Your Social Security Benefits After The Defense Of Marriage Act (DOMA) Decision

Today’s post comes from guest author Barbara Tilker, from Pasternack Tilker Ziegler Walsh Stanton & Romano.

Nearly two months after the Supreme Court struck down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the Social Security Administration has announced that it will start to pay benefits to some individuals in same-sex marriages. In order to be eligible for benefits, these individuals must meet the same criteria as individuals in opposite-sex marriages, in addition to several other requirements.

Only applications for spousal benefits are being approved right now. Spousal benefits are payable to a spouse who either 1) did not work enough to be entitled to Social Security benefits or 2) worked enough to be entitled to Social Security benefits but would be entitled to a larger benefit on their spouse’s earnings record.  This is generally the case when one spouse earned significantly more than the other spouse over the course of their working lives. The individual on whose earnings record the claim is made (the number holder, in SSA’s terms) must also be entitled to old-age or disability benefits from Social Security. In order to receive spousal benefits, you must be at least age 62 and have been married to the number holder for at least one year.

The individual applying for benefits (the claimant, in SSA’s terms) must show that he or she was married to the number holder in a state that permits same-sex marriage and that the number holder is living in a state that recognizes same-sex marriage either 1) when the application for benefits is filed or 2) while the application is pending a final determination. It does not matter what state the claimant lives in. What matters for SSA’s purposes is the state the number holder lives in. This only matters when spouses live in different states.

Below is a chart from SSA that shows which states recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states, and when those states permitted same-sex marriages.  If a state is not listed, it does not recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states or permit same-sex marriages to be performed.

Before filing a claim for benefits or moving to a different state, you should consult with an experienced attorney or with the Social Security Administration to determine your eligibility for benefits.  As SSA continues to pay benefits to more individuals in connection with the Supreme Court’s decision, we will provide updated information regarding who may be eligible for these benefits.

State

Date Same-Sex Marriages from Any Other State Was Recognized

Date Same-Sex Marriages Were Permitted in the State

California

June 17, 2008 – November 4, 2008

June 26, 2013 – present

June 17, 2008 – November 4, 2008

June 26, 2013 – present

Connecticut

November 12, 2008

November 12, 2008

Delaware

July 1, 2013

July 1, 2013

Iowa

April 30, 2009

April 20, 2009

Maine

December 29, 2012

December 29, 2012

Maryland

February 23, 2010

January 1, 2013

Massachusetts

May 17, 2004

May 17, 2004

Minnesota

August 1, 2013

August 1, 2013

New Hampshire

January 1, 2010

January 1, 2010

New York

February 1, 2008

July 24, 2011

Rhode Island

May 14, 2012

August 1, 2013

Vermont

September 1, 2009

September 1, 2009

Washington

December 6, 2012

December 6, 2012

Washington, DC

July 7, 2009

March 9, 2010

 

ef33de78aae79361fb6c2650ad5a559d


The Problems with States Refusing Medicaid Expansion

Today’s post comes from guest author Brody Ockander, from Rehm, Bennett & Moore.

Medicaid expansion was a large part of the recent health care reform law under the Affordable Care Act. For reasons that seem to be solely based on politics, some state governors have made public their decision to reject the Medicaid expansion, and as a result, federal funding of the expansion.

Besides the obvious problems this rejection would cause for millions of uninsured Americans and the health care providers who treat these uninsured people, this rejection could have a negative effect on workers, especially injured workers, of these states.

Fellow workers’ compensation lawyer, friend and colleague Tom Domer of Wisconsin discussed the possible ramifications when an injured worker does not have access to health insurance. Mr. Domer discussed the following scenario that we see day in, and day out, in a previous blog post

“The personal toll on the uninsured is devastating, especially for those dealing with work injuries.

As a worker’s compensation attorney, the following scenario plays out on a daily basis: A hard-working individual—who is lucky enough to have health insurance through the employer—is injured at work through no fault of his own. The injury is severe enough to not allow a return to work, or the employer simply terminates the employee (this insidious action happens far too often with far too little publicity). After termination, the injured worker is offered federal COBRA rights to continue paying the health insurance premiums at the full 100%, which of course, is near impossible when you are off work without income. Thus, the worker loses health insurance for himself and for his family.

On the flip side, the worker’s compensation insurance company is supposed to pay for reasonable medical treatment expenses related to the injury; however, the carrier usually hires an “independent” medical doctor to deny the worker’s compensation claim. The injured worker is then left out in the cold with an injury that requires medical treatment, but he has no ability to get that medical treatment without health insurance or workers’ compensation coverage. The worker then calls me and asks the emotionally-laden question: ‘What do I do?’”

Nebraska is one of the states that is “Leaning Toward Not Participating” in the Medicaid expansion, at least according to Gov. Dave Heineman’s public statements on the topic. 

This can have a devastating effect on Nebraska workers who have suffered an injury.

As Mr. Domer further states:

“Access to health insurance alters this equation. If the worker had adequate access to health insurance, especially Medicaid, he could obtain the medical care that could allow a return to work, regardless of whether the worker’s compensation insurer accepted or denied the claim. Whether work-related or not, injured individuals should have the opportunity to get healthy in our country.”

