Compassionate Allowance List Can Fast Track SSDI Process

Q: Is there a way to expedite my SSDI application decision?

Qualifying for Social Security disability insurance (“SSDI”) benefits requires an applicant to satisfy the government’s definition of “disabled” which, according to the Social Security Administration, means “suffering from a physical or mental impairment that prevents engaging in substantial gainful activities and which has lasted or is expected to last for 12 months or more or resulting in death”. There is an extensive list of disorders and diseases that qualify including heart disease, multiple sclerosis, blindness, post-traumatic stress disorder (“PTSD”), cancer, and many more. One may think it’s easy to check off a condition and quickly qualify for benefits.

But applying for Social Security disability benefits isn’t as easy as it seems and as we’ve previously reported on this blog, approximately two-thirds– or 66%– of all initial disability benefits applications are denied. While applicants can appeal a denial of benefits, the backlog in cases pending an appeal hearing can be in the two-year wait range. People are literally becoming homeless and/or dying while they wait for their appeal.

Is there a way to expedite the process? Well, yes, and no.

For those applicants unfortunate enough to be suffering from particularly apparent and devastating diseases or disorders that obviously meet the qualification of “disabled”, there may well be a faster path to approval. It’s called the Compassionate Allowance List (“CAL”). Its purpose is to quickly flag and process the applications of the very sickest applicants on a priority basis.

The CAL can fast-track SSDI applications for intended recipients with a disability that is “patently obvious and from a medical condition or disease already appearing on the Compassionate Allowance List”.  Many are surprised to learn that there’s over 200 CAL diseases and disorders including certain cancers, ALS, and acute leukemia, to name a few.

No one can afford to wait when it comes to disability benefits, so many people choose to hire a skilled disability benefits attorney to assist with the initial application or appeal particularly for CAL-based applications.

If you need help with an initial application for SSDI or Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) disability benefits or appealing a denial of benefits, the disability attorneys of Arizona at Roeschke Law help you. Contact us today for a free consultation.

From our offices in Phoenix, Tempe, and Tucson, Arizona, we represent disabled clients throughout Arizona in all phases of the disability benefits process.

Workforce Inclusion for the Disabled is Promising

Q: Are the numbers of employable disabled people rising?

It doesn’t matter whether you were born with a disability or acquired it as an unanticipated illness or injury at some point during your lifetime. In either instance, Social Security disability benefits attorneys can help you or a loved one apply for appropriate government benefits.

The Social Security Administration oversees two different federal disability benefits programs. Both require applicants to be suffering from a mental or physical medical condition that satisfies the federal government’s definition of “disabled”. A “disability” is defined as “the inability to engage in substantial gainful activity due to a medically determinable impairment that has lasted or is expected to last a minimum of 12 months or result in death”. Except for the similar definition, the two programs each have different eligibility requirements and purposes.

In a nutshell, Social Security Disability Insurance benefits (“SSDI”) is available to people with sufficient years of work credits during which they paid into the Social Security system through their FICA income taxes. The second disability program, Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) is available only to those with extremely limited financial assets, and does not require an applicant to ever have worked at all.

Many people trying to live on the disability benefits from either of these programs find it difficult to make ends meet and even cover the basic necessities of life. For many, especially those who took pride in their previous ability to work and earn a paycheck, they would prefer to work but are either unable to work or, if they can work they are unable to find an employer that will hire them.

Fortunately, there is good news for the disabled who are willing and able to work.

Thanks in part to popular TV shows like The Good Doctor and movies like Wonder which focus on the inclusion, high expectations, and success of people with disabilities, real strides are being made in real life nationwide in hiring patterns impacting the disabled. Specifically, “new statistics show 343,483 more people with disabilities joined the American workforce in 2016… four times the rate of the previous year. “

Large corporations have made a commitment to employing people with disabilities and have found they can possess valuable skill sets and be successful employees. Hopefully this positive trend will allow many of those barely subsisting on disability benefits to join or re-join the workforce and lead a better quality of life.

If you or a loved one is suffering from a disability and needs assistance applying for benefits, appealing the denial of benefits, or have any questions regarding disability law, the experts at Roeschke Law can help you. Contact us today for a free consultation.

From our offices in Phoenix, Tucson, and Tempe, we represent the disabled and their families throughout Arizona and the nation.

The Secret Threat to Disabled Arizona Homeowners

Q: Can a homeowner’s association foreclose for nonpayment of a homeowner’s single month of dues?

When a life-altering disability unexpectedly strikes you or a loved one, it will disrupt your life regardless of whether you planned well for it or not.

A skilled Arizona disability benefits attorney can help you in applying for disability benefits like Social Security disability insurance (“SSDI”).

