April 2012

The Romney-Obama Battle: Implications for Social Security Disability in North Carolina and Elsewhere

April 30, 2012, by Michael A. DeMayo

Now that Rick Santorum has dropped out of the Republican primary, the battle lines for the fall Presidential election are basically drawn – Mitt Romney versus President Barack Obama. And the fallout of the 2012 clash of the titans could have significant impact on the future of social security disability in North Carolina and beyond.

Of course, or at least the two camps would like you to believe that!

Will the election impact programs like social security disability? If so, how and why? You can find different experts – or so called experts – who will weigh in with savvy, intelligent sounding answers to these questions. They will make prognostications about how different presidential election outcomes will impact government benefits programs in different ways. There may be wisdom in these forecasts. But it’s important not to have too much faith in them! After all, programs like supplemental security income, social security disability, Medicare, Medicaid, et cetera are behemoth enterprises. It’s hard to see how even relatively “major” events – like a presidential election decision – will influence their trajectories.

Sure, you can speculate. Sure, you can say, for instance, that Mitt Romney has such and such position on social security, and if he’s elected, he will try to appoint XYZ justices who would do ABC to Social Security. Or he would use his political heft to influence lawmakers to enact such and such a modification of the program, et cetera.

Likewise, you can go through hypothetical situations with respect to President Obama.

•    Your prognostications might be right.
•    They might be incomplete.
•    They might be off base entirely!

It’s important not to oversimplify. These programs have been around for decades. There are literally millions of stakeholders. The rules and regulations are vast and diverse. Even the experts who have read the relevant documents often find themselves at loggerheads on even the most basic policy issues.

In other words, it’s probably a bit ridiculous to make the case that a particular presidential election result will have an easily predictable effect on social security disability.

Okay, so if the prognosticators are taking too much liberty, and if the situation really is as chaotic as we’ve discussed, what can you do, if you’re trying to just get benefits to pay for care, protect yourself against problems, and keep your life together?

The soundest strategy you can follow is your own, customized, well informed one.

Fortunately for you, you do not need to solve the riddle of the social security disability – or prognosticate the election – to get a suitable outcome for your disability benefits question. By retaining a competent, highly skilled and experienced social security disability law firm in North Carolina, for instance, you can make massive progress.

More Web Resources:

Which President will be better for social security disability? President Obama or President Romney?

Santorum Drops Out, Making Mitt Romney the Presumptive GOP Nominee

Tax Time and North Carolina Social Security Disability Benefits

April 25, 2012, by Michael A. DeMayo

If you collect North Carolina social security disability benefits, you may have to pay significant taxes on that money. Clearly, that’s not necessarily welcome news. But there are a few reasons you should not worry… yet.

First of all, approximately two-thirds of beneficiaries don’t pay taxes on their benefits. Uncle Sam can only tax you on 50% of the benefits you collect, annually. Finally, by working with a smart accountant and consulting with your North Carolina social security disability law firm, you can most likely come up with a solid plan to minimize your tax liabilities and prevent annoying surprises in the future.

Although there are subtleties with respect to the tax law, if you only collect social security disability benefits, odds are, you won’t have to pay taxes. But if you have additional income streams – or if your spouse has additional income streams and you file a joint return and more than $32,000 of income – then you can get into taxability territory.

How you collect and report your benefits can also impact your tax situation.

If you collect benefits in a lump sum and report them as such — especially if you inadvertently say that the benefits are normal income — Uncle Sam could wallop you with a significant hit. On the other hand, if you use the appropriate IRS worksheets and/or collect benefits periodically, you can side step certain tax related headaches.

Unfortunately, with the current income tax paradigm, nothing is simple!

There are always caveats to caveats and exceptions to the exceptions. Don’t get stuck in the proverbial mud trying to calculate your way through the tax code. It’s almost certainly worth it for you to outsource aspects of this task to an accountant you trust and to talk to your reputable law firm about other legal or tax related implications.

More Web Resources:

Tax Day, 2012

Social Security Disability and Taxes

North Carolina Social Security Disability – Less is More

April 25, 2012, by Michael A. DeMayo

Most people who get on Social Security Disability in North Carolina – or who want to receive benefits – find themselves at a perpetual disadvantage.

You may feel, for instance, like you will never catch-up on your bills; you will never finish even the most essential things on your to do list; and you will never have energy to enjoy a social life or any recreational activity that’s less passive than vegging out and watching reality TV. You might be right. But, in your haste to try to deal with overwhelm, you may inadvertently undercut yourself, psychologically. Why? Because you are going to suffer, relentlessly, from the “my eyes are bigger than my stomach” problem when it comes to organization.

You Are Not – And Never Were! — Superman (or Superwoman)

Many would be North Carolina Social Security Disability beneficiaries blame their problems on a lack of resources. You may find yourself saying – out loud or internally in your internal monologue:

•    “If only I had more time.”
•    “If only I had more money.”
•    “If only I had the right North Carolina Social Security Disability law firm.”
•    “If only I hadn’t gotten sick or hurt.”