So what can be done about this problem? Contact your government officials to encourage them to provide injured workers increased access by expanding Medicaid.

8894d7d07c035c35c6486258888a5142


Why The Republicans Should Not Cut Food Stamps

Facts about food stamps. Click on this image to see it full size.

I write about a debate now occurring in Congress in which the GOP is threatening millions of American families, including 200,000 Iowa households.  The debate is over food stamps, now known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (“SNAP”).

To understand the problem, we need only review the survey-report issued by the Department of Agriculture on September 4.  (Alisha Coleman-JensenMark Nord, Anita Singh, “Household Food Security in the United States in 2012”).  The report shows that nearly 49 million Americans lived in “food insecure” households last year.  This means family members lack consistent access to adequate food throughout the year.  In short, 49 million Americans (over 16 times the Iowa population) went hungry for long periods in 2012.  Worse, children were found to be hungry in 10% of all U.S. families with children.  The agency found that hunger rates since the 2007 recession are much higher than before. 

Many people have a misunderstanding of this hunger; many think the hungry are the same persons who are homeless.  In fact, in most cases the hungry are persons who work at low-paying jobs or are disabled from work.

The GOP (mostly the House GOP) wants to cut food stamps.  Yet, food stamps have been the centerpiece of our country’s safety net for the poor.  Benefits are adjusted for income.  Recipients can use SNAP benefits only for food, notwithstanding Rep. Steve King’s assertion that he knows food stamps are used for bail and tattoos.  Nearly 48 million Americans now receive food stamps (about 15% of the approximately 314 million Americans), at an annual cost to us of about $80 billion.

No matter what Congress decides, food stamps expenditures will be reduced in November, when a provision in the 2009 stimulus bill expires.  House Republicans, however, propose Continue reading »

09d1aa11867a987649ff56097be442f2


Hazards exist in the surface refinishing business

Today’s post comes from guest author Jon Gelman, from Jon L Gelman LLC.

University of Iowa, College of Public health, recently reported the death of a bathtub refinishing technician who died from the inhalation of paint stripper vapors.

The apartment manager and first responders reported a strong chemical odor in the second story apartment.

In 2012, a 37-year-old female technician employed by a surface-refinishing business died from inhalation exposure to methylene chloride and methanol vapors while she used a chemical stripper to prep the surface of a bathtub for refinishing. The technician was working alone without respiratory protection or ventilation controls in a small bathroom of a rental apartment. When the technician did not pick up her children at the end of the day, her parents contacted her employer, who then called the apartment complex manager after determining the victim’s personal vehicle was still at the refinishing company’s parking lot. The apartment complex manager went to the apartment unit where the employee had been working and called 911 upon finding the employee unresponsive, slumped over the bathtub. City Fire Department responders arrived within 4 minutes of the 911 call. The apartment manager and first responders reported a strong chemical odor in the second story apartment. There was an uncapped gallon can of Continue reading »

b456b23e1be048426943987108d57c47


Workplace Violence and Sandy Hook Elementary School

Today’s post comes from guest author Kristina Brown Thompson, from The Jernigan Law Firm.

In light of the horrific elementary school shootings in Newtown, Connecticut last week it may be time to re-evaluate workplace violence, which seems to be increasing at an alarming rate. Technically, workplace violence is any act where an employee is abused, threatened, intimidated, or assaulted in the workplace. It can include threats, harassment, and verbal abuse, as well as physical attacks by someone with an assault rifle. 

Two million American workers are victims of workplace violence every year. What’s worse is that workplace violence is one of the leading causes of job-related deaths in the United States. Last year, for example, one in every five fatal work injuries was attributed not to accidents but to workplace violence,  and  some employees are at an increased risk for harm. For example, employees who work with the public or who handle money are more at risk (i.e. bank tellers, pizza delivery drivers, or social workers). According to the 2011 Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries by the U.S. Dept. of Labor, robbers were found to be the assailants in almost a third of homicide/workplace violence cases involving men, whereas female workers were more likely to be attacked by a relative (i.e. former spouse or partner) while at work.  

Preventing workplace violence is a challenging task and OSHA advises employers to create a Workplace Violence Prevention Program. Creating a safe perimeter for employees is crucial. Likewise, having an emergency protocol in place should reduce the number of fatalities in an attack, and that’s exactly what happened at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut when the school’s protocol saved the lives of many children.

c757f94080fff2b8e92fa1bfc5202475


Do I have to be on Social Security Disability Forever?

You aren’t prohibited from returning to work after being on Social Security Disability

Today’s post comes from guest author Barbara Tilker, from Pasternack Tilker Ziegler Walsh Stanton & Romano.

Many of the people that I’ve spoken to over the years are under the impression that once you get Social Security Disability (SSD) you have to remain on benefits forever and can never go back to work. This is a common misconception, and one that prevents many people from receiving benefits they would otherwise be entitled to.

