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What's New in the World of ssdbc

On this page, we will be updating you with pertinent information about the Social Security Administration, Medicare and Medicaid.  We will also provide valuable information regarding interesting events and support services that will be of great benefit to the disability community.  Check back often to peruse this valuable information.

Social Engineering Scams Target Social Security Beneficiaries (12/4/12)

http://oig.ssa.gov 

The Inspector General for the Social Security Administration (SSA) is warning the public, and Social Security beneficiaries in particular, to be aware of fraud scams that target personal information. Scammers use phone calls, emails, and other methods to obtain personal information, then use it to commit identity theft.

In the most recent scam, identity thieves pose as Government officials in an attempt to convince you to provide personal and financial information. They may claim to be SSA employees—or FEMA employees, in the wake of Hurricane Sandy—and ask for Social Security numbers and bank information to “make sure” that you can receive your benefits. Scammers may also claim that you have won a lottery or other prize, but you must send money to pay “fees,” “taxes,” or other expenses before you can claim your winnings.

Once the thieves have your personal information, they can use it to open credit accounts, buy homes, claim tax refunds, and commit other types of fraud. Most recently, some identity thieves have redirected Social Security beneficiaries’ monthly benefit payments, so the money goes to a different bank account, sometimes repeatedly. Some of these scams involve pre-paid debit cards instead of traditional bank accounts.

To help prevent this type of fraud, the Inspector General recommends that you:

  • never provide your personal information when receiving unsolicited calls or contacts
  • never agree to accept pre-paid debit cards or credit cards in another person’s name
  • never agree to send or wire money to an unknown person
  • always contact your local SSA office if you receive a call from a person claiming to be from SSA, and that person asks you to provide your Social Security number or other information.

To verify the legitimacy of a caller who claims to be an SSA employee, call your local Social Security office, or Social Security’s toll-free customer service number at 1-800-772-1213. Deaf or hard-of-hearing individuals can call Social Security’s TTY number at 1-800-325-0778.

If you find that someone has stolen or is using your personal information, you should report that to the Federal Trade Commission at www.ftc.gov/idtheft or 1-877-ID-THEFT.  You can report suspicious activity involving Social Security programs and operations to the Social Security Fraud Hotline, or by phone at 1-800-269-0271. Deaf or hard-of-hearing individuals can call OIG’s TTY number at 1-866-501-2101.

 

Social Security Announces 1.7 Percent Benefit Increase for 2013 (12/4/12)

Monthly Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits for nearly 62 million Americans will increase 1.7 percent in 2013, the Social Security Administration announced today.

The 1.7 percent cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) will begin with benefits that more than 56 million Social Security beneficiaries receive in January 2013.  Increased payments to more than 8 million SSI beneficiaries will begin on December 31, 2012.

Some other changes that take effect in January of each year are based on the increase in average wages.  Based on that increase, the maximum amount of earnings subject to the Social Security tax (taxable maximum) will increase to $113,700 from $110,100.  Of the estimated 163 million workers who will pay Social Security taxes in 2013, nearly 10 million will pay higher taxes as a result of the increase in the taxable maximum. 

Information about Medicare changes for 2013, when announced, will be available at www.Medicare.gov.  For some beneficiaries, their Social Security increase may be partially or completely offset by increases in Medicare premiums.  

The Social Security Act provides for how the COLA is calculated.  To read more, please visit www.socialsecurity.gov/cola

 

Withholding federal taxes from Social Security benefits (10/17/12)

Many of you have asked, how do I have federal taxes withheld from my Social Security benefits?

You are not required to have federal taxes withheld from your benefits. Federal tax withholding is voluntary. Although you are not required to have federal taxes withheld from your Social Security benefit, you may find that easier than paying quarterly estimated tax payments. To have federal taxes withheld, or to change your original withholding request, you will need to:

Step 1: Complete IRS Form W-4V to indicate what percentage (7,10,15, or 25) of your monthly benefit amount you want withheld.