Etc, etc. ad nauseam

So what we have here is a situation in which we wind-up feeling like we are victims – like our problems stem from a lack of resources.

Nonsense!

This isn’t to say that resources aren’t important. But our ability to thrive (or lack thereof) is less related to our immediate resources than it is to our resourcefulness. That’s a subtle distinction. But it’s an important one. Resourcefulness means being able to behave like the old TV icon MacGyver (you might know him by his SNL doppelganger MacGruber). MacGyver had a knack for coming up with band-aid like solutions to complicated problems in his life. He’d be trapped in a warehouse with nothing but scotch tape (or whatever), and he’d manage to escape and tie-up the bad guys in rolls and rolls of tape. That was not really an example from an actual MacGyver episode. But the point is that MacGyver was the archetypal resourceful guy.

Just because you’ve been thrown back on your feet by an illness or an injury or by a financial problem or by troubles in your relationships – or perhaps, you’ve been hit by a storm that’s walloped you with all these problems at once and more – does NOT mean that you are helpless or a victim or without recourse.

You might not be able to leverage the resources that you used to be able to leverage – such as your health, energy, flush finances, or what have you. But if you really take the time to understand your problems, to get clear on what you want, to look for help outside your normal circles, and to generally think and behave like MacGyver, you might be astonished at how much progress you can make — not only towards solving your benefits problems but also to solving your other chronic issues that have been plaguing you from even before when you got sick or hurt.

My web resources:

Be Like MacGyver

Be Like MacGruber

52 New Conditions For Compassionate Allowances Program – Will Your North Carolina Social Security Disability Case Be Affected?

April 20, 2012, by Michael A. DeMayo

If you’ve been trying to collect social security disability in North Carolina, you are undoubtedly aware of so called Compassionate Allowances program.

This is a special program run by the Social Security Administration, which allows people with certain illnesses or diseases to get on a fast track for benefits. According to common statistics, approximately 3 million people try to get social security disability benefits annually. Only 5% or 6% of those applicants get fast tracked through the Compassionate Allowances program. The SSA has now added 52 new conditions to this program, based on research conducted by the National Institutes of Health.

Here are a few of these conditions and diseases:

•    Alpers disease
•    Child Neuroblastoma
•    Histiocytosis
•    I Cell Disease
•    Kufs Disease Type A and B
•    Malignant Brain Stem Gliomas-C

You can follow the link at the bottom of this blog for a full list of all 52 conditions.

Even if you’re not one of the 60,000 or so people who can qualify for fast track assessments through a special program, you can leverage powerful resources, such as a social security disability law firm in North Carolina, to get superior results and stay focused on your goals.

Sure, you can “go it alone” and succeed with your disability quest. Conversely, you can work with a law firm and get denied. But if you are looking to improve your odds, achieve a more certain outcome, and side step some of the most common and tragic mistakes that would-be beneficiaries make, it makes sense to get help before you encounter significant problems.

More Web Resources:

52 New Conditions Added to Compassionate Allowances Program

The History of the Social Security Administrations Compassionate Allowances Program

Young, Beautiful… and on North Carolina Social Security Disability?

April 13, 2012, by Michael A. DeMayo

Conjure an image of the typical beneficiary of North Carolina social security disability.

You might think about an elderly woman who needs benefits to pay for medical care related to her hypertension and diabetes. Or you might think about a great uncle who suffers from advanced stage dementia and requires round the clock care. Whatever image you chose, odds are, it wasn’t of a young, vibrant, and seemingly healthy looking person.

But in fact, many people who apply for Social Security Disability in North Carolina are young!

Illness can strike at any age, as can debilitating accidents or emergent genetic diseases. It can be truly awful to deal with a long term medical crisis, if you’re just starting your career. A woman who goes on Social Security Disability at the age of 67, after working a long and rewarding professional life, may still be struggling to make ends meet financially. But a woman who is 38 and suddenly afflicted with a rare genetic disease that forces her to take 18 months off of work may be in a very different — and more vulnerable! — place in her life.

Moreover, if you are a senior and you need benefits, you don’t necessarily feel “out of the loop” or “behind your peers.” In fact, if you’ve lived a long, rich life, you may be grateful just to get to keep living your life and seeing your grandkids, etc. But if you’re a young person whose peers are healthy, raising their families, earning good wages, etc, you may feel quite left out and frustrated.

It’s normal to make social comparisons with your peers, even though most people admit that this behavior is somewhat destructive and petty. One key to resolving some of your stress is getting a deeper understanding of how the Social Security Disability system works and what you should and should not do to maximize your benefits.

To that end, talk to a time-tested social security disability law firm in North Carolina now.

