Archive for Anne K. Howard Blog

Tax-ability of monthly SSD payments and Lump Sum payments

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It is not unusual for people to be concerned about whether or not they are going to get taxed on the Social Security monthly benefits or the large lump sum amount they are awarded in retroactive back pay.  Now this is determined of course on a fact by fact basis.  It is going to involve a lot of things like your overall household income and how much lump sum back pay you have received.  You need to go to your CPA at tax time and report to them all of the earnings that you have had from Social Security in terms of monthly benefits and back pay and that person will give you the correct opinion about whether or not you will be paying taxes.

As a general rule most states do not charge taxes on Social Security earnings; however, there are a few so you do need to make sure that your state is not in the category that taxes for Social Security and also if there is a lump sum back pay it may be to your benefit to file back taxes and go back and amend prior taxes returns so the lump-sum award that for example covers the period of 2011 through 2014 is applied to the monthly benefits that pertain to over the course of those three years.  Finally I would say about one-third of my clients are taxed to some degree on either their monthly benefits or especially their lump sum back pay.  In those cases, the household will be making over thirty two thousand dollars a year and it is usually involving a case where the disabled person’s spouse has a significant income.  In SSI only cases the people are living under the poverty line and so taxes will not be an issue.

This short informational blog post was provided by Anne Howard, an experienced Connecticut Social Security Disability Lawyer. Please contact The Law Office of Attorney Anne K. Howard to set up a free initial consultation.

My Ability to Work after receiving Social Security Disability Benefits

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I am often asked whether a person can work after they receive their Social Security Disability benefits and the answer is yes you can work after you receive your Social Security Disability benefits but not much.  You can’t work too many hours and you can’t make too much money.  The limit is that you cannot make more than seven hundred and seventy dollars a month working while concurrently receiving your Social Security Disability benefits.  That is a gross income figure; keep in mind, before withholdings take place.  If you make more than seven hundred and seventy dollars gross a month while receiving Social Security Disability or SSI after nine months Social Security will cut you off. You will no longer receive your Social Security Disability monthly benefits.

Additionally, it is likely that you are going to be libel for an overpayment that means the money that Social Security has paid you while you were working, that Social Security money is going to need to be reimbursed to the agency because you basically can’t double-dip and take Social Security Disability while working.  To answer the question, I encourage people who are still having a lot of financial distress even though they are getting their monthly Social Security, which sometimes isn’t much money at all, if they want to take a part-time job just a few hours a week that does not in any way impair their physical or mental well-being.

For example, an older man just called me recently he had a stroke and he was feeling a little bit better.  He was wondering if he could bag groceries at the local grocery store a few hours on the weekends.  I said yes it won’t affect your case in any way just don’t make over seven hundred and seventy dollars a month.  So if there is a type of low stress, low exertion work activity that you can do just to add a few hundred dollars to your budget on a monthly basis you can do that once you received Social Security but just don’t go over seven hundred and seventy gross monthly.

This short informational blog post was provided by Anne Howard, an experienced Connecticut Social Security Disability Attorney. Please contact The Law Office of Attorney Anne K. Howard to set up a free initial consultation.

Speeding up the Social Security case Process

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There are generally two ways that we can speed up your request for hearing.  Once you file a request for hearing before a judge you have to wait between twelve and eighteen months before you actually sit before that judge and it goes without saying that a lot of my client earns a lot of financial stress during that prolonged waiting period.  I can fill out forms for you that request an expedited hearing based on dire financial need; however keep in mind, that most of my Social Security clients are experiencing dire financial need so the threshold is very high. The person who is alleging that they are so financially needy that they need a hearing right away usually has to show impending foreclosure, eviction or homelessness.  The homelessness can be shown by a letter from family members who state that they can no longer keep this person in their house or help them or especially by a letter from a local homeless shelter.

