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Upcoming Personal Injury, Workers' Compensation and Social Security Disability Seminars

Borofsky, Amodeo-Vickery & Bandazian, P.A. will be hosting a round of free Personal Injury, Workers' Compensation and Social Security Disability seminars on March 16, 2016. If you have been injured in an accident, injured at work or have a Social Security disability claim, come to one of our seminars and learn about your rights. Our attorneys will address:

  • How to get fair value for your case and when to settle
  • How to get your bills paid
  • How to get the medical treatment you need
  • How to deal with insurance companies
  • The four main Workers' Compensation benefits
  • Independent Medical Exams, Rehab Counselors, Surveillance, Hearings
  • Related topics, including the impact of the economy and Social Security Disability

Seminars will begin at 7:00 p.m. in Manchester, Nashua and Concord. The Manchester seminar will be held at our 708 Pine Street office. The Nashua seminar will be held at the Hampton Inn, which is located at 407 Amherst Street in Nashua (Somerset Room). The Concord seminar will be held at the Holiday Inn located at 172 North Main Street in Concord (Webster Room).

To register for one of these free informational seminars, please call or e-mail Borofsky, Amodeo-Vickery & Bandazian, P.A.

mail@e-atty.net or (603) 625-6441

New Law Allows DWI First Offenders to Petition for Restricted Licenses

As of January 1, 2016, a new law in New Hampshire will allow certain first offenders who have been convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs (DWI) to petition the Court for what has traditionally been known as a "Cinderella License." The restricted license would allow a first offender who has served a 45-day license suspension to request a limited restoration of his or her right to operate a motor vehicle. The new law does not apply to drivers who have been convicted of an offense involving a commercial motor vehicle.

In addition to providing proof of financial responsibility as required by NH RSA 265-A:28, first offenders must also submit an application that demonstrates the need for the license and satisfactory proof that:

(a) The ability to operate a motor vehicle is an occupational requirement;

(b) The ability to operate a motor vehicle is necessary to seek employment or to travel to and from a place of employment;

(c) The ability to operate a motor vehicle is necessary to travel to or from an alcohol or drug treatment or rehabilitation program;

(d) The ability to operate a motor vehicle is necessary to obtain regular medical treatment for oneself or a family member;

(e) The ability to operate a motor vehicle is necessary for the continuance of his or her education; or

(f) The ability to operate a motor vehicle is necessary to attend job training.

If granted, a person's restricted driving privileges are subject to certain limitations with regard to time, place and date of travel. The right to operate a motor vehicle is also limited to vehicles equipped with enhanced technology ignition interlock devices.

Additional information regarding the new law may be found at http://www.gencourt.state.nh.us/legislation/2014/hb0496.html.

Medicare Part B Premiums to Increase Unless Congress Takes Action

Unless Congress takes action before the end of the year, Medicare Part B premiums will be increasing in 2016 from about $105 per month to $159.30. However, about two-thirds of the Medicare beneficiaries are protected by law from having their Medicare premiums increase any more than their Social Security benefits increase, and since there is no planned cost of living increase for 2016, those individuals will not have an increase in their Medicare premiums.

Call Your Senators Today

Amendment 667 would cause SSDI recipients, whose benefits and earnings are generally already low, to suffer significant financial hardship if they lose their jobs.

Social Security offers many incentives for people with disabilities who try to work, but this proposal creates a work disincentive.

When people with disabilities work, they and their employers pay into the Social Security and Unemployment Insurance systems. They should be allowed to access these systems as needed and be treated the same as other workers.

The Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD) published a fact sheet about unemployment and Social Security disability benefits. It is available at http://www.c-c-d.org/fichiers/CCD-DI-UI-Fact-Sheet-02-04-15.pdf.

Work Injuries And Illnesses Impose Heavy Costs On Workers, Families And The Economy

"The failure of many employers to prevent millions of work injuries and illnesses each year, and the failure of the broken workers' compensation system to ensure that workers do not bear the costs of their injuries and illnesses, are truly adding inequality to injury." OSHA

See the full OSHA report at: http://www.dol.gov/osha/report/20150304-inequality.pdf

An Open Letter From Former Commissioners Of The Social Security Administration Regarding Series 'Unfit for Work: The Startling Rise of Disability in America'

The following letter dated April 4, 2013 was posted on the National Organization of Social Security Claimants' Representatives' website. In response to a recent NPR series, eight former Commissioners drafted a joint response, which is available below and at the link at the end of the response:

As former Commissioners of the Social Security Administration (SSA), we write to express our significant concerns regarding a series recently aired on This American Life, All Things Considered, and National Public Radio stations across the U.S. ("Unfit for Work: The Startling Rise of Disability in America"). Our nation's Social Security system serves as a vital lifeline for millions of individuals with severe disabilities. We feel compelled to share our unique insight into the Social Security system because we know firsthand the dangers of mischaracterizing the disability programs via sensational, anecdote-based media accounts, leaving vulnerable beneficiaries to pick up the pieces.

