The Recency Element of Past Relevant Work

 

Social Security will deny a disability claim if they find the claimant can do “Past Relevant Work” (PRW), either as it was actually performed or as that type of work is generally performed based on the appropriate Dictionary of Occupational Titles code.[1] In order for a prior job to be PRW it must meet three elements: Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA), Duration and Recency.[2]

  1. SGA

This element is satisfied if the work met the definition of SGA under 20 CFR Sections 404.1571-404.1575 and 416.971-416.975.

  1. Duration

This element is satisfied if the job lasted long enough for the claimant to have learned the skills necessary to resume that type of work and achieve average performance without significant re-training.

  1. Recency

This element is met if the job was performed within the 15 years prior to the date of adjudication or the Date Last Insured, whichever comes first. The scope of this period may be extended if there is a continuity of skills, knowledge and processes that can be established between such work and the claimant’s more recent work. However, the scope of this period may not be shortened.

In the interest of certainty, Social Security has formulated rules for decision-makers to follow. Some rules seem “black and white” and I often tell my clients “Social Security has to draw the line somewhere.” However, in certain cases, these rules would produce an unfair result when the exact language of the rule is not matched but the underlying rational behind the rule is present. For most of these rules Social Security has created exceptions that prevent unfair results. For example, there are several exceptions to the SGA guidelines, including the subsidized work environment[3] and the unsuccessful work attempt.[4] In the context of the Grid rules, Social Security acknowledges that in some cases it would be unfair for the rules to change overnight when the claimant reaches a certain age, so the borderline age situation was developed.[5] In the context of transferrable skills, Social Security recognizes that as a claimant gets older, obtaining employment would be increasingly more difficult unless only a minimal amount of adjustment is required, such that the claimant could be expected to perform “at a high degree of proficiency with a minimal amount of job orientation.”[6]

These concepts should be applied to the PRW 15 year rule. For example, take an individual of advanced age (55-60), who worked in manual labor for the last 14 years but is now reduced to the sedentary exertional level. The Grid rules would ordinarily direct a finding of disability.[7] However, if this individual worked as a telemarketer for three months 14.5 years ago, the Grid rules would direct a denial (unless other limitations prevent the claimant from doing that work). In this case, using the rational above, vocational analysis of PRW should address whether any significant changes have occurred in telemarketing work since the claimant last performed it. This might reveal two things: First, that there are currently comparable jobs available but in fewer numbers. Second, that despite the claimant’s prior work experience, telemarketing is so different now that the knowledge from this experience is obsolete and the claimant would need to be completely retrained. In this case, the rational behind the recency element is not met, and telemarketing should not be found to be PRW.

This could be a critical issue in your Disability case. Consider a free consultation with a disability attorney who is familiar with these rules and regulations.

 

By Charles Sagert

[1] 20 CFR § 404.1560; SSR 82-62.

[2] SSR 82-62.

[3] SSR 83-33.

[4] SSR 05-02.

[5] 20 CFR § 404.1563(b); HALLEX II-5-3-2.

[6] SSR 82-41.

[7] 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 2.

Social Security Disability Insurance and Social Security Insurance are the two benefit programs that a disabled person can submit a claim for. While both benefit programs are for disabled individuals, they slightly differ in the requirements. Social Security Insurance(SSI) are for individuals who have not worked but are disabled and have little to no income or resources. Social Security Disability Insurance(SSDI) are for individuals that paid FICA taxes over many years. So for this program, you do not need to meet income limits in order to qualify. A finding of disability and the required work earnings are sufficient.

It may have been a long and frustrating road to get to this point but you are finally here. Your decision, may it be fully or partially favorable is now a reality. You are given back your independence and now know that you will have the ability to pay bills and buy the things that you need. Now, you’re wondering how long will it take to get your money. Unfortunately, you may have to wait another 1-3 months before you receive your first payment.