Step2: Sign and return the form to your local Social Security office by mail or in person.

For more information about the Form W-4V, contact the Internal Revenue Service at 1-800-829-3676 or visit them online.

You may also obtain the Form W-4V by calling Social Security at 1-800-772-1212 (TTY 1-800-772-1213) between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m., Monday through Friday.

Other Helpful Answers:

One Million People Go Online to Access their Social Security Statement (6/30/12)

Michael J. Astrue, Commissioner of Social Securit, today announced that in less than two months' time, one million people have gone online, created a My Social Security and viewed their Social Security Statement.       

“The online Social Security Statement is a huge success,” Commissioner Astrue said.  “The online Statement meets our commitment to provide Americans with an easy, efficient process to obtain an estimate of their potential Social Security benefits.  I recommend that everyone get in the habit of checking their online Statement each year, around their birthday, for example.”

The online Statement provides estimates for retirement, disability and survivors benefits.  It also provides workers as young as 18 a convenient year-round way to determine whether their earnings are accurately posted to their Social Security records, which was not possible when the agency mailed paper Statements only to those 25 and older.

On May 1, Social Security unveiled this new addition to its popular suite of electronic services at www.socialsecurity.gov/mystatement, which allows people to access their Social Security earnings and benefit information securely and conveniently. 

According to the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ASCI), users are giving the online Statement a score of 89 -- making it competitive with Social Security’s other top-rated, best-in-government online services, such as the Retirement Estimator and online retirement application. The ASCI tracks trends in customer’s satisfaction and provides valuable benchmarking insights for companies and government agencies. 

To access your online Statement, you must be at least 18 years old, have a Social Security number, have a valid email address and have a U.S. mailing address. 

To learn more or to create your own account, please go to www.socialsecurity.gov/mystatement.

Lisa S. Wagman, ADR, CP, NJCP has become a fully Accredited Disability Representative, as certified by the National Association of Disability Representatives.  This was accomplished only after having first met the strict requirements of the PRA Act of 2010 through the Social Security Administration. (2/29/12)

I am very proud to announce that I have met the stringent criteria to participate in the Social Security Disability Applicants' Access to Professional Representation Act of 2010 (PRA) and I have become a fully Accredited Disability Representative (ADR) through the National Association of Disability Representatives.   A disability representative must first meet the Social Security Administration's strictest requirements as they pertain to level of skill, education and experience in order to become eligible to qualify under PRA law.  A disability representative must then pass a complex written examination implemented by the Social Security Administration to test their knowledge of all aspects of the disability and SSI programs. As an Accredited Disability Representative, I will be participating in annual continuing education and will strive to maintain my knowledge and high level of expertise in my field. This will enable me to stay abreast of the constant changes in the law, regulations and rulings so that I may continue to provide the best possible representation to individuals filing for disability.

To learn more about the ADR program, please peruse the website by clicking Accredited Disability Representative.  Click here to learn more about the National Association of Disability Representatives. Click here to learn more about the Social Security Disability Applicants' Access to Professional Representative Act of 2010 (PRA).

Social Security Now Allows Individuals to Obtain Their Earnings and Benefit Statements On Line (5/1/12)

Michael J. Astrue, Commissioner of Social Security, today announced an online version of the Social Security Statement is now available at www.socialsecurity.gov. The new online Statement provides eligible workers with secure and convenient access to their Social Security earnings and benefit information.

“Our new online Social Security Statement is simple, easy-to-use and provides people with estimates they can use to plan for their retirement,” Commissioner Astrue said. “The online Statement also provides estimates for disability and survivors benefits, making the Statement an important financial planning tool. People should get in the habit of checking their online Statement each year, around their birthday, for example.”

In addition to helping with financial planning, the online Statement also provides workers a convenient way to determine whether their earnings are accurately posted to their Social Security records. This feature is important because Social Security benefits are based on average earnings over a person’s lifetime. If the earnings information is not accurate, the person may not receive all the benefits to which he or she is entitled. The online Statementalso provides the opportunity to save or print the personalized Statement for financial planning discussions with family or a financial planner.

