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  • As regular readers of SS&Y are aware, the Social Security Administration administers 2 trust funds. The Old Age Survivors Insurance (OAS’) fund pays retirement benefits. The Disability Insurance fund (DI) pays disability benefits. When Congress passed and President Obama signed the Bipartisan Budget Act in November of 2015 to reallocate current contributions between the OASI…

    7+ months ago
  • The Social Security Administration has announced there will be no Cost of Living Adjustment in 2016 for the nearly 65 million Americans drawing Social Security disability, retirement or SSI benefits.  This is because there was no inflation between the third quarter of 2014 and 2015 as measured by the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage…

    2+ years ago

News

  • Spring-Summer 2015 Newsletter SSDI Insolvency Looms We’ve known it’s been coming for some time and now it’s on our doorstep. Unless Congress acts the Social Security Disability Insurance Trust Fund (DI Trust Fund) will become insolvent late next year and unable to pay full benefits any longer. Millions of Americans who rely on their disability checks for most, if not all,…

    2+ years ago
  • Fall 2014 Newsletter OBAMACARE UPDATE On October 1st it will have been a year since enrollment began in the Affordable Care Act national health insurance program known as Obamacare. The difficulties in the early weeks and months have been well documented. But where are we a year later… Read the Newsletter in PDF format.   Read the Newsletter in PDF…

    2+ years ago

Social Security & You: Fall 2013

Message From Attorney Crawforth

OBAMACARE SET TO TAKE EFFECT

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare, takes effect January 1, 2014. Open enrollment begins October 1, 2013. Plans and prices will be available then. Open enrollment closes March 31, 2014.

A visit to www.healthcare.gov/ will give you information regarding the Healthcare Marketplaces available in your state. Providers fall into 1 of 5 categories. There are Health Maintenance Organizations (HMO), Exclusive Provider Organizations (EPO), Preferred Provider Organizations (PPO), Point of Service plans (POS), and High Deductible Health Plans (HDHP).

If you employer provides health insurance your options will be limited by the plan your employer chooses to provide. If your employer does not provide health insurance, the Marketplace is the place to go. Some states will run their own healthcare exchanges. Some will use a federal exchange. And some states will have a partnership between the state and the federal government. Michigan falls into the last group. Plans will vary by state but 4 levels of coverage will be offered: bronze, silver, gold and platinum.

By visiting the above site you can get information regarding these various options and sign up to receive information about the providers in each category in your state.

A health center locator can be found at findahealthcenter.hrsa.gov/SearchHCC.aspx. Simply type in your location (zip code works well) and free and low costs healthcare sites will be displayed.

Most plans must provide certain preventive services, such as shots and screening tests, at no cost to you and most health plans cannot charge you more or refuse to cover you because of a pre-existing health condition. And beginning in 2014 you may not be turned down or be charged a higher premium because you are pregnant.

Information regarding the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) can also be accessed. Each state has a CHIP program but the benefits provided vary from state to state.

If you meet your state’s criteria for Medicaid you will be eligible for a free or low-cost health plan and will not need to buy a Marketplace plan. Beginning October 1, 2013 when you fill out an application for the Marketplace on line you will be informed if it looks like you qualify for Medicaid.

Similarly, if you have Medicare you need not buy a plan through the Marketplace, whether you have original Medicare or a Medicare Advantage Plan.

If you have job-based insurance coverage which qualifies as minimum essential coverage under the law you need do nothing. But if your employer currently covers all or a portion of your health insurance you may find yourself thrust into the Marketplace, if your employer chooses to discontinue that contribution.

There are other protections built into the Affordable Care Act. For example, frivolous cancellations are barred. For example, if you make a minor error on your application currently the insurance company can cancel your coverage. This will no longer be permitted. You may use an out of network emergency room without penalty. Persons under 26 years of age may stay on their parent’s coverage. A right to appeal coverage decisions is guaranteed. And there will no longer be yearly or lifetime limits to coverage.

It is also important to realize that if you do not have insurance and do nothing you may have to pay a fee.

So it is important to fill out the Marketplace application on line, shortly after October 1st to learn your options and get ready for the future of healthcare.

