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“60 Minutes” Misses the Mark on Social Security Disability

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

What happens when a major journalism program runs a program without interviewing both sides? You get something like what “60 Minutes” aired in early October in “Disability, USA.” It’s one of the media’s favorite topics, “exposing” disability fraud on the part of the claimant. But how much truth is there to the allegations made on “60 Minutes”?

After watching the show, the viewer is lead to believe that almost anyone with any medical condition could be approved for Social Security Disability. You hear from an administrative law judge that the standards are too lax. However, over 66% of all disability claims are initially denied. Thereafter, only about 10% win disability benefits on appeal. The application and appeal process alone takes months, if not years. This sure doesn’t sound like an easy way to survive. Even if benefits are ultimately awarded, they are taxable and paid only on a monthly basis with the average disability payment of about $1,100.00.

While it’s true the number of disability claimants has increased, this is hardly surprising. Overall, we have an aging population which increases the ratio of disabled claimants. Likewise, with jobs scarce, those with disabilities are having an increasingly difficult time finding work.

It’s very disappointing that no one at “60 Minutes” took the time to interview a single disability applicant. If they had taken the time, they would have learned that the application is an arduous process. Failure to present your medical records or respond within strict timeframes, results in an automatic denial. Recently, one of our workers’ compensation clients reported that he underwent two separate disability applications and four appeals (cumulatively) before finally being approved in 2013. He has been out of work since 2006.

For more information, check out “Just the Facts” as well as this article published by the National Organization of Social Security Claimant Representatives in response to “Disability, USA.”  

How workers’ comp failed injured nurse

Kaiser Hospital San Diego

Today’s post was shared by Gelman on Workplace Injuries and comes from capitolweekly.net

 I am a Registered Nurse with more than 35 years’ experience caring for patients. I always loved my work caring for the injured, ill and disabled. Little did I know that when I became disabled myself, my employer and its workers’ compensation insurance carrier would care so little about me.

In 1998, I was working as an operating room nurse at Kaiser Foundation Hospital in San Diego, when I was injured at work.  I had worked at Kaiser for 12 years without any problems, until I tripped and fell over a parking lot barrier. Kaiser treated my injured knee, but later ignored four doctors’ reports that I had also injured my neck and back. Kaiser denied that those injuries were from the fall.

Little did I know that when I became disabled myself, my employer and its workers’ compensation insurance carrier would care so little about me.

For years, doctors’ recommendations were delayed or denied by Kaiser’s insurer, Sedgwick Claims Services. All they would approve were painkilling drugs, but not the treatment I needed for the underlying medical issue. These drugs’ side effects caused additional medical problems. In 2010, my teeth began breaking off at the roots.

Sedgwick denied the dental treatment I needed, so I took them to court.  In February 2013, the judge ordered Sedgwick to provide this urgent medical treatment. To this day, they have refused to do so, and have instead defied two judge’s orders to provide…

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The Wounded Warrior Program Expedites Social Security Disability Claims For Veterans

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

Veteran’s Day is a day that the American people have set aside to celebrate and honor all those who have served in the armed forces. Veteran’s Day – originally known as Armistice Day – has been celebrated in the United States since 1919. Armistice Day became a national holiday in 1938, and has been known as Veteran’s Day since 1954. It is celebrated on November 11th to commemorate the armistice that ended the fighting in World War One.

The Social Security Administration recognizes the sacrifices that the members of our armed forces make every day. With the Wounded Warrior Program, the Administration ensures that military members who were injured on active duty have their cases processed in an expedited manner. While the standard of disability remains the same for all claimants, individuals injured on active duty can obtain a decision faster.

Even if you are still on active duty and receiving full pay, you may be eligible for Social Security disability benefits. Social Security looks at the activities you are performing, not the pay you are receiving, to determine if you meet the standard of disability. These benefits are in addition to any benefits you may receive from the Veteran’s Administration – it is important for you to know that a separate application for each type of benefit is required.

If you have any questions about applying for Social Security disability benefits, even if you are still on active duty, please contact us today for a free case evaluation.

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The Affordable Care Act, brought to you by ……… the Republicans!

Many might now welcome a Nixon ticket.

Today’s post comes from guest author Jay Causey, from Causey Law Firm.

