Welcome to the fourth edition of our newsletter. This issue brings a new title to our newsletter; it is now the Social Security Disability & Special Needs Trusts News. In these monthly newsletters we will be providing you or your clients/patients with information on Social Security Disability and SSI benefits and how not to gamble with your or your clients/patients Social Security Disability and SSI Benefits through the use of Special Needs Trusts.
|What is the Earliest Age that a Person Can Receive Social Security Disability Benefits?|
There is no minimum age. However, to qualify for Social Security Disability benefits, you must have worked long enough and recently enough under Social Security. You can earn up to a maximum of four (4) work credits per year. The amount of earnings required to earn one credit increases each year.
The number of work credits you need for Social Security Disability Benefits depends on your age when you became disabled. Generally you need a total of forty (40) credits with twenty (20) credits earned in the last ten (10) years ending with the year you became disabled. However, some younger workers, depending on their age, may qualify with fewer credits.
If you are not sure if you have enough quarters during the correct period to qualify for Social Security Disability Benefits please call us at (703) 934-5450 to find out.
For more general information on Social Security Disability and SSI benefits please read on.
|Social Security Benefits Going Up by 5.8%|
Social Security benefits for 50 million people will go up 5.8% next year, the largest increase in more than a quarter century. The increase, which will start in January, was announced October 16, 2008 by the Social Security Administration. It's the largest increase since a 7.4% jump in 1982 and is more than double the 2.3% rise that people getting Social Security got in their monthly checks this year. The 5.8% rise in the cost of living adjustment is a sharp departure from recent years. The COLA increases have been below 3 percent for all but three of the past 15 years. The biggest cost of living benefit on record was a 14.3% increase in 1980. Social Security benefits have been adjusted every year since 1975.
The average retired couple, both getting Social Security benefits, will see their monthly check go up by $103 a month to $1,876.
The standard Supplemental Security Income payment for a couple will go from $956 per month to $1,011. The SSI payment for an individual will go from $637 per month to $674 per month.
The average monthly check for a disabled worker will go from $1,006 to $1,064.
In more good news, the cost of living increase will not be eaten up by higher monthly premiums for the part of Medicare that pays for physician services. Because of gains in the Medicare Part B trust fund, that premium will hold steady at $96.40 a month, although higher-income people including couples making more than $170,000 annually will see their premiums increase.
|Social Security Announces Launch of Fast Track Disability Applications|
The Social Security Administration has announced a nationwide launch of compassionate allowances for People with Cancers and Rare Diseases
On October 27, 2008 Michael J. Astrue, Commissioner of Social Security, announced the national rollout of the agency's Compassionate Allowances initiative, a way to expedite the processing of disability claims for applicants whose medical conditions are so severe that their conditions obviously meet Social Security's standards.
"Getting benefits quickly to people with the most severe medical conditions is both the right and the compassionate thing to do," Commissioner Astrue said. "This initiative will allow us to make decisions on these cases in a matter of days, rather than months or years."
Social Security is launching this expedited decision process with a total of 50 conditions. Over time, more diseases and conditions will be added. A list of the first 50 impairments - 25 rare diseases and 25 cancers - can be found at www.socialsecurity.gov/compassionateallowances
Before announcing this initiative, Social Security held public hearings to receive information from experts on rare diseases and cancers. The agency also enlisted the assistance of the National Institutes of Health. Compassionate Allowances is the second piece of the agency's two-track, fast-track system for certain disability claims. When combined with the agency's Quick Disability Determination process, and once fully implemented, this two-track system could result in six to nine percent of disability claims, the cases for as much as a quarter million people, being decided in an average of six to eight days.
"This is an outstanding achievement for the Social Security Administration," said Peter Saltonstall, President of the National Organization for Rare Disorders. "It has taken Social Security less than a year to develop this much-needed program that will benefit those whose claims merit expedited consideration based on the nature of their disease. Disability backlogs cause a hardship for patients and their families. Commissioner Astrue and his staff deserve our thanks for a job well done."
"Unfortunately, many hardworking people with cancer may not only face intensive treatment to save their lives, but they may also find themselves truly unable to perform their daily work-related activities and as result, may face serious financial concerns, such as the loss of income and the cost of treatment," said Daniel E. Smith, president of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network. "The Social Security Administration's Compassionate Allowances program will help streamline the disability benefits application process so that benefits are quickly provided to those who need them most."
"This is America, and it simply is not acceptable for people to wait years for a final decision on a disability claim," Commissioner Astrue said. "I am committed to a process that is as fair and speedy as possible. The launch of Compassionate Allowances is another step to ensuring Americans with disabilities, especially those with certain cancers and rare diseases, get the benefits they need quickly."
|What is a Special Needs Trust?|
Also Known as a Supplemental Needs Trust
Special needs trusts (also known as "supplemental needs" trusts) allow a disabled beneficiary to receive gifts, lawsuit settlements, or other funds and yet not lose his or her eligibility for certain government programs. Such trusts are drafted so that the funds will not be considered to belong to the beneficiary in determining eligibility for public benefits.
Under current Federal law, any inheritance of more than $2,000 disqualifies individuals with disabilities from most federal needs based assistance, including Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Medicaid. Benefits from state public assistance programs may also be affected.
As their name implies, special needs trusts are designed not to provide basic support, but instead to pay for comforts and luxuries that could not be paid for by public assistance funds. These trusts typically pay for things like education, recreation, counseling, and medical attention beyond the simple necessities of life. (However, the trustee can use trust funds for food, clothing, and shelter if the trustee decides doing so is in the beneficiary's best interest despite a possible loss or reduction in public assistance.)
Special needs can include medical and dental expenses, annual independent check-ups, necessary or desirable equipment (such a specially equipped vans), training and education, insurance, transportation, and essential dietary needs. If the trust is sufficiently funded, the disabled person can also receive spending money, electronic equipment and appliances, computers, vacations, movies, payments for a companion, and other self-esteem and quality-of-life enhancing expenses.
Often, special needs trusts are created by a parent or other family member for a child with special needs (even though the child may be an adult by the time the trust is created or funded). Such trusts also may be set up in a will as a way for an individual to leave assets to a disabled relative.
In addition, the disabled individual can often create the trust himself, depending on the program for which he or she seeks benefits. These "self-settled" trusts are frequently established by individuals who become disabled as the result of an accident or medical malpractice and later receive the proceeds of a personal injury award or settlement.
For more information on Special Needs Trusts please read on.
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|Come Visit Us|
Our law office is located in the "Old Town
Fairfax Building," formerly known as the "Jesse Building."
4015 Chain Bridge Road
Fairfax, VA 22030
We are right across the street from the Courthouse in Fairfax City, Virginia.
Free Parking (including a Handicapped parking space) is available in the lot behind the building.
If you know of someone who could use our legal services, please forward to him/her this e-mail newsletter or give him/her our telephone number: (703) 934-5450.
We provide legal services in the areas of Social Security Disability Law and prepare Wills, Special Needs Trusts, Living Wills, Health Care and Financial Powers of Attorney for clients in Virginia, DC and Maryland, and we are always happy to provide FREE friendly phone advice.
If you refer someone who becomes a client, we will treat you to a great cup of coffee (you will receive a FREE Starbucks Gift Card).
If you, or someone you know, is involved with an educational event or support group that would benefit from a presentation on Social Security Disability Law, Wills or Special Needs Trusts, please call us at (703) 934-5450.