special Needs Trust for their benefit.  If the trust is properly drafted, the beneficiary can benefit from the assets without affecting their eligibility for Medicaid or SSI.  This type of Special Needs Trust is a Third Party Special Needs Trust.  Another type of Special Needs Trust is the Self-Settled Special Needs Trust, which will not be discussed as part of this post.

[Read more…]

Qualifying For SSI and SSDI Disability

If you are disabled and can’t work, there are numerous programs and assistance to help you.  Two of those programs at the federal level are Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI).  Although there are several differences between the SSI and SSDI disability programs, there is one similarity.  The definition of disability is the same and medical disability is assessed the same way under both programs.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is the disability program for those individuals that have not worked or have not worked enough recently to be insured for benefits. It pays monthly cash benefits to people who are age 65 or older, those who are blind, or those who have a disability and have $2,000 or less in assets and have no or limited income. Both adults and children can apply for SSI.

[Read more…]

Qualifying For Disability Benefits With ADHD

A diagnosis for ADHD, like other conditions and injuries, does not mean a child will automatically qualify for disability benefits.  Children under 18 diagnosed with ADHD will be granted benefits if the severity of their condition meets the Social Security Administrations (SSA) impairment listing, or functionally equals the listing.   The applicable listing for ADHD can be found at 112.11 of the children’s listings.

To meet listing 112.11, your child must have all three (3) symptoms of ADHD:  marked inattention, marked impulsiveness and marked hyperactivity.  For children 3-18, the claimant must have severe difficulty in at least two (2) of the following four (4) areas:

[Read more…]