     Looking for information in the media that is supportive of the nation’s transition to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), aka “Obamacare?”  At the moment Republican and right wing noise is drowning out much of the lower–decibel cheerleading by the Administration on why this is a good thing.

In 1974, Pres. Richard Nixon proposed what is essentially the 2010 healthcare act – all but the smallest employers would provide medical insurance to their employees or pay a penalty, expansion of Medicaid would insure the poor, and subsidies would be provided to low–income citizens and small employers.

     In a recent op-ed piece, former Secretary of Labor under President Clinton and leading economic expert, now at the University of California, Berkeley, Robert Reich summed up the history of the origin of “Obamacare,” pointing out the irony of the right wing’s fuss over it.

     In 1974, Pres. Richard Nixon proposed what is essentially the 2010 healthcare act – all but the smallest employers would provide medical insurance to their employees or pay a penalty, expansion of Medicaid would insure the poor, and subsidies would be provided to low–income citizens and small employers. While private insurers liked this plan, Democrats favored a system more like Social Security and Medicare, so there was no consensus.

     Fast-forward to 1989, and the right–leaning Heritage Foundation proposed a plan that would mandate all households obtaining adequate insurance. This plan worked its way into several bills introduced by Republicans in 1993, supported by Senators Hatch (R–Utah) and Grassley (R–Iowa), along with subsequent Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich, all now vocal opponents of the ACA.

     When in 2004 Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney made the original Nixon plan the law in his state, with the same mandate to buy private insurance, he said, “we got the idea of an individual mandate from Newt Gingrich, and he got it from the Heritage Foundation.”

     Health insurance companies, now retooling their policies around the individual mandate, are jubilant about the possibilities of long–term membership growth through the insurance exchanges. These giant corporations have traditionally supported conservative and Republican politics.

     So as Reich notes – – why are Republican spending so much energy trying to sabotage the ACA, and act they designed and about which a huge sector of their patrons are wildly enthusiastic? The answer: it is the singular achievement of the Obama Administration, the head of which is still considered by a large segment of the right to Illegitimately occupy the White House.

     Reich goes on to observe that had the Democrats prevailed on the idea of a system built on the Social Security and Medicare model – – cheaper, simpler, and more widely accepted by the citizenry – – Republicans would nevertheless be making the same noise.

Wood Castle Furniture Recalls Bunk Beds Due to Entrapment Hazard

Today’s post was shared by The Workers’ Injury Law & Advocacy Group and comes from www.prnewswire.com

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission is an independent federal agency created by Congress in 1973 and charged with protecting the American public from unreasonable risks of serious injury or death from more than 15,000 types of consumer products under the agency's jurisdiction. To report a dangerous product or a product-related injury, call the CPSC hotline at 1-800-638-2772, or visit http//:www.cpsc.gov/talk.html. Further recall information is available at http://www.cpsc.gov. (PRNewsFoto/U.S. CONSUMER PRODUCT SAFETY COMMISSION)
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission is an independent federal agency created by Congress in 1973 and charged with protecting the American public from unreasonable risks of serious injury or death from more than 15,000 types of consumer products under the agency’s jurisdiction. To report a dangerous product or a product-related injury, call the CPSC hotline at 1-800-638-2772, or visit http//:www.cpsc.gov/talk.html. Further recall information is available at http://www.cpsc.gov. (PRNewsFoto/U.S. CONSUMER PRODUCT SAFETY COMMISSION)

WASHINGTON, Nov. 12, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ – Consumers should stop using this product unless otherwise instructed. It is illegal to resell or attempt to resell a recalled consumer product.

(Logo: http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20030904/USCSCLOGO)

Recall Summary

Name of Product: Riley Duo Bunk Beds

Hazard: The openings between the guardrails on the bunk bed can exceed 3 ½ inches in width, which is too wide and does not meet safety standards. This presents an entrapment hazard where a child could be seriously injured or become asphyxiated.

Remedy:  Repair

Consumer Contact:  Wood Castle Furniture collect at (571) 754-9304 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. PT Monday through Friday or online at www.woodcastle.com and click on Product Recall for more information

To see photos of the recalled products, go to http://www.cpsc.gov/en/Recalls/2014/Wood-Castle-Furniture-Recalls-Bunk-Beds/

Recall Details

Units: About 1,000

Description: This recall…

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Small Increase Predicted for Social Security COLA

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

Social Security benefits are slated to go up, but not by much. “The cost-of-living adjustment in Social Security for 2014 is likely to be very small, marking the fourth year in the last five that recipients receive little or no increase in benefits,” according to a recent CNNMoney article

The American Institute for Economic Research estimates the increase to be 1.4% to 1.6%.  Last year’s increase was 1.7%, and the 2012 increase of 3.6% was the only “significant rise in benefits in recent years,” according to the article.

