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The Employment and Social Security Disability Blog

Administrative offset may reduce SSDI benefits

Workers with disabilities rely on Social Security to help meet their financial needs. However, the government can withhold Social Security Disability payments and other important benefits under an administrative offset program.

Under this program, the government may apply benefits to pay a recipient's debts such as federal student loans, late taxes and unpaid child support. Money may be taken from SSDI, some other Social Security benefits, tax refunds, federal wages, retirement and military pay, and federal programs that are not excluded from this program.

What Is Worker's Compensation?

Hamm.jpgIn Michigan, it is a no-fault system that compensates injured workers. Worker's compensation is regulated by the states and varies from state to state. In Michigan, workers are covered from the point they pull into their employer's designated parking lot until they drive out of their employer's designated parking lot at the end of their shift. Worker's compensation covers injuries that occur "during" and "in the course of" employment. In other words, the injury must occur during your working hours and while you are working. However, breaks and lunches are included because it is in the best interest of the employer for their employees to have breaks and lunch. There are certain injuries not covered including but not limited to those stemming from a fight, horseplay, sports played on break, and if the injured worker was under the influence of drugs or alcohol. If the injury is deemed to be compensable, the benefits include lost wages, medical treatment and potential vocational rehabilitation. If a worker is denied worker's compensation benefits, they can file for other benefits such as short term disability, sickness and accident benefits, long-term disability benefits, extended disability benefits, disability retirement, etc. However, even if worker is denied and is receiving other benefits, they should still file for worker's compensation due to the fact they would receive approximately 20% to 40% more in lost wages on worker's compensation.

Limiting worker speech

An employee's right to speak does not end when they get a job or report to work. Employment law has some protections that covers certain speech, but workers also need to know its restrictions.

The First Amendment protects speech from government intrusion and applies to public employers. It or other federal laws also govern some private employers and actions.

Disability expert testimony before U.S. Supreme Court

Expert testimony can play a vital role in determining whether a person is eligible for Social Security Disability benefits. In fact, the US Supreme Court agreed to rule on an appeal involving these witnesses. At issue is whether vocational expert testimony, without complying for a request for supporting information, is sufficient evidence that other jobs were available to an injured worker.

This case involves an applicant who worked in construction as a carpenter and laborer. He received training as a bricklayer and carpenter and completed one year of college. In 2005, he quit working and claimed that he suffered from degenerative disc disease, Hepatitis C and depression.

Michigan Supreme Court lets whistleblower case go forward

This month, the Michigan Supreme Court declined to examine a Michigan Court of Appeals opinion that permitted a case under the state's whistleblower laws to proceed. The case appears to have expanded what it means to "report" under the Michigan Whistleblower Protection Act (WPA). It therefore has the potential for having an impact on employees in the state, as well as practitioners of employment law.

The Supreme Court's 3-2 denial of review in McNeill-Marks v. MidMichigan Medical Center - Gratiot was handed down on June 15 in a brief order. Justice Zahra, on the other hand, wrote a lengthy and detailed dissent as to why the court should have granted review in the matter. Chief Justice Markman joined in the dissent, while Justices Wilder and Clement did not participate in the decision.

Michigan claimants struggle to obtain SSDI benefits

Michigan workers who are injured or become ill while on the job are able to use workers' compensation for medical and financial assistance. The Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program, which is administered by the Social Security Administration, is designed to help those who become ill or disabled and are no longer able to work or unable to work for a long period of time. Yet, most disabled workers will not qualify for Social Security Disability benefits.

According to the SSA's most recent statistics for the 2016 fiscal year, nearly 10.5 million Americans received SSD benefits. This figure amounts to only about one-third of all disabled workers seeking SSDI benefits, which in 2016, averaged about $1,170 per month. What is more egregious is that disabled workers are waiting an average of three to four months after their initial claim to learn whether they qualify for benefits.

Michigan is 21st in nation when it comes to workplace safety

Michigan and the Detroit area have long been hubs of manufacturing in the United States. Unfortunately, a worker-friendly citizenry does not always translate to worker-friendly employment. When it comes to workplace safety, for instance, Michigan is slightly above the national average, but the state's employers still have a lot of room in which to improve. Compared to other states, Michigan ranks 21st safest in terms of its rate of on-the-job fatalities, according to the AFL-CIO's annual "Death on the Job, The Toll of Neglect" report.

Although workplace safety is monitored through a combination of employer self-policing, state and federal regulations and worker actions - such as whistleblower claims - Michigan still saw 162 on-the-job fatalities in 2016, which represents the most recent data available. This gives the state a workplace fatality rate of 3.5 deaths per 100,000 workers, which is just below the average rate when all states are combined.

Michigan claimants may receive SSDI benefits for skin disorders

When an individual develops a skin disorder or receives a serious injury to their skin, it can be debilitating and affect one's ability to do perform their job duties at work. If this happens, the financial repercussions can be devastating. In the cases of more serious skin disorders or injuries, a worker may be able to qualify for benefits under the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program. Social Security Disability offers benefits to workers whose injuries or impairments prevent them from working over a long period of time or permanently inhibit their ability to work at all.

To qualify for SSD benefits, a worker typically must have contributed to the program for at least seven years of their working lives. Social Security Disability is a federal program that is administered by the Social Security Administration (SSA) and which is funded by contributions made through FICA payroll withholding. In order for a worker to receive benefits through the program, the disorder or injury must fall within the specific government guidelines set forth by the SSA.

Can private insurers improve SSDI for Michigan claimants?

The Social Security Administration's (SSA) budget struggles and associated service delivery issues have been splashed across the media for quite some time now. Members of Congress have suggested that private disability insurance could be used to shore up the foundering Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program. The program's ability to deliver its services to claimants in Michigan and elsewhere has been seriously compromised by budgetary, personnel and technology issues.

Last year, the media seized on the fact that several thousand SSDI claimants had died while waiting for a benefits determination to illustrate the extent of the agency's problems. Congress recently authorized a $480 million stopgap measure -- over objections from the White House -- to boost SSA's service levels. More than 20 percent of the amount will be allocated toward improving the SSDI claims process. But, it may be too little to reverse the wait times and improve the services in the near term.

Can Michigan claimants get SSD benefits for sensory impairments?

A worker with a sensory impairment may qualify for Social Security Disability (SSD) Insurance (SSDI) benefits. A sensory impairment negatively impacts one's vision, hearing or speech and may result from an injury or disease. Those who suffer from such impairments may have difficulty performing the regular tasks that their jobs require. Or, worse, they may be prevented from working at all.

When a sensory impairment has a long-term impact on a person's ability to work in a meaningful way, the impaired individual will likely suffer considerable financial consequences, in addition to the effects of the sensory impairment itself. In the cases of certain impairments, Social Security Disability benefits may be available to help offset some of the wage loss and other financial impacts from the inability to work.

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