More Web Resources:

The Isolating Experience of Being Young and Ill

Being Young and on Social Security Disability

North Carolina Social Security Disability – The Bear Bones Basics

April 10, 2012, by Michael A. DeMayo

Whether you discovered the hard news that your 58-year old mother has early onset dementia, or you’ve been diagnosed with a chronic disease that’s compelled you to take substantial time off of work, you are interested in learning about North Carolina social security disability benefits.

This blog often addresses the challenges facing applicants and beneficiaries of programs like social security disability and supplemental security income. But it’s never a bad idea to review the key basics. To that end, here is a summary to help you understand a little bit more about what this program is… and is not.

SSDI – A Little Bit Like a Government Insurance Program

If you worked for certain amount of time and paid FICA taxes for about a decade or longer, you may qualify to receive a monthly stipend called Social Security Disability, if/when a mental or physical problem prevents you from earning a living. You can collect this income irrespective of whether you got hurt at work or not. In other words, this is not like worker’s comp: you can pick up a rare disease on a vacation to Africa, for instance, and come back and still collect benefits. You don’t have to prove that you got sick at work or anything.

Your past earnings will help to determine how much money you can get. When you apply for Social Security Disability, you will have to wait a certain amount of time before collecting benefits. Your filing deadline (or lack thereof) will depend on when you last worked. Be wary of deferring the application process. If you delay, the concept of “date last insured” can come into play and cause you problems. (Follow the link bottom of the page to learn more about the date last insured concept).

The vast majority of SSDI applications are turned down – approximately 2/3rds. The government publishes guidelines to help you speed the process along and improve your chances of collecting the money. But the situation can be quite overwhelming, even for people who are young, healthy, and cognitively capable. If you are struggling with your application, it really may be worth your while to pass the baton to a friend or a family member who has the time, experience, and resourcefulness to walk you through the steps. Alternatively (and/or) you may wish to connect with a law firm in North Carolina that specializes in Social Security Disability benefits.

Note that SSDI may be a safety net, but the program is structured to encourage you to return to employment if/when possible. To that end, you need to be prepared to provide periodic evidence that you remain disabled or sick – and these checks can be somewhat intrusive.

To make the process work for you, invest time in educating yourself about SSDI – what it means, what the common pitfalls are, what the experts recommend, etc. Yes, the concepts and bureaucracy can be confusing. But it’s well worth your time to learn more and thus augment your chances of success.

More Web Resources:

Date Last Insured

FICA Taxes

Who Can Qualify for Social Security Disability in North Carolina?

April 7, 2012, by Michael A. DeMayo

If you’re a North Carolinian who is confused about Social Security Disability insurance benefits, this post will hopeful clarify key concepts for you.

In order to qualify for these benefits, you must prove to the government that you are disabled due to a mental or physical health problem. The definition of “disabled enough” has been left pretty ambiguous by lawmakers. You must show that you are incapable of conducting “substantial gainful activity” due to your physical/mental health issue.

You also need to have paid enough into the system. If you haven’t earned enough “work credits,” you may be deemed ineligible for benefits. This can be a problem for freelancers, entrepreneurs, stay at home moms, and young injured people.

There is a silver lining. The amount of money that you earned in the past – or your current asset portfolio – does not come into play. You can be relatively well off and still access substantial Social Security Disability benefits in North Carolina. With other government programs, such as Supplemental Security Income or worker’s comp, your assets and/or income can come into play and determine (and, in some cases, restrict) your benefits.

How do you prove that you are unable to work?

According to 2010 rules, if you can make over a thousand dollars a month (the number is slightly higher for blind people – $1,640), then you are out of luck. You need to be so disabled that you cannot even earn $1,000 a month. In addition, you need to show that your time off of work will last at least 12 months or will end with your death. It is not enough, in other words, merely to show that you have a dire diagnosis. You need to show that the diagnosis radically impacts your ability to earn.

Social Security Disability officials want to see proof that your mental and/or physical limitations will seriously restrain your ability to make money. Note that you don’t have to show that you’re totally incapacitated. For instance, maybe you’re very fatigued, due to fibromyalgia and spinal problems. But you can still work 5 to 10 hours a week. Assuming that those 5 to 10 hours a week only add up to about $900 of income a month – and you can prove this – you should still easily qualify for SSDI benefits.

Of course, the rules get complicated, and the system is often inflexible, surprising and unfair. It can help you tremendously to connect with a North Carolina Social Security Disability law firm to discuss what you might be able to do to improve your odds.

More Web Resources:

Substantial Gainful Activity

Who qualifies for social security disability benefits?

What Will Come After North Carolina Social Security Disability?

April 4, 2012, by Michael A. DeMayo

What’s the long-term fate of the Social Security Disability system in North Carolina and elsewhere? How will America’s entitlement system change, evolve, and adapt in the years and decades to come?

No one has a crystal ball. But just by pondering questions like these, you can get a deeper appreciation of how systems like Social Security Disability and Supplemental Security Income operate and what you can do to protect and preserve your rights to obtain benefits.