To get a personalized online Statement, people age 18 and older must be able to provide information about themselves that matches information already on file with Social Security. In addition, Social Security uses Experian, an external authentication service provider, for additional verification. People must provide their identifying information and answer security questions in order to pass this verification. Social Security will not share a person’s Social Security number with Experian, but the identity check is an important part of this new, robust verification process.

Once verified, people will create a “My Social Security” account with a unique user name and password to access their online Statement. In addition, the portal also includes links to information about other online services, such as applications for retirement, disability and Medicare.

It is important to note, however, Social Security anticipates some members of the public will not be able to be verified through this process. Some people may not correctly answer the security questions based on information on file with Experian, and others may supply identifying information that does not match their Social Security records. In instances where this occurs, people will have the option to request a paper Social Security Statement be mailed to them. People who cannot verify online initially also may visit their local Social Security office and present an identity document in order to create an account and gain access to the online version of the Statement.

In February 2012, Social Security resumed mailing paper Statements to workers age 60 and older if they are not already receiving Social Security benefits. Later this year, the agency plans to mail paper Statements to workers in the year they reach age 25.

For more information about the new online Statement, please go to www.socialsecurity.gov/mystatement.

Social Security Announces 3.6 Percent Benefit Increase for 2012: Cost-of-Living Adjustment is First Since 2009 (10/19/11)

Monthly Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits for more than 60 million Americans will increase 3.6 percent in 2012, the Social Security Administration announced today.

The 3.6 percent cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) will begin with benefits that nearly 55 million Social Security beneficiaries receive in January 2012.  Increased payments to more than 8 million SSI beneficiaries will begin on December 30, 2011.

Some other changes that take effect in January of each year are based on the increase in average wages.  Based on that increase, the maximum amount of earnings subject to the Social Security tax (taxable maximum) will increase to $110,100 from $106,800.  Of the estimated 161 million workers who will pay Social Security taxes in 2012, about 10 million will pay higher taxes as a result of the increase in the taxable maximum. 

Information about Medicare changes for 2012, when announced, will be available at www.Medicare.gov.  For some beneficiaries, their Social Security increase may be partially or completely offset by increases in Medicare premiums.  

The Social Security Act provides for how the COLA is calculated.  To read more, please visit www.socialsecurity.gov/cola

Social Security Expands Compassionate Allowances Conditions (10/14/11)

Michael J. Astrue, Commissioner of Social Security, today announced 13 new Compassionate Allowances conditions involving the immune system and neurological disorders.  The Compassionate Allowances program fast-tracks disability decisions to ensure that Americans with the most serious disabilities receive their benefit decisions within days instead of months or years.  Commissioner Astrue made the announcement during his remarks at the U.S. Conference on Rare Diseases and Orphan Products in Washington, D.C.

"Social Security handles more than three million disability applications each year and we need to keep innovating and making our work more efficient,"  Commissioner Astrue said.  "With our Compassionate Allowances program, we quickly approved disability benefits for more than 60,000 people with severe disabilities in the past fiscal year.  We have made significant improvements, but we can always do more."

The Compassionate Allowances initiative identifies claims where the nature of the applicant’s disease or condition clearly meets the statutory standard for disability. With the help of sophisticated new information technology, the agency can quickly identify potential Compassionate Allowances and then quickly make decisions. 

Social Security launched the Compassionate Allowances program in 2008 with a list of 50 diseases and conditions.  The announcement of 13 new conditions, effective in December, will increase the total number of Compassionate Allowances conditions to 113.  The conditions include certain cancers, adult brain disorders, a number of rare genetic disorders of children, early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, and other disorders. 

