Closed Social Security Offices Hinder Those Applying for Supplemental Security Income

Posted April 9, 2021 by Premier Disability Services, LLC®

The most important piece of paper taped to the front door of the Social Security Administration (SSA) office in southwest Austin, Texas, has a phone number, a fax number and a web address.

Across the country, fax, phone and website have been the only ways that people can initiate contact with the agency since March 17, 2020, when its more than 1,200 field offices shuttered because of the coronavirus pandemic. For prospective recipients of Supplemental Security Income (SSI), a federal program operated by SSA that helps older and disabled people with very low income and few financial assets, the office closures have meant difficulties in applying. The number of new recipients has declined.

In 2019 fiscal year, before the pandemic, 43 million people visited a Social Security office. And that’s how many potential SSI recipients had learned about the safety-net program, says Kathleen Romig, a senior policy analyst at the Washington-based nonprofit Center on Budget and Policy Priorities think tank.

“They don’t understand what they’re eligible for,” Romig, who used to work at the SSA, says about many people who visited Social Security offices to consult with a representative. Many parents of dependent children who qualify for SSI also don’t know about their eligibility.

Applications for SSI cannot be completed online, except in narrow circumstances. They require contact with a Social Security representative. Since the pandemic began, monthly new SSI benefit awards are down about 30 percent. Preliminary January 2021 data shows the fewest new benefit recipients since the agency began keeping monthly numbers more than 20 years ago, a record low of 37,285.

“The five lowest months of awards in the last 21 years have all occurred in the pandemic,” says economist David Weaver of Arlington, Virginia, a former longtime SSA executive. “That tells you something. It’s been since the pandemic and it’s affected all groups — the elderly, disabled adults and disabled children.”

SSA preliminary data for February, released this week, shows an uptick in new benefit awards to nearly 50,600, but that’s still lower than the numbers for the previous five Februarys. The number of new benefit awards fluctuate each month, but in the 11 full months since Social Security offices closed, all have shown a decline in people new to SSI when compared with the previous year.

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®

World Autism Awareness Day

Posted April 2, 2021 by Premier Disability Services, LLC®

The fourteenth annual World Autism Awareness Day is April 2, 2021. Joined by the international community, hundreds of thousands of landmarks, buildings, homes and communities around the world come together on April 2, Autism Awareness Day, to Light It Up Blue in recognition of people with autism and those who love and support them.

Autism, or autism spectrum disorder (ASD), refers to a broad range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and nonverbal communication. According to the Centers for Disease Control, autism affects an estimated 1 in 54 children in the United States today.

We know that there is not one autism but many subtypes, most influenced by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Because autism is a spectrum disorder, each person with autism has a distinct set of strengths and challenges. The ways in which people with autism learn, think and problem-solve can range from highly skilled to severely challenged. Some people with ASD may require significant support in their daily lives, while others may need less support and, in some cases, live entirely independently.

Several factors may influence the development of autism, and it is often accompanied by sensory sensitivities and medical issues such as gastrointestinal (GI) disorders, seizures or sleep disorders, as well as mental health challenges such as anxiety, depression and attention issues.

Signs of autism usually appear by age 2 or 3. Some associated development delays can appear even earlier, and often, it can be diagnosed as early as 18 months. Research shows that early intervention leads to positive outcomes later in life for people with autism.

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

By: Joyce Trudeau of Premier Disability Services, LLC®

Senate Confirms Xavier Becerra as First Latino Secretary of Health & Human Services

Posted March 26, 2021 by Premier Disability Services, LLC®

The Senate confirmed Xavier Becerra to be Health and Human Services (HHS) secretary last week on a 50-49 vote. Becerra, California’s Attorney General, will be the first Latino to hold the Cabinet position.

As HHS secretary, he will play a crucial role in combating the COVID-19 pandemic. The U.S. neared 540,000 COVID-19 deaths last week, according to data from John Hopkins University.

In February, Becerra faced two days of contentious Senate hearings, where he stressed that he wishes to work in a bipartisan fashion to achieve the ambitious goals President Joe Biden has set to battle COVID-19, including reaching a milestone of 100 million vaccinations in the administration’s first 100 days, “safely and equitably.”

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer stated that Becerra “has decades of standing up for working and middle-class Americans in Congress, fighting to protect and expand Medicare, Medicaid, and working to safeguard our health care system.”

The core components of HHS are the boots-on-the-ground part of the government’s coronavirus response. The Food and Drug Administration oversees vaccines and treatments, while much of the underlying scientific and medical research comes from the National Institutes of Health. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention takes the lead in detecting and containing the spread of diseases.

As California’s attorney general, Becerra filed more than 100 lawsuits against the previous administration on a multitude of issues. He led a coalition of Democratic states defending Obamacare from the previous administration’s efforts to overturn it, a legal case that is awaiting a Supreme Court decision this year.

Becerra was one of the highest-ranking Latinos in Congress and represented parts of Los Angeles for 24 years before he was appointed California attorney general by then-Gov. Jerry Brown in 2017 to fill the vacancy left when Vice President Kamala Harris was elected to the U.S. Senate. In 2018, California voters elected Becerra to a full four-year term as attorney general.

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

By: Joyce Trudeau of Premier Disability Services, LLC®