Federal Student Loan Debt

Often individuals with disabilities will have their benefits garnished for student loan debt.  However, you may be eligible to have your student loan debt forgiven.

The rules for discharging federal student loan debt pose a different standard than Social Security’s definition of disability.  However, federal law states that the Department of Education will accept a claimant’s Notice of Award (NOA) for disability benefits if the notice states that the claimant’s Continuing Disability Review (CDR) will be conducted once every five to seven years.  CDR is the process in which SSA reviews a disability claim to determine if a claimant continues to meet the definition of disability.

What do you need to do in order to discharge your federal student loan debt?   First you will need your NOA, which must include information about when your CDR will be conducted.  If you do not have a copy of your NOA, you can request it from SSA.  If your NOA does not indicate how often your CDR will be conducted, then you will have to request a letter or a printout from SSA verifying your CDR scheduling.  Then, you will need to go to Disabilitydischarge.com and fill out an application.

However, before you attempt to discharge your student loan debt, you will need to consider any possible tax consequences of doing so.  You may not want to discharge your student loan debt, because under current law, any amount of discharged student loans will be counted as income for the year in which the discharge was granted.  Although your SSDI benefits can’t be garnished for discharged student loans, SSDI benefits can be garnished for taxes on the amount of a loan that was discharged.  Therefore, before you begin this process the attorneys at Social Security Law Center strongly recommend you seek out advice from a tax professional.  SSI benefits cannot be garnished student loan debt.

Chances of Winning

A frequent question asked by anyone filing for disability benefits is what are my chances of winning. The answer is that it depends on your disabling condition, the quantity and quality of evidence supporting your claim, and other factors such as age. For instance, it is harder to get disability for a bad back than it is for kidney failure. Someone with a lot of medical evidence will generally win easier than someone with little evidence. And a person that is 55 years old will have a better chance than someone that is 40.

However, SSA does keep track of the overall winning and losing ratios at each stage of review. In 2015 the ratios are as follows:

Allow Deny Dismiss
Application  33%  67%
Reconsideration  12%  88%
Judge Hearing  45%  37%  18%

As you can see the odds of winning are better at the hearing stage. That is why it is important to file an appeal of a denial within the 60 day timeframe.

Statistics also show that your chances of winning improved with qualified representation. Social Security Law Center has been representing people with disabilities for over 25 years. Let one of our offices help you increase your odds.

Assistive Devices

It is not uncommon to see someone with a disability using an assistive device to aide them in standing and/or walking. Assistive devises come in all shapes and sizes. Claimants regularly come into Social Security Law Center with their canes, walkers, crutches, and wheelchairs. Do you use an assistive device? If you do, the device may assist you not only with standing and/or walking, it may also assist you with your disability claim.

However, the Social Security Administration is very clear on when the assistive device will be considered. First, there must be more than a “subjective desire” to use the assistive device. In other words, you can’t just go to the store and buy one then expect the Judge to include the use of the device in your restrictions or limitations. To help your case, the assistive device must be “medically necessary” in order to be considered a restriction or limitation on your ability to work. Even if a cane is prescribed, it does not necessarily mean that the Judge will find that it is medically necessary. So what evidence do you need to prove your assistive devise is “medically necessary”?

The following documentation will assist your attorney at Social Security Law Center to help you prove “medically necessity.” First, make sure you have a prescription from your doctor for the hand held assistive device. Second, you will need statement from your doctor explaining why you need to use the assistive device. Finally, you will need a detailed description of when you need to use the assistive device. This documentation may seem overwhelming to obtain, but don’t worry the attorneys at Social Security Law Center will help you get the necessary information from your doctor.

SSA Announces There Will Be No Cost-Of-Living Adjustment (COLA) for 2016

For the third time this decade, millions of Americans will not see an annual cost-of living increase in their Social Security benefits for the year 2016. The news by SSA confirms what was already widely expected by many. In 2015, consumer prices were down. In fact, low gasoline prices helped keep inflation in check this year. Due to the decrease in consumer prices, monthly Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits for nearly 65 million Americans will not automatically increase in 2016.

What is COLA? COLA is used to make sure that the purchasing power for people who receiving SSA benefits are not reduced by inflation.

Will Medicare Premiums Increase? If there is an increase in Medicare Part B premiums, the law has a “hold harmless” provision that will protect about 70% of Social Security beneficiaries from paying a higher premium. In order to determine if your Medicare Premium will increase you must contact SSA at 1(800)772-1213. SSA will be able to assist you to determine if your Medicare premium will increase.

Staying Treatment Compliant During And After Benefits are Awarded

Social Security requires an individual to follow prescribed treatment which would be expected to restore the claimant’s ability to return to work. This is true even once a claimant has been approved for benefits. Typically SSA will conduct a medical review two to seven years after a claimant has been awarded benefits. During a medical review SSA will obtain a claimant’s medical records to determine if he/she is still disabled despite following the prescribed treatment his/her doctor recommends. If a claimant has stopped going to the doctor and/or stopped complaining about his her condition(s)/symptoms it is possible that SSA will stop paying benefits to the claimant.

Therefore, the attorneys at Social Security Law Center encourage our former clients to remain in treatment and continue to document their condition(s)/symptoms after they have been approved for benefits.