The agency announced a small grant program for graduate students that will help Social Security improve its list and has recently awarded an approximately $1.8 million grant over a five-year period to Policy Research, Incorporated (PRI) through the Disability Determination Process Small Grant Program.  This new program aims to improve the disability process through innovative research by graduate students who will receive small stipends for their work.  In addition, the agency recently streamlined its online disability application for people who have a condition on the Compassionate Allowances list.

Social Security Administration's Financial Future:  What Can We Expect? (As reported by CBS News 9/28/11)

The Social Security program turned 75 years old in 2010, and has provided billions of dollars to senior citizens through the years. But unless Congress acts, Social Security is projected to run out of money by 2037. Get the latest news on attempts to modify Social Security and updates on the general solvency of the program.

In 2011, More than 58 million retirees and disabled Americans will get no increase in Social Security benefits, the second year in a row without a raise.

The Social Security Administration said Friday inflation has been too low since the last increase in 2009 to warrant an increase for 2011. The announcement marks only the second year without an increase since automatic adjustments for inflation were adopted in 1975. The first year was this year.

The cost-of-living adjustments, or COLAs, are automatically set each year by an inflation measure that was adopted by Congress back in the 1970s.

To make up for the lack of a COLA, the House will vote in November - after congressional elections - on a bill to provide $250 payments to Social Security recipients, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said. But even if Pelosi can get the House to pass the proposal, it faces opposition in the Senate.

The absence of inflation will be of small comfort to many older Americans whose savings and home values still haven't recovered from the recession. Many haven't had a raise since January 2009, and they won't be getting one until at least January 2012. And the timing couldn't be worse for Democrats as they approach an election in which they are in danger of losing their House majority and possibly their Senate majority as well.

Social Security is supported by a 6.2 percent payroll tax - paid by both workers and employers - on wages up to $106,800. Because there is no COLA, that amount will remain unchanged for 2011.

The last increase in benefits came in 2009, when payments went up by 5.8 percent, the largest increase in 27 years. The big increase was caused by a sharp but short-lived spike in energy prices in 2008.

Social Security Benefits Will Be Paid on Time (8/4/11)

Michael J. Astrue, Commissioner of Social Security, announced today that Social Security payments for August 3rd will be made on time and as scheduled.  Payments for August 10th, 17th, and 24th also will be made as scheduled.

“I am happy to announce there will be no delay in the payment of August Social Security benefits,” Commissioner Astrue said, “which should be a relief to those people who were concerned about their benefits.  I’m pleased the President and Congress were able to come together in a bipartisan fashion to avoid an interruption in payments.”

People still receiving paper checks from Social Security should consider signing up for Direct Deposit, the secure and convenient way to receive Social Security payments.  All current beneficiaries must switch to electronic payments by March 1, 2013.

It is Easier to Reach Us At ssdbc By Way Of Our New Mobile Contact Number (8/2/11)

At ssdbc, we want you to know how very important our clients are to us.  We have taken steps to be even more accessible to our clients, thereby allowing us to respond quickly and efficiently to any questions or concerns they may have about the status of their claims.  We also want to be accessible and available to any potential new clients who wish to reach us.  If you are unable to reach us through our normal office numbers of 1-888-946-2567 (1-888-WIN-CLMS) or 1-856-667-7252, then please feel free to reach us through our new mobile line at 1-856-952-2242. 

Social Security Announces Number Randomization (7/20/11)

The Social Security Administration (SSA) is changing the way Social Security Numbers (SSNs) are issued. This change is referred to as "randomization." The SSA is developing this new method to help protect the integrity of the SSN. SSN Randomization will also extend the longevity of the nine-digit SSN nationwide.

The SSA began assigning the nine-digit SSN in 1936 for the purpose of tracking workers' earnings over the course of their lifetimes to pay benefits. Since its inception, the SSN has always been comprised of the three-digit area number, followed by the two-digit group number, and ending with the four-digit serial number. Since 1972, the SSA has issued Social Security cards centrally and the area number reflects the state, as determined by the ZIP code in the mailing address of the application.