Social Security Supplemental Income(SSSI) will consider your resources such as spousal income, cash, bank accounts, stocks personal property, vehicles, life insurance, and anything that can be exchanged for cash. Social Security Disability Insurance(SSDI) will consider other employment or disability money received during the time your claim was pending such as, unemployment benefits, workers’ compensation, or long term or short term disability payments. Social Security will have to verify all sources of income before sending you your first check. However, being upfront and having these documents readily available could be of benefit in terms of speeding up this process.

 

For more information, please contact the attorneys at Hoglund, Chwialkowski, & Mrozik PLLC.

By Shana Knotts

Chapter 13 bankruptcies have a minimum commitment period of three years and a maximum of five years. This means that the repayment plan in a Chapter 13 will last somewhere between three and five years. A number of considerations determine this.

The first consideration is whether a debtor is below or above the median income. The median income is the median income for the household size of the debtor in the state the debtor lives in. If the debtor is below the median income, the debtor can elect a three-year plan. If the debtor is above the median income, then the debtor must have a five-year plan.

If the debtor is below the median income, the debtor may choose to enter a repayment plan that lasts longer than three years. For example, if the debtor is filing a Chapter 13 in order to pay mortgage arrears and stop a foreclosure, then debtor may elect to file a five-year plan. The debtor may choose this to keep the payment in the Chapter 13 more affordable. All mortgage arrears must be paid back in full over the course of the plan. Stretching the plan over 5 years would allow for a lower payment in some circumstances. The debtor could also elect to have the plan duration be any number of months between 36 (three years) or 60 (five years).

 

By Kris Whelchel

When attorneys meet clients for social security disability cases, they usually have a lot of questions.  First question usually is, how long does the social security disability process take?

It is important for the social security disability attorney to explain each stage separately and that on average, a client will likely end up at hearing before being approved, if they are ever approved.  This will take over two years.

It is important that clients are aware this is normal and having low income or significant pain or difficulties will not speed their case up.  Getting an attorney in general does not speed the process up, but the proper attorney will make sure appeal deadlines are not missed, that all the medical records are ordered and received, and that the claimant is prepared when the hearing time comes.  This is primarily why it is prudent to hire an attorney.  Clients need to have realistic expectations of this long process.

Another frequently asked question is can I work?  Although attorney can quickly explain SGA limits, which is currently $1,130 before taxes, it is important to go beyond that, and discuss that this is an inquiry to be made with their doctor. Discuss working restrictions from a physical and mental aspect with their doctor beyond just the allowable dollar amount from social security is prudent.  Attorneys know that this is a long process and people need to get by, but these questions need to be discussed with counsel and a doctor to make the most informed decisions.

Client communication is an ethical obligation and an important aspect of effective representation in a social security disability case.  For example, an attorney cannot be effective if the claimant does not give the attorney all of their medical sources and symptoms of their conditions, and a client cannot be helpful if they are not made aware of how the process works and what the social security looks at.  Communication is key to obtaining benefits.

 

By Joshua Tripp

Many people applying for Social Security disability have financial obligations that are put on hold during the determination process. One of these affecting more and more applicants are student loan payments. If you are approved for Social Security disability, you may be eligible to have these loans discharged. The U.S. Department of Education has a fairly simple process for determining disability, and once you meet their standards, your federal student loans may be discharged. Private loans are typically not eligible for this process, and you would need to contact your individual loan company to find if you are eligible for any other disability discharge.

After Social Security finds you disabled, make a copy of the determination letter laying out your benefits as well as when your next disability review date is, typically scheduled for five to seven years after the approval. Submit this letter to the Department of Education, along with the other forms required, available on their web site, www.disabilitydischarge.com. They may temporarily suspend your loan payments while deciding whether you qualify for loan discharge.

Once the discharge is approved, there are other requirements that must be met, such as your income must remain below a certain level, you may not apply for any other federal student loans, or you must continue to be disabled under Social Security’s rules. If these are not met, the loans may be reinstated. Keep in mind you may be responsible for any tax burden related to the discharge of the loans. Typically, the discharged loan amount is reported to the IRS, and may be considered income to you, the tax payer.