It is easy to think of today’s SSD system as “set in stone.” Sure, the relevant legislation and rules have been rewritten multiple times over the past few decades. And — as this blog and countless other news sources have reported on endlessly — the Social Security system faces a serious financial reckoning in the next few years/decades. But overall, the system seems somewhat frozen in place. It would be hard to even imagine living in America of the 1920s – prior to the advent of Social Security.

It may be just as hard to imagine the future 80 years ago – perhaps more so!

Sure, we can take a look at numbers like demographics, average income, trends in the stock market, etc, to try to guess at what our entitlement system will look like in the future. But the system is complex, meaning that small mistakes in any model will completely throw off our predictions. If you want to know why, you can get an oversimplified answer just by watching the movie Jurassic Park and listening to Jeff Goldblum’s character talk about the consequences of Chaos Theory’s Butterfly Effect.

In any event, the takeaway is that our system of benefits, the rules regarding those benefits, and even our own moral and ethical feelings about Social Security Disability are in a state of flux.

This insight suggests that, with the right leverage, you often can be able to improve your chances of getting benefits, eliminate hidden stresses associated with being ill or sick from work for months or years, and simplify and streamline your financial planning.

The first step to answering your complex benefits question is to get in touch with an effective and client respected Social Security disability law firm in North Carolina.

More Web Resources:

What’s the Far Feature of Social Security?

Jeff Goldblum and Chaos Theory

Tax Preparer Slapped with 44 Counts of Fraud – North Carolina Social Security Disability Advocates Explore the Scandal

April 29, 2011, by Michael A. DeMayo

This North Carolina Social Security Disability blog has reported on numerous cases of fraud, theft and other “bad actions.” Today, unfortunately, we are going to talk about another distressing case. A couple out of Ash Flat Arkansas – Karen Sue Morris and James Bruce Morris – got convicted on April 26th of 44 different counts associated with tax evasion and social security theft.

According to a report from Arkansasbusiness.com: “the couple were accused of defrauding the Social Security Administration of disability benefits, underreporting their taxable income and then using this false documents to apply for Pell Grants and filing false tax returns to allow clients to claim the Earned Income Tax Credit.”

A jury out of US District court in Little Rock found the couple guilty of all 44 charges (down from 60 counts from a February indictment). The couple faces a decade in prison each and fines up to a quarter million dollars. A sentencing date has not yet been set.

Unfortunately, sometimes the advisors we trust to take care of our money and to plan for our retirement turn out to have ulterior motives.

As we’ve reported recently, many in the North Carolina Social Security Disability advocacy community fear that seniors and other sick and vulnerable individuals may prove to be easy “marks” for scam artists and even theft rings.

When you are sick, tired, overwhelmed, and scared, you really crave guidance. If someone comes along with seemingly legitimate credentials and professes to want to act in your best interest, you may naively “hand over the keys” to this person or company without doing due diligence. And that can be the start of enormous financial headaches that could result in your losing out on key entitlements that you need to survive and thrive.

Fortunately, legitimate, creditable, and experienced help is not far away. A qualified and reputable North Carolina Social Security disability law firm can help you untangle problems you have with your application, advocate for you during the appeals process, and generally help you avoid the delays and mistakes that trip up so many applicants.

More Web Resources:

Karen Sue Morris and James Bruce Morris

Ash Flat Arkansas

Making the Most Out of Your North Carolina Social Security Disability Benefits

April 26, 2011, by Michael A. DeMayo

If you’ve been fighting for the right to collect North Carolina social security disability benefits, chances are you haven’t had that much time or energy to devote to figuring out how best to invest any moneys you receive. You’re too caught up in the battles: the battle to win an appeal, the battle to deal with your underlying medical conditions; the battle to manage family needs. Etc. Etc.

A little planning, however, can go a long way.

Once you know how much money to expect from an entitlement program, your battle for financial security has only just begun. It’s crucial to figure out how to allocate any moneys that come in – and deal with any surprises (and there will be surprises, there always are).

You may be living on a shoestring budget. But it may still behoove you to speak with a professional financial planner to review your options and help you avoid burning through your benefits money.

It’s surprisingly easy to burn through benefits. When you don’t feel good, and you’re overwhelmed by medical stress, financial pressures, and anxieties, you may be tempted to “splurge” on pointless things like toys or trips that you can’t really afford.

Alternatively, you may be tempted to gamble with your North Carolina social security disability benefits – if not literally at a gaming table in a casino than maybe figuratively. You may purchase dubious investment vehicles in the hopes that they will yield up great returns. Unscrupulous con artists have devised dozens, perhaps hundreds, of different schemes designed to swindle seniors and others who rely on social security disability and supplemental security income (SSI) out of their hard fought entitlements.

