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Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Social Security Adds New Conditions to Fast Track Disabilitty Approval Process

In July, the Social Security Administration announced that its new "Compassionate Allowances Conditions Fast Track Disability Process" will expand to include 100 Conditions.   Social Security Commissioner Michael J. Astrue, announced 12 additional Compassionate Allowances conditions involving severe heart diseases, bringing the total number of conditions in the expedited disability process to 100.

Compassionate Allowances are a way to quickly identify diseases and other medical conditions that, by definition, meet Social Security’s standards for disability benefits. These conditions primarily include certain cancers, adult brain disorders, and a number of rare disorders that affect children. “We have reached a significant milestone for the Compassionate Allowances program,” Commissioner Astrue said. “We have an obligation to award benefits quickly to people whose medical conditions are so serious they clearly meet our disability standards. We are now able to do precisely that for 100 severe conditions.”

The Compassionate Allowances initiative is one of two parts of the agency’s fast-track system for certain disability claims. When combined with the Quick Disability Determination process, Social Security last year approved more than 100,000 cases, usually in less than two weeks. This year, the agency expects to fast-track nearly 150,000 cases. Social Security has held seven public hearings and worked with experts to develop the list of Compassionate Allowances conditions. The hearings also have helped the agency identify additional ways to improve the disability process for applicants with Compassionate Allowances conditions. “By definition, these illnesses are so severe that we don’t need to fully develop the applicant’s work history to make a decision,” said Commissioner Astrue. As a result, beginning in August, Social Security is eliminating this part of the application process for people who have a condition on the list.  For more information on the Compassionate Allowances initiative, see

For assistance with your Social Security Disability or SSI claim, call Clearwater / Tampa Disability Lawyer John V. Tucker at (866) 282-5260.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Could Proposed Pentagon Plan to Start Military Retirement At Normal Retirement Age Impact VA Disability Claims?

CBS News is reporting that a Pentagon study is suggesting that one budgetary fix that may help ease deficits is to move the starting date for military retirement pension payments back to normal retirement age.  The report on CBS' webpage states, the "plan, laid out in a 24-page presentation "Modernizing the Military Retirement System," would eliminate the familiar system under which anyone who serves 20 years is eligible for retirement at half their salary. Instead, they'd get a 401k-style plan with government contributions."

I have not had the chance to review the Pentagon report yet.  However, I wonder if they considered the impact on VA disability claims if they implement this suggested system.  It seems likely that more long-term service members would be sure to report their service-connected medical conditions before they left service in an effort to collect VA service-connected compensation in the absence of their pension.  Just wondering...

Copyright (c) 2010, 2011 by John V. Tucker and Tucker & Ludin, P.A. All rights reserved. For assistance with your Long Term Disability claim, ERISA Disability benefit claim, Social Security Disability claim, or Veterans Disability compensation or pension claim, call Tampa, Florida Disability Lawyer John Tucker at (866) 282-5260.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Excellent Tips to Help You Get the Most Out of Your 401k

Occasionally, I offer information on this blog outside of the topic of disability area that I think may be helpful.  A large part of our practice involves ERISA, the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974.  ERISA is the federal law that regulates your employee benefits if you work (or worked) for a private (non-government or church) employer. We have many clients that come to us with pension and 401k issues.  Recently, offered a very interesting article on key mistakes that employees make with their 401k plans.

Forbes' contributor, Michael Chamberlain, offers the following list of mistakes that people often make in relation to the 401k offered by their employer:
  1. Not participating in the plan at all.
  2. Failing to contribute adequate percentages to get the company match.
  3. Not understanding how much needs to be contributed to have the desired retirement income.
  4. If the participant does understand how much should be contributed, failing to put that level into the plan.
  5. Not understanding the level of risk in the investments selected.
  6. Taking too much risk or too little risk with the investments.
  7. Thinking that the “education” provided by the financial services company associated with the plan is investment advice.
  8. Believing that if one target date fund is good, thinking that investing in two or more would be better.
  9. Not understanding the costs of the 401(k).
  10. Putting too much into company stock.
  11. Borrowing from the 401(k).
  12. Cashing out the plan when changing jobs.
  13. Rolling over the 401(k) at retirement into an IRA with a broker-dealer who takes large commissions out of the account on the sale of new investments.
Chamblerlain also points out key mistakes that sponsors (the ERISA term for employers and unions) make that cause problems for 401k plans and their participants.

All in all, it is a short read, but well worth it if you participate in a 401k, have a family member that participates in a 401k or you may be eligible to participate in a 401k.

