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Archive for August, 2012

Social Security Goes Electronic

social security statementsGone are the days of paper statements. Just about every financial institution has done away with sending paper statements in the mail and, now, so has the Social Security Administration.  From earnings statements to disability insurance checks, the SSA has gone electronic for most transactions.

Virtual Access

Up until last year, Social Security recipients received their tax earnings statements in the mail. Displaying estimated retirement, survivor and disability benefits, and this statement is an important piece of documentation come tax time. In an effort to cut costs, the SSA has decided to streamline their communications process with recipients, making this information available online.

The new Social Security Statement tool allows users to access their information at anytime. Recipients can find information about estimated benefits under the disability and retirement programs, estimate benefit amounts for eligible family members, view their lifetime earnings to date, and even see the amount of estimated Social Security and Medicare taxes paid over the course of their working career. Further, this user interface allows access to information about how to sign up for benefits and even apply for benefits with the click of a button.



Applying For Disability Benefits

disability applicationThe Social Security benefits process is a tedious one. Anyone who has ever tried to apply for benefits knows just how frustrating the process can be, especially when it comes to Social Security Disability. However, there are a few ways to boost your chances of receiving benefits and eliminate some of the common hassles associated with the process.

Boosting Benefit Chances

First, know if you qualify. Disability benefits are based on the status of a medical condition and whether or not you have paid adequate taxes in the past, which means that not everyone who is assumed to qualify actually does. While there is no set list of approved medical conditions for disability benefits, there are some common conditions listed. However, you must still meet additional requirements before becoming eligible for benefits.

Also, start the application process early. This means that if you have recently been diagnosed with a condition that is likely to affect your ability to work, go ahead and submit the paperwork before you suffer financial distress. If your Doctor can verify your condition and you meet eligibility requirements, you may be able to avoid gaps in your income by submitting your application early.

Last, consult with a disability lawyer. These professionals are trained in the benefits application and appeal process, which can greatly improve your chances of successfully obtaining benefits. They can review your documentation and even help you gather the required paperwork to file with the Social Security Administration. If your application is denied, they can file an appeal on your behalf, reducing your wait time.

Medicaid Reimbursement Threatened By Unpaid Taxes

medicaidThe Social Security Administration must continually work to revamp programs and eliminate wasted money. With Social Security Disability and Medicaid funds threatened by the turbulent economy, the pressure is mounting for the SSA to find better ways to provide services for less.

Collecting On Debts

One area of recent focus is cutting Medicaid reimbursements for providers with delinquent tax payments.  A recent study found that there are some widespread problems of tax evasion by health care providers in three states, costing the government nearly $330 million. The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported to Congress that there are nearly 7,000 Medicaid providers are delinquent in their tax payments. These agencies reportedly received $6 billion in Medicaid reimbursement funds since 2009.

The top providers violating their duties to make tax payments were found in Texas, Florida and New York. These Medicaid providers who are found to be behind on their tax debts could face changes to the amount of reimbursement funds they receive. The GAO has recommended that the IRS revisit their collection policies, which could include increased litigation or penalties for non-payment.



Social Security Not-To-Work Program

disabledWhile Social Security Disability benefits provide much needed financial assistance to those who cannot work, many are beginning to criticize their efforts saying it breeds an incentive to not work. As the debate between disability and ability strengthens, some suggest that economic factors may be more to blame than government assistance programs.

To Work, Or Not To Work

The Social Security Administration offers disability insurance recipients with a chance at returning to work while continuing to receive benefits for a period of time. The Work Incentives Program was designed to help those who may be able to return to work despite their disability do so without having to forfeit their benefits immediately. It provides continued financial and medical insurance assistance while people get back on their feet. However, this program has yet to change the opinions of some who view the system as enabling.

If we look at today’s economy it is no secret that the job market is sparse and stalling. One reason for some disabled not returning to work can be attributed to a lack of employment options. It is hard enough for the non-disabled to get work these days, how can we realistically expect an employer to choose a disabled person for a position? Further, the fruitless job market is breeding a trend in applying for disability benefits once unemployment benefits run out.  When times are tough, people get creative; unfortunately, putting a heavier burden on an already stressed program.

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