Monday, November 17, 2008

Obama and Social Security Disability

Over the next few months, Obama will tackle the issues he discussed during the heated presidential debates, ranging from the American economy to tax benefits to the war in Iraq. It can be speculated that Senator Obama's success or failure in reforming America's Social Security will be one of his most challenging issues as president of the United States in 2008.

At James Madison University on Tuesday, October 28, Obama said, "It won't be easy... it won't be quick, but you and I know that it is time to come together and change this country."

1. Provide Americans with disabilities the educational opportunities they need to succeed:

Barack Obama supports the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which would help school districts cover the excess costs of educating children with disabilities. IDEA proposes increasing the current funding by 23%.

2. End discrimination and promote equal opportunity:

Barack Obama supports Senator Tom Harkin's ADA Restoration Act, which would redefine the definition of a"disability" in the application of the American with Disabilities Act (ADA). Obama plans to sign this act into law, which would prevent people with epilepsy, diabetes, heart disease, and cancer from being fired from their jobs 'because they have those conditions.' - Barack Obama supports universal health care legislation. Under the Obama-Biden plan, people with disabilities who take a job will either continue to receive their current health care or they will be provided a subsidy to purchase health care.

3. Increase the employment rate of workers with disabilities:

Barack Obama supports the reinstitution of Executive Order No. 13173, which would hire an additional 100,000 federal employees with disabilities within five years. The federal government is the United States' largest employer, and Barack Obama and Joe Biden support the hiring of employees with disabilities.

- Barack supports the establishment of a National Commission on People with Disabilities, Employment, and Social Security, which would examine the current SSDI, SSI, Medicare, and Medicaid programs in the United States to solve existing problems.

4. Support the independent, community-based living for Americans with disabilities:

Barack Obama supports Senator Tom Harkin's Community Choice Act of 2007, which would allow Americans with disabilities the choice of living in communities instead of nursing homes or institutions. - Obama supports the Fair Home Health Care Act to combat the shortage of community direct care attendants. The Fair Home Health Care Act would increase the wage of health care attendants.

Obama supports a $150 million increase in the Social Security Administration's (SSA) budget, which he believes has been underfunded. Obama is also committed to improving the application and appeals process for individuals with disabilities to fix the inefficiencies in the current system. Such as: - Pending hearings have doubled since 2001 - The average weight time for a hearing decision is 505 days, the highest ever in agency history - The processing times at the hearing level range from 276 days in Charleston to 973 days in Atlanta - A reconsideration decision can take up to 8 months

What will be the result of an Obama presidency onto Social Security Disability?

The question has many Social Security lawyers and Social Security attorneys pondering the issue. With an aging baby boomer generation and a concern that average wait times to receive Social Security Disability benefits are already over two years, most experts will agree that something needs to be done by the next President (Obama) to address the speed at which disability cases are handled.

If you or a family member has been denied disability benefits at the application level, it is advised that you contact a Social Security Disability lawyer. With current wait times of over two years, it is important to remember the sooner you involve a lawyer in the process, the sooner the process can be affected.

Matt Berry is a Social Security lawyer. As a Social Security (SSI) attorney he works with various disabled people, including those with a denied SSI Disability Application.


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