While you do not have to be on SSD forever, you do have to be out of work for at least twelve (12) consecutive months. However, once you’ve satisfied this durational requirement, you can return to work and receive SSD for a portion of the time that you were unable to work – Social Security doesn’t pay disability benefits for the first five (5) full months you’re out of work.

We have many clients who receive excellent medical care and have their medical condition improve and return to work. That’s great, and it’s something we love to see. SSD is there for you during the time that you’re unable to work.

…the Social Security Administration…even lets you work for a limited period of time before stopping your benefits.

Social Security also likes it when you return to work, and they have several different programs that help you get back to work, even if it’s a different sort of work than what you were doing before you became disabled. I’ll cover these programs in more detail in a later post, but for now, you should know that the Social Security Administration makes it possible for you to get vocational rehabilitation and retraining for free, and even lets you work for a limited period of time before stopping your benefits.

Once you know that you’ll be out of work for at least 12 months, contact our office to discuss filing a claim, even if you plan to return to work in the future. Because of the fact that you can lose benefits if you wait too long to apply (something I discussed here) you shouldn’t delay filing for benefits just because you plan to go back to work in the future.

1ecd4fe36f9dd03361390ccfc6fa1ecd


What Medical Expenses Are Covered In A Workers’ Compensation Case?

Today’s post comes from guest author Roger Moore, from Rehm, Bennett & Moore.

In Nebraska and Iowa, as is the general rule, an employer is liable for all reasonable medical services incurred as a result of a work injury. This is interpreted fairly broadly to include plastic or reconstructive surgery, prosthetic devices, and medicines, among other treatments. As long as the treatment is designed to relieve pain or promote and hasten the employee’s restoration to health and employment, the employer is liable. When a treatment meets these conditions, an injured worker should not be responsible for any portion of the medical bill. 

The main difference is in Nebraska, as long as the worker elects a prior treating doctor to treat their injury (for example, the worker’s family doctor), that doctor can dictate the medical care and refer them to others for treatment. If no election is made, then like in Iowa, the employer can choose the doctor to treat a work injury as long as the employer accepts compensability for that injury. However, in Iowa, if the worker can establish that the medical care furnished is unreasonable, then the worker can choose another medical provider.  In both states, if a claim for a work injury is denied, the worker can choose their own doctors to treat with. 

If no Petition is filed in Nebraska, an employer continues to be responsible for medical care as long as there is less than a two-year gap in the payment of a medical bill by the employer or insurance company or the payment of temporary or permanent benefits to the injured worker. Also, if the Court enters an order finding the injured worker entitled to future medical care, there is technically no time limit for seeking medical care. 

In Iowa, medical benefits cannot be used to extend the deadline to file a claim for benefits. There is no time limitation in seeking medical care relating to an injury either before or after an Award for benefits.       

However, in practical terms, large gaps in treatment will likely be met with skepticism from the employer – and possibly the Court – concerning the relationship between the work injury and the medical care. We recommend you seek consistent medical care where there is a need for it to avoid such issues.

44df63b40d2c773627ac55fe1df93359


Worker Privacy Concerns : Employers’ Access to Employees’ Prior Worker’s Compensation Claims

Today’s post comes from guest author Tom Domer, from The Domer Law Firm.

Republican legislators are feeling their oats these days. Throughout the Midwest, legislators are depriving workers of collective bargaining rights and trying to restrict workers’ rights in workers’ compensation claims.

In Missouri, workers’ compensation legislation was recently proposed that would have permitted an employer to provide a potential hire’s name and Social Security number so an employer could identify the potential employee’s prior workers’ compensation claims and the status of those claims. The Missouri Division of Workers’ Compensation estimated an online data base that would include over a half million claim records with over 10,000 records added each year.

To his credit, Democratic governor Jay Nixon vetoed this proposed online data base which would allow businesses to check a prospective employee’s workers’ compensation claims. He said it was “an affront to the privacy of our citizens and does not receive my approval.” As expected, supporters of the workers’ compensation data base (employers primarily) said the legislation would speed the hiring process and help bosses and workers. Regularly, information about workers’ compensation claims is available by written request and takes about two weeks to arrive.  Supporters of the legislation indicated the law was “preventing workers’ compensation abuses.”

Wisconsin’s workers’ compensation records are subject to Wisconsin public records law, except for records identifying an employee’s name, injury, medical condition, disability, or benefits – which are confidential.  Authorized requestors are limited to parties of the claim (the employee, the employer, and the insurance carrier), an authorized attorney or agent, a spouse or adult child of a deceased employee. Workers’ Compensation Division staff may provide limited confidential information regarding the status of claims to a legislator or government official on behalf of a party. In addition, workers’ compensation staff are not permitted by law to conduct a random search to determine if other injuries have been reported.

If the requestor is the same employer or insurance carrier involved in a prior injury, then access will be allowed. If the requestor is a different employer or insurance carrier but they make a reasonable argument that the prior injury and the current injury are related, access may be allowed. For example, the Department considers injuries “reasonably related” if the two injuries involve the same body areas. 

Simply put, in Wisconsin, at least for the present, claimant information is confidential and not open to the public, other than to the parties to a current claim.

373c677af80985708067fa802306d33b