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Social Security Disability Benefits Available for Family Too

Tuesday, November 29th, 2011

Many people may not know that Social Security disability benefits are available for not just themselves but for their spouses or dependents in the event that they suffer an injury. The rules are filled with conditions and exceptions, so we always recommend consulting a Tulsa SSI attorney when considering applying for disability benefits, but below are a few of the situations in which your loved ones might be able to receive benefits in addition to your own.

If you are currently receiving disability benefits, your spouse can receive benefits as well if he or she is over the age of 62, or if your spouse is caring for your child. The child has to be receiving Social Security benefits from your account and has to be younger than 16 or disabled. Additionally, your children can directly receive benefits provided they are unmarried and either younger than 18 or older, but severely disabled.

In the event that you pass away, your spouse and children are also able to receive benefits under similar guidelines to those discussed in the previous paragraph. If your parents were dependent on you for at least half of their support, they may also receive benefits based on your contributions to Social Security over the years.

If you become disabled and are unable to work, always check to see whether Social Security benefits might be available for your spouse, children or any other dependents. The money you paid into Social Security while you were working is meant to help you when the unthinkable happens.

Have you been able to receive Social Security benefits for your loved ones? How have they helped ease the financial difficulties that accompany disability?

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

Social Security Benefits to Rise After First Pause Ever

Thursday, October 27th, 2011

Recipients of Social Security retirement benefits and Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) benefits are set to receive news that they have not heard for two years – their benefit levels will be going up. A yearly increase in benefits had been the norm, at least from 1975 until 2010. 2010 and 2011 were the first consecutive years for which there was no cost of living adjustment (“COLA”). More details on the change are available from a Tulsa SSI attorney.

The lack of increase stems from the way that the Social Security Administration (“SSA”) measures the cost of living. It uses the consumer price index to measure inflation by looking at the costs of consumer goods. Social Security benefits cannot, by law, go down, so when the consumer price index goes down or stays flat, benefits stay the same. The index actually fell in 2010, and prices did not exceed their previous high until recently.

At least one problem with using the consumer price index for Social Security benefits is that it overlooks what many older Americans and disabled Americans purchase. They spend more on health care goods and services than other Americans. Health care costs rise much faster than other costs, so the consumer price index is not always a good gauge of how far a dollar goes for everyone.

Financial experts expect that the COLA will be between 3.5 and 3.7 percent and will factor into benefits starting in January 2012. This could mean a lot for many beneficiaries – an AARP spokesperson noted that Social Security keeps a third of older Americans out of poverty. How much will the increase in Social Security benefits affect your financial situation?

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

Woman Steals Daughter-in-Law’s Identity for Nine Years

Wednesday, September 28th, 2011

Given the troubles that legitimately disabled Americans often have when applying for disability benefits, it sometimes comes as a shock to see the ease with which fraudsters are able to obtain Social Security disability benefits. For nine years, Alabama woman Jennifer Owens used her daughter-in-law’s identity to obtain disability benefits that went straight to Owens.

Owens’s son married in 2001 and divorced in 2010. In 2002, Owens used her daughter-in-law’s name and Social Security number to apply for disability benefits. Owens also specified on the application form that the benefits should go directly to her. Owens managed to obtain a comprehensive psychological report regarding her daughter-in-law. This medical evaluation involved Owens and another adult female who claimed to be Owens’s daughter-in-law meeting with a clinical psychologist. The psychologist suspected that the alleged daughter-in-law may have been faking symptoms. Nevertheless, the Social Security Administration (“SSA”) approved the disability application, and Owens began receiving benefits.

Owens ran the scheme from 2002 until March earlier this year. It started to come apart when her former daughter-in-law applied for other government benefits, and the government noticed that she had supposedly been receiving disability benefits.

Simple cross-checks like these are one way that the SSA hopes to make its disability benefits system more efficient. By doing a better job of verifying whether disability beneficiaries should continue to receive benefits, the SSA hopes to put those resources wasted on fraudulent beneficiaries to better use. Those interested in applying for disability benefits may wish to consult with a Tulsa SSI attorney.

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

Reforming Benefits an Important Issue for Republicans

Friday, September 23rd, 2011

Social Security reform is shaping up to be a key issue for the candidates hoping to secure the Republican presidential nomination for 2012. We posted last week about Texas Governor Rick Perry’s references to Social Security as a “Ponzi scheme” and a “monstrous lie.” Perry also took aim at Social Security in his book “Fed Up!” Now it seems that other Republican candidates have taken aim at Perry, criticizing him for his harsh words and prodding him for more details on his ideas for reforming the system.

Another frontrunner, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, has other suggestions for reforming Social Security, including pushing back the retirement age and privatizing it. He has said that he would not be in favor of raising taxes to fix Social Security’s financial grounds. A Romney spokesperson said that Romney would like for the public to come to know Republicans as the party that saved and improved Social Security.

Perry appears to changing his strategy in response to reactions to his criticisms of Social Security. Last week, he wrote an article for the USA Today in which he said he would like to protect benefits for those currently in retirement, but he added that reforms would be necessary to keep Social Security viable down the line.

Politicians’ comments that we hear in the media about Social Security usually refer to the retirement benefits, which are a large portion of the benefits that the Social Security Administration (“SSA”) pays out. But, the SSA runs a number of programs – including benefits for disabled or deceased workers – that comprise a significant portion of the SSA’s payouts. We would be interested in hearing the candidates’ thoughts on reforms they would propose for the disability benefits process.

Troutman & Troutman, P.C. – Tulsa SSI attorneys