Monthly Archives: October 2013

Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA) Information for 2014

Byron David Conway Florence 4

Monthly Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits for nearly 63 million Americans will increase 1.5 percent in 2014.

The 1.5 percent cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) will begin with benefits that more than 57 million Social Security beneficiaries receive in January 2014. Increased payments to more than 8 million SSI beneficiaries will begin on December 31, 2013.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA)?
The purpose of the COLA is to ensure that the purchasing power of Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits is not eroded by inflation. It is based on the percentage increase in the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W) from the third quarter of the last year a COLA was determined to the third quarter of the current year. If there is no increase, there can be no COLA.

Who determines the CPI-W?
The CPI-W is determined by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in the Department of Labor. By law, it is the official measure used by the Social Security Administration to calculate COLAs.

Will the maximum taxable earnings amount change in 2014?
Yes. Based on the increase in average wages, the maximum amount of earnings subject to the Social Security tax (taxable maximum) will increase to $117,000 from $113,700.

Will the retirement earnings test exempt amounts change in 2014?
Yes. The earnings limit for workers who are younger than “full” retirement age (age 66 for people born in 1943 through 1954) will be $15,480. (We deduct $1 from benefits for each $2 earned over $15,480.)

The earnings limit for people turning 66 in 2014 will be $41,400. (We deduct $1 from benefits for each $3 earned over $41,400 until the month the worker turns age 66.) There is no limit on earnings for workers who are “full” retirement age or older for the entire year.

Will my Medicare premiums increase in 2014?
Information about Medicare changes for 2014 is available at http://www.Medicare.gov.

How long has Social Security had COLAs?
Congress enacted the COLA provision as part of the 1972 Social Security Amendments, and automatic annual COLAs began in 1975. Before that, benefits were increased only when Congress enacted special legislation.

(from ssa.gov)

How to Determine If You Need a Lawyer for Your Car Accident Case

Byron David Conway Florence 3Property Damage Cases
As a general rule, if you suffered no personal injuries, you should be able to settle your case with the opposing insurance adjuster for approximately the same amount of money that an attorney could obtain for you. In this type of case, you are entitled to money to repair or replace your car and for the use of a rental vehicle until your car is repaired or replaced.

Minor Injury Cases
If your case involves personal injuries, a more detailed analysis is required. If the injures are minor and you fully recover from the injuries in a few days, you probably do not need an attorney. Minor injuries are ones that result in less than a $1,000.00 in medical bills.

Major Injury Cases
If your case involves anything more than property damage and minor injuries, it is likely that you will benefit by hiring an attorney. Most people do not typically have the necessary negotiation skills, knowledge of the law and experience in evaluating damages to obtain a fair settlement value for major injury cases. As such, when negotiating with an insurance adjuster, non-lawyers are at a distinct disadvantage. Do not be misled by the adjuster’s statements that hiring an attorney will reduce your net settlement or delay payment for your claim. The insurance industries own statistics do not support these statements. In 2004, the Insurance Resource Council completed a study that found that people who used an attorney received an average of 3½ times more money in settlement than those individuals who settled on their own. Thus, if you seek to obtain a fair settlement for your injuries, the use of an experienced personal injury lawyer is vitally required.

If you’ve been in an automobile accident, please call The David Law Firm (843-488-1415) for a free case evaluation.

Can I Collect Workers’ Comp for a Job Accident Outside My Normal Job Description?

Byron David ConwayWould you be eligible for Workers’ Comp if you were injured at work while performing a task that is outside of your normal job description? For example, suppose your boss tells you to climb a ladder to re-stock an item, even though stocking merchandise is not part of your regular job, and you fall off the ladder, injuring your back. In South Carolina, a WC claim can be pursued if an injury arose our of and in the course and scope of your employment. Only an experienced Workers’ Compensation lawyer can help determine what benefits can be realistically expected, the time it will take, and the difficulty of the claim.