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2013 SOCIAL SECURITY TRUSTEES REPORT

This year’s report of the Social Security Trustees was released on May 31, 2013. The Social Security Administration is comprised of 2 trust funds. The Old-Age and Survivors (OASI) Trust Fund covers retirement benefits. The Disability Insurance (DI) Trust Fund finances disability and ancillary benefits. The Funds have differing reserves.

Under current projections, the DI Trust Fund will be depleted in 2016. At that point benefits would be reduced 20%. The OASI Trust Fund will become insolvent in 2033.

The report stresses that the shortfall is occurring because of 3 factors. The first is demographic. The number of beneficiaries are growing as the number of tax paying workers is declining. Baby- boomers are aging and we haven’t reproduced, nor are our children reproducing, at the rates of our parents.

The second is that real per-capita payments are rising under current benefits formulas. There is a movement afoot to change the formula by which benefits and Cost Of Living Adjustments are calculated.

And the third is that program is financed on a pay-as-you-go basis, meaning benefits are paid mostly by contributions from the succeeding generation.

This is not the first time a shortfall crisis has arisen. In 1983 several measures were taken to address the crisis. Cost of Living Adjustments (COLA) payments were delayed 6 months, benefits were exposed to taxation for the first time, newly hired federal employees were brought into the system, the retirement age was raised and a previously enacted increase in the payroll tax was accelerated. The fix this time will require similar pain and creativity.

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NEW COLA METHOD FOR SOCIAL SECURITY?

President Obama’s budget proposal for fiscal 2014 beginning October 1, 2013, contains a new method for calculating the annual increase in Social Security and Veteran’s benefits. Called a “chained” Consumer Price Index or CPI.

The current COLA adjustment tracks the cost of a market basket of goods and services typically purchased by American households. The chained CPI tracks cost saving decisions, such as buying a used car rather than a new one. Over time the decrease in the yearly increase in Social Security and Veteran’s benefit payments will amount to thousands of dollars. Looking back 10 years the average benefit would be 2.9% less than current benefit payment rates.

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AARP LISTS 99 WAYS TO SAVE

The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) Bulletin for July-August 2013 listed 99 ways to save $, which is very helpful for persons on fixed incomes, such as seniors or the disabled. Some are fairly obvious. Others are less so. The tips are broken down into categories such as Finances, Shopping, Cleaning, Home Beauty, Health, Food, Entertainment, Car /Gas and Your Favorites. Check out aarp.org/savemoney.

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MEDICARE COSTS CONTINUE TO DECLINE

Changes to the way Medicare works contained in the Affordable Care Act are lowering healthcare costs and will continue to do so. While healthcare spending rose 3% from 2009-2011 costs for Medicare and Medicaid decline 5% from 2010 to 2012.

New payment plans, improved efficiency and a move towards consumer-driven insurance plans, even in advance of Obamacare, gets the credit.

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SUNSCREEN LABELING CHANGES

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued new labeling criteria for sunscreens sold in the U.S. this year. Misleading terms such as “waterproof” and “sunblock” have been banned. Warnings that products don’t prevent wrinkles or skin cancer are added. “Water resistant” is still a permissible labeling but the label must state how often the product must be reapplied.

SPF numbers still matter. Choose a product with an SPF of at least 30. Products with an SPF below 15 must carry a warning.

And broad-spectrum claims for products that offer both ultraviolet B (UVB) & ultraviolet A (UVA) ray protections must pass a test before that claim can be made.

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SOCIAL SECURITY OFFERS MOBILE SITE FOR SMARTPHONE USERS

You no longer have to use your PC or Apple product to utilize the Social Security Administration’s website. If you use your smartphone, iPhone included, you will be redirected to the agency’s website. The mobile version can be used to access most of the features of the agency’s interactive website.

The mobile office locator can be used to guide you to the nearest Social Security and you can connect via social media, such as Facebook, Twitter or YouTube.

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 SOCIAL SECURITY BEGINS PROCESSING CLAIMS FOR SAME-SEX COUPLES

You had to know it was coming after the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Acting SSA Commissioner, Carolyn W. Colvin, announced in August that the agency is now processing some retirement spouse claims for persons legally married in their state. Benefits are being paid where they are due.