They can also help you appeal a denial of benefits which is very common since almost 2/3 of initial applications for Social Security disability insurance benefits are initially denied.

Long-term disability insurance attorneys can help with filing initial claims, pursuing appeals, and providing ongoing advice regarding long-term disability and public benefit programs.

Even in the best-case scenario, when either long-term disability insurance benefits or SSDI benefits are awarded, there is still a gap between what was earned prior to the disability and what fraction the applicant and their family have to live on afterwards. It’s not uncommon for disabled people to fall behind on their bills, even if only for a few months while waiting for their benefits and spending down their nest eggs.

And for people in Arizona, there is a serious and not well-known problem that’s impacting countless disabled folks on fixed incomes which in some cases is rendering them homeless. It’s the Homeowners Association (“HOA”).

Across the state, approximately half of all homeowners—able-bodied or disabled– live in communities that are managed by HOAs. Most people know that the HOAs handle trivial matters like enforcing landscaping requirements, but they don’t realize that the HOA may also foreclose on homeowners as soon as they fall behind in paying their dues.

HOAs and management companies are unregulated and those running them are not required to be specifically trained or licensed. Often there is corruption and embezzlement. Frustrated homeowners who fall behind on a maintenance payment often find themselves unable to catch up due to exorbitant late fees, penalties, and interest and the prompt referral of their accounts to foreclosure firms, where attorney’s fees get added as well.

Obviously, someone who has become disabled and is awaiting benefits, might lose their home if they fall behind during this waiting process.  Arizona advocacy groups are “pushing for legislation that would clarify the HOA-initiated foreclosure process and add protections for homeowners”. Until then, the disabled and others living on fixed incomes remain in danger of being foreclosed upon quickly if they fall behind on their dues.

If you are disabled and need assistance figuring out which benefits you may qualify for, or with filing an initial application or appealing a denial of benefits, the disability lawyers of Arizona at Roeschke Law can help you. And there’s no fee unless you win. Contact us today for a free consultation.

From our offices in Phoenix, Tempe, and Tucson, we help disabled individuals and their families throughout Arizona.

Lessons About Disability from Stephen Hawking’s Death

Q: Does every disabled person dream of escaping their disability?

As disability attorneys of Arizona, we fill our days helping the disabled obtain benefits. Sometimes people are born with disabilities and other times the onset of the disability happens gradually or suddenly at some point later in life.

Applying for disability benefits can be a stressful and time-consuming process. For that reason, many people choose to hire a skilled disability benefits law firm to handle the initial application.

While it is possible to appeal the denial of disability benefits, the appeals process is so backlogged and has an average waiting time of over two years. People are literally becoming homeless and even dying waiting to have their disability benefits approved.

For many who are disabled or who are caretakers for loved ones suffering from a disability, there are very real financial burdens in obtaining available government benefits necessary for survival. Even in the best-case scenario, when hard to come by benefits have been approved on the initial application, it can be difficult to survive or lead a minimalist lifestyle on disability benefits alone. That’s one of the reasons why many disabled people, if they are able to do so, work or return to work.

We’ve previously discussed on this blog the social stigma that those who stopped working due to a disability are just lazy freeloaders who would rather collect benefits than return to work.

But the recent death of Stephen Hawking forces us to reflect on other possible social stigmas or improper assumptions–that all disabled people wish they could shed their disability and that all disabilities are a burden. The theoretical physicist is arguably the most famous face of the disabled of our time. Nearly everyone has seen this brilliant mind trapped in an ALS-ridden, progressively deteriorating body. He used the most sophisticated and supportive wheelchair and spoke with a robotic voice through the use of modern technological devices. He reportedly was stricken with ALS at the age of 20 but had a brilliant career and the world has benefited through his scientific contributions over the past 50 years.

Since his recent death, however, images and comments on social media and elsewhere depicting him “walking among the stars” and finally “free of the burden” of both his wheelchair and physical disability sparked an unintended backlash from the disabled community nationwide. Disability advocates, of which Hawking himself who was one, argue that society needs to stop assuming a disability is negative or undesirable and needs to embrace the disabled, accept them as able, and provide them the tools they need for inclusion so they can reach their full potential.

If you or a loved one is suffering from a disability and needs assistance applying for benefits or appealing a denial of benefits, the disability attorneys at Roeschke Law can help you. Contact us today for a free consultation.

From our offices in Phoenix, Tempe, and Tucson, we help the disabled and their families in all aspects of disability law throughout Arizona and nationwide.

Beyond the Financial Stress of the Disabled

Q: Are the disabled at risk in emergency situations?