If your disability case is pending with Social Security, then you may be able to apply for a loan discharge before they find you disabled. If you have a supportive doctor that is willing to complete the necessary certification paperwork, showing that your condition may either result in death, has lasted for a continuous period more than 60 months, or can be expected to last more than 60 months, this may be sufficient for the Department of Education to discharge your loans. The same post-approval requirements would apply.

If you are receiving Disability Income or Supplemental Security Income from Social Security, and your federal loans are approved for discharge, this will not affect the benefits you receive.

When applying for Social Security Benefits, you will need to fill out the initial application to get your claim started. On this initial application, you will put in the start date of your disability. This date is known as your Alleged Onset Date. It is a date that Social Security will use to build your case.  Sometimes it may not be as easy to pinpoint this date. However, it is strongly recommended that you try and choose as close of a date to when your condition(s) begin to worsen. There are many signs that lead up to figuring this date. One example would be a decrease in your work hours or having to end your employment. It is good to keep a journal of any major medical events that have affected your daily routine. Also, it is important that you speak to your doctor about any disruptions that you are experiencing in you daily routines due to ongoing symptoms. The more information you have in your medical records, the more of a benefit it will be to you when choosing you Alleged Onset Date.

Social Security does not always agree with the date that you have chosen. If Social Security chooses a different date, it will be a later date. Your medical records may support a different date of disability. The change in the Alleged Onset Date (AOD) by Social Security is known as the Established Onset Date (EOD). The newly Established Onset Date (EOD) chosen by Social Security may affect the amount of backpay that you receive. You can Appeal this decision if you do not agree with the date that Social Security has chosen. Having an expert to assist you through the process would help you avoid mistakes.

 

Please contact one of our attorneys at Hoglund, Chwialkowski, Mrozik, PLLC. today for more information.

If you received a lawsuit document indicating the creditor is attempting to sue you, it can be a worrisome situation. When you receive the initial complaint, it indicates a law firm is representing the creditor to further pursue their claim against you.

The first step in the process is for the creditor to serve you with a “Summons and Complaint” document indicating the nature of the lawsuit. In the paperwork, it will set forth the factual allegations and legal complaints against you. They can “serve” the lawsuit on you in one of two ways:

  • by delivering it to you personally or leaving it at your home with a person of suitable age and discretion; or
  • by mail, if you agreed in writing to accept service of the Summons and Complaint by mail and signs a form that indicates your acceptance.

 

If you wish to contest the lawsuit, you need to serve the creditor’s attorney with a form called an “Answer.” If you do not provide the Answer in the time period of 20 days, the creditor may enter a default judgment against you which allows them to take further action.

There are several defenses against the lawsuit; however, not being able to afford to pay the debt is not a defense. Some of the available defenses are: improper service, statute of limitations, FDCPA violations, lack of standing, proof of payment, fraud, mistaken identity and lastly bankruptcy.

Filing bankruptcy is a protection against a lawsuit served upon you and can be used as a defense to stop any further action. When you receive any lawsuit document, it is important to consult with an attorney who can give you advice about your specific situation. One of our experienced bankruptcy attorneys can sit down with you and review the lawsuit to give you the best advice towards your next steps.

 

By Ann Hagerty

Your credit score will take a hit after filing a chapter 7 bankruptcy. If your score was low before you filed, the drop will not be as significant as if your score is high. The fact that you filed bankruptcy will show up on your credit score for about 10 years, but that alone is not going to keep you from getting that new car, apartment, house, etc. Needless to say, the fact that you filed and a drop in your credit score is not the end of the financial world. The key is what you choose to do after the bankruptcy. Rebuild.

Filing your chapter 7 bankruptcy will the stop the bleeding in the injuries caused by your debt. As soon as your case is filed the creditors stop calling, wage garnishments and bank levies come to an end, foreclosure or repossession actions come to a halt, and minimal payments are no longer required.  Once the stress of creditor harassment comes to an end, it is time to rebuild your credit. This is an endeavor we do not want you to undertake alone. Our office works with the 720 Credit Score program to help our clients rebuild towards their financial goals after filing. 720 Credit Score is a seven step program that guarantees your credit score will be 720 or higher within 12-24 months after receiving your chapter 7 discharge. Call us today to set up an appointment and learn more about this program.