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 STUDIES, STUDIES, STUDIES

As usual the last few months have seen the release of numerous studies, interesting, head-scratching & outright hilarious. Here is a sampling.

A study done by Clemson University students revealed that persons playing beer pong (older readers ask your grandkids) expose themselves to bacteria. The ping pong ball being bounced on the table & elsewhere picks up bacteria and winds up in the beer cup of participants.

The University of Michigan always release plenty of studies that catch Attorney Crawforth’s attention. The U of M Cardioprotection Research Laboratory released a study suggesting tart cherries can reduce the risk of stroke. Wonder if the researchers were from Traverse City?

Here’s another study aimed at younger people. U of M researchers have concluded the more persons are involved in social media, especially twitter (again, ask your grandkids), the more likely they are to suffer from narcissism.

Another U of M study says that 25% of women advised to continue cancer treatment with hormone blocking therapies never complete treatment.

A study performed by a student at U of M’s Stephen Ross School of Business reveals that the glow of success or accomplishment feels better when shared with a group, rather than individually.

The hormone, melatonin, may reduce the risk of diabetes. Produced mostly at night during sleep, melatonin regulates many bodily functions.

A study released this spring at the Association for Dental Research showed that for every serving of green leafy vegetables the risk of oral cancer for current women smokers is reduced, compared to those who have given up smoking or never smoked.

An apple a day keeps the cardiologist away. Researchers at Ohio State University released the results of a study that eating one apple a day reduced levels of a substance linked to hardening of the arteries by forty percent.

The so-called “Southern Diet”, principally fried & fatty foods, increases the risk of stroke, according to a study conducted at Tufts University.

A University of Exeter study resulted in a conclusion that the children of parents who live to an average life span of 77 to 91 years are less likely to get cancer.

And per a Case Western Reserve University study, women getting less than 6 hours of sleep per night were at greater risk for recurrence of breast cancer.

Swedish researchers concluded that high-dose vitamin c can increase the risk of kidney stones. If you haven’t experienced kidney stones ask someone who has. They won’t kill you but you may wish you were dead

A Harvard University study concluded drinking 2-4 cups of caffeinated coffee reduced the risk of suicide by 50%.

Researchers have linked high blood pressure with low levels of vitamin D.

Granted the research was financed by the Hass Avocado Board, but nevertheless a study led by researchers at UCLA has identified a number of health benefits, including combating cardiovascular disease and diabetes, helping with weight management and the body’s ability to absorb nutrients due to eating avocados.

Records from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed a 45% rise in suicide rates for persons aged 50-64, a 48% rise in rates for men in their 50s and 60% rise in women 60-64 between 1999 and 2010. The reasons given for the rise were financial problems, and family responsibilities.

Nevertheless, a study released in the Journal of General Internal Medicine concluded that between 1998 and 2008 depression in persons over 50 declined except for those between 50-55, where rates increased. The study done researchers from the U of M and Veterans Affairs was unclear on the causes. Increased rates of depression in the elderly have been reported for many years.

And finally, a study released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that the state with the longest and healthiest life expectancy is Hawaii and the shortest and sickest is Mississippi. Rates of obesity, smoking , diabetes & heart disease are contributing factors.

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TIGER TICKET WINNERS

It has been another exciting summer for the Detroit Tigers. The post-season looks likely and anytime your team is playing in October it’s a good year.

Attorney Crawforth has used his tickets most of the time but the following lucky readers of S, S & Y were lucky enough to win tickets when he couldn’t use them.

Pauline from Detroit

Philip from Jackson

Beverly from Livonia

Fred from Crawfordsville, IN

Elaine from Clinton Twp.

Jim from Monroe

 

Call today if you have questions about the Michigan Social Security Disability Attorney and Lawyer Services provided by William Crawforth.

To schedule an appointment call 800-864-1244 or fill out the contact form at the top of this page.

  • State Bar of Michigan
  • Washtenaw County Bar Association
  • National Organization of Social Security Claimants' Representatives

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