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Blog

  • 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: Spring 2014

Message From Attorney Crawforth

 DON’T LIKE OBAMACARE? WAIT UNTIL YOU SEE SNYDERCARE!

As many know, in addition to representing disabled people before the Social Security Administration, I represent those injured at work before the Board of Magistrates of the Worker’s Compensation Agency. This practice area has become much tougher since Governor Rick Snyder took office.

 

The Governor signed legislation changing the Worker’s Compensation Act in December of 2011. The changes in that law coupled with interpretations by the Workers’ Compensation Appellate Commission, the Michigan Court of Appeals and Michigan Supreme Court have made it next to impossible to gain an open award at trial for full wage benefits.

 

Even several sitting magistrates have told me they think things have tilted way too far in favor of the employers and insurance industry.

 

Now a bill is pending in the legislature that proposes even more ominous changes to the rights of injured workers. The usual term used to describe the new medical treatment guidelines is Evidence Based Medicine. In a nutshell, it is an attempt to quantify the unquantifiable and standardize medical treatment.

 

Rather than let a patient’s doctor decide what type of treatment he or she needs, treatment protocol will be mandated. All similar injuries will be treated the same.

 

For example after a knee injury requiring surgery a definitive number of physical therapy visits might be approved and then treatment cut-off, whether the treating doctor thought more are needed or not. Rather than having the doctor decide whether or not further therapy is needed, that decision would be made by the government, employers and insurance carriers.

 

Under current law the employer or insurer must at least send the patient out for a so- called “independent” medical exam.

 

This new approach is wrong. Every person is different. Every injury is different. People don’t heal the same way or at the same rate. Decisions as to treatment should be made by treating physicians.

 

What’s next? Death panels?

 

Be afraid if this becomes law, Michigan. Be very afraid.

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OBAMACARE ROLL OUT LESS THAN OPTIMAL

In the fall issue of Social Security &You we gave a preview of the start of health insurance available through the Affordable Care Act, popularly known as Obamacare. Unless you were out of the country or in a coma you are aware that things did not go well for the first couple of months after the October 1, 2013 beginning date.

 

As many major insurers, state healthcare officials and even Democratic allies of the President warned, the on-line registration was a nightmare, initially. The Department of Health & Human Services and White House officials reported 8.6 million different visitors logged on in the first 3 days. As many as 250,000 were on www.healthcare.gov at one time.

 

People going to the website found the site to be slow, if they were able to navigate it at all. Horror stories abound. People were locked out of the site, the system froze and people were extremely frustrated.

 

Over time things got better. By the end of the year the site was operating much more efficiently. However, the damage had been done. Many people gave up and have not been back to the site. It is amazing how many people who haven’t even attempted to get coverage right up to today. Many of these people would qualify for Medicaid or a subsidy for a healthcare plan.

 

And many of those who were able to get on the site found the coverage to be worse than that they previously had, in terms of premium, deductibles and co-pays.

 

The President had promised during his re-election campaign that if people were happy with their healthcare plan they could keep it. Given the mandates of the new law it’s puzzling why he would make such a statement. Virtually all insurance plans were changed. The President had to back off that statement and admit he was wrong.

 

Some of those with employer provided health coverage learned that coverage was being discontinued. Some are receiving a stipend from their employer to pay for coverage, but many are not.

 

Some “on the fly changes” announced by the White House did little to solve the problem as the insurers had based their new policies and premiums on the mandates of the Act.

 

And the actuarial underpinnings of the Act are in jeopardy. To make the plan work for the older and less healthy, the younger and healthier have to sign up too. Thus far they are staying away. Only 24% of younger adults had signed up by the end of 2013. The target number is 40%.

 

The President’s approval rating has taken a predictable drop in the polls. Time will tell if Obamacare becomes a positive or negative legacy for the President.