If you need assistance with an ERISA claim, including pension and 401k problems, please call Florida ERISA Attorney John Tucker at (866) 282-5260.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Gulf War Syndrome - VA Service Connection

Gulf War Veterans' Illnesses: Medically Unexplained Chronic Multisymptom Illnesses
A prominent condition affecting Gulf War Veterans is a cluster of medically unexplained chronic symptoms that can include fatigue, headaches, joint pain, indigestion, insomnia, dizziness, respiratory disorders, and memory problems.
VA does not use the term “Gulf War Syndrome” when referring to “medically unexplained chronic multi-symptom illnesses” reported by Gulf War Veterans. Symptoms vary widely and therefore, do not meet the definition of a syndrome. A syndrome is a group of symptoms that usually occur together and characterize a certain disease or abnormal condition. That is why VA uses the term “medically unexplained chronic multi-symptom illnesses” instead of “Gulf War Syndrome.”

Military Service Connection

Gulf War Veterans who meet the criteria below do not need to prove a connection between their military service and medically unexplained chronic multi-symptom illnesses in order to receive VA disability compensation.
VA presumes certain chronic, unexplained symptoms existing for 6 months or more are related to Gulf War service without regard to cause. These "presumptive" illnesses must have appeared during active duty in the Southwest Asia theater of military operations or by December 31, 2011, and be at least 10 percent disabling. These illnesses include:
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome, a condition of long-term and severe fatigue that is not relieved by rest and is not directly caused by other conditions. Find out more about chronic fatigue syndrome*, treatment, and the latest medical research at Medline Plus.
  • Fibromyalgia, a condition characterized by widespread muscle pain. Other symptoms may include insomnia, morning stiffness, headache, and memory problems. Find out more about fibromyalgia*, treatment, and the latest medical research at Medline Plus.
  • Functional gastrointestinal disorders, a group of conditions marked by chronic or recurrent symptoms related to any part of the gastrointestinal tract. Functional condition refers to an abnormal function of an organ, without a structural alteration in the tissues. Examples include irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), functional dyspepsia, and functional abdominal pain syndrome.
  • Undiagnosed illnesses with symptoms that may include but are not limited to: abnormal weight loss, fatigue, cardiovascular disease, muscle and joint pain, headache, menstrual disorders, neurological and psychological problems, skin conditions, respiratory disorders, and sleep disturbances.
VA’s final rule* specifying that functional gastrointestinal disorders are covered as presumptive illnesses takes effect on August 15, 2011.

Infectious Diseases

VA presumes certain infectious diseases also are related to military service in Southwest Asia or Afghanistan.

VA Benefits for Illnesses Related to Gulf War Service

Eligible Veterans may receive VA disability compensation and health care for illnesses related to their military service.
VA offers eligible Veterans a free Gulf War Registry health exam for possible long-term health problems related to Gulf War service.
Surviving spouses, dependent children and dependent parents of Gulf War Veterans who died as the result of illnesses related to Gulf War service may be eligible for survivors' benefits.

If the VA has denied your claim for service-connected compensation and you are looking for a VA disability attorney, call Disability Lawyer John Tucker at (866) 282-5260. Main office in Clearwater, Florida serving veterans all over the U.S.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

MSN Money Reports Baby Boomers Will Cause Social Security Disability Trust Fund To Run Out of Funds In 2017

Laid off workers, aging baby boomers push Social Security disability to verge of insolvency
 WASHINGTON (AP) — Laid-off workers and aging baby boomers are flooding Social Security's disability program with benefit claims, pushing the financially strapped system toward the brink of insolvency.

Applications are up nearly 50 percent over a decade ago as people with disabilities lose their jobs and can't find new ones in an economy that has shed nearly 7 million jobs.
The stampede for benefits is adding to a growing backlog of applicants — many wait two years or more before their cases are resolved — and worsening the financial problems of a program that's been running in the red for years.

New congressional estimates say the trust fund that supports Social Security disability will run out of money by 2017, leaving the program unable to pay full benefits, unless Congress acts. About two decades later, Social Security's much larger retirement fund is projected to run dry as well.

Much of the focus in Washington has been on fixing Social Security's retirement system. Proposals range from raising the retirement age to means-testing benefits for wealthy retirees. But the disability system is in much worse shape and its problems defy easy solutions.

Original MSN source page:

For assistance with your Long Term Disability claim, ERISA Disability benefit claim, Social Security Disability claim, or Veterans Disability compensation or pension claim, call Disability Lawyer John Tucker at (866) 282-5260.

Legal Guides From John Tucker on Selected Disability Topics