In addition, notes from creditors and medical providers that show you have large amounts of debts owing and that cannot pay maybe your electric or your heat.  These are all important factors in the judge’s assessing whether or not your financial situation is so extreme that it requires a hearing right away.  If you can show dire financial need you will have a hearing within one or two months.  The second way I can show a judge that your case has to be sped up is by passing your file to a senior attorney at the hearing office that works for the judge and asking that senior attorney to review your file for what is called an on-the-record determination, what that means is that the senior attorney can take a look at the medical evidence on file and determine that given your age and all of the factors in your file it is medically strong enough to warrant an immediate determination.

Senior attorneys are more likely to grant cases involving people over fifty or especially over fifty-five and if there are any questionable issues in your claim for example if you are a younger individual, your currently working or you have a history of substance abuse I can almost guarantee you that in cases like that you will not be able to get a senior attorney determination.  You are going to have to wait for a hearing but I want you to know I will do everything possible to expedite the processing of your claim and if it’s possible for to get a dire need hearing or a senior attorney granted benefits I will do that for you.

This short informational blog post was provided by Anne Howard, an experienced Connecticut Social Security Disability Lawyer. Please contact The Law Office of Rosenstein & Howard to set up a free initial consultation.

Can I Obtain Assistance with Filling out Social Security Forms?

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Once a client retains my legal services they will frequently call the office and they will be confused about all the forms they are receiving from the Social Security Administration.  They don’t know how to fill the forms out.  They find the forms to be overly complicated.  Unfortunately some of these forms are not forms that we can fill out for you because they ask questions that are particularly only to your knowledge.  For example, Social Security will send you an activity of daily living forms.  Those forms will ask you what you do on a daily basis.  Do you clean the house?  Do you go for walks?  Are you bed ridden?  Are you capable of taking care of your own grooming, hygiene or cooking?    These are questions that only you can answer.

Likewise, Social Security may send you a symptoms report.  That is going to ask you all the symptoms and pain levels related to your medical condition.  Of course, we don’t know those subjective answers, only you know those answers.  Finally Social Security will send you work history reports which will ask for the places that you were employed in the last ten or fifteen years and again that is only something that you will know.  Now with that in mind, I can tell you that the best way to fill out these forms is to be as detailed and accurate as possible.  Keep in mind that the purpose of some of these activities of daily living and symptom forms is unfortunately to assist in Social Security denying your case.

For example if you fill out a activity of daily living form, which asks if you can do your household cleaning, and you simply check the box that says yes that could come back and hurt your claim at hearing.  The judge will write in his/her decision of denial that claimant alleges disabling back pain but she sent in a form last year that she does all of her household cleaning.  So when you fill out those forms don’t be too over general in your answer.  Instead what you need to do is specify whether or not you have good days and bad days or if you are capable of dusting or light house cleaning can you only do it for short periods of time.  It is not uncommon for my clients to say yes I can sweep the floor but it requires that I sit down every ten minutes and take a break and it will take me all morning to sweep my house.  So be very careful about how you fill out those forms and if you do need any assistance call our office and we can answer any questions that you may have.

This short informational blog post was provided by Anne Howard, an experienced Connecticut Social Security Disability Attorney. Please contact The Law Office of Rosenstein & Howard to set up a free initial consultation.

Eligibility for Social Security Disability Insurance Payments

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Many times people in Connecticut come to my office and ask me if they are even eligible to receive Social Security Disability Insurance payments.  Now in addition to showing medical disability, in order to receive Social Security Disability Insurance benefits, a person must have paid into the Social Security trust fund, the Title II trust fund, for twenty out of forty quarters of their work history.  Now what this means, is basically a person needs to have worked for ten consistent years in order to receive Social Security Disability Insurance.