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SOCIAL SECURITY COLA 1.5% FOR 2014

The Social Security Administration announced last fall the cost of living increase for recipients of Social Security Retirement, Survivors & Disability Insurance Benefits (RSDI), as well as Supplemental Security Income (SSI), is 1.5%.

 

Individual SSI recipients are receiving $721 per month. The SSI benefit for 2013 was $710. Couples on SSI are receiving $1,028.

 

The maximum monthly RSDI benefit is $2,642 while the average benefit for a retired worker is $1,294 and the average benefit for a retired couple is $2,111.

 

The average monthly RSDI benefit for a disabled worker is $1,148.

 

As outlined in the fall 2013 issue of Social Security & You, there is a proposal to alter the formula used to calculate the annual COLA increase in benefits.

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POLLS SAYS OLDER AMERICANS DON’T WANT CHANGES IN SOCIAL SECURITY

Among the ideas floated to help solve the pending insolvency of Social Security are raising the eligibility age for full benefits and changes in the cost of living formulas. A survey conducted by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research of persons over the age of 50 found that 62% opposed changes in the COLA formula compared to 21% who were in support. 58% opposed gradually raising full retirement age while 29% supported the change.

 

However, 61% of those surveyed favored raising the cap on income subject to Social Security taxes while only 25% were opposed. For 2014 the cap is $113,700. Income above that level is only taxed for Medicare.

 

And the vote is much closer on reducing benefits for those with higher incomes. 41% are in favor while on 44% are opposed.

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CONGRESS TO CONSIDER BILL PREVENTING SOCIAL SECURITY DISABILITY RECIPIENTS FROM DRAWING UNEMPLOYMENT

For years Attorney Crawforth has dealt with clients who have applied for Social Security benefits simultaneously with applying for unemployment benefits. In Michigan you must certify every 2 weeks that you are ready, willing & able to work. And most people seeking Social Security disability benefits must be unable to work. Obviously, there is an inconsistency there. Some Judges care and some don’t. There are judges who take a practical approach understanding that people do what they have to do to keep a roof over their heads. Other judges will not award benefits to a person drawing unemployment.

 

Now that point may be moot.

 

On April 12, 2013 a bill was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives preventing persons from drawing Social Security disability benefits and SSI benefits at the same time. President Obama’s proposed Fiscal Year 2014 budget contains a similar proposal.

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DOES THE SOCIAL SECURITY SYSTEM DISCRIMINATE AGAINST PEOPLE OF COLOR?

A popular conception is that Social Security benefits redistribute wealth from the better off members of society to those less well off. Indeed, Tea Party members call Social Security a socialist concept.

 

The Urban Institute issued a report recently contesting this assumption and asserting that the Social Security system actually redistributes money from the poor to the wealthy, which inevitably means from African-Americans , Latinos and other minorities to white Americans.

 

The reasoning goes as follows.

 

White Americans live longer and have fewer offspring. So the SS payroll taxes paid by poorer Americans subsidize the fewer and wealthier members of society, since there are more paying, less drawing and the wealthy (white) Americans live longer.

 

I addition, the payroll taxes paid to support Social Security apply only to the first $113,700 this year. So those earning more than that stop paying on the marginal income above that amount.

 

Interesting eh?

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 STUDIES, STUDIES, STUDIES

Here is the latest installment of Attorney Crawforth’s compilation of research studies. As always, some are interesting, others thought provoking and some hilariously baffling.

 

An article released in the New England Journal of Medicine late last year suggests people are less likely to develop dementia and Alzheimer’s disease than they were 20 years ago. The authors examined 5 recent studies that suggest a decrease in the prevalence in dementia due to improvements in education levels, healthcare and lifestyle.

 

However, women who report stress in mid-life, such as family illness or divorce, are 21% more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease later in life, according to a Swedish study. Researchers suspect that stress may damage the brain’s memory centers and increase inflammation that is linked to dementia.

 

Johns Hopkins researchers found that 60% of Americans will develop kidney disease in their lifetime. The National Kidney Foundation recommends a simple and inexpensive yearly urine test.

 

A recent Harvard University study found that drinking 2 cups of cocoa a day for 30 days boosted blood flow to the brain leading to significantly improved memory.

 

A review of 31 trials regarding nuts in the diet doesn’t lead to weight gain, as some believe, and may actually help you slim down. Raw macadamia nuts, walnuts, almonds, pecans and Brazil nuts all have specific health benefits and are a better snack than other choices, such as complex carbohydrates. Of course, it’s all about portion control.

 

A British study concluded that eating broccoli may slow down or even prevent arthritis.

 

Another Harvard study says that women who follow a Mediterranean diet in their 50s and 60s have a 46% greater chance of surviving past age 70 with no chronic illnesses, physical impairments or memory problems, than those who don’t.

 

A study released by the University of Michigan Health System and UCLA concluded that older patients who received extra geriatric care after a traumatic injury were able to return to two-thirds more activities than those who did not receive such care.

 

Two separate studies have touted the benefits of sleep. A University of Rochester study concluded the brain “sweeps” away waste and toxins during sleep. And Johns Hopkins University research concludes poor sleep is linked to a buildup of toxins that may contribute to Alzheimer’s disease.

 

Speaking of sleep, British researchers believe that sleeping position reveals your personality. For example “log” sleepers, described as lying straight on one’s side, are social & fun. “Yearners”, who sleep with legs slightly bent & their arms tucked under their pillows are suspicious and are always up to something. And those who sleep in the fetal position are shy & sensitive.

 

A study from Brigham Young University, of all places, concludes that the higher the heels worn by female shoppers the less likely they are to overspend. The researchers speculate that concentrating on balancing in stiletto heels may trick the brain in making “more balanced” decisions. Or maybe they just get tired and leave the mall earlier!

 

Of course sex is always a popular study topic. A University of Michigan study released late last year in the journal, Science, concluded that sexually satisfied fruit flies lived longer than sexually frustrated fruit flies.

 

A study lead by University of Pennsylvania researchers of women who had bariatric surgery and shed about a third of their body weight reported improvement in arousal, lubrication, sexual desire and overall sexual satisfaction.

 

And we’ve all heard the warning at the end of Viagra & Cialis commercials about seeking medical treatment for an erection lasting more than 4 hours. The condition, known as priapism, leads to ER visits for approximately 10,000 men annually, according a study by Northwestern University and Duke University researchers.

 

Exercise is another common study topic. A joint study by Harvard University & Stanford University found that exercise is as good, or better, than prescription drugs in preventing heart attacks and stroke. And a National Cancer Institute study concluded that exercise can help women tolerate the achy joints, muscle pain and hot flashes that accompany many drugs, which are taken by breast cancer survivors.

 

And finally, here’s a study younger readers will appreciate. Texting could be good for your health. 2 studies published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research found that persons who enrolled in a customized texting service called txt4health said the free education program made them more aware of diabetes risk and helped them make other health related changes. There’s an app for that!

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INDEPENDENCE OF SOCIAL SECURITY ALJS IN JEOPARDY?

At least partially in response to media coverage and increased scrutiny of outlier Administration Law Judges in the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review (ODAR) and the program in general, the Office of Personnel Management has approved a revised “position description” for ALJs.

 

While decisional independence is retained, the ALJs freedom to manage their work load has been abridged. New compliance directives have been issued and additional “training and guidance” can be mandated to “ensure knowledge of the agency’s policies and agency’s interpretation of the law.”

 

Sounds a bit like Chinese “re-education” camps.

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ENTER 2014 TICKET CONTEST

Once again Attorney Crawforth is offering readers of Social Security & You the opportunity to win his 2 front row upper deck box seat tickets to a Detroit Tigers game this season. If you would like a chance to sit in Attorney Crawforth’s seats simply complete the enclosed entry form and send it in to his office.

 

 

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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