The idea of becoming disabled and applying for Social Security disability benefits is frightening. 
The federal government offers two different disability benefits programs through the Social Security Administration. One is Social Security disability insurance (“SSDI”) and the other is supplemental security income (“SSI”).  Both programs require an applicant to satisfy the federal government definition of being “disabled”– the inability to engage in substantial gainful activity due to a medically determinable impairment that has lasted or is expected to last a minimum of 12 months or result in death. 
In addition to suffering from one of the government’s many approved physical or mental conditions– which include blindness and hearing loss and many others– qualifying for disability benefits also requires meeting the other criteria of the program to which you are applying.
Under the best circumstances, in which disability benefits are awarded quickly, many applicants still struggle financially because their check is only a portion of their prior income and they’ve fallen behind in their bills while waiting for benefits to kick in. 
But there is another problem that many disabled people fear—it’s the stress of how to survive in an emergency situation.
Recent devastating hurricanes, wildfires, and similar disasters nationwide have put a spotlight on the problem that emergency broadcasts for disabled people whose vision or hearing are compromised are dangerously inadequate. Deaf people may not hear audible notices and blind people can’t see visual cues or flashing lights. Untrained or unqualified sign language interpreters compound the problem. 
An example of this was last year in a Florida press conference on Hurricane Irma when an “unqualified interpreter” reportedly signed to area residents to “Need be bear monster” and “Toys for who Mexican” instead of properly advising them of the need to evacuate to higher ground. 
Imagine the fear of not being able to access effective emergency communications and services during a disaster as a result of your disability? 
A Phoenix senator recently introduced a bill to compel state and local governments “to ensure that emergency communications for people with disabilities are equally as effective as communications for those without”. The bill would also establish “a system for securing licensed interpreters”. Hopefully reform will follow.
If you think that you might be entitled to government benefits due to a disability, the disability attorneys of Arizona at Roeschke Law can help you. We can handle your initial application or help you appeal a denial at any phase of the process. There is no fee to you unless you win.  Contact us today for a free consultation.
From our offices in Phoenix, Tempe, and Tucson, we represent the disabled throughout Arizona. It is all we do.

Dispelling the Myth that the SSDI Benefits Recipients Don’t Want to Work

Q: Are Social Security disability benefits recipients really disabled or just lazy?

Qualifying for Social Security disability insurance (“SSDI”) is not always easy. Even those who are ultimately approved, often wait months or even years for that approval, especially since 2/3 of initial applications are denied.

Since much news regarding Social Security disability benefits is focused on how long and hard a process applying for disability benefits can be, many people – – including those fortunate enough to eventually be approved – – look at Social Security disability benefits recipients as being “lucky”.

Sure, recipients may feel “lucky” to have finally been approved for benefits before losing their homes or dying from complications of their injuries or illnesses–something that happens far too often. And while recipients may feel “lucky” to have some bit of financial compensation, it’s generally a far cry from the salary and benefits they were earning prior to becoming disabled. Even with benefits, many recipients live just above or below the poverty level. So, are they really “lucky”?

But in our work-obsessed society, many able-bodied people stigmatize SSDI benefits recipients as being lazy, freeloaders, or even frauds who aren’t as sick or injured as they claim and just want to collect a government check for doing nothing or next to nothing forever.

For many SSDI benefits recipients, nothing could be farther from the truth.

First of all, those applying for disability benefits through SSDI have to have worked and paid into the Social Security system for the requisite number of hours and years in order to be eligible for benefits. Then, they must qualify under the government’s stringent definition of “disabled” by proving they are suffering from one or more of the recognized physical or mental disabilities.

With the serious delays and intense scrutiny that goes into the review of SSDI applications and appeals, the amount of proof required for an approval surely weeds out the vast majority of would-be fraudulent claims. The idea that one would choose to suffer daily from the mental or physical disability so severe that they can no longer provide for themselves or their families– but would rather subsist on a meager government subsidy– is mind-boggling.

Many people who receive SSDI benefits want to work but are either no longer able to (SSDI).

No longer being able to work is a blow to the pride of many benefit recipients. So much so, that those who are able to will often attempt a return to the workforce so they can get off SSDI government assistance. And those who can’t return, often look for ways to give back and feel useful like doing volunteer work when they are able.

When you are faced with a physical or psychologically disabling condition, your whole life can be turned upside down. If you are unable to work, the financial burden, when added to your physical or mental pain, can be overwhelming. Trying to navigate the complicated process of applying for disability benefits on top of all that you’re already dealing with could result in delays and mistakes in your application.