Your reasons for avoiding help may be less than rational. For instance, you may balk at the upfront costs of going to a financial planner… without analyzing the costs of NOT going to a planner and continuing to spend, borrow, and plan as you currently do – that is, inefficiently.

For instance, maybe a consultation with a planner will cost you $500… but not consulting with a planner may lead you to overspend by $2,000 over the next year.

Also, you have to remember that, when you’re sick, injured, and frustrated, you may put off certain key planning tasks and then suffer penalties and fees as a result. For instance, say you’re a small business owner who needs to pay quarterly taxes. But you can’t get around to doing the paperwork because you’re ill. You may end up having to pay serious fees and penalties when you do your next year’s taxes. While a financial planner obviously can’t solve all of your woes, he or she can point out pitfalls and keep you on a better track.

Another important resource is a North Carolina social security disability law firm. A quality law firm can leverage resources to ensure that you get the right benefits and complete assistance during the appeals process.

More Web Resources:

Why to do financial planning

SSD and SSI scams

How will the “Graying” of the Baby Boom Generation Change North Carolina Social Security Disability?

April 22, 2011, by Michael A. DeMayo

In 2011, the first of the baby boomers will officially become eligible to collect social security benefits. Experts who study North Carolina Social Security Disability questions fear that this extremely populous generation (they didn’t call a baby “boom” for nothing) may seriously strain our national and state coffers. As more and more boomers start extracting money, can our social safety net remain solvent and productive?

A related, but also extremely crucial question, is whether North Carolina Social Security Disability will become harder and harder to qualify for because of the demographically related extra stress on the system.

In other words, as the boomers age, will eligibility requirements be ratcheted up and benefits sheared down?

And, if so, how can you anticipate heretofore as yet unwritten additional restrictions and plan your finances accordingly?

These are tricky but good questions, and unfortunately there are no simple answers. People who need SSD or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) are often under profound financial, physical, and even emotional strains. They may not have the resources, time, and stamina to delve deeply into “best practices” for financial planning.

Given this atmosphere of confusion, it’s easy to simply ignore the potential risks of increased eligibility restrictions, etc, and just “hope that the worst case doesn’t happen.”

But what if it does? You need contingencies.

Personal financial planners and other experts (such as a North Carolina Social Security Disability Law Firm) can help you strategize and even execute tactical shifts and changes in priorities.

You might also want to change your mind set about how entitlements fit into your planning. Specifically, it may be a mistake to plan from the assumption that you will get your maximum benefits. Instead, focus on what you can control – what some psychologist would describe as your “circle of influence” – and construct a plan that would work in that paradigm.

The point is, whether or not you manage to collect SSD or SSI is ultimately somewhat out of your hands. So, concentrate on what is within your control – for instance, your investment strategy or the amount of money you can generate through your job or other holdings – and then construct a few scenarios that allow you to “win” even if “lose” in your quest for SSD and SSI.

Again, developing these contingencies is easier than done. That’s why it’s helpful to consult with experts like financial planners and a North Carolina SSD Law Firm. Avail yourself of resources; make this easier for you and your family.

More Web Resources:

“Graying” of Baby Boomers

Uncertainty is Certain

North Carolina Social Security Disability Fraud – Could What Happened in NY Happen Here?

April 19, 2011, by Michael A. DeMayo

Earlier this week, police arrested a man named Raymond Pompey in Peekskill, New York for trying to steal his deceased cousin’s identity to commit Social Security disability fraud – Pompey’s case has many in the North Carolina Social Security disability community concerned. Could other people be trying to bilk the system, like Pompey ostensibly did? If so, might that have a negative impact that redounds to harm those who need these crucial benefits to pay bills, fund medical costs, and protect their families during hard times?

Before we get to these bigger questions, let’s review a little bit what happened in the Pompey case. According to various news reports, the 48-year-old Pompey last year got a Maryland drivers license by applying for the license in his cousin’s name. Earlier this year, he pulled the same stunt in New York State and then went to the Social Security Office for the purpose of collecting his cousin’s SSD payments. Thanks to the work of two NYSP investigators, Shawn Morgan and Kelly Pawlak, Pompey’s scheme got busted up. He has been slapped with a variety of felony charges, including:

• Falsifying business records
• First degree ID theft
• First degree providing false instrument for filing
• Two first degree counts of falsifying business records
• Two second degree forgery counts

It took a multi-jurisdictional investigation to pin down Pompey for forgery, ID theft, and the other fraud charges discussed above.

Pompey’s story will no doubt spark powerful emotions from those who depend on North Carolina Social Security Disability benefits to survive. But it’s important to place the story in some kind of context. When you need money to live, and you read about someone blatantly breaking into the program that supports you for devious ends, it’s easy to find your blood boiling and imagine the problem to be worse than it actually is.

In reality, many different factors siphon energy and money from the SSD program and make it less efficient and less useful for beneficiaries. And while fraud certainly contributes to the degradation of the program’s integrity, it’s not the only problem – nor is it probably even the biggest problem.