Generally, WC benefits include:
• medical bills
• time lost from work (with a doctor’s note)
• medications
• medical equipment that is reasonable, authorized, causally related, and by written referral
• mileage to the doctor and pharmacy
• permanent impairment

However, the South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Act does not include benefits for:
• pain and suffering
• discomfort
• inconvenience
• loss of consortium

If you think you have a Workers’ Compensation claim, call The David Law Firm for a free consultation (843-488-1415).

 

Definition of Disability

Byron David ConwayThe definition of disability under Social Security is different than other programs. Social Security pays only for total disability. No benefits are payable for partial disability or for short-term disability.

“Disability” under Social Security is based on your inability to work. We consider you disabled under Social Security rules if:

  • You cannot do work that you did before;
  • We decide that you cannot adjust to other work because of your medical condition(s); and
  • Your disability has lasted or is expected to last for at least one year or to result in death.

This is a strict definition of disability. Social Security program rules assume that working families have access to other resources to provide support during periods of short-term disabilities, including workers’ compensation, insurance, savings and investments.

(from ssa.gov)

What Happens If I Was Hit By Another Driver Without Insurance?

Byron DavidSuppose you are driving home from work one day and are injured after being rear-ended while stopped at a light.  The other driver takes full responsibility for the crash and provides her insurance information.  You think the other driver’s insurance will cover the damage and your medical expenses.  Not so fast.  When you call the other driver’s insurance company, you learn that, in fact, the policy was cancelled a few months earlier.  The driver has no auto insurance.

Now what?  This is where your policy comes into play.  In South Carolina, every auto policy must include Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist coverage.  The minimum amounts under South Carolina law are $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident (regardless of the number of people injured), and $25,000 for property damage.

With this type of insurance, if you are injured by someone with no insurance (or in a “hit and run” accident) then YOUR OWN INSURANCE COMPANY steps into the shoes of the other driver, may defend the claim, and can pay the judgment, up to – and only up to – the limits of coverage you have purchased.

If you’ve been in an auto accident, call The David Law Firm (843-488-1415) to evaluate the insurance policies involved.

Nine Facts That Prove Disability Insurance Isn’t a Giant Boondoggle

courtesy of NOSSCR – written by Rebecca Vallas and Shawn Fremstad

byron david, conway, scOn October 6, 60 Minutes ran a report called “Disability, USA” that relied on anecdotes and misinformation to paint Social Security’s disability programs as wasteful and full of abuse. This comes just a few months after a report on NPR’s Planet Money created a similar picture. Both stories were quickly denounced by fact-checkers and disability advocates as not only misleading and inaccurate, but missing essential facts about the disability programs – they have high standards, low fraud rates, and the benefits are far from cushy. Here are the key facts to understand the Social Security disability programs:

1. The Social Security disability standard is the strictest in the developed world – and most applications are denied. According to the OECD, the U.S. disability benefit system is the most restrictive and least generous of all member countries, except for Korea. Fewer than four in ten applicants are approved, even after all stages of appeal. Beneficiaries have severe impairments and illnesses like cancers, congestive heart failure, kidney failure, multiple sclerosis, emphysema, and severe mental illness. Medical evidence is the cornerstone of the disability determination process, and in most cases, medical evidence from multiple medical professionals is required to establish eligibility.

2. Social Security’s disability programs are highly efficient and experience little fraud. The Social Security Administration’s administrative budget is equal to just about 1.4 percent of benefits paid out each year. The agency’s payment accuracy rates are incredibly high. After making program integrity a top mission, former Social Security Commissioner Michael Astrue, a George W. Bush appointee, estimated that fraud amounts to less than one percent of the disability programs. The agency’s watchdog agrees that fraud is extremely rare.