If there are questions about your specific legal situation, please contact the firm.

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Disability, USA? A Different Point of View About Social Security Disability Benefits

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

You may have seen a recent report on 60 Minutes regarding the Social Security Administration’s disability program.  If, after watching that report, you became concerned that either a) Social Security would soon run out of money, or b) Social Security was paying disability benefits to either outright frauds or those who just aren’t disabled, I wouldn’t blame you.  That’s not because those things are true, but because this “report” was extremely biased and inaccurate.  The truth is that Social Security is well-funded and will be able to pay benefits well into the future, if not indefinitely.

It’s true that applications for Social Security disability benefits increase when the unemployment rate goes up.  What’s not true, however, is that otherwise healthy people are drawing a disability check during bad economic times.  The Center for Retirement Research at Boston College recently published a report that concluded that applications for benefits did rise when the unemployment rate went up, but that most of these “extra” claims were denied.  Those who were approved tended to be older individuals working physically demanding jobs whose bodies were just worn out after years of hard labor.  

Applications for disability benefits have increased recently, and a large part of that increase can be attributed to the fact that Americans are simply getting older.  One of the consequences of getting older is that your body doesn’t work as well as it used to, and you become much more likely to get a chronic disease such as diabetes.  It’s no surprise that disability applications will increase as more and more Americans enter the most disability-prone category of their lives.

People might worry that this increase in applications means that Social Security will soon run out of money to pay benefits.  60 Minutes didn’t do anything to allay those fears, stating several times that the trust fund is going broke in the next few years.  The disability trust fund currently only receives a fraction of the amount collected in payroll taxes, with the vast majority going to the retirement trust fund.  There is a simple fix for this problem – the government can either give more of each dollar to the disability fund, or transfer some money from the retirement fund to the disability fund.  In fact, this has been done several times, but with the money going from the disability fund to the retirement fund.  Social Security is well-funded and in no danger of going broke – don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

60 Minutes also made it appear that disability benefits are there for anyone who applies, with no need to present any medical documentation to back up their claims.  Those who have been through the process know that this is just false.  The standard of disability for Social Security’s program is extremely high.  Only those who are truly disabled – and who have the documentation to back it up – are awarded benefits. 

There are some people who try to game the system and get benefits that they are not eligible for.  Due to Social Security’s strict standards, most of these people are denied benefits in the first place.  For those that do resort to fraud, Social Security has an investigative unit dedicated to finding these individuals.  Once caught, they face stiff penalties, including restitution and jail time. 

Despite what 60 Minutes would have you believe, Social Security’s disability program is well-funded, and only pays benefits to those who can prove they deserve them.  Don’t be fooled by sensationalistic programs designed to mislead rather than inform.

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Reflections On Apple’s Factory Working Conditions

Today’s post comes from guest author Ryan Benharris, from Deborah G. Kohl Law Offices.

Our colleague Rod Rehm shared a great post about Apple’s inhumane factory working conditions in China the other day. It gave us pause because we use Apple products in our business all the time. Whether it’s an iPhone to keep in touch with the office 24/7 or an iPad to help win our clients’ cases in the courtroom, these tools have become an integral part of our lives and the lives of hundreds of millions of people across the world. We hope that through advocacy companies like Apple will improve their working conditions and increase standards of living across the globe.

We also hope that as Apple moves to provide better working conditions for all of its workers and subcontractors, it can repatriate many of its jobs cost effectively. In the video linked in Rod’s post, Jon Stewart points out that right now Apple saves about 20% on the cost of production by outsourcing to China. We, as fans of Apple’s products, would be willing to split the difference with them and pay 10% more for their excellent products if they’d absorb the other 10% and treat their workers humanely.

Here’s Rod’s original post (reprinted with permission):

When Henry Ford invented the Model T, he revolutionized manufacturing and in the process created tons of high-paying jobs for ordinary people. His wealth was shared. When Steve Jobs and Apple invented the iPhone, Continue reading