There are approximately 420 million numbers available for assignment. However, the current SSN assignment process limits the number of SSNs that are available for issuance to individuals by each state. Changing the assignment methodology will extend the longevity of the nine digit SSN in all states. On July 3, 2007, the SSA published its intent to randomize the nine-digit SSN in the Federal Register Notice, Protecting the Integrity of Social Security Numbers [Docket No. SSA 2007-0046].

SSN randomization will affect the SSN assignment process in the following ways:

  • It will eliminate the geographical significance of the first three digits of the SSN, currently referred to as the area number, by no longer allocating the area numbers for assignment to individuals in specific states.
  • It will eliminate the significance of the highest group number and, as a result, the High Group List will be frozen in time and can be used for validation of SSNs issued prior to the randomization implementation date.
  • Previously unassigned area numbers will be introduced for assignment excluding area numbers 000, 666 and 900-999.

These changes to the SSN may require systems and/or business process updates to accommodate SSN randomization.

Social Security Announces New Compassionate Allowances Conditions: Fast Track Disability Process Will Now Look at 100 Conditions (7/15/11)

Michael J. Astrue, Commissioner of Social Security, today announced 12 additional Compassionate Allowances conditions involving severe heart diseases, bringing the total number of conditions in the expedited disability process to 100. Compassionate Allowances are a way to quickly identify diseases and other medical conditions that, by definition, meet Social Security’s standards for disability benefits.

These conditions primarily include certain cancers, adult brain disorders, and a number of rare disorders that affect children. “We have reached a significant milestone for the Compassionate Allowances program,” Commissioner Astrue said. “We have an obligation to award benefits quickly to people whose medical conditions are so serious they clearly meet our disability standards. We are now able to do precisely that for 100 severe conditions.” The Compassionate Allowances initiative is one of two parts of the agency’s fast-track system for certain disability claims.

When combined with the Quick Disability Determination process, Social Security last year approved more than 100,000 cases, usually in less than two weeks. This year, the agency expects to fast-track nearly 150,000 cases. Social Security has held seven public hearings and worked with experts to develop the list of Compassionate Allowances conditions. The hearings also have helped the agency identify additional ways to improve the disability process for applicants with Compassionate Allowances conditions. “By definition, these illnesses are so severe that we don’t need to fully develop the applicant’s work history to make a decision,” said Commissioner Astrue. As a result, beginning in August, Social Security is eliminating this part of the application process for people who have a condition on the list.

For more information on the Compassionate Allowances initiative, please visit www.socialsecurity.gov/compassionateallowances.

Complete List of Compassionate Allowances Conditions.  Note: Conditions highlighted in Red indicate the new conditions added on July 14, 2011.

Social Security Board of Trustees: Projected Trust Fund Exhaustion One Year Sooner (5/26/11)

The Social Security Board of Trustees today released its annual report on the financial health of the Social Security Trust Funds.  The combined assets of the Old-Age and Survivors Insurance, and Disability Insurance (OASDI) Trust Funds will be exhausted in 2036, one year sooner than projected last year.  The DI Trust Fund, while unchanged from last year, will be exhausted in 2018 and legislative action will be needed soon.  At a minimum, a reallocation of the payroll tax rate between OASI and DI would be necessary, as was done in 1994.  The Trustees also project that OASDI program costs will exceed non-interest income in 2011 and will remain higher throughout the remainder of the 75-year period. 

The 2011 Trustees Report is posted at http://www.socialsecurity.gov/OACT/TR/2011/trTOC.html.

Compassionate Allowances Hearing on Autoimmune Disease (3/2/11)

On March 16, 2011, Michael J. Astrue, Commissioner of Social Security, will hold the seventh Compassionate Allowances Outreach Hearing.  The subject of the hearing is autoimmune disease.

People with autoimmune disease suffer from overactive immune responses.  Generally, the immune system mistakes part of the body (substances and tissues normally in the body) for an infection and attacks.  Essentially, the body is attacking its own cells.

