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April 2011 Archives

Social Security Disability goes paperless

Several months ago, we wrote about the Social Security Administration's impending move to electronic payments, which was part of an overall government effort to discontinue all government benefit payments by check. According to the United States Department of the Treasury, moving Social Security Disability and other government benefits to a paperless system will save taxpayers approximately $1 billion over the next 10 years.

Impairment focus: bipolar disorder

In the years since the creation of the Social Security Disability program, the list of impairments that qualify for benefits has been greatly expanded. In the program's earliest years, only people with debilitating physical disorders qualified for SSD benefits. Now, however, the listing of impairments has grown, and it now contains several mental illnesses, such as anxiety disorder, depression, and bipolar disorder. The Social Security Administration, in adding these ailments to the list, has recognized that mental illness may render an individual incapable of performing full-time work and receiving an income.

Class action lawsuit challenges judges' repeated SSD denials

When an applicant for Social Security Disability is denied benefits, he or she has the option of appealing that decision. That process entails a hearing before an administrative law judge who is employed by the Social Security Administration. While the appeals process is fairly standard, SSA judges are given a great deal of lenience, and may generally hear and decide cases as they see fit. While the majority of judges are fair and reasonable, one office has become the subject of a class action lawsuit amidst claims that it decides SSD appeals based on bias.

Impairment focus: chronic fatigue syndrome

For many years, patients who went to their doctors complaining of severe fatigue, trouble concentrating, and memory problems were quickly dismissed by medical professionals. Called lazy, complainers, and hypochondriacs, medical professionals told patients that their illness was all in their head. More recently, physicians have diagnosed these patients with chronic fatigue syndrome, but only at the end of a long process of inconclusive medical tests. No one knew much about the disease, what caused it, or how to test for it or treat it, and patients simply continued to suffer.

Shutdown averted, but is SSD funding still at risk?

In a dramatic last minute save, the United States Congress was able to come together last Friday night and work out a budget compromise, successfully averting a shutdown of the federal government. Under the new budget deal, which governs the remainder of the 2011 fiscal year, programs such as Social Security Disability, Supplemental Security Income and Medicaid will not be forced to undergo drastic cuts.

Impairment focus: carpal tunnel syndrome

Social Security Disability (SSD) was created to provide financial security for Americans who were unable to work because of debilitating physical disorders. In the years that followed, the Social Security Administration gradually relaxed its standards and continually expanded its listing of impairments that qualify for SSD benefits in recognition of the fact that a disability does not need to be completely physically crippling to prevent one who suffers from it from working.

SSD benefits will not be affected by a government shutdown

As Congress struggles to find a middle ground on its hotly-debated budget bill, there is a very real possibility that the continuing back-and-forth will have a negative effect on millions of Americans. If lawmakers are not able to reach an agreement by midnight tonight, the federal government will shut down for the first time in over 15 years. A shutdown will close federal buildings and monuments, slow federal services such as passport and tax refund issuing, and force many non-essential federal employees to go on unpaid furloughs.

California SSA workers protest proposed budget cuts

Today, workers at several California Social Security Administration (SSA) offices will participate in informational picket lines outside local Social Security office buildings. The picket lines are part of a statewide protest of the proposed federal budget cuts that, if passed, will drastically reduce SSA funding and increase Social Security Disability (SSD) wait times and service to SSD recipients.

SSA begins investigation of SSD claims in Puerto Rico

In recent years, the number of Americans receiving Social Security Disability has skyrocketed in California and throughout the country, jumping from 6.6 million beneficiaries in 2000 to 10.2 million beneficiaries in 2010. While this is not to suggest that those receiving SSD benefits need and deserve them, it is impossible to ignore that the program has grown beyond its means. If it continues at its current pace, SSD is projected to run out of money within seven years, leaving SSD recipients high and dry.

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