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Hackensack Disability Law Blog

What should I know about blind work expenses with SSI benefits?

New Jersey residents who are dealing with blindness will not automatically be labeled as unable to work and need help with the most basic tasks. While blindness is a challenge, many people can function and be productive despite it. However, simply because a blind person can work does not mean they should not use the available benefits from the Supplemental Security Income program.

SSI benefits are specifically designed to help those who are blind, disabled or 65 and older who meet the income and resource requirements. One aspect of working while blind and getting SSI is blind work expenses or BWE. BWE assists people by not counting earned income that is used to pay for expenses that are required to earn income or when determining the amount the person will get based on SSI. When getting BWE, it is important to remember that the items that the person requires for work do not necessarily need to be linked to their blindness.

When denied Social Security, what are my reconsideration options?

For New Jersey residents who are seeking Social Security disability benefits and are denied, there are four levels of appeal that they can use to try and get an approval. While many might believe that the initial denial means they will not have a good chance of having the decision changed and get SSD benefits, it can be quite effective to be approved when appealing.

There are four levels of appeal, but after the denial, the first level is reconsideration. Before moving forward, it is important to know about the process. It is also wise to have legal assistance. An applicant can request reconsideration because of a denial due to medical reasons or because of a denial due to a non-medical determination.

What is the Cost of Living Adjustment for SSI benefits in 2019?

For people in Hackensack and throughout New Jersey who are seeking or already receiving Supplemental Security Income, a common question they will have is what the total amount of SSI benefits will be. Meeting the requirements to be approved is just one factor in a case. After a person meets those requirements by being blind, disabled, 65 or older and having a sufficiently limited amount of income and resources, there are other considerations.

One key issue is knowing how much the Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA) will be for 2019 as this is a fundamental factor in planning and budgeting for individuals and families. As a new year begins, understanding COLA is critical for SSI recipients and applicants. With the new year, SSI-related benefits will rise by 2.8 percent. For individuals, they will receive $771 per month. If it is an eligible individual who has an eligible spouse, it will be $1,157 per month. If it is an essential person, it will be $386 per month.

Key points about resources and self-support with SSI benefits

Supplemental Security Income is needed by many New Jersey residents who are blind, disabled and over 65 and do not earn enough to support themselves. The program is beneficial for people who meet the requirements to be approved. For many, however, there are concerns about resources and how that will affect their SSI benefits. Provided their resources are do not surpass a certain amount, they are eligible for SSI-related benefits. However, some SSI recipients also want to try and support themselves. This is also important when benefits are calculated as certain equipment and goods might be needed to do so.

For those who are applying for SSI benefits or are already getting them, property needed for self-support could be a confusing issue. Some of these properties will not count as a resource. Knowing which do and which do not is critical. Examples of property that a person can own that will not count as a resource include items that are necessary for a person to ply a trade or run a business; personal property that is needed such as a uniform and tools; and government permits that let the person perform certain activities so they can earn income.

SSI benefits to see 2.8% hike in 2019

About 67 million Social Security beneficiaries will see a 2.8 percent cost of living adjustment (COLA) starting in January 2019, according to the Social Security Administration.

More than 8 million Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipients will also see a 2.8 percent increase.

What does ERISA do to protect me if I am disabled?

With jobs and benefits in flux with the changing landscape in New Jersey and across the nation, being protected for the future is one of the biggest concerns that people will have. The potential for suffering an injury that leaves a worker disabled and unable to work is always a lingering worry. Knowing how the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 - also called ERISA - protects workers in these circumstances can alleviate many of those concerns. However, it is not unusual for problems to arise and legal help will be necessary. Having a grasp on ERISA when there is a dispute is key.

Although the genesis of ERISA was for retirement plans, there are health plan protections in the law. When private employers offer disability insurance to workers, ERISA is a protective measure. ERISA impacts employer-based disability insurance. If the worker has private disability insurance, that is not relevant under ERISA. With ERISA, employers give employees certain information regarding their disability benefits.

Can you get other state or federal help if you get SSI benefits?

New Jersey residents who meet the basic requirements to get Supplemental Security Income receive a significant boost to their prospects as they seek to improve their health and get back on the right track to a rewarding and productive life. However, for some people, SSI-related benefits are not sufficient to make ends meet and get the medical care they need. That is when they might wonder if they can apply for and get benefits from other government and state programs.

A mistake many people might make is thinking that they cannot get these benefits simply because they are already getting SSI. But, there may be other programs available. Medicaid is a government program for people who have low or no income and it provides medical care. When a New Jersey resident is approved for SSI, they will also get Medicaid automatically. There will be a Medicaid card provided and a letter of acceptance into the program will be sent separately from the SSI approval letter.

When might a consultative exam be needed for SSD benefits?

When disabled and seeking Social Security Disability benefits, New Jersey residents might become discouraged when their claim is not immediately approved by the Social Security Administration. They might even be confronted with a denied Social Security Disability claim. However, this is not the end of the case. The SSA might simply need more medical evidence as to the limitations the person suffers from due to the illness, injury or condition.

When the claimant's medical source provides the evidence and it is not sufficient, a consultative examination could help. Knowing when and why to have a CE is key to a case. Claimants should not request a CE until every reasonable attempt has been made to accrue sufficient evidence from the person's medical sources. A CE can be ordered when there is not enough evidence from the medical sources the claimant initially presented. This could be due to a reason that is out of the claimant's control, such as the medical source not cooperating or even dying.

SSI benefits and impairment related work expenses - key points

Not everyone in New Jersey who is receiving Supplemental Security Income is completely unable to work. However, since SSI benefits are based on need, they could have various concerns about finances with trying to get back on the job. For these individuals, understanding how the Social Security Administration will assist them with impairment related work expenses (IRWE) is a foundational aspect they must understand before even making the attempt to get back on the job. As with any aspect of SSI, it is always a good decision to have legal help.

With IRWE, the SSA will generally deduct the amount the person paid out-of-pocket from what they have earned at work when determining their SSI benefits. The SSI benefits will therefore not be reduced as much as they would otherwise be since the earnings will not be counted in full. If, for example, a person needs to buy medical supplies, medicine and even a service animal, that will all be calculated as IRWE.

SSA adds five new conditions to the compassionate allowance list

The Social Security Administration (SSA) announced the addition of five new conditions to its compassionate allowance list. Compassionate allowances are a tool the SSA uses to pre-screen certain physical and mental conditions that qualify for SSD benefits, sometimes based only on the applicant's medical diagnosis. The SSA has been using the compassionate allowances for nearly a decade. The purpose is to streamline cases where the individual has a serious disability that, by its nature, clearly meets the qualifications for SSD. The new conditions include the following: