OWM NEWSLETTER
SEPTEMBER 2014

ATTORNEY SPOTLIGHT

DAVID S. KAPLAN

 

David S. Kaplan, Esq., grew up in Collegeville and is a graduate of Perkiomen School, Ursinus College and The University of Pittsburgh School of Law.  He has been a member of OWM since 1983 and resides in Chester County with his wife, Diana.

Mr. Kaplan is active in the Collegeville Rotary as Past President and, most recently, Assistant Governor.  He has been a leader in many community organizations and Montgomery Bar Assn. Committees and currently chairs the Montgomery Conflict Mediation Center.  He authored the Estate Mate Planner with the The Executor's Job: A Guide for your Executor, now incorporated into the OWMLAW website. 

Mr. Kaplan's areas of concentration are Estate Planning/Administration, Social Security Disability and Family Law.  He is also an active mediator.

Phone: 610-323-2800
Fax: 610-323-2845
Email: dkaplan@owmlaw.com


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The material in this publication was created as of the date set forth above and is based on laws, court decisions, administrative rulings and congressional materials that existed at that time, and should not be construed as legal advice or legal opinions on specific facts. The information in this publication is not intended to create, and the transmission and receipt of it does not constitute, a lawyer-client relationship.

HOW IMPORTANT IS OUR
SOCIAL SECURITY DISABILITY PROGRAM?

Could we, as a country, survive without our Social Security Disability Insurance?

No. In the 21st Century, our Social Security Disability Program has become an integral and necessary part of our society. Without it, people would be losing their homes and unable to feed themselves. With it, no one is becoming wealthy, yet millions of Americans are surviving.  

Facts and History

Very few people have money put aside for a” rainy day” such as disability. Recently published statistics indicate that about 36% of Americans have nothing put aside for retirement and 60% have less than $25,000 for retirement. If people are unable to save for retirement, a date that we can anticipate, how can people be expected to save for the unexpected disability? It is for this reason that in 1956 Congress enacted the Social Security Disability Insurance Program (SSDI). You and I pay premiums every time we are paid. Of the 6.2% that we pay into FICA, 0.9% is for disability insurance. This is no different than any other private insurance policy that some of us might have through our employment. Unfortunately, only about one-third of employers have private disability insurance available for their employees and many of those policies are extremely limited.

For those people who have not contributed to FICA or have not contributed to FICA for many years, Congress created Supplemental Security Income (SSI) in 1972. This program pays $721 a month and has very strict restrictions on income that a person can earn and assets that a person can own in order to qualify for the program. SSI is funded by general tax revenue, not FICA.

Currently, there are nearly 9 million disabled workers on SSDI. This number has increased in recent years for reasons that were known well in advance by the Social Security Administration and Congress. The primary reason for the increase in claims relates to the baby boomers. People in their 50’s are twice as likely to become disabled as people in their 40’s, and people in their 60’s are twice as likely to become disabled as people in their 50’s. With the significant increase in the baby boomers passing through their 50’s into their 60’s, the odds of having disabled workers has increased tremendously.

The second major factor in the increases relates to the number of women who now are in the work force and therefore are insuring themselves through SSDI.

The other predicted factor was the increase in the retirement age from 65-66 and onward to 67.  People who would have otherwise retired may now need to rely on SSDI until they reach their retirement age.

The great recession of 2007 was a minor contributor to the rise in claims and is no longer a factor.  

Myths

Some mistakenly believe that many people on disability do not deserve it. There have been many studies done indicating that less than 1% of the claims are fraudulent. There are incentives to get off SSDI, not to stay on.  Most workers on SSDI are receiving less than half of what they would be earning at their normal gainful employment.

Is it easy to get SSDI or SSI? No. Only about 40% of the applicants are approved even though, overwhelmingly, the people who apply have serious disabilities. At the initial level of review, only about one-third are approved.  That number increases by those who are represented by attorneys either at the initial level or on appeal.

Funding

In 1994, Congress made some adjustments in the program and was aware that for the reasons that have been explained, the number of people applying for disability would be increasing. They projected that by 2016, Congress would be required to make other adjustments in the program to sustain its funding. Those calculations were accurate. There have been constructive suggestions as to how the program can be sustained without cutting the existing modest benefits. If the percentage of FICA that is currently allotted to SSDI would be increased slightly, the program would be solvent for many years to come. An increase in the FICA rate is also an option. A third option is to ask all employees in the country to pay FICA on all of their wages. Currently, approximately 5% of the wealthiest wage earners are exempt for all earnings that they have above $133,700.00. If that cap were lifted the system would be solvent for at least another 75 years.

Some people may think that it is unfair to “tax” workers any more than they are currently paying. Yet this should not be viewed as a tax but rather an insurance program not unlike private policies. All private insurance companies make adjustments in premiums to conform to the level of claims that they are required to pay. Why should Social Security Disability Insurance be any different? Without some adjustment in the funding, benefits will eventually need to be cut to those who require them the most.

If you would care to discuss the above in detail, please call me at 610-323-2800 or email me at dkaplan@owmlaw.com. Also, please watch OWM's September 2014 Legal Talk program entitled Why Social Security Disability Claims Are Up and What We are Doing With Them on our website here.


Upcoming Events

OWM Law sponsoring First Friday celebration in Phoenixville on 10/3/14.

Kathleen M. Martin, Esq., and Rebecca A. Hobbs, Esq., speaking at Chestnut Knoll, 1041 E. Philadelphia Ave., Gilbertsville, PA, on 9/25/14 regarding VA benefits (contact Jodie Daniels at jdaniels@chestnutknoll.com or at 610-473-8066).

David A. Megay, Esq., speaking at Chester County Night School Seminars (6:30p.m.-8:30p.m.) at Owen J. Roberts High School, Pottstown, PA, on 9/24/14 entitled "Starting Your Own Business" and on 10/29/14 entitled "Buying and Selling Real Estate in PA" (contact Chester County Night School at 610-692-1964 or online at www.chestercountynightschool.org).

Kathleen M. Martin, Esq., speaking at Chester County Night School Seminars at West Chester at Henderson High School, West Chester, PA on 10/1/14 and at Owen J. Roberts High School, Pottstown, PA on 10/15/14 entitled "Elder Law Issues," and at Owen J. Roberts High School, Pottstown, PA on 10/29/14 entitled "Beyond the Simple Will" (contact Chester County Night School at 610-692-1964 or online at www.chestercountynightschool.org).

Kathleen M. Martin, Esq., speaking for the Threshold Group, at a workshop entitled "Transforming the Culture Around Dying" at Beaver Farms, 551 West Seven Stars Road, Phoenixville, PA on 10/18/14 (9:15a.m.-4:30p.m.) (contact Christina Acree at cpstrehle@hotmail.com).

David A. Megay, Esq. speaking at a SCORE Business Planning Seminar on 10/30/14 at 7:00 p.m., at New York Plaza, Suite 102, 244 High St., Pottstown, PA (contact SCORE at 610-327-2673).

Watch Legal Talk, brought to you by OWM, on PCTV, Tuesdays at 8:30 on Channel 28, and Thursdays at 9:30 p.m. on Channel 98, or on our website here.

Read Legal Ease every first and third Sunday in the Pottstown Mercury and on our website here.

O'Donnell,Weiss & Mattei, P.C.

41 E. High Street
Pottstown, PA 19464
610-323-2800
Fax: 610-323-2845

347 Bridge Street, Suite 200
Phoenixville, PA 19460
610-917-9347
Fax: 610-917-9348

www.owmlaw.com