What if I Don’t Fit Exactly Into Disability’s Age Caegories? by Scott Bowers

In order to receive Social Security disability benefits, the Social Security Administration (SSA) must find that you are unable to do a full time job due to your medical conditions. The general rule is that they cannot consider whether someone will hire you, or whether you can find a job. However, because the SSA recognizes that older workers may have more trouble adapting to new types of employment, it will consider factors other than just your medical conditions when you reach a certain age.

            The SSA groups disability claimants into 4 basic categories:

1. Younger individuals (18 through 49)

2. Closely approaching advanced age (50 to 54)

3. Advanced age (55 and over), and

4. Closely approaching retirement age (60 and over)

If you are in the first age group, the SSA will not consider you disabled if you are capable of ANY kind of work, including sedentary, unskilled work (i.e., simple jobs that do not require lifting over 10 pounds, or standing/walking for prolonged periods of time). However, if you are in the closely approaching advanced age, you could still be found disabled even if you are able to do sedentary work, depending on your education and past work experience.

            However, what happens if you are about to turn 50 in a few months, but have serious medical issues that limit your ability to work? Luckily, the SSA recognizes that you do not just instantly become disabled the day you turn 50. Thus, if you are within a few days or few months of changing age categories, the SSA may deem you to be older than you are. However, there are some rules to this, and it does not happen automatically.

            First, “within a few days to a few months” does not have an exact definition, but it does mean a period of less than 6 months. Thus, if you are 53, the SSA will not consider moving you to the advanced age category.

            Second, there must be a “borderline age situation.” This means that in addition to being close to the next age category, using your actual age would result in a denial AND moving you to the next category would result in an approval. For example, if you are able to do light work (i.e., some standing and some sitting, and lifting up to 20 pounds occasionally), and you are 3 months from your 50th birthday, you would be denied in either age category.

            Lastly, there are 4 factors that must be considered:

1. Time period

2. Education

3. Past relevant work (PRW)

4. Residual functional capacity (RFC)

There are many considerations that go into arguing these factors (i.e., they cannot be double weighed – that is if education is already factored when deciding if it is a borderline age situation, it cannot again be a factor when considering an allowance). Thus, it is always recommended that you seek the help of an attorney for your disability claim.

In order to receive Social Security disability benefits, the Social Security Administration (SSA) must find that you are unable to do a full time job due to your medical conditions. The general rule is that they cannot consider whether someone will hire you, or whether you can find a job. However, because the SSA recognizes that older workers may have more trouble adapting to new types of employment, it will consider factors other than just your medical conditions when you reach a certain age.

The SSA groups disability claimants into 4 basic categories:

  1. Younger individuals (18 through 49)
  2. Closely approaching advanced age (50 to 54)
  3. Advanced age (55 and over), and
  4. Closely approaching retirement age (60 and over)

 

If you are in the first age group, the SSA will not consider you disabled if you are capable of ANY kind of work, including sedentary, unskilled work (i.e., simple jobs that do not require lifting over 10 pounds, or standing/walking for prolonged periods of time). However, if you are in the closely approaching advanced age, you could still be found disabled even if you are able to do sedentary work. At this age category, the SSA decision-maker will look, with the help of a vocational expert (i.e., an expert on jobs and employment related matters), to see whether you have skills that could be used in sedentary work. These skills could come from your education (i.e., a college degree or vocational training), or your past work (i.e., whether you had the power to hire and fire employees, set schedules, or do bookkeeping). If you do have skills, you would be found not disabled. If you do not have skills, you would be found disabled. When you are in the next age categories, you can still be found disabled if you do not have skills that would transfer to light work, even if you are capable of that type of work (i.e., jobs that involve lifting up to 20 pounds, and standing/walking about half the day, and sitting the other half).

There are also other ways to prove that skills are not transferable, even if you do have them. One way is if you have a severe psychological condition that would prevent you from doing skilled work. Due to the complicated nature of these rules, it is always a good idea to hire an experienced disability attorney to help you navigate this complex system.

 

By Scott J. Bowers