3. Growth in Disability Insurance was expected and is primarily due to demographics. The program’s growth was projected as far back as the mid 1990s. According to Social Security’s actuaries, most of the growth is due to demographics and other common-sense factors: the baby boomers aging into their high disability years; women’s entrance into the workforce in greater numbers in the 1970s and ‘80s, making them eligible for Disability Insurance based on their prior contributions; and the rise in the Social Security retirement age, which means Disability Insurance beneficiaries continue to receive benefits for longer before converting over to retirement benefits.

4. Growth in the program has little to do with the recession. Experts at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities caution against overstating the role that the recent economic downturn has played in contributing to growth in Disability Insurance, and Social Security’s actuaries estimate that the recession accounts for just five percent of the program’s growth. While application rates tend to rise in down economies, they have a much smaller effect on award rates (the share of applicants who are found eligible to receive benefits). Reflecting that trend, award rates have declined significantly during the recent economic downturn, from 39 percent in FY 2007 to just 33 percent in FY 2011, suggesting that applicants for benefits who did not meet Social Security’s strict disability standard were screened out. A recent study by the agency’s watchdog looked at the 11 highest-unemployment states and found that while application rates had increased, award rates had dropped in all of them.

5. Few beneficiaries are able to work. According to data from just before the onset of the recent economic downturn, some 16.9 percent of disability beneficiaries worked at some point during the year. Of those who worked, fewer than 3 percent earned more than $10,000 during the year – hardly enough to live on. This comes as no surprise given that many beneficiaries are very sick, or even terminally ill – one in five male and one in six female Disability Insurance beneficiaries die within five years of receiving benefits, and beneficiaries are fully three to five times more likely to die than others their age. Further underscoring the strictness of the Social Security disability standard, even workers who have been denied Disability Insurance fare extremely poorly in the labor market. A recent study found that among people whose Disability Insurance applications were denied, the vast majority—70 percent to 80 percent—went on to earn less than $1,000 per month. But for those who are able or want to try to return to work, Social Security’s disability programs are designed to encourage work.

6. Disability benefits are incredibly modest. Disability Insurance benefits average $1,130 a month, just over the austere federal poverty level for a single person, or about $35 per day. Disability Insurance typically replaces less than half of an individual’s previous earnings. Supplemental Security Income benefits average just over $500 per month, about half the federal poverty level and less than $17 per day. For most beneficiaries, disability benefits make up most or all of their income.

7. Social Security’s disability programs keep millions of Americans out of poverty and deep poverty. While Social Security disability benefits are modest, they have a powerful impact. Poverty rates are significantly higher for individuals with significant disabilities but who do not receive Disability Insurance, compared with individuals who have been receiving benefits for at least five years. Likewise, Supplemental Security income makes it possible for 3.4 million Americans to avoid poverty, and lifts millions more out of deep poverty (defined as half the federal poverty level).

8. Social Security’s disability programs are all most Americans have to rely on when illness or injury strikes. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, just one in three private sector workers have access to employer-provided long-term disability insurance, and plans are often less adequate than Social Security. Access is especially limited for low-wage workers—only 7 percent of workers making under $12 an hour have employer-provided plans. For the vast majority of Disability Insurance beneficiaries—about 71 percent—half or more of their income comes from Disability Insurance, and for nearly half of beneficiaries, 90 percent or more of their income comes from Disability Insurance. Most beneficiaries of Supplemental Security Income have no other source of income.

9. We can ensure Social Security’s long-term solvency without cutting benefits. As the baby boomers age into retirement, growth in Disability Insurance has already begun to level off and is projected to decline further in the coming years. The fact that the Disability Insurance Trust Fund will need to be replenished by 2016 is not a new development or an unprecedented one. Congress has “reallocated” payroll tax revenues across the Old Age and Disability trust funds nearly a dozen times, about equally in both directions, to account for demographic shifts – and the last time reallocation was performed (in 1994), actuaries accurately projected that reallocation would again be necessary in 2016. As it has in the past, Congress could reallocate payroll taxes across the two trust funds to ensure that both funds would remain solvent until 2033. Thereafter, several policy options exist for increasing revenue to ensure long-term solvency without cutting already modest benefits. Either modestly increasing the payroll tax rate or eliminating the cap on earnings that are taxed for Social Security, so that the highest five percent of earners pay into Social Security all year long like the bottom 95 percent, would ensure 75-year solvency for the entire Social Security system.