Compassionate Allowances are a way of quickly identifying diseases and other medical conditions that invariably qualify under the Listing of Impairments based on minimal objective medical information.  Compassionate Allowances make it possible for Social Security to quickly identify the most obviously disabled individuals for allowances based on objective medical information that we can obtain quickly.

To learn more, visit Social Security’s Compassionate Allowances page at www.socialsecurity.gov/compassionateallowances.

Statement of Michael J. Astrue, Commissioner of Social Security, on the President’s Fiscal Year 2012 Budget Request (2/14/11)

For over seventy-five years, Social Security has provided hundreds of millions of Americans with an economic safety net. As the baby boomers retire and reach their disability-prone years, Social Security’s workloads continue to grow. In addition, the economic downturn has greatly increased the demand for our services. Despite this dramatic growth in our work, through increased employee productivity, new initiatives, and improved funding we have reversed a trend of declining service and an increasing backlog in our disability workloads. The President’s budget request of $12.522 billion for Social Security’s administrative expenses will allow us to maintain staffing in our front-line components, fund ongoing activities, and cover our inflationary increases. It will allow us to reduce our hearings and initial disability claims backlogs, and to continue to reverse the decline in our program integrity work. Program integrity work not only pays for itself, but also produces considerable savings to the taxpayers. Full funding by Congress of the President’s budget request is critical. This budget request is the minimum the agency needs to continue to reduce key backlogs and to increase deficit-reducing program integrity work. It will allow us to build on the considerable progress we have achieved, progress that is vital to the millions of people who depend on our services and to the American taxpayer.

For more information about the President’s 2012 budget request for Social Security, visit www.socialsecurity.gov/budget.

All Federal Benefits Must Be Paid Electronically by 3/1/13. Act Now! (2/2/11)

http://godirect.org/

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The U.S. Department of the Treasury will pay all federal benefit and non-tax payments electronically. Benefit recipients can choose to receive their payments by direct deposit to a bank or credit union account or to a Direct Express® Debit MasterCard® card account.

Act now to get your money safely and quickly – on time, every time!

Treasurer of the United States Rosie Ríos tells you about an important change in the way you’ll receive your federal benefit payments. Please click on the link below and watch a brief video that explains the changes.

http://godirect.org/media/videos/welcome-from-us-treasurer-rosie-rios/

We are available to educate your group concerning the Social Security disability claims process.  (1/31/11)

If you are an organization, clinic, agency, employer, doctor, medical or rehabilitation facility, social worker, therapist or the like, we have good news!  We will come out to your facility at no charge and educate your employees, co-workers, patients and/or their families regarding the ins and outs of the Social Security disability claims processing!  We want to do whatever we can to help educate the professional community, their clients and patients.   Please contact us to schedule a free group consultation!  Call 1-888-946-2567.

Latest Medicare Updates as Reported in the Medicare & You 2011 Booklet (1/30/11)

If you have Medicare prescription drug coverage with a coverage gap (also known as the “donut hole”), the new law will reduce that gap over several years to make prescription drugs even more affordable. If you reach the coverage gap in 2010, you may qualify to get a one-time $250 rebate rebate check. If you reach the coverage gap in 2011, you may get a 50% discount on brand-name prescription drugs when you buy them. There will be additional savings in the coverage gap each year through 2020, when the donut hole is closed completely. The new law also prevents Medicare Advantage Plans from charging you more than Original Medicare for cancer treatment and other services.

If you have Original Medicare, you will now be able to get a yearly wellness exam and most preventive services for free. If you’re in a Medicare Advantage Plan, check with your plan to see if these benefits will also be free for you.

Doctors, hospitals, and Medicare Advantage Plans will have new incentives to improve the quality of care you receive. There will be better coordination of your care after you’re discharged from a hospital to ensure that you get the services you need after your hospital stay. It will also be easier to find out which long-term care hospitals, inpatient rehabilitative hospitals, and hospice care programs provide better care in your area.

 

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