Approximately 1 in 5 of our fellow Americans live with disabilities, but only those with the most significant disabilities qualify for disability benefits under Title II and Title XVI of the Social Security Act. Title II Old Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance (DI) benefits and Title XVI Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits provide critical support to millions of Americans with the most severe disabilities, as well as their dependents and survivors. Disabled beneficiaries often report multiple impairments, and many have such poor health that they are terminally ill: about 1 in 5 male DI beneficiaries and 1 in 7 female DI beneficiaries die within 5 years of receiving benefits. Despite their impairments, many beneficiaries attempt work using the work incentives under the Social Security Act, and some do work part-time. For example, research by Mathematica and SSA finds that about 17 percent of beneficiaries worked in 2007. However, their earnings are generally very low (two-thirds of those who worked in 2007 earned less than $5,000 for the whole year), and only a small share are able to earn enough to be self-sufficient and leave the DI and SSI programs each year. Without Social Security or SSI, the alternatives for many beneficiaries are simply unthinkable.

The statutory standard for approval is very strict, and was made even more so in 1996. To implement this strict standard, Social Security Administration (SSA) regulations, policies, and procedures require extensive documentation and medical evidence at all levels of the application process. Less than one- third of initial DI and SSI applications are approved, and only about 40 percent of adult DI and SSI applicants receive benefits even after all levels of appeal. As with adults, most children who apply are denied SSI, and only the most severely impaired qualify for benefits.

Managing the eligibility process for the disability system is a challenging task, and errors will always occur in any system of this size. But the SSA makes every effort to pay benefits to the right person in the right amount at the right time. When an individual applies for one of SSA's disability programs, the agency has extensive systems in place to ensure accurate decisions, and the agency is home to many dedicated public servants who take their ongoing responsibility of the proper stewardship of the programs very seriously. Program integrity is critically important and adequate funds must be available to make continued progress in quality assurance and monitoring. In the face of annual appropriations that were far below what the President requested in Fiscal Year 2011 and Fiscal Year 2012, the agency has still continued to implement many new system improvements that protect taxpayers and live up to Americans' commitment to protect the most vulnerable in our society.

It is true that DI has grown significantly in the past 30 years. The growth that we've seen was predicted by actuaries as early as 1994 and is mostly the result of two factors: baby boomers entering their high- disability years, and women entering the workforce in large numbers in the 1970s and 1980s so that more are now "insured" for DI based on their own prior contributions. The increase in the number of children receiving SSI benefits in the past decade is similarly explained by larger economic factors, namely the increase in the number of poor and low-income children. More than 1 in 5 U.S. children live in poverty today and some 44 percent live in low-income households. Since SSI is a means-tested program, more poor and low-income children mean more children with disabilities are financially eligible for benefits. Importantly, the share of low-income children who receive SSI benefits has remained constant at less than four percent.

Yet, the series aired on NPR sensationalizes this growth, as well as the DI trust fund's projected shortfall. History tells a less dramatic story. Since Social Security was enacted, Congress has "reallocated" payroll tax revenues across the OASI and DI trust funds - about equally in both directions - some 11 times to account for demographic shifts. In 1994, the last time such reallocation occurred, SSA actuaries projected that similar action would next be required in 2016. They were right on target.

We are deeply concerned that the series "Unfit for Work" failed to tell the whole story and perpetuated dangerous myths about the Social Security disability programs and the people helped by this vital system. We fear that listeners may come away with an incorrect impression of the program- as opposed to an understanding of the program actually based on facts.

As former Commissioners of the agency, we could not sit on the sidelines and witness this one perspective on the disability programs threaten to pull the rug out from under millions of people with severe disabilities. Drastic changes to these programs would lead to drastic consequences for some of America's most vulnerable people. With the lives of so many vulnerable people at stake, it is vital that future reporting on the DI and SSI programs look at all parts of this important issue and take a balanced, careful look at how to preserve and strengthen these vital parts of our nation's Social Security system.

