Social Security Hearings

The Supreme Court decision on the Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare) has tremendous implications for our practice, primarily negative, but is a huge boon to planning for persons with disabilities who have been shut out of the private insurance market in the past.  Our law firm’s loss is our clients’ gains, and we couldn’t be happier about it.

Depending on the November election, if Obama is re-elected, our clients with Special Needs Trusts will have the option to get off of public health programs, like Medicaid, and begin to pay for private health insurance from private health companies.  For the reasons mentioned in the attached "Commentary", we believe there are substantial resons why this will be appealing to many.  Whether, how and when to do it, however, will require a careful analysis of individual client’s needs.  Click the link below:

www.floridaspecialneedslaw.com/uploads/file/Lillesand – Commentary on the Impact of Affordable Care Act.pdf

We’re working on an appeal of another attorney’s client’s case that was lost at a Social Security Adminsitration Administrative Law Judge hearing.  In reviewing the twelve page decision, we find the judge wrote the following (the typos are ALL his):

"Rather, when examined by Dr. Miguel xxxx, a psychiatrist at the request of the office of Dislikable Dtermiatnos, the claim was fully oriented and his speech was coherent and relevant.  While he seemed anxious, he was attentive and denied any suicidal intention so r ideas.  He also denied any homicidal ideas.  There w err no signs of hallcuiotnsm delusions, bizarre behavior and his cognitive function was age aprpruioatpe. HTer ewe rno signs of hyperactive or attendtion difficulties.  he knew the date, his socials ruvity number and his abstract thinking was intact. (Exhibit 9)."

Where to start.  The Office of Disability Determinations, labeled not-so-inaccurately as the "office of Dislikable Dtermaitnos" is not even called that any more.  And on, and on.  It will make funny reading for the Appeals Council at least while we win this man’s case.

The organizers of the Florida State Guardianship Annual Convention asked me to prepare some comments on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid – It Just Keeps Changing.  The ten page paper highlights changes in how  attorneys and guardians of disabled individuals will have to change the way they interact with SSA, video hearings, “paperless” medical and legal files at SSA, as well as the 2008 changes in Medicare, and changes we are expecting in the SSI POMS that relate to Special Needs Trust administration: new rules on employment by the trustee of parents to care for minor disabled children, support of dependent spouses and minor children using the disabled parent’s trust funds (see our previous post on July 11th), and structured settlement annuity problems, particularly with deeming of healthy parents’ annuities against the disabled child’s continued eligibility for SSI and Medicaid.

If you want more information on guardianship, or the Florida State Guardianship Association and an application for membership, click here.

If you’ve ever wondered how the Social Security Administration decides whether a person is disabled, look here.

If you’ve wondered what are the steps to get disability, look here, and note the length of time between each step.

If you’re absolutely bewildered by the length of time it takes to get a hearing before a federal Administrative Law Judge, read some of the entries on NOSSCR’s collection of news and editorials on the scandal (scroll down on the web-page to see the articles).  Last year, SSA judges heard 550,000 cases.  Unfortunately, the backlog grew to 750,000 severely disabled people waiting to get a hearing.

In the 1990’s we had a system in place that moved the cases much more quickly.  But that was before all the tax cuts and then the staff cuts – eliminating or not replacing judges, secretaries, and other staff.  We are now operating with a Social Security staff workforce that is the same size as when John Kennedy was president, and the population was 179 million, not the 304 million we have now.

You can’t have a hearing without a judge.  And a judge can only hear 15-20 cases per week.  Less judges means long, long delays waiting for a judge to be assigned and your hearing to be scheduled by SSA.

More funding, more judges, more judges, less delay in getting a hearing.  Write your congressman!