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Knoxville Personal Injury Law Blog

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) - Auxiliary Beneficiaries

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits may be paid directly to a disabled worker or another person may draw benefits as a result of that worker. Auxiliary beneficiaries encompass dependency and survivor benefits that first require a wage earner who met entitlement requirements. The following are types of auxiliary beneficiaries:

1. Spousal insurance benefits: The spouse can be covered on the wage earner spouse's account if the following are met:

a. The wage earner is disabled, retired, or blind under the Title II;

b. the claimant filed a proper application;

c. the claimant and wage earner are married or certain conditions met for divorcees; and

d. the claimant is 62 years or older or has a child under age 16 receiving child's insurance benefits from the same wage earner or the child is disabled; and

e. the claimant is not entitled to old-age or disability benefits equal to or greater than one-half of the wage earner's disability or retirement insurance benefits.

2. Widow's or widower's insurance benefits: The widow or widowers of a deceased wage earner can be covered on the wage earner spouse's account if the following are met:

a. The claimant and wage earner were married or had a child under age 18 while married and spouse has not remarried;

b. the claimant is not entitled to old-age or disability benefits equal to or greater than one-half of the wage earner's disability or retirement insurance benefits;

c. the claimant is 60 or above or between 50 and 59 and disabled under Title II, or has care of child under age 16 receiving child's insurance benefits from the same wage earner or the child is disabled.

3. Child's insurance benefits: Children can receive benefits on the account of a wage earner if that wage earner is disabled, blind, retired, or deceased. The child can earn the benefits up to age 18, or 19 if the child is a full-time student, and unmarried and dependent. Additionally, a child that became disabled before attaining age 22 and was dependent on the wage earner can earn under the wage earner's account. These are called Disabled Adult Child (DAC) benefits. The regulations on child's insurance benefits contain provisions for legitimate and illegitimate children, adopted children, grandchildren, etc.

4. Parent benefits: The parent or parents of a deceased wage earner can be covered on the wage earner's account if the following are met:

a. if the wage earner was fully insured at the time of death;

b. the parent(s) have reach age 62;

c. the parent is not entitled to any retirement benefit that is equal to or larger than the parent's benefit available on the wage earner's account; and

d. the parent was receiving at least one-half support form the wage earner at the time of death of the wage earner.

To learn about proving limitations in a disability claim, click here.

Injuries due to animal bites in the limelight

May 18 is the beginning of the annual National Dog Bite Awareness Week in the United States. Annually, in the United States, at least 4.5 million people suffer injuries after being bitten by dogs, and children make up at least half of this number. It is quite shocking to think so many people are bitten yearly, and the statistics put most of the blame on irresponsible dog owners. Fortunately, Tennessee residents who are bitten have the right to take legal actions against those irresponsible owners.

A number of groups have come together to educate people about responsible conduct with and around dogs. Dog bites are something that can be avoided, which is why the public will receive a variety of tips to help prevent dog bites. Both dog owners and non-owners will be able to benefit from the tips.

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) - Useful Resources

Today, even compared to ten years ago, useful resources for the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or SSI attorney are everywhere. The cost can range from nothing for readily available materials on the internet to hundreds of dollars for multi-volume treatises. Apart from traditional resource material (paper or electronic), an attorney now also has more wide ranging opportunities to connect to other attorneys and professionals practicing disability law or an allied profession. None of the resources mentioned below are meant as an advertisement or endorsement, but are exemplary, with the realization that many more probably exist that are equally good.

I always recommend one book to those that are going to represent disability claimant. The book is Social Security Laws published by West Group and is a compilation of selected statutes and regulations. Although almost all of the material can be found on the internet in some form or fashion, this relatively inexpensive book has most of the statutes and regulations in one place that an attorney is going to need to handle 80% of his or her cases. It is easy to take to hearings and can be marked up, tabbed, highlighted, etc. making it very user friendly. I once had an ALJ remark to me that he breathes a little easier when the attorney walks in with the Social Security Laws.

A rudimentary understanding of medicine is necessary for a disability attorney. More and more this information can be cheaply found online, but there still is a place in the paper library for medical treatises. Some examples are The Merck Manual, Stedman's, Tabor's, Attorney's Dictionary of Medicine, or Dorland's Illustrated Medical Dictionary. Also, a medical Abbreviations book is always handy. Diagnostic & Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (DSM-V) - American Psychiatric Association.

As a social security attorney's volume grows, serious consideration should be given to a multi-volume treatise. These treatises (and their yearly supplements) can be pricey, but they usually cover everything and anything involved in a social security disability practice.

Thought can be given to the Dictionary of Occupational Titles, but, in all honesty, this is something that the electronic based systems have surpassed in ease of use. There is also The Revised Handbook for Analyzing Jobs from the Department of Labor, Standard Occupational Classification Manual, The Transitional Classification of Jobs, and Occupational Employment Quarterly II.

As with everything in life, technology has changed the way attorneys practice Social Security Disability law. In fact, most files are now fully electronic and can be accessed on ERE along with the representative report. In my belief, technology has lowered the cost of valuable information and streamlines representation.

Vocational information is an area where technological resources are abundant. There are computer programs such as OccuBrowse, OASYS, Westlaw's Social Security CD Library, Job Browser Pro.

For more information on applying for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), click here.

 

Authorities join in prayer after horrific Tennessee car wreck

Tennessee authorities are still investigating the cause of an accident that led the first responders remove their hats and bow their heads - perhaps in prayer. The tragic car wreck led to the death of six people, and injuries to three others. An infant was among the deceased.

The accident happened on a recent Thursday evening in early May at approximately 10 p.m. just outside of Knoxville in Blount County. According to reports, the driver of an SUV suddenly crossed the center line of the highway and hit an oncoming minivan head on. The SUV driver was the sole occupant in the vehicle, but there were eight people in the minivan.

