One of the most significant – but least thought of- threats to a person’s financial security is suffering a disabling condition and being unable to earn a paycheck. While we all know people who have experienced this, we tend to think it won’t ever happen to us. But the truth is approximately 8 million adults currently have a disability that prevents them from working and more than 375,000 Americans become totally disabled every year.
The consequences of a disability that prevents you from working are considerable: How long could you continue to pay your monthly expenses without a paycheck? How long could you keep your house? It has been estimated that 46% of all foreclosures on conventional mortgages are caused by a disability. Most people that stop working are forced to dip into savings within a few months, which can have a devastating long-term financial impact. Think of it this way: If you have saved 10 percent of your income each year prior to becoming disabled, one year of being totally disabled could wipe out 8 – 10 years of savings (depending on how much you could scale-back your monthly living expenses). Second only to getting medical treatment for the illness or injury that is keeping you from working, the next most important thing you can do is to secure some form of replacement income.
One option available to most Americans who have worked is Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). This is a public disability insurance program funded by FICA withholdings from workers’ paychecks and administered by the Social Security Administration (SSA). It pays a monthly benefit if you become totally disabled and aren’t able to work prior to reaching retirement age.
You qualify for SSDI benefits by earning Social Security “work credits” when you work in a job and pay Social Security (FICA) taxes. In 2020, you receive one work credit for each $1,410 of earnings, up to the maximum of four credits per year. Each year the amount of earnings needed for a work credit goes up slightly as average earnings levels increase. In general terms, you must have worked 5 out of the last 10 years to be eligible. However, for younger workers the number of work credits needed to qualify is reduced because of their shorter earnings history.
If you haven’t worked long enough when you become disabled to be eligible for SSDI benefits, and have low income and few assets, you can apply for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) instead. This is a needs-based program that provides a smaller monthly benefit and entitlement to Medicaid.
In order to qualify for SSDI benefits, you must also have a medical condition(s) that meets the SSA’s definition of disability. SSDI benefits are eligible only to those with a severe, long-term, and total disability.
Severe means that your condition must interfere with basic work-related activities. Long-term means that your condition has lasted, or is expected to last, at least one year or result in death. Total disability, to the SSA, means that you aren’t able to perform “substantial gainful activity” (SGA) for at least one year. If you are currently working and make over $1,260 per month in 2020 for disabled applicants, the SSA will find that you’re performing SGA and that you are not disabled enough to qualify for SSDI benefits.
Unfortunately, obtaining SSDI benefits is a complex and frustrating process that can last anywhere from a few months to several years. The Initial Application requires a claimant to complete detailed questions about his or her last 15 years of work history, medical conditions that are preventing full-time work, treatment providers and dates of service, and what the person’s capacity for work is in spite of the disabling conditions. This Initial Application and supporting documents are often more than 30 pages long. It takes SSA an average of nine months to make a decision and more than 75% of Initial Applications are denied!
There are multiple levels of appeal, including filing a Request for Reconsideration of the initial denial (which takes another 6 months on average) and attending a hearing in front of an administrative law judge (an additional 14 months on average). Each level of appeal is increasingly time-consuming and technically challenging.
Claimants can file for benefits on their own, either by calling SSA’s national toll-free number, going down to a local SSA office or filing online at ssa.gov. Or they can hire an attorney or non-attorney advocate to represent them. In fact, a 2017 study on disability conducted by the Martindale-Nolo, a legal publishing firm, found that having professional representation by a qualified attorney nearly doubles a person’s chances of winning SSDI benefits and makes the process much less stressful.
How to Choose an Attorney
So how do you choose an attorney to represent you in your quest for SSDI benefits? According to Victor Arruda, managing partner at Social Security Law Group, a 25-year old firm that has helped more than 55,000 people across the country obtain SSDI benefits, “It boils down to Specialization, Experience and Credentials.”
While an attorney that handles personal injury and workers’ compensation claims in addition to SSDI cases may be a competent lawyer, he or she probably hasn’t developed the focused-expertise of someone who specializes in only SSDI. Says Atty. Arruda, “Social Security is a unique and highly-specialized area of law. To really understand all the procedures, regulations and case law that apply, and to use that insight to your client’s advantage, requires years of study and real-world practice.”
You want to select a lawyer who has assisted dozens, if not hundreds, of claimants with getting SSDI benefits over several years. “There’s a reason they call it ‘practicing’ law. Learning the finer points of any legal specialty takes time and practice,” according to Mr. Arruda. “After doing this for over 25 years, I know a whole lot more about the nuances of getting someone awarded SSDI than I did when I first began practicing law.”
You also want to choose someone who is properly credentialed. Look for someone who is a member in good standing of the legal bar. Check to see if they have any complaints against them filed with the legal bar or the Better Business Bureau. And look for membership in the SSDI legal specialty’s organizations of choice, the National Organization of Social Security Claimant Representatives or the National Association of Disability Representatives. “If an attorney isn’t a member of at least one of these organizations, I’d have concerns. They provide on-going education specific to Social Security representation, establish best practices, and try to ensure the highest standards of conduct among their members,” says Atty. Arruda.
Donald Trump Once Again Attacks China for Spreading COVID-19
The US President Donald Trump has once again attacked China for the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. Calling COVID-19 “a plague from China”, the US president has said that the coronavirus pandemic should not have happened. And China must have taken necessary actions to control it within its territory.
In addition to this, Trump has said that the US had just signed a big trade deal with China and soon COVID-19 started spreading. Due to this, the relations between the US and China are going through the worst phase of all time. And there is no scope of improvement in the near future.
Donald Trump raised his voice against China during the “Spirit of America Showcase” in the Grand Foyer of the White House. Recently, the US president also decided to make July “Pledge to America’s Workers Month by signing a proclamation.
The US is the worst affected country in the world due to COVID-19 and different states in the country are witnessing a hike in the number of COVID-19 cases. Things are not settling well since the states have announced their reopening. Many public health experts have already issued a warning about the jump in the coronavirus cases that different US states could see in the future.
It is not for the first time that Trump has attacked China for the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic throughout the world. He had also done it a couple of times in the past. And earlier, many Asian-American had reacted to his act of blaming China for COVID-19 without any solid proof.
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