If your application is denied, the appeals process is lengthy—and you continue to wait for money to pay the bills. Hiring a skilled Social Security disability benefits attorney who knows the procedures may increase the chances of your application being granted the first time around or a subsequent appeal being successful.

If you or a loved one needs help applying for disability benefits or appealing the denial of benefits, the disability attorneys of Arizona at Roeschke Law can help. Contact us today for a free consultation.

From our offices in Phoenix, Tempe, and Tucson, we represent the disabled in all Arizona counties and cities.

Do I qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance?

Do I qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance?

Helping the disabled navigate the complicated process of applying for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits (“SSDI”) is what Arizona disability attorneys do best.

And considering that approximately 2/3 of all initial applications for SSDI are denied, trusting your application to an Arizona disability law attorney could mean the difference between an application or appeal being granted or denied.

You might be wondering: Do I qualify for SSDI benefits?

Eligibility is tough and presents several obstacles to applicants. First, SSDI benefits are only available to people who have worked the requisite number of hours and years and paid into the Social Security system through withheld FICA taxes. Even if you satisfy that requirement, your eligibility will have expired if you haven’t worked for at least five of the last 10 years in “Social Security-covered employment”.

In addition, you must meet the government’s definition of “disabled” and be suffering from one or more of the Social Security Administration’s approved list of qualifying physical and/or mental conditions. Further, the medical condition must prevent you from engaging in “substantial gainful activities” and be a health problem that has lasted or is expected to last for 12 months or more will result in death.

You also must be younger than your full retirement age in order to apply for SSDI benefits. And SSDI benefits recipients will automatically have their disability benefits converted to Social Security retirement benefits upon reaching full retirement age.

Time is not a friend of the disabled.

Even those 33% of applicants who are fortunate enough to have their initial SSDI application granted have often waited several months for that decision. For the majority – – the 2/3 of applicants who got initially denied– the waiting time for an appeals hearing is pushing two years.

Who can afford to live without disability benefits for several years?

Sadly, many of those appealing a denial of Social Security disability benefits become homeless or die while waiting for their hearing.

If you are unable to work as a result of a disability, the disability attorneys of Arizona at Roeschke Law can help you navigate the difficult disability application disability benefits application and appeals process. It’s all we do. Contact us today for a free consultation.

From our offices in Phoenix, Tempe, and Tucson, we represent the disabled in all levels of Social Security disability and Supplemental Security Income claims throughout Arizona.

Tax Reform May Impact Disability Benefits

Q: How might income tax reform impact disability benefits?

If you thought applying for Social Security disability benefits in Arizona was confusing, understanding the various programs administered through the Social Security Administration can be just as challenging.

For example, the federal government agency oversees two different disability benefits programs: Social Security Disability Insurance (“SSDI”) and Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”).

Although both disability benefits programs require recipients to satisfy the federal government’s definition of mentally or physically “disabled”, both programs have more differences than similarities. SSDI is based on work credits, which means that in order to qualify for benefits, the disabled person must have worked the minimum number of hours and years and must have paid into the Social Security system through payroll tax deductions prior to becoming disabled. SSI on the other hand is a means based program where applicants must have extremely limited financial resources in order to qualify–work history, if any, is irrelevant.

In addition to the disability benefits programs above, the Social Security Administration is probably best known for administering the Social Security retirement benefits program.  

Like SSDI, Social Security retirement benefits are paid from a fund that is comprised of payroll tax deductions paid over the course of the worker’s life. For retirement benefits, as long as they meet the minimum qualifications, they can begin collecting benefits upon reaching the minimum retirement age. Workers who become disabled prior to retirement age and qualify for SSDI benefits will have those benefits converted to retirement benefits upon reaching the minimum retirement age.

Because proposed upcoming tax reform will likely impact income tax, disability benefits attorneys are watching closely to see what if any impact the new legislation will have on Social Security. Will income tax cuts jeopardize not only the Social Security retirement program –reportedly rumored to be exhausted by 2034 if measures aren’t taken to save it–but also “safety net” programs like Medicare and SSDI? Will proposed privatization options allowing young workers to privately invest a portion of what would be their payroll tax deduction divert needed funds from the Social Security coffer?  Will proposed cost-of-living adjustment reform hurt those living exclusively on Social Security benefits?

Will the decline in disability awards continue as a result of changes in the tax reform bill? Reportedly, “the number of disability applications and award amounts have declined for six straight years”. People are literally dying waiting for disability appeals hearings due to delays in some cases of almost 2 years.

If you or a loved one is applying for disability benefits or appealing a denial of benefits, it’s more important than ever to have a skilled disability benefits attorney on your side throughout the process. The disability attorneys of Arizona at Roeschke Law can help you. Contact us today for a free consultation.