All that said, it’s easy to get lost in philosophical discussions about how to fix Social Security disability – that is, to make it more responsive, less bureaucratically ensnared, more “fair” to recipients, etc.

If you’re in the middle of wrestling with a benefits question – for instance, if you have been unfairly denied benefits or you’re simply confused about how to file efficiently – a qualified North Carolina Social Security disability law firm can give you guidance and answers. Given that your physical and financial health may be on the line, you owe it to yourself and your family to do all you can to secure maximal SSD benefits with minimal effort.

More Web Resources:

Raymond Pompey Fraud Arrest


Is the Social Security disability fund doomed?

Maximizing Your North Carolina Social Security Disability and SSI Benefits: Using Food Stamps with Care

April 15, 2011, by Michael A. DeMayo

Individuals who need North Carolina Social Security Disability or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) may qualify for food stamps. According to the official Social Security Administration pamphlet. “What You Need to Know When You Get Supplemental Security Income (SSI),” a local Social Security office or a welfare or social services office can provide food stamp applications. You can also review a publication called Food Stamps and Other Nutrition Programs available through the government.

Food stamps can be vital for poor, sick, and unsupported workers. But if you’re on a very tight income, you can easily be lured into purchasing poor quality calories that can exacerbate or even cause further illness and degeneration.

The relationship between nutrition and disease is incredibly complicated. Creditable organizations like the Nutrition & Metabolism Society and the Western Price Foundation have accumulated significant and compelling scientific resources that suggest that refined carbohydrates and sugars in the diet can lead to or contribute to a surprising variety of ailments, including obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. These self-same foods – processed foods and sugary foods loaded with stuff like high fructose corn syrup – are often, unfortunately, the cheapest foods to buy.

Thus, if you get food stamps as part of your North Carolina Social Security Disability solution – you might be tempted to buy things like fruit punch, Coca Cola, corn chips, white rice, and products made from refined flour. Yes, these products contain calories. But they also can rapidly elevate your blood sugar (blood glucose) and spike your insulin levels – good evidence suggests that spiking your blood sugar and insulin over a long period of time can do tremendous damage to the body and make it more difficult for you to get off of Social Security Disability and get back to work and good health.

This creates a big dilemma: If the cheapest foods are bad for you, and you don’t have much money to spend, what should you do? There is no quick-fix. But you might work with a personal financial planner to try to put a little more money towards your grocery bill so you can buy high-quality foods, like fish and green vegetables. A dietician can also help you locate relatively cheap sources of good proteins and fats, such as canned tuna, instead of the usual “low cost” fare, like potato chips and loaves of white bread.

A North Carolina Social Security Disability law firm can help you dissect and solve any problems you might have getting benefits and appealing your claim.

More Web Resources:

What You Need to Know When You Get Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

Food Stamps and Other Nutrition Programs

North Carolina Social Security Disability Appeals Process – The Four Steps of Appeal

April 13, 2011, by Michael A. DeMayo

Knowing that you’re eligible for North Carolina Social Security Disability benefits or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, you’d like to maximize your chances of success.

After all, if you’re sick, injured, and confused, you need all the help you can get to simplify and shortcut the process and sidestep any pitfalls. This essay will walk you through the appeals process and give you statistics to chew over.

Out of 1,000 applicants who apply for North Carolina Social Security Disability (or SSD elsewhere in the country), 350 will be awarded benefits, 338 applications will be abandoned, and 312 will enter the appeals process. Note that, when you request an appeal, Social Security will look at the entire decision pertaining to your situation – they will review both unfavorable and favorable aspects. During the initial review, Social Security can render a variety of decisions:

• Decide you are eligible for the benefits
• Decide to stop your benefits
• Alter the amount of money you will receive

Reconsideration

The first step in the appeals process is called Reconsideration.

A different person from the person who reviewed your application the first time will look over your case. Essentially, it’s like a home base empire reviewing the decision a first base umpire makes.

Out of our pool of 312 people who request reconsideration, 47 will be awarded benefits, 80 will abandon the process, and 185 will head to the next tier of appeal – the ALJ hearing.

Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Hearing

You can set an ALJ hearing using the web at www.socialsecurity.gov/disability/appeals. The judge will not have had any part in your case thusfar. If you hire a law firm that specializes in North Carolina Social Security Disability, your attorneys can request a hearing for you and bring your case before the judge.

Out of the 185 remaining applicants in our theoretical pool, 102 will be awarded benefits after this process, 46 will abandon their pursuit, and 45 applicants will go to the next tier of appeals, the Appeals Counsel Review.

The Appeals Counsel Review

Assuming that you don’t agree with Administrative Law Judge’s decision on you case, you can ask to have the Appeals Counsel Review your case. Out of the 45 remaining people (dwindled down from our initial 1,000 applicants), 8 will be sent back to another ALJ hearing, one will be awarded benefits, 33 will abandon their quest, and 5 will take their cases to Federal Court. Your odds of ending up in federal court over an SSD case are just 0.5% (5 out of 1,000).

