July 29, 2014

SSA Overpayment Issues Can be Difficult to Handle

SSA overpayment claimIf you need a lawyer to help you with an overpayment issue, you are going to have a hard time finding help. Overpayment cases arise when Social Security discovers that they have paid you too much – sometimes for years – and now they want their money back.

In most cases, you will receive a letter that says something like this:

We are writing to give you new information about the disability/retirement/survivors benefits which you receive on this Social Security record. We have determined that you were overpaid in the amount of $30,000. Please refund this overpayment within 30 days.

An explanation of the overpayment will be included. And, to show that they have some compassion, they do include an envelope. If you do not send them the full amount due they will withhold your monthly benefit check for as many months as it takes to recover the overpayment.

Obviously if your Social Security money is your only source of income, this can be a huge problem.

An overpayment can happen for several reasons.

  • Perhaps you were found disabled then returned to work under the Ticket to Work or a trial work period program. Social Security may have continued to pay you disability benefits even after you returned to work.
  • You could be an SSI recipient whose income and resources exceeded the stingy limits of that program.
  • You could be a disabled widow who was receiving benefits under a deceased spouse’s earnings record and now you have remarried.
  • The mistake could have been on SSA’s end – they may have advised you that you were eligible for a particular type of benefit but later concluded that you were not so eligible.

Whatever the reason, it is probably a safe bet that you don’t have $10,000, $20,000 or whatever the overpayment number is claimed. What can you do? [Read More...]

How to Explain Earnings After Your Disability Onset Date

If your earnings record shows salary earned after the date you say you became disabled, you can be sure that the judge in your Social Security disability hearing will ask for an explanation.

Example:  you say you became disabled on April 3, but your earnings record shows income in May, June and July.

In this video I explain  how I advise my clients to respond to questions about post-onset earnings in three common scenarios:

  • unsuccessful work attempts
  • accrued earnings or benefits that are paid after the last date you were physically present at work
  • part time work

No matter what the reason, always discuss with your lawyer work, work attempts or payments received after the date you claim that your disability began.

Fibromyalgia and Social Security Disability: Can You Still Win?

Social Security disability judges are increasingly reluctant to award benefits to fibromyalgia claimants unless these claims meet a certain profile.  Let me tell you about this profile – what is currently working for me in disability hearings I try here in the Atlanta area hearing offices. [Read More...]

CNN Report on September 11 PTSD Scam Misses the Mark

disability scamsCNN is reporting that more than 100 New York City firefighters have been indicted in connection with disability fraud.  These firefighters filed claims for disability under the World Trade Center Disability Law, a source of benefits available only to New York City employees injured as a result of their service on September 11, 2001.

According to CNN, these disability claimants were coached (the CNN article is silent as to who did the coaching) about how to behave to win benefits that can amount to $50,000 per year for total disability.

Investigators discovered, however, that some of these permanently injured claimants were, in fact, working – in one case, teaching martial arts – despite their claimed disability.

Presumably these dishonest, retired firefighters will face civil fines or perhaps criminal prosecution for their actions. [Read More...]

Is it Possible to Recover Past Due Benefits for a Disabiling Condition that Began 20 Years Ago

how far back can I go to collect disabilityI recently received an email from a blog reader who tells me that she has recently been approved for SSDI based on a stroke.  However, she was diagnosed with another disabling medication condition 20 years ago but never applied.  Is there anything she can do about the older medical condition and recovering 20 years worth of past due benefits.

Here is my analysis: first, this is a difficult question to answer because I do not have all of the facts.  For example there are circumstances where an informal communication with Social Security could be considered an application.  There are also cases where even an unintentional misstatement by a Social Security employee could toll the statute of limitations.  [Read More...]

Fibromyalgia Better Understood – New Testing and Treatment Hopefully on the Way

new research about physiology of fibromyalgia painUSA Today published a very interesting article on December 15, 2013 about a research which identifies a physiological cause for fibromyalgia.  Currently, fibromyalgia is recognized as a medical “syndrome,” which means that it can be identified by symptoms, while the source of those symptoms remains unknown.  In the case of fibromyalgia, the American College of Rheumatology has published guidelines for physicians to use for diagnostic purposes, although treatment options remain limited.

The USA Today story quotes neurologist Anne Louise Oaklander at the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.  Dr. Oaklander has published two studies which show that at least half the cases of diagnosed fibromyalgia arise from small fiber neuopathy, in which patients get faulty signals from tiny nerves all over the body, thereby causing symptoms.  Here is a direct link to Dr. Oaklander’s article.

Researchers at Albany Medical College published a paper showing that fibromyalgia patients have excessive nerve fibers lining the blood vessels of the skin.  This excess of nerve fibers can lead to increased sensitivity to pain.  Interestingly, women have more of these fibers than men, which is consistent with statistics which show more female fibro patients than male patients.  Here is a link to the news release from Dr. Frank Rice who conducted the research at Albany Medical College, and who now leads a research team at a private company. [Read More...]