If you are not sure whether or not you have worked long enough and paid enough into the system to qualify to receive benefits based on disability then I encourage you to go to Social Security’s website which is www.ssa.gov.  There will be a link on the website which will allow you to find out what your earnings statement is.  You will recall years ago these earnings statements used to be mailed to us in paper form once a year.  They had a green border around them and Social Security will list on your earnings statement how much you made in different jobs over the years and what you would be eligible to receive if you proved medical disability, at early retirement or full retirement age. Now that the whole electronic system has taken place with Social Security you can only go online to find out your earnings record is and to find out what your monthly premium will be for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits should you be awarded.

This short informational blog post was provided by Anne Howard, an experienced Connecticut Social Security Disability Lawyer. Please contact The Law Office of Rosenstein & Howard to set up a free initial consultation.

Your Education Level may Affect your Eligibility for SSD

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Social Security is going to look at your educational level in determining whether or not you can get disability benefits.  Generally speaking the more educated you are, the more skilled your job, the more professional your status and the more vocational training you have had the harder it is to get Social Security Disability benefits because Social Security is likely to determine that you are capable of more jobs in the semi-skilled and skilled areas or that you have transferable skills.  However, if you did not get a high school education there are three classifications of education that Social Security applies in determining your capacity to do other work activity.

The first is whether you have a limited education.  That is whether or not you left school between the seventh and eleventh grade.  Now if that pertains to you, then Social Security will automatically limit you to only performing unskilled work.  This can have a lot of important ramifications and help your case if you are over the age of fifty.  The next level is marginal, did you make it up to sixth grade or did you drop out before then.  In that case, it will also greatly assist your claim for benefits.  Finally if individuals are illiterate or are not fluent in the English language it can great help the case if they are between the ages of forty-five and fifty-four.  You definitely need to clarify for Social Security how far you went in school, not only that but were you enrolled in any special educations classes.

This short informational blog post was provided by Anne Howard, an experienced Connecticut Social Security Disability Attorney. Please contact The Law Office of Rosenstein & Howard to set up a free initial consultation.

Paying your Social Security Attorney

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Clients are often nervous wondering how they are going to pay an attorney.  Well you do not have to pay a Social Security Disability attorney unless they win your case. You will probably be receiving a lump sum back pay from your Social Security Disability and/or SSI award.  Your back pay for example may be ten thousand dollars that you will receive that is retroactive, it covers all the months you have been waiting for Social Security Disability to be awarded so for example if you receive ten thousand in back pay I will receive twenty-five percent on a contingent fee basis of your back pay meaning two thousand five hundred dollars. Now that is if a case is expedited or adjudicated very quickly in the process.

In most cases a Social Security Disability hearing won’t occur for well over two years into the process therefore you’re back pay amount will exceed the ten thousand I just gave an example of, in fact, some of my clients get back pay covering retroactive benefits for two or three years.  Sometimes that lump sum can be anywhere from fifteen to a hundred thousand dollars.  I get twenty-five percent of your back pay; however, it cannot exceed six thousand dollars and so if you were to get a back pay of seventy thousand dollars I would not get twenty-five percent of that seventy thousand back pay my attorney fee would cap out at six thousand dollars.

If I don’t win your Social Security Disability case I don’t get paid anything so I like to tell clients that we are in the same boat we both have a strong self-interest in winning this case because I only get paid if you get paid.  My money will also come directly from the Social Security Administration for the attorney fee.  You do not need to write me a check or go to the bank.  Any monies that you receive in most cases you will be able to pocket provided Social Security has issued the checks correctly and my attorney fee will be directly deposited into my account so we don’t need to worry about any exchange of money after the disposition of your case.

This short informational blog post was provided by Anne Howard, an experienced Connecticut Social Security Disability Lawyer. Please contact The Law Office of Rosenstein & Howard to set up a free initial consultation.

Assistance of VA Disability Benefits with the Social Security Disability Application

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In many cases, if you are receiving Veteran’s Disability benefits it will greatly assist in your claim for Social Security Disability.  This is because, as you know, if you are receiving Veteran’s benefits the VA only considers service-related disabilities when assessing your disability percentage rating.  Now in contrast, Social Security is going to consider all of your impairments.  With that in mind, it is likely that if you have one impairment that is service connected you are probably going to have a lot more that are not service connected that will supplement your case for Social Security Disability and help your claim. Also as a general rule if you are considered seventy percent or more disabled by the Veteran’s Administration this equates to employability with Social Security Disability purposes as well.

The Federal District courts have a rule that if the VA determined that you were disabled that decision is going to be given great evidentiary weight with the Federal District courts determining whether or not the judge made the correct decision in your Social Security Disability claim.  On the other hand, if you have a Social Security Disability approval and then you go and apply for VA Disability there is no guarantee that you are going to get VA Disability because they only cover service connected impairments.  That said it helps to have your entire Social Security medical file transported to VA and to have the two agencies work together to see what you can get from the Veteran’s Administration.

This short informational blog post was provided by Anne Howard, an experienced Connecticut Social Security Disability Attorney. Please contact The Law Office of Rosenstein & Howard to set up a free initial consultation.

The Affects of Working During a Pending SSD Appeal

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You can work while your Social Security Disability claim is pending, but only a minimal amount. You can work twenty to twenty-five hours a week and make up to one thousand seventy dollars gross per month while your Social Security Disability appeal is pending. Even though I know people are in severe financial distress and get any kind of work that they can just to pay for food and housing I strongly discourage my disability claimants from doing any kind of work during their Social Security Disability appeal.  This is because that work activity, even though it is part-time and under substantial activity level, can come back to bite them at the hearing.  The judge might look at that work activity as indicating that the claimant can probably work full time.

Now that is especially true if someone is filing a claim based on a disability including physical pain and yet the job that they are doing part-time and making under one thousand seventy at, involves physical exertion such as mowing lawns or landscaping.  It is likely that the judge will say, “well if you can do that job for twenty hours a week what is to stop you from doing a physically easier sedentary job full time?”  So the answer to the question is that you most certainly can work and make up to one thousand seventy dollars gross per month while your Social Security case is pending and being decided. However I urge you to do as little work as possible even though there is extreme financial stress involved.

If there is any way you can avoid work activity please try to avoid doing so it won’t hurt your credibility at hearing.  Finally if you have done less than substantial, gainful activity during the appeals process I will need to address that at hearing by having you testify that the work was in no way comparable to competitive employment and there were accommodations provided to you.

This short informational blog post was provided by Anne Howard, an experienced Connecticut Social Security Disability Lawyer. Please contact The Law Office of Rosenstein & Howard to set up a free initial consultation.

Time Frame to Make an SSD Decision

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In most cases you will not know how the judge decides your case after a hearing on the day of the hearing.  Occasionally that judge might make a bench decision and agree on the record that you are disabled and you will know when you leave the courtroom that you are going to win your disability benefits; however, it usually takes about one to three months after your disability hearing for a written decision to be issued and at that time you will find out whether or not the judge is granting or denying your disability benefits.  If you have been granted disability benefits it generally takes between four and six weeks before you receive your first monthly installment.

Back pay, the lump sum award that covers your retroactive benefits that cover the months you have been waiting for Social Security Disability that can sometimes take four to six months to process.  That is because they are often offset issues with long-term disability, workers’ comp. or they may have garnishment issues with child support or back taxes.  In any case, you can pretty much expect it to take no more than six months for your back pay to be deposited directly into your checking account and your first monthly payment will be within four to six weeks following the judge’s written decision.  If after the hearing the local Social Security office send you any letters or phone calls requesting an in person consultation with you to ask you some questions about household bills or income I urge you to immediately respond to those calls or letters and give them the information that they request.  If you don’t it could delay the processing of your money.

This short informational blog post was provided by Anne Howard, an experienced Connecticut Social Security Disability Attorney. Please contact The Law Office of Rosenstein & Howard to set up a free initial consultation.