Federal Court Action

The United States District Court will be the first court to hear your appeal, if you disagree with the Appeal Counsel’s decision. Depending on the facts of your case and a variety of other relevant factors, Federal Court action can stretch on and even potentially reach the Supreme Court of the United States… although that’s very, very unlikely.

Of the 5 cases that end up in Federal Court, 2.5 are abandoned, 0.25 lead to awards, and fewer than 2 get returned to the Appeals Counsel.

The application-and-appeals process is complicated, sophisticated, and time consuming. A North Carolina social security disability law firm can protect your rights and maximize your chances of getting the system to deliver results.

More Web Resouces:

www.socialsecurity.gov/disability/appeals

Supplemental Security Income 101

How Much Longer Will North Carolina Social Security Disability Fund Last?

April 8, 2011, by Michael A. DeMayo

On April 6th, the New York Times ran a story that petrified many in the North Carolina Social Security Disability community. “Disabled, But Looking for Work” author Motoko Rich reported that “for the last five years, Social Security has paid out more in benefits to disabled workers than it has taken in from payroll taxes. Government actuaries forecast that the Disability Trust Fund will run out of money by 2018.”

Rich reports that disabled worker benefits in 2010 totaled around $115 billion – nearly one out of every 21 Americans collects benefits. Out of context, these figures may not mean much. But the numbers have gone up significantly from a decade ago. Rich reports that a University of Maryland professor of Social Security data, Mark G. Duggan, estimates that only one out of every 30 Americans collected disability just one decade ago.

Something has changed to make North Carolina Social Security Disability (and disability throughout the U.S.) more popular and less solvent. Rich puts forth a grab bag of possible reasons for the bump in the number of beneficiaries:

1. The graying of the baby boomer generation may be to blame. Baby boomers are populous – as they get older, a greater percentage of Americans will rely on government benefits programs like Medicaid, Medicare, and SSD to survive and pay the bills.

2. An escalating number of mental illness and muscular skeletal ailment claims may be to blame.

3. Rich also suggests that “pressure [on judges] to process cases sometimes leads to more disability claims being accepted.”

Another possible explanation: repetitive computer work and increased consumption of sugary and processed foods has deteriorated our health. This might explain, for instance, the rocketing rates of obesity and diabetes in the country: people got fat and sick from eating too much sugar and doing too much repetitive work on computers — this increased the number of SSD beneficiaries.

Have you or a family member encountered trouble collecting social security disability benefits? Do you believe that the system has treated you unfairly, or you are simply confused about how to advocate for yourself to get the entitlements you need?

A North Carolina social security disability law firm can help you understand your legal rights and resources and develop a battle plan to collect money and help make the SSD system – as stressed as it is – work for your benefit.

More Web Resouces:

NYT story: “Disabled, But Looking for Work”

graying of the baby boomer generation – statistics

Is Obtaining North Carolina Social Security Disability an Impossibility?

April 6, 2011, by Michael A. DeMayo

A new blog post at www.walletpop.com, “Is disability insurance the post unemployment check? Not for many,” highlights a key problem that many people who apply for North Carolina Social Security Disability face. Specifically, once you suffer an illness/injury or find yourself unemployed, you may have trouble cultivating the mental and physical stamina necessary to “pick yourself up by the boot straps.”

Author Ann Brenoff explains the difficulties that many North Carolina Social Security Disability applicants face: “The screening process is so stringent that it even makes qualifying for a mortgage these days look easy. Only about 40% of those who apply get approved at the first step. And that step takes three or four months to process, although the program has a list of 88 diseases and conditions on a sort of fast track system to speed up the process for those with the most serious needs.”

Ms. Brenoff points out, however, it’s not just that the system is calcified and difficult to manage – even for people who are healthy and mentally adept. It’s that unemployment and disability tend to feed on one another. Numerous studies suggest that unemployment lowers self esteem, degrades health, chips away your confidence, and causes or exacerbates other deep seated problems. If you are unemployed, it’s more difficult to afford healthy food. You thus may be tempted to purchase foods like raisins and pasta and cheap sugary drinks – all of which contain nutrients that will spike your blood sugar and insulin levels and potentially cause or exacerbate obesity and diabetes. Hence, unemployment feeds your disability and vice-a-versa. If you’re sick and heavy due to a poor nutrition, you will be less likely to have the energy, stamina and charisma to land and keep a good job.

How does the cycle end? What can break it? The answer is obviously very complex, and a single blog post is not going to magically come up with the answer. But one key is getting help.

If you’re sick and financially struggling and otherwise unwell, there is no reason for you to struggle through your problems on your own. A North Carolina social security disability law firm can help you understand your rights and can develop a blueprint for to help you get back on track with your recovery and job search.

