Monday, June 30, 2014

AARP: Supporting Seniors, Family Caregivers: Where Does Your State Rank?

AARP's Blog Post, Supporting Seniors, Family Caregivers: Where Does Your State Rank?, has helpful and thought-provoking information about planning for long-term services and support for older adults, people with disabilities and family caregivers.

In Raising Expectations 2014: A State Scorecard on Long-Term Services and Supports for Older Adults, People with Physical Disabilities, and Family Caregivers, released by AARP last week, Minnesota, again, comes in first. This state Scorecard, an update to the first scorecard from 2011, ranks each state overall and within 26 performance indicators along five key dimensions:
  • affordability and access
  • choice of setting and provider
  • quality of life and quality of care
  • support for family caregivers
  • effective transitions.
What makes a state No. 1? 

#kaytracy #attorney #advocate #lawyer #fairfield #vacaville #suisun #vallejo #solano #veterans #socialsecurity #disability #caregivers #seniors

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Social Security & Workers compensation Benefit Calculation: How Do They Do That? (Part 1 of 2)

Social Security & Workers Compensation Benefit Calculation: How Do They Do That?
People wonder how much they will get paid if their claim is approved.  Naturally, the answer is: It Depends.

Calculation of benefits where the worker is entitled to State Disability and calculation of all cases where the claimant also has Workers Compensation is complicated to say the least.

This is an attempt to explain it.

Step 1: Determine the payment period.
If your case is approved, the cash benefit will be paid from your onset date while your claim is pending. That cash number is called the back benefit.  There are so many factors that influence the starting date and, thus, the back benefit; it is staggering.  As you read this, assume we’re talking about 12 months.  Using the national averages as a guide, you could expect $12,000 per year and expect 24 months in the back benefit period, for a total of $24,000 – IF there is no Offset.  If there is, you could end up with no back benefit at all.

What we want to know is will you actually get the full amount, or will it be reduced?

Step 2:  Determine which program applies to you?

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is not the same thing as Supplemental Security Income (SSI).  The most obvious difference is in the benefit amount.  In an SSI case, the maximum benefit in California today is $846.  That number changes almost month to month and certainly year to year.  Perhaps someday I’ll explain how to deal with SSI benefits. For now, I will concentrate on SSDI.

Who is covered under SSDI
SSDI is under Title II of the Social Security Act and pays benefits to disabled workers, widows of disabled workers, divorced widows of disabled workers (sometimes), children of disabled or retired workers and children who are now adults (age 22 or older) who became disabled before their 22nd birthday.  (There are other programs in Title II, like retirement.)

Step 3: Find out how many dollars you could get based on your earnings history.

To find out what your maximum benefit and your family’s maximum benefit are, go to and look for the area (currently in an oval on the left of the page) that says: “My Social Security”.  You will need to have an email address and a phone number to create the account.  You will create a login name and password. 

The safest passwords are those made up of what appear to be random letters and numbers plus one symbol. LgYL!0469 Looks random, but is really the first letter of a sentence I remember, an exclamation point and the last four numbers of my mother’s phone number. You really don’t want anyone getting into this account.  It has your SSN and will have your bank account numbers you want your benefits to go in. (It’s not my password, by the way.)

Once you create your account, you can find out what your benefit would be if you retired at various ages, what your benefit would be if you became disabled, and the family maximum which includes your minor or disabled children if you become disabled yourself or if you retire.

PIA:  Whatever that total number of dollars is is called your Primary Insurance Amount. (The National average is about $1,100 per month.)

You are entitled to the benefit no matter how much money you already have or property you own – not true with SSI.

Step Four:  Get some aspirin.  This may not kill you but it will probably give you a headache.

Step Five:  Do the math.

Stay tuned for next week's part 2 --- Offsets...
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Monday, June 9, 2014

Is there help for short term disability problems?

People often ask whether there is help for short term problems (like broken bones or surgery requiring rehabilitation) and long term problems that are sure to last, or have already lasted, a year.
Short Term Disability
California State Disability (SDI) provides about 66% of your wages if you have to be out for up to a year. This can include pregnancy leave.  This program is funded by California State payroll taxes. Employees often complain about California taxes.  They don't realize the full benefit of what they get.  For relatively few dollars, compared to a policy  you'd pay for yourself  (like Aflac or Met Life),  you get a year's worth of coverage without doing anything.  (More about Long Term Disability insurance below.)
Whether you think your problem will be short term or long term, you can (and should) apply for SDI as soon as you know you have a problem - even if you are filing for Workers Compensation (WC).  SDI and WC payments may affect the amount of Social Security benefits you get - that subject requires another short article. It will be called "Offsets."
SDI benefits are easy to get and you shouldn't really need to pay anyone to do this for you (in my opinion). You can find out more about SDI and apply online at 
Back to long term disability.
Social Security is a federal disability program also paid by payroll taxes.  Sometimes people think there is an account with their name on it, sitting there waiting for them. (I often hear, "It's my money.")  Not true.
In addition to all the other legal requirements, not medical requirements, but legal ones, the 12 month issue is critical.  People with stage II breast cancer, for example, have a serious medical problem. But it has a very good recovery rate.  Social Security examiners will wait to see how those patients respond to treatment.  If they are back to work within 12 months  (as we all hope and pray for), no benefits will be paid. (Thus State Disability is extremely important.)  But, if it takes 18 months to recover, benefits will be paid for what is called a "closed period."  Should you file just in case?  (That needs a whole other article called: "When do I file?")
If it continues, benefits are paid accordingly.
Long Term Disability Policies (LTDB)
Some employers pay the premium for LTDB and the employees don't even know about it. Many of my clients didn't know and didn't think to ask. So ask your HR department. 
In every single case, the LTDB insurance policy - who no one has ever seen apparently - has some fine print in it that (the clients are told by their LTDB claims manager - but who never shows them the policy) requires the client to pay back every dollar they get from the LTDB from their Social Security benefits.
Is it legal for them to do this?  Can they force you to? Can they just take you benefits from you if you don't voluntarily give them away?  What do I tell my clients? Alas, I won't tell you here- but I will tell you I find it outrageous that you'd pay for a policy, get coverage and then have to pay them back. No wonder people hate insurance companies as much as lawyers (except me, of course).  Would you pay for car insurance if the policy required them to pay you back? I wouldn't. But, perhaps it's just me.
These articles are my understanding (I wouldn't post it otherwise, duh) but are not "legal advice."  Talk to a qualified attorney or non-attorney representative for advice specific to your disability case.

#kaytracy #ktracy #attorney #lawyer #disability #socialsecurity #veterans #vallejo #vacaville #fairfield #suisun #solanocounty #california