Effective June 1, 2011, the office in Great Falls, MT which has been used by the Social Security Administration (SSA) for hearings has been closed. The closure means that people in the area who have filed an appeal for a Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) case will now have to travel to other locations.
Until about a decade ago, most of us knew little about how much money we had contributed to the Social Security Administration (SSA). While our check stubs usually provided year-to-date totals, and our W-2 forms gave us the total amount for the entire calendar year, determining our lifetime contributions to the fund would have required detailed, long-term record keeping.
A Perham, Minnesota man has been charged with fraudulently receiving Social Security Disability benefits. Wayne A. Larson, age 54, had begun receiving benefits in June of 1995. However, Larson returned to work in the construction field in August of 2005 and failed to report this fact to the Social Security Administration (SSA). As a result, he wrongfully received over $24,000 in benefits from the SSA. He could be sentenced to 10 years in prison or a fine or both for each count he faces.
For reasons that are not completely clear, the number of Americans who receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits due to mental illness has increased significantly over the last quarter-century or so. In 1987, 1 in 184 people qualified for benefits; by 2007, that number had increased to 1 in 76, an increase of 284%.
According to a U.S. Government investigator, the Social Security Administration (SSA) paid out $6.5 billion in 2009 to people who were not rightfully entitled to those funds. Roughly two thirds of that were under a program which aims to help the most financially disadvantaged among us. In most cases, these overpayments were because the recipients had income or other assets that were unreported or under-reported. In simpler terms, this really means that the funds were obtained under fraudulent circumstances.
Lawmakers who are part of the legislative subcommittee which oversees Social Security are asking for an investigation into the procedure by which disability payments are authorized. At the center of the controversy is an administrative law judge from Huntington, West Virginia named David B. Daugherty, who in fiscal year 2010 awarded benefits to a whopping 99.7% of the claimants on his case load.
Ora Williams has worked her entire adult life. She raised six children on the income provided by her production job. Unfortunately, she has little to show for it. Her savings, pension and retirements have all been depleted by a year-long fight to receive disability benefits.
Like most of us, Ora trusted that the money which was being withdrawn from every pay check would be there one day when she needed it. She counted on the fact that Social Security would provide exactly that: security. However, it hasn’t worked out that way.
The Social Security Administration (SSA) has been dealing with a significant bottleneck in the hearing process for disability cases for the majority of the last decade. The greatest apparent culprit is the economy, with fewer available dollars translating to reduced staffing and budget cuts.
Each year for nearly a decade, the President’s Budget has fallen dramatically short of what has been requested by the commissioner of the SSA. During most of the same period, the number of pending disability cases has soared to more than three-quarters of a million per year.
June has been named the official ALS Awareness Month by the ALS Association. ALS stands for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, but is better known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. The more familiar term was coined after Major League Baseball player Lou Gehrig’s very public battle with the disease. Gehrig contracted the disease at the age of 36, which ended his career in the Major Leagues and ultimately took his life two years later.