Last week the Social Security Administration Office of the Inspector General (“OIG”) issued their Semiannual Report to Congress. It summarizes their auditing activities within the last six months and provides statistics on their investigations.
Does it seem like there are a lot of Continuing Disability Reviews in California? It is because there are. The OIG has a unit called Cooperative Disability Investigations (“CDI”) in which they work with State Disability Determination Services (“DDS”) and local law enforcement to identify and resolve issues of fraud and abuse in continuing disability claims. The OIG received 570 allegations in California alone, more than in any other state. Of those cases, 183 of them were denied. I.e., benefits were terminated. The OIG estimated that this resulted in a $12,505,334 savings to SSA. So interestingly, less than half of them resulted in benefits being terminated but would explain why it seems we are seeing many continuing disability reviews. (See p. 21 of the report.) (It should be noted that these statistics reflect only those allegations that the OIG acted upon. SSA conducts more that are not initiated by OIG.) Continue reading
I received an inquiry at my San Francisco office from a potential client who is interested in applying for Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) My potential client is poor but his partner makes a lot of money and supports him. (I will call my potential client, “Jim.”) Jim and his partner are registered domestic partners in the State of California.
I was not concerned about the medical evidence when I received this call. What I first wondered was whether Jim was financially eligible. In order to be eligible for SSI, an individual must have a low income and few assets. Specifically, an individual cannot have more than $2,000 in resources. When an individual is married, the resources of his spouse are deemed to be his. A married couple may have up to $3,000 in resources and still be eligible for SSI.
The only good feature about the Defense of Marriage Act, (“DOMA”), is that it actually helps in a case like this in an odd way. DOMA states that the federal government recognizes marriage as between a man and a woman. Since the Social Security Administration is a federal agency, they only recognize this definition of a “married” couple. Homosexual couples are not considered married and thus the deeming provisions do not apply. Jim will be treated as a single individual even though he is in a domestic partnership. Although I want DOMA to be declared unconstitutional, for Jim ‘s purpose the current law is helpful. Because Jim is not married, the Social Security Administration does not deem his partner’s income to him. So although he and his partner are living like a married couple, the fact that their marriage is not recognized makes Jim eligible for SSI.
Even though Jim is eligible to apply, he most likely will not receive very much. If Jim is approved for SSI, the value of food and housing that he receives from his partner, may reduce his overall benefit amount.
At lesat once a week I receive an inquiry from someone wondering if they will lose their SSI if their SSI if they work a few hours. The answer is that Social Security does not look at the number of hours you work but rather how much you earn. Essentially you cannot earn more than $1000.00 a month if you wish to keep your SSI. If you are blind, the amount is $1640.00. I have posted a Fact Sheet for 2011published by Social Security which contains all of the numbers for 2011.
If you think you would like to try working again but do not want to lose your SSI, Social Secuirty has a program called Ticket to Work which can help you try and re-enter the work force without losing your benefits during your attempt.