Good news from the Stimulus Package for people who elected to continue COBRA coverage after losing their jobs! Among the benefits offered under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009--also known as the Stimulus Package--are new changes to the COBRA benefits.
Individuals who were involuntarily terminated on or after September 1, 2008 and before January 1, 2010, who elected to continue health care coverage under COBRA, are provided a subsidy equal to 65% of the premium for COBRA payments for a period of coverage for up to 9 months.
Even those who are eligible for the subsidy who did not elect COBRA as of the date of enactment of the law may elect COBRA from February 17, 2009 until 60 days after receiving notice of this special election period. The provision also permits group health plans to provide a special enrollment right to eligible individuals, allowing them to change coverage options under the plan in conjunction with electing COBRA continuation coverage.
Please note, though, that if the premium subsidy is provided with respect to any COBRA continuation coverage which covers you, your spouse, or any of your dependents during a taxable year in which your modified adjusted gross income exceeds $145,000 ($290,000 for joint filers) then the amount of the premium subsidy for all months during the taxable year must be recaptured. The subsidy is repaid proportionately for individuals with adjusted gross income between $125,000 and $145,000 ($250,000 and $290,000 for joint filers).
What does all this mean for you? In plain terms, if you were terminated from your job for any reason, it won't be as difficult to continue to pay for medical care necessary to treat a disabling condition. While this provision of the Stimulus Package does not specifically focus on individuals who have filed for Social Security Disability benefits, it is nevertheless great news for the millions of people who have been relying on a spouse's or parent's health insurance coverage to obtain medical care to treat disabling physical and mental conditions.
Good News! The U.S. Government's Stimulus Bill contains provisions that will help Social Security Disability claimants.
With all the bleak news in the media about the economy, job loss, and whether the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009--commonly referred to as the Stimulus Bill-- will be able to improve the economic prospects of the American people, there is also some good news for America's disabled.
Among the provisions of the Stimulus package is a one-time $250 stimulus payment to be made to Social Security beneficiaries within 120 days of the enactment of the new law.
Additional good news is that the Social Security Administration has been slated to receive $900 million, of which over half is to be used to process the additional work that SSA is receiving as a result of the economic downturn. This means that Social Security is making plans to hire caseworkers and claims processors to try to move the Agency's tremendous backlog of cases through the process.
That, together with new procedures set in place to expedite critical cases and to increase the number of "compassionate allowances," means that the most obviously disabled won't have to wait months or even years for their claims to be approved by Social Security.
I'd like to share with you one of the things I find most frustrating about being a Social Security Disability and SSI lawyer. Don't get me wrong---I absolutely LOVE my job. But to be honest, some clients are much more difficult to work with than others, and it all has to do with the give and take in the lawyer-client relationship.
The clients I'm referring to are the ones who fail to do the follow-up things we ask of them. Despite how important their claims and the potential payments are to them, many clients just don't follow our instructions, and this inevitably causes delays in their claim. At worst, it can cause us to lose the case as a result.
While we do the hard stuff (like filing the SSD or SSI claim and obtaining medical evidence), once we are retained, it doesn't mean that a claimant can just sit back and wait for his or her checks! When we are first retained we go over with every client when we need to hear from them, and how we need them to follow up.
We may need things like tax returns or Workers' Compensation notices. Sometimes we ask the client to "remind" the doctor that we are waiting for a report. Not getting these things can cause the case to grind to a halt, and sometimes can even lead to an unfavorable decision.
To make a play on John F. Kennedy's most famous quote, "ask not what your lawyer can do for you; ask what you can do for your lawyer." We often need some help from our clients in order to win their cases.
Unlike many other Social Security Disability Advocates or Attorneys, we never ask our clients to file their own claims or get their own records. The things that we ask our clients to help us with are those things that may not be within our control. When we don't get the cooperation we need from a client, our job becomes infinitely more difficult and sometimes impossible.
I have already mentioned that the earlier in the process we are retained, the better the chance we have of winning.
This morning I received a call from someone who wanted us to take over her Social Security Disability case from a large national firm. She had just lost at her hearing, and this large firm that represented her was now filing an appeal to the Appeals Council. Her biggest complaint with this firm was that she had never met her attorney until the morning of her hearing, after only a brief phone conversation some time before.
I must admit that while I know this is how many other firms work, I am disappointed every time I hear of how it has negatively impacted the outcome of someone's claim. Gabe and I work on our relationship with each of our clients in a much more personal way.
At Insler & Hermann, you meet an attorney when you first come to see us, and he is your attorney for the entire time we represent you. Even before we meet you, it is our policy to have an attorney get on the phone the first time that you call the office. If no attorney is available, one will call you back even if we have already scheduled an appointment with you. The more contact we have with you, the better we can understand your claim and what we need to do to win it.
Unfortunately, I had to explain to the caller this morning that it really is too late for us to be able to have a significant effect on her claim at this point.
I did tell her that if she loses her appeal, we could start a new application for her, or if she is granted a new hearing, we could become involved at that point.
So while it is never too early to get a lawyer, unfortunately sometimes it can be too late.