More Web Resources:

“Is disability insurance the post unemployment check? Not for many,”


88 diseases and conditions on the SSD fast track

Stresses on North Carolina Social Security Disability System Increased, Reports Wall Street Journal

April 3, 2011, by Michael A. DeMayo

On Monday, the Washington Post ran a powerful story — “Claims for Social Security Benefits on the Rise” — that has many pundits within the North Carolina Social Security disability community talking up a storm. Per the March 28th WSJ article, the combination of high unemployment and the graying of the baby boomer generation has led to a massive escalation in new claims. For instance, in just five years time – from 2004 to 2009 — new claims leaped from just 8.2 million to 10 million.

The result of this escalation has been a bureaucratic slog-fest. Thanks to federal agency budget cuts and a swamp-load of new cases, appeals have been “piling up, and administrative law judges who hear these cases [have been] overwhelmed.” Although the Social Security Administration hired a raft of judges and support people to boost turnaround times for appeals – and appeals times have been shaved from a 532 day average back in 2008 to just 390 days today, the backlog of pending hearings is daunting. Currently, over 705,000 hearings are pending.

Although the Social Security Agency “pays out more than $800 billion in benefits every years to retirees, their spouses, dependants and survivors, low income disabled adults and children, and some low income World War II veterans,” according to the WashPo report, it’s going to be a lot more difficult for claimants who have pending appeals to get heard in a timely fashion.

Due to budget cuts and other problems that we just discussed, the Social Security Agency has abandoned earlier plans to open new offices in a variety of states – 8 total (although no North Carolina Social Security disability offices had been in the works).

Stories like these can make potential SSD benefit claimants and their families nervous and fearful.

Fortunately, the reality is that you can compel the system to work better for you – or at least prevent massive injustice – provided that you have good planning and resources on your side. For instance, a law firm that specializes in North Carolina Social Security disability benefits can help you outline a strategic plan to nip any logistical or legal problems in the bud, avoid common mistakes when you file, and answer FAQs you might have about the process.

Having a resourceful legal team on your side can also make you feel less anxious and uncomfortable about your benefits situation. Often, it’s not the lack of benefits that bothers people – it’s the lack of clarity about the situation. Will you or won’t you get the benefits that you think you are entitled to? As long as you live in a realm of “I don’t know,” the situation is a lot more difficult.

More Web Resources:

WashPo article: “Claims for Social Security Benefits on the Rise”

Social Security Agency

North Carolina Social Security Disability and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) “Must Reports”—Info You Need to Provide on Pain of Penalty

April 1, 2011, by Michael A. DeMayo

This North Carolina Social Security Disability blog often covers news issues, practical tips and tricks, and even philosophical discussions about how to reform the SSD system. Today, we are going focus on something extremely specific. When you apply for Supplemental Security Income (SSI), you must provide a lot of information to the government. According to “what you need to know when you get Supplemental Security Income (SSI),” a pamphlet put out by www.socialsecurity.gov, if you withhold this information or provide false info, you may be sanctioned or otherwise penalized.

You will receive a “penalty” for not reporting changes in a timely fashion. A penalty means a loss of money on your check. You could lose anywhere from $25 to $100.

A “sanction” is a different kind of punishment. When you provide false information or withhold info that would be important, you can be “sanctioned,” which means that your payments may cease entirely for 6 months up to 2 years. If you apply for North Carolina Social Security Disability or SSI, you must provide accurate and complete information about the following topics:

¥ Whether you move or change your address
¥ Whether you get divorced, separated or married or change your name
¥ Whether you leave the US
¥ Whether someone comes into your household or moves out of it
¥ Whether you change your direct deposit accounts
¥ Whether your income changes or a family member’s income changes or your resources otherwise change (such as you get help with living your expenses)
¥ Whether you become a parent, enter or leave an institution, get convicted of a crime, or get a warrant for your arrest
¥ Whether you violate your probation or parole terms
¥ Whether you become a sponsored non-citizen
¥ Whether you stop or start attending school (applies only to people ages 18 to 22)
¥ Whether your immigration status changes
¥ Whether you get better
¥ Whether you are no longer able to manage funds (or if a person who gets SSI dies)

You can get the pamphlet “what you need to know when you get Supplemental Security Income, (SSI)” to learn more about the requirements discussed above. Unfortunately, even minor bureaucratic slips up (such as failing to report certain income or taking too long to notify SSI of a change in your immigration status) could create needless drama for you.

Alas, individuals who are on government entitlement programs often lack the strength, stamina, and general wherewithal to stay organized. To that end, you may benefit greatly from speaking with an experienced North Carolina Social Security Disability law firm about what to do (and what not to do) to optimize the benefits you get and to prevent accidentally losing all or some of these benefits through penalties or sanctions.

More Web Resources:

what you need to know when you get Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

www.socialsecurity.gov

 
 

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