Posts in:November, 2019

Social Security Disabled Widow Benefits

Posted November 15, 2019 by Premier Disability Services, LLC®

The death of a spouse can be both emotionally and financially devastating. The Social Security Administration offers survivor benefits, including benefits for widows and widowers who are age sixty and over, whether or not they are disabled, or for those who are fifty or older and are disabled.

To be eligible for widows or widowers’ benefits, your deceased spouse must have paid enough into Social Security to insure his or her family for survivor benefits. The Social Security Administration can tell you whether he or she had enough work credits. Usually you are not eligible for disabled widow or widower’s benefits if you remarried before age fifty and are still married when you become disabled. Additionally, you must become disabled within seven years of the death of your spouse or within seven years of the end of your prior entitlement, if any, on your spouse’s earnings record.

Disabled surviving divorced spouses who were married to a deceased insured worker for more than ten years are also eligible under the same rules as widows and widowers. Social Security disability can be paid to a disabled widow or widower and to a disabled surviving divorced spouse simultaneously without reducing the amount of each other’s benefits.

The Social Security Administration will apply the same rules to determine whether you are disabled that they use for individuals applying for Social Security Disability Insurance under their own earnings record or for Supplemental Security Income.

Contact our office today if you or anyone you know would like to learn more about qualifying for Social Security Disability benefits.

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By: Joyce Trudeau of Premier Disability Services, LLC®

The Future of Administrative Law Judge Selection

Posted November 8, 2019 by Premier Disability Services, LLC®

Administrative law judges (ALJs) are the workhorses of the administrative state. They preside over thousands of hearings annually in areas such as disability benefits, international trade, taxation, environmental law, occupational safety, and communications law, to name a few. There are nearly 2,000 ALJs employed by 28 agencies in the federal government, as compared to 870 authorized Article III federal judgeships.

Keeping this corps of ALJs fully staffed requires numerous appointments annually. Last year, in a decision that likely applies to most if not all federal ALJs, the U.S. Supreme Court held in Lucia v. SEC that SEC adjudicators are “officers of the United States” who must be appointed in accordance with the Constitution’s Appointments Clause. Assuming that ALJs are “inferior officers,” this clause allows Congress to delegate the appointment of ALJs to the President alone, to department heads, or to courts of law. Shortly after the decision in Lucia, President Trump issued an executive order that made significant changes to the ALJ hiring process.

Before Lucia and the executive order, most ALJs were already appointed by department heads, after a process administered by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) that included a competitive examination and point rating system with a significant preference for veterans. Under the OPM process—which did not take subject-matter expertise into account—the three top-scoring applicants were placed on a list of eligible candidates. Agencies could hire only from that list unless they decided to reject all three candidates and request a new list or hire an incumbent ALJ away from another agency.

The reforms effectuated by the executive order were welcomed by many agencies that for decades felt hamstrung by the OPM hiring process. Many agencies acted very quickly, formulating and announcing new procedures for hiring ALJs when the ink on the executive order was barely dry. In fact, most agencies had been sidestepping the OPM process for years, hiring incumbent ALJs away from other agencies, mainly the U.S. Social Security Administration. The new process will allow agencies to hire their own ALJs directly without their desired candidates first needing to go through the OPM process, get hired by another agency, and then be hired away as a transfer.

Contact our office today if you or anyone you know would like to learn more about qualifying for Social Security Disability benefits.

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By: Joyce Trudeau of Premier Disability Services, LLC®

November is COPD Awareness Month!

Posted November 1, 2019 by Premier Disability Services, LLC®

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, is a general term for several lung diseases, mainly chronic bronchitis and emphysema. These diseases are characterized by obstructed airflow through the airways in and out of the lungs. Both cause excessive inflammatory processes that eventually lead to abnormalities in lung structure and limited airflow. Both are progressive conditions that worsen over time.

COPD symptoms include shortness of breath, wheezing, and coughing. COPD also adds to the work of the heart, and can cause pulmonary heart disease. Treatment for COPD can include oxygen therapy, pulmonary rehabilitation, and various medications. The only known successful cure for emphysema is a lung transplant, but very few patients with emphysema are healthy enough to survive the surgery.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) has a disability listing laying out the requirements for getting automatically approved for disability for various chronic respiratory disorders, including COPD. If you meet the requirements of this listing, you automatically qualify for benefits. If your condition isn’t severe enough to meet the requirements of the official listing, you may still be able to prove that your COPD reduces your capacity to breathe and exert yourself so much that you can’t work.

Many people who suffer from COPD have other serious medical problems as well, such as coronary artery disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and/or obesity, as well as mental issues such as depression. If you have multiple medical conditions that affect your ability to work, then you will have a better chance of getting benefits.

Contact our office today if you or anyone you know would like to learn more about qualifying for Social Security Disability benefits.

SSA’s respiratory listings:

By: Joyce Trudeau of Premier Disability Services, LLC®