From our offices in Tucson, Phoenix, and Tempe, we represent disabled individuals and their families throughout Arizona.

 

Stiff Penalties for Social Security Fraud

Q: What is the penalty if I’m caught working while receiving Social Security disability benefits?

One of the advantages of living in America is the availability of federal government programs that provide assistance when hard times unexpectedly hit. At some point during their lifetimes, many working Americans may become physically or mentally disabled and unable to continue to work. When this happens, Social Security Disability benefits “SSDI” may be the lifeline you and your family need to financially survive the crisis. But applying for Social Security disability benefits (“SSDI”) is a time-consuming and often frustrating process.

An Arizona Social Security disability benefits attorney can not only increase the chances of an initial application for benefits being granted, but can also help appeal a denial of benefits at any point in the appeals process. Since about 60% of initial applications are denied, and the waiting time for an appeals hearing can take as long as nearly two years now, can you afford not to have an attorney on your side?

The SSDI system is designed to help those who need assistance—for only as long as they need it. Some people will need it permanently because their condition is not expected to improve or is expected to worsen. Other people–because of rest, rehabilitation, new medication, or other reasons– recover enough to try a return to the workforce. As expected, the government encourages and supports disability recipients’ attempts to return to work– provided they are done in accordance with established government regulations.

When benefit recipients who are legitimately disabled return to work in violation of these guidelines—or when benefit recipients engage in fraud—they can find themselves in very hot water legally.

A woman who reportedly filed paperwork stating that she was not working, was recently “indicted on federal charges of collecting nearly $100,000 in disability benefits while she was working.” She also allegedly used a church’s credit card for her personal use.

According to the indictment, her boss agreed to issue her paychecks in her husband’s name.  Each of the three was charged with one count of Social Security fraud and one count of theft of government funds. In addition, the woman was charged with two counts of making false statements and one count of wire fraud.

The potential maximum punishments for convictions for the above counts are:

  • Social Security fraud: 5 years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine
  • Theft of government funds: 5 years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine
  • Making a false statement: 5 years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine
  • Wire Fraud: 20 Years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine.

 

It’s never too late to get a skilled benefits attorney on your side to help you avoid costly mistakes and delays regarding applying for or appealing a denial of disability benefits—or properly returning to the workforce after a legitimate disability.

If you have questions regarding any aspect of Social Security disability benefits or need help with an application or appeal, the Disability Attorneys of Arizona at Roeschke Law can help. Contact us today for a free consultation.

From our offices in Phoenix, Tucson, and Tempe, we help disabled individuals and their families throughout Arizona.

 

Disability Benefits Recipients to Get More Money in 2018

Q: How much of an increase in their disability benefits can recipients expect?

If you are lucky enough to have been approved after applying for disability benefits, you will be happy to know that more money is coming your way in 2018.

The application process is difficult and time-consuming. To make matters worse, approximately two-thirds of initial disability claims get denied, necessitating an even more lengthy disability application appeal—making your waiting time for benefits approval stretch into many months and even years.

Hiring a skilled Arizona disability benefits attorney from the outset to handle your application can be the difference between your initial application being stronger and more likely to be approved the first time around or it being denied.

If your initial application is denied, hiring a disability appeals attorney is more important than ever to strengthen the chances of approval. Why suffer additional financial and other stress and delay in trying to figure out how to get the benefits you are entitled to?

The federal government offers two different types of disability benefits programs: Social Security Disability Insurance (“SSDI”) and Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”). Both require applicants to meet the program’s definition of “disabled”, but the other eligibility requirements are different.

SSDI is a work-based benefit so the applicant’s financial status is irrelevant. It’s available to disabled workers between 18 and 65 years of age who have paid into the Social Security system through payroll income tax deductions for a certain number of years prior to becoming disabled.

SSI is a means-based benefit available only to those who are disabled, blind, or are over 65 years and whose income is below an extremely limited set threshold of $2,000 for an individual/$3,000 for a couple.

Regardless of which benefits you get, you can expect a 2% cost-of-living adjustment (“COLA”) in 2018.

“The 2% increase is the highest since 2012 when retirees got a 3.6% raise. At the start of 2017, recipients saw an increase of just 0.3%. In 2016, there was no increase. Over the summer, the Social Security trustees had projected a 2.2% increase in benefits.” Those receiving Social Security retirement benefits and veteran’s disability benefits will also get the raise.

If you or loved one is applying for or appealing a denial of Social Security disability benefits, the disability attorneys at Roeschke Law can help you at any stage of the process. Contact us for a free consultation.

From our offices in Phoenix, Tempe and Tucson, we serve clients throughout Arizona.