Posts in:April, 2019

Social Security Depletion Date Extended

Posted April 25, 2019 by Premier Disability Services, LLC®

It’s time, again, for the annual Social Security Trustees’ Report.  The headline figures, as always, are the change in the dates at which the various trust funds are projected to be depleted.  Combining OASI (Old-Age and Survivors Insurance) and DI (Disability Insurance) together, the depletion date has been extended one year further out, from 2034 to 2035.  Taking the two programs separately, the old-age fund’s depletion date remains unchanged at 2034, a mere 15 years from now, but the disability fund’s depletion date was extended from 2032 to 2052.  When each of these funds are depleted, they will be able to pay out 77% and 91% of benefits, respectively, out of incoming tax revenues.

Why such a dramatic improvement in the status of the disability fund? The Trustees’ summary explains:

“The change in the reserve depletion year for DI is largely due to continuing favorable experience for DI applications and benefit awards. Disability applications have been declining steadily since 2010, and the total number of disabled-worker beneficiaries in current payment status has been falling since 2014. Relative to last year’s Trustees Report, disability incidence rates are lower in 2018. They also are assumed to rise more gradually from the current levels to reach ultimate levels at the end of 10 years that are slightly lower.”

What does this mean? In part, the prosperous economy has meant that more people with disabilities are finding employment and are able to stop claiming Social Security disability benefits, or never need to begin doing so in the first place.  This means that actual disability recipients are fewer in number than was forecast, and that they have changed the assumptions going forward as a result.  That’s great news — if that continues to be true in the long-term.

If you or someone you know is unable to work due to a medical condition, please contact use for a free evaluation of your claim!

View the full Trustee Report here:

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By: Joyce Trudeau of Premier Disablity Services, LLC®

Prototype Model Ending in Pennsylvania

Posted April 19, 2019 by Premier Disability Services, LLC®

The process of applying for federal disability assistance will change this week in Pennsylvania — and for many applicants, it will become longer and more complicated. Anyone applying for Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits, Supplemental Security Income, or both, will face an additional step in what already can be a lengthy process. The change is being criticized by disability advocates, attorneys and members of Congress.

U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., last week called the change “an attack on individuals with disabilities,” and said the extra step will make “obtaining disability benefits more complicated and more frustrating for Pennsylvanians.”

Currently, anyone applying for disability assistance whose initial application is denied can request a hearing before an administrative law judge. The average wait from a hearing request until disposition of a claim is 524 days, roughly 17 months. Starting April 20, 2019, an applicant denied at this first stage must instead file an appeal in a process called reconsideration. If they are turned down a second time, then they can request a hearing.

Pennsylvania is one of 10 states that has not had reconsideration since 1999. The reconsideration process is being reinstated so that there is a uniform process for disability claimants across the country, said Daniel O’Connor, a regional spokesman for the Social Security Administration. Mr. O’Connor said this will also lead to earlier decisions for some applicants.

Nationally, about 13 percent of applicants are approved at the reconsideration stage, but for those who aren’t approved, it adds an average of 101 days to the process. It will also halt the process for some altogether, advocates say.

“Many claimants and representatives view reconsideration as a meaningless step, a rubber stamp, of the decision of the original denial,” advocate Lisa Ekman testified last year before a Congressional subcommittee on Social Security. “This procedural hurdle can cause many claimants to abandon their appeals despite the fact that they meet the statutory definition of disability,” testified Ms. Ekman, now director of government affairs for the National Organization of Social Security Claimants’ Representatives.

Existing applications are impacted by the change and are not grandfathered in to the prior process.

The change “will be very confusing and time consuming for people with disabilities,” said U.S. Rep. Dwight Evans, D-Philadelphia, speaking at a press conference Wednesday at Community Legal Services in Philadelphia. He encouraged Pennsylvanians impacted by the change to contact their members of Congress. “We will be very vigilant in following up on this particular issue,” he said.

If you or someone you know is unable to work due to a medical condition, please contact us for a free evaluation of your case!


By: Joyce Trudeau of Premier Disablity Services, LLC®

Be Careful What You Post Online!

Posted April 12, 2019 by Premier Disability Services, LLC®

The Social Security Administration (SSA) may start screening your Facebook and Instagram posts to evaluate your disability claim. At the moment, the SSA’s disability investigations units and the Office of the Inspector General use social media posts to flag fraudulent activity. However, in the 2020 budget proposal released in March, the SSA said it’s planning to expand that usage to review and evaluate applicants for disability benefits. SSA spokesperson Mark Hinkle said the work is “ongoing.”

“We are evaluating how social media could be used by disability adjudicators in assessing the consistency and supportability of evidence in a claimant’s case file,” the agency said in the 2020 budget.

Though the SSA hasn’t yet outlined how it might use social media in screening applicants, the proposal has raised eyebrows — and data privacy concerns. For one, unless the agency plans to partner with social media companies for back-end user data, it’s hard to imagine how federal disability examiners could even authenticate profiles to evaluate applicants for disability. Social media profiles aren’t tied to Social Security numbers, and many users set their profiles to private, preventing strangers from viewing them.

Furthermore, social media is often a poor measure of a user’s typical lifestyle, given that Facebook or Instagram users often post only content they want to present to their community. A user with a disability claim may not share how he deals with his disability on a daily basis, but he may share photos from the recent vacation he took to the Caribbean or from the weekend hike he went on.

One disability attorney reported that he had to defend such a post to a judge who brought it up at his client’s disability hearing. The client said the photo, which showed that she went on a hike, wasn’t representative of her typical lifestyle and reported that she was bedridden for three days afterward. “You want to be careful because you don’t want something to be taken out of context,” the attorney said.

Images and videos also have technical problems: A user may have posted a throwback photo to when she was water-skiing in 2016, but the publish date may make it appear the photo is from after she filed her claim. In a world with increasingly sophisticated image-altering technology, it’s also getting ever more difficult to authenticate the veracity of a photo.

“You can’t take someone’s Facebook or other social media posts at absolute face value,” said Jennifer King, director of consumer privacy at the Center for Internet and Society at Stanford Law School. “They present an extremely narrow slice of someone’s life.”

King noted that using social media when evaluating disability claims comes with a lot of questions and can be highly irresponsible. She said a person’s posts should be used only to flag cases that need follow-up with in-person research. Otherwise, it seems like a faulty system because people have such varying ways of using social media. Said King: “It’s not a recording of your life.”


By: Joyce Trudeau of Premier Disablity Services, LLC®