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) - Offset

When a person is receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, the monthly amounts can affect or be affected by other benefits or amounts recovered under other federal, state, and/or private benefit policies. Of course, monthly SSDI benefits can affect a person's eligibility for SSI benefits under the federal statutes or can at least reduce those amounts to a smaller amount. Since SSI is a needs-based calculation, it does not matter where the assets come from so Title II benefits definitely can affect that calculation.

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits can also affect how much a person receives under a private or employer-based long-term disability plan. The effects of disability money on each plan is different due to the fact that they are separately written contracts, but usually there is an awfully large offset for Social Security Disability benefits received and then claimant receives only a small monthly amount.

As far as workers' compensation, some states reduce the amount of state workers' compensation benefits provided if the claimant has been deemed disabled under Social Security Disability. There is a calculation and offset that considers the amount received from Social Security and the amount to be received under the state workers' compensation system and it is therefore correspondingly lowered. Tennessee, however, is not a state that allows for workers' compensation insurance companies to benefit from a claimant's Social Security Disability. Tennessee does allow for language to be placed into workers' compensation settlements and judgments to protect from a corresponding offset of Social Security Disability benefits.

The Social Security Administration does not want to put a worker in a position where he earns more by not working than he would if he returned to the job pool. Therefore, the regulations contain a regulation that have a calculation that looks at total monthly benefit and reduces disability benefits if a certain threshold is met. This is commonly called the Social Security Offset and it usually applies to workers' compensation benefits paid periodically or considered to be paid periodically.

What about Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and unemployment?  Click here

To claim for workers' compensation, do I need a lawyer?

One would think that getting the compensation you are entitled to after a workplace injury should happen without any hassle, but this is not always true. Injured workers may find that if their claim is handled incorrectly they do not receive the full benefits they are entitled to, or they may even receive nothing. If you are injured at your workplace in Tennessee, you may benefit from consulting with an attorney to help you with your workers' compensation claim to ensure you receive the full benefits due to you.

The duty to file a claim for compensation after an injury lies with the injured worker. You have to file the claim directly with the relevant agency in your state. You also have to inform your employer of the injury in writing without any delay. If you do not report an injury, it may lead to your claim being denied.

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) - Unemployment

Often applicants for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) receive Unemployment Insurance (UI) benefits and questions arise as to problems this situation may present. Both programs have different definitions and thus receipt of UI benefits is not necessary contradictory. Currently, the Social Security Administration (SSA) has the policy described below.

Receipt of UI benefits is a factor to be considered, but it is not determinative of a Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) Claimant's ability to perform substantial gainful activity (SGA). "Receipt of unemployment benefits does not preclude the receipt of Social Security disability benefits. The receipt of unemployment benefits is only one of many factors that must be considered in determining whether the claimant is disabled. See 20 CFR 404.1512(b) and 416.912(b)." A person can qualify for SSDI or SSI benefits even though he or she remains capable of performing some work. Application for UI benefits is evidence a judge can consider together will all of the medical and other evidence. The judge should look at the totality of the circumstances in determining the significance of the application for UI benefits and related efforts to obtain employment.

In other SSDI or SSI news, read here about the SSA's new policy on submission of evidence.

Car accident involving uninsured driver may be thing of the past

Since 1977, drivers in Tennessee have been legally required to have proof of liability insurance. According to the legislation, drivers had to be insured for specified minimum levels of liability, varying from $15,000 for property damage to $50,000 in the case of multiple deaths or injuries. Unfortunately, the fine a driver can face for driving without insurance is currently only $100. The relatively small fine has led to a situation in which 23 percent of the Tennessee driver population carries no liability insurance. Lawmakers hope that proposed changes to legislation will decrease car accident involvement by uninsured drivers.

Legislators are waiting for the state's governor to sign the James Lee Atwood Jr. bill into law. The bill carries the name of a victim of a car wreck killed by an uninsured driver in 2014. The uninsured driver was pulled over by traffic authorities during July of last year and received a citation for driving without insurance, but the officers could not keep him from driving. Seven hours later he crashed into James Lee Atwood Jr., killing him. He still did not have insurance.

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) - Wait Times and Approval Rates

Time for the updated on the average processing times and approval rates for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) cases at the hearing level. You can click here to review the March update and compare. Please remember that these statistics are only for claims pending at the hearing level or Office of Disability Adjudication and Review. The claims at a hearing office have already been through the Application and Reconsideration steps.

Nationally:

· Average processing time: 432 days

· 44% cases approved

Knoxville, Tennessee:

· Average processing time: 540 days

· 48% cases approved

Chattanooga, Tennessee:

· Average processing time: 519 days

· 60% cases approved

Kingsport, Tennessee:

· Average processing time: 339 days

· 57% cases approved

Nashville, Tennessee

· Average processing time: 497 days

· 45% cases approved

Franklin, Tennessee

· Average processing time: 454 days

· 51% cases approved

Middlesboro, Kentucky

· Average processing time: 410 days

· 44% cases approved

The hearing office staff work hard and understand the frustrations of the claimants and representatives, but they are hamstrung by the workload and budgetary restraints.

A 67-year-old man fatally injured in Tennessee car wreck

The Tennessee Highway Patrol responded to a fatal accident involving a van and an SUV on a recent mid-April Wednesday. Two other people were injured in the car wreck.  According to the report, the two vehicles collided head-on at approximately 2:30 p.m.

It is reported that a NET Trans vehicle was southbound, when a northbound SUV crossed over into the opposite lane and hit the van head-on. Emergency personnel requested that emergency helicopters assist with the transportation of the injured. Unfortunately, bad weather made it impossible for the helicopters to take off.

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