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Archive for the ‘Benefits’ Category

Chained Consumer Price Index Means Lower Benefits

Wednesday, November 16th, 2011

We have mentioned how members of Congress may alter Social Security benefits based on possible changes the way the Social Security Administration (“SSA”) measures inflation. This proposal appears to be gaining momentum, as the bi-partisan Super Committee looking for ways to trim the deficit reportedly supports the inflation change. The problem for Social Security beneficiaries is that the change would result in higher taxes and lower benefits.

The debate about inflation adjustment centers on the Consumer Price Index (“CPI”). Currently the SSA and the rest of the federal government use the CPI for all urban consumers. The Super Committee is considering switching to the chained CPI. The chained CPI calculates a lower level of inflation, because, as the price as something goes up, this calculation assumes you will switch to something cheaper. In this way, you avoid the increase in costs, and, thus, inflation appears lower.

The resulting lower inflation will have two big impacts. First, the changes in tax brackets will be smaller from year to year, since inflation adjustments will be lower. As a result, more people will be paying higher taxes as they move up brackets when their salaries exceed the new, smaller inflation rate.

Second, Social Security cost of living adjustments will be lower. The modest cost of living increase Social Security beneficiaries receive periodically is a big boost to those who depend on Social Security benefits. With the chained CPI, however, cost of living adjustments will be lower.

Some Congress members have expressed concern that this switch to a chained CPI is a hidden ploy that will have big consequences. Have you been keeping up on proposed changes to Social Security and other federal programs? How would this change affect your living situation as a Social Security beneficiary?

Troutman & Troutman, P.C. – Tulsa Social Security disability attorneys

Rural Communities Receive Most from Social Security Benefits

Tuesday, November 15th, 2011

It may come as a surprise to some, but a look at recent Social Security Administration (“SSA”) data shows that residents in small towns and rural areas are more dependent on Social Security benefits than residents of small cities and large metropolitan areas.

Facts in support of this conclusion:

  • Whereas only 15.6 percent of urban dwellers receive some type of Social Security, nearly one-fourth of rural residents receive Social Security benefits of some sort
  • In rural countries, Social Security benefits make up 9.3 percent of residents’ local income versus 8.2 percent for small cities (population under 50,000) and 5 percent for large ones
  • The average Social Security per capita payout is higher for rural counties ($2,831) than for large cities ($2,055)
  • Rural residents are more likely than their counterparts to receive either survivorship or disability benefits, whereas the large city residents are mostly recipients of retirement benefits

Social Security benefits play an important role for both rural residents and rural businesses. Several university economists point out that Social Security benefits in rural areas and smaller cities keep a lot of these cities afloat. Beneficiaries in these cities are likely to spend their benefits in their hometowns, thereby keeping businesses in business. Without the Social Security benefits, many small town businesses would not last very long, the economists said.

What was your experience been with these facts? Are you a rural or small town resident who relies on Social Security?

Troutman & Troutman, P.C. – Tulsa Social Security disability lawyers

Age 67 Medicare Eligibility May Lower Your Social Security

Monday, November 14th, 2011

Recent new analysis suggests that even if government cuts do not directly affect Social Security, Social Security beneficiaries may still feel the effects indirectly. The Super Committee tasked with finding ways to trim the federal deficit is considering raising the age for which Americans become eligible for Medicare from 65 up to 67. Those savings, some experts believe, would come at the expense of retirees’ Social Security benefits.

The Super Committee recently heard testimony from a Morgan Stanley executive who said that raising the age would be a good way to bridge the divide between Democrats and Republicans. He also noted that the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare,” as some call it) would help 65- and 66-year-olds find coverage in the private sector. Raising the Medicare eligibility age has support from members of both parties, so it is a feasible change.

On the other hand, several think tanks and organizations believe that raising Medicare eligibility to age 67 would do more harm than good, because doing so would eat away at Social Security benefits. The organizations found that nearly a million Americans would face an extra $4,300 in health care costs each year as a result of raising the age. For these Americans, health care costs would jump from taking up 28 percent of their Social Security benefits to taking up nearly half of their benefits.

How important are your Social Security benefits for helping defray your health care costs? If you are worried about your benefits, a Social Security lawyer may be able to help you.

Troutman & Troutman, P.C. – Tulsa Social Security disability attorneys

Cuts May Be Coming to SSI Benefits for Disabled Children

Wednesday, November 9th, 2011

Some of its critics refer to it as “the other welfare.” Congressional members of a subcommittee of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee are considering possible cuts to Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) benefits for disabled children. SSI benefits for children with disabilities became a popular target for critics after a series of articles last fall from The Boston Globe suggested that lower income families were putting their children on psychiatric medication in order to receive disability benefits. Additional details on proposed changes are available from a Tulsa SSI lawyer.

Chair of the subcommittee, Kentucky Republican Geoff Davis, noted his concern over recent growth in the program. He commented that “SSI today offers monthly checks without any requirement that benefits be spent on helping the child overcome his or her disability.” He also expressed concern that most of the growth in benefits for disabled children was due to mental and behavioral impairments.

The fact that SSI benefits for disabled children has grown, however, does not mean that the growth is entirely due to conniving applicants, as critics seem so quick to suggest. There are undoubtedly some who try to take advantage of the system, but there are more for whom SSI benefits for their disabled children are a lifeline. One woman – a Texas mother of an 8-year-old autistic boy – testified to the subcommittee that without her SSI benefits, she would have been unable to stop working in order to care for her son who also suffers from seizures.

Caring for children with disabilities requires substantially larger amounts of time and money. Some children may require around-the-clock care. Families of these children must somehow care for the children’s special needs while still earning enough money to cover basic necessities as well as additional medical costs; this can be difficult for anyone, especially low-income families.

Have you benefited from the SSI program for disabled children? How did the benefits help you care for your children?

Troutman & Troutman, P.C. – Tulsa Social Security disability attorneys