Sincerely,

Kenneth S. Apfel

Michael J. Astrue

Jo Anne B. Barnhart

Shirley S. Chater

Herbert R. Doggette

Louis D. Enoff

Larry G. Massanari

Lawrence H. Thompson

http://nosscr.org/open-letter-former-commissioners-social-security-administration

New Hampshire Injured Workers Targeted: Contact Your Elected Representatives Today

On January 9, N.H. Representative Gary Daniels (R-40) introduced House Bill 255 that would effectively strip injured workers of their right to choose their physician and pharmacy.

A hearing was scheduled on House Bill 255 in the Labor, Industrial and Rehabilitative Services Committee on Tuesday, January 22.

House Bill 255 would:

  • Allow an employer or the employer's insurance carrier to force the injured worker to utilize a certain health care provider for the first ten (10) days of an employee's injury;
  • Establish a three-year pilot program in certain counties for a 90-day preferred provider network, which is essentially directed care for an extended period of time;
  • Allow an employer or employer's insurance carrier to force the injured worker to fill their workers' compensation prescriptions with a pharmacy benefits manager rather than an independent pharmacy.

The link to House Bill 255 can be found at http://www.gencourt.state.nh.us/legislation/2013/HB0255.pdf .

The Labor, Industrial and Rehabilitative Services Committee list can be found at http://www.gencourt.state.nh.us/house/committees/committeedetails.aspx?code=H11.

Please contact the committee members and urge them to oppose House Bill 255.

Increased Mileage Rate For Eligible New Hampshire Workers' Compensation Travel Expenses

If you are a workers' compensation claimant, please be advised that the New Hampshire reimbursement rate for travel to and from medical providers increased to 56.5 cents in 2013. For more information regarding the increase please refer to www.nh.gov/labor/documents/mileage-rate-change.pdf, which is a posting from the New Hampshire Department of Labor.

House Hearing To Focus On How Disability Decisions Are Made

The House Ways and Means Social Security Subcommittee will hold a hearing on March 20, 2012, to focus on how disability insurance eligibility decisions are made, including the definition of disability and the Federal-State (i.e. DDS) relationship. This is the third in a hearing series on "Securing the Future of the Social Security Disability Insurance Program." The hearing will focus on the initial disability determination levels. A hearing at a later date will focus on the appeals levels. If you missed the live webcast, the hearing will be archived for later viewing at http://waysandmeans.granicus.com/ViewPublisher.php?view_id=2 .

11th Circuit To Weigh In On Medicare Reimbursement

Medicare is entitled to recoup medical bills it pays to a beneficiary when a primary payer, such as a defendant in a personal injury matter, exists. The Medicare Secondary Payer Act gives Medicare this right, but it does not contain an explicit statute of limitations after which Medicare can no longer assert its right to reimbursement for paying a plaintiff's medical bills. Without a statute of limitations the government could essentially come back to request repayment at any time. The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals is currently considering a case on appeal that would provide a definitive answer regarding the statute of limitations that applies to Medicare Secondary Payer claims. At the same time, a bi-partisan bill called the Strengthening Medicare and Repaying Taxpayers Act (SMART Act) is working its way through Congress. The Act would set a three-year statute of limitations on Medicare's ability to seek reimbursement from plaintiffs after a settlement. Check back with our website for updates regarding the issue.

'Lifestyle Discrimination' Claims Against Employers

"Lifestyle discrimination" claims against employers are on the rise. For example, some employers attempt to prevent health insurance premium increases by regulating employee behavior like smoking or dieting outside of the workplace. If you feel you've been a victim of "lifestyle discrimination" for your off-duty activities, contact our firm to discuss your options.

New Policy Prevents Disclosure Of Administrative Law Judges' Identities Prior To Hearings

The Office of Disability Adjudication and Review (ODAR) has instituted a new policy that will prevent disclosure of the identity of an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) assigned to an SSDI or SSI case prior to the actual hearing. This new policy impairs the ability to meet the individual preferences of the ALJs. ALJs prepare for hearings in different ways. For example, some require written arguments in advance and some require specific presentations at hearings. By not divulging the identity of the ALJ until the time of the hearing, a representative cannot tailor his or her case to the ALJ. The new policy will hurt efficiency at hearing offices and may have a negative effect on claims.

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