Rebecca Vallas is Deputy Director of Government Affairs at the National Organization of Social Security Claimants’ Representatives and Co-chair of the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities’ Social Security Task Force. Shawn Fremstad is a consultant on social policy and a senior research associate at the Center for Economic and Policy Research.

Can I Work and Still Get Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)?

The David Law FirmThe short answer is Yes, but deserves a bit of explanation.

First, a definition of Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA):  SGA is work that brings in over a certain dollar amount per month ($1,040 in 2013).  The Social Security Administration (SSA) figures if a person is able to earn a certain amount of money (SGA), then he or she must not be disabled and therefore should not collect benefits.

But, SSA allows disabled and injured folks to engage in Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) during what is known as a trial work program.

trial work program is a 9 month period during which an injured or disabled individual is actually encouraged to try to do work within his or her physical and mental limitations.  The trial period gives the worker 9 months to test out his or her ability to work — without the worry that benefits will be cut off as he or she tests the waters, so to speak.  Any month during which a worker earns $750 or more (or if self employed works 80 hours or more OR earns $750) is considered a trial work month.

Call The David Law Firm (843-488-1415) to evaluate your specific disability options.

Government Shutdown

Byron David

IMPORTANT INFORMATION ABOUT THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN

Due to the Federal Government Shutdown, Social Security field offices are open with limited services. Hearings offices remain open to conduct hearings before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). Social Security card centers are closed.

Social Security and Supplemental Security Income payments to beneficiaries will continue with no change in payment dates.

Due to Congressional inaction to prevent the Government shutdown, SSA will only provide the following services at Social Security field offices:

  1. Help you apply for benefits
  2. Assist you in requesting an appeal
  3. Change your address or direct deposit information
  4. Accept reports of death
  5. Verify or change your citizenship status
  6. Replace a lost or missing Social Security payment
  7. Issue a critical payment
  8. Change a representative payee
  9. Process a change in your living arrangement or income (SSI recipients only)

SSA cannot provide the following services:

  1. Issue new or replacement Social Security cards
  2. Replace your Medicare card
  3. Issue a proof of income letter

New Intern

Byron DavidThe David Law Firm is proud to announce and welcome Taylor Griggs as their new Legal Assistant Intern.  A native of Hartsville, Griggs is currently a senior at Coastal Carolina University, majoring in Business Management, and anticipates graduating in May 2014.  She is a member of the Golden Key International Honor Society, Accounting Club and Society of Human Resource Management, all while remaining on the Dean’s List.

Attorney Byron David is pleased to have Griggs as their new intern.  “Taylor has a natural sense of how an office performs and operates.  She is going to be a terrific addition to our team this year and we are grateful to have her,” states David.  As a Legal Assistant at The David Law Firm, she will control phone operations, scheduling, scanning and miscellaneous legal tasks; she will also aid in creating legal documents and assisting in court preparations.  Welcome, Taylor!

ATTORNEY BYRON P. DAVID INSTALLED AS PRESIDENT OF CONWAY KIWANIS CLUB

Byron David Conway

The David Law Firm is pleased to announce that Attorney Byron P. David has been installed as President of the Conway Kiwanis Club.  Mr. David states, “I am humbled to be elected and serve.  I think it is important to be involved in the community and always do what you can to make it a better place.”  Mr. David plans to implement new fundraising ideas and promote the club to attract new members.  “We plan to be very involved with the community this year,” says David.  “I want to get our fundraising up so that we can contribute more to the children and do what we can to make Conway the best it can be.”  Mr. David’s term ends September 30, 2014.