Archive for April, 2011

Free Legal Assistance for Victims of Recent Severe Weather

Thursday, April 28th, 2011

Members of The Virginia Bar Association are among the attorneys offering free legal assistance to victims of recent severe weather damage.

Victims: Call 1-800-552-7977 weekdays between 9 am and 5 pm.

Tax Benefits for Disabled Taxpayers

Sunday, April 10th, 2011

Taxpayers with disabilities and parents of children with disabilities may qualify for a number of IRS tax credits and benefits. Listed below are seven tax credits and other benefits which are available if you or someone else listed on your federal tax return is disabled.

1. Standard Deduction Taxpayers who are legally blind may be entitled to a higher standard deduction on their tax return.

2. Gross Income Certain disability-related payments, Veterans Administration disability benefits, and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) are excluded from gross income.

3. Impairment-Related Work Expenses Employees who have a physical or mental disability limiting their employment may be able to claim business expenses in connection with their workplace. The expenses must be necessary for the taxpayer to work.

4. Credit for the Elderly or Disabled This credit is generally available to certain taxpayers who are 65 and older as well as to certain disabled taxpayers who are younger than 65 and are retired on permanent and total disability.

5. Medical Expenses If you itemize your deductions using Form 1040, Schedule A, you may be able to deduct medical expenses. See IRS Publication 502, Medical and Dental Expenses.

6. Earned Income Tax Credit EITC is available to disabled taxpayers as well as to the parents of a child with a disability. If you retired on disability, taxable benefits you receive under your employer’s disability retirement plan are considered earned income until you reach minimum retirement age. The EITC is a tax credit that not only reduces a taxpayer’s tax liability but may also result in a refund. Many working individuals with a disability who have no qualifying children, but are older than 25 and younger than 65 do — in fact — qualify for EITC. Additionally, if the taxpayer’s child is disabled, the age limitation for the EITC is waived. The EITC has no effect on certain public benefits. Any refund you receive because of the EITC will not be considered income when determining whether you are eligible for benefit programs such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Medicaid.

7. Child or Dependent Care Credit Taxpayers who pay someone to care for their dependent or spouse so they can work or look for work may be entitled to claim this credit. There is no age limit if the taxpayer’s spouse or dependent is unable to care for themselves.

For more information on tax credits and benefits available to disabled taxpayers, see Publication 3966, Living and Working with Disabilities or Publication 907, Tax Highlights for Persons with Disabilities, available on the IRS website at http://www.irs.gov or by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).

Social Security Plans to Stop Mailing Earning Statements

Friday, April 8th, 2011

Associated Press: Those yearly earnings statements that Social Security mails out — here’s what you’d get if you are disabled, retired at 62, at 66, at 70 — will soon stop arriving in workers’ mailboxes. It’s an effort to save money and steer more people to the agency’s website.

The government is working to provide the statements online by the end of the year, if it can resolve security issues, Social Security Commissioner Michael Astrue said. If that fails, the agency will resume the paper statements, which cost $70 million a year to mail, he said.

“We’ll provide it, we expect, one way or another, before the end of the calendar year,” Astrue told The Associated Press. “We’re just right now trying to figure out the most cost-effective and convenient way to provide that to the American public.”

The statements, mailed to 150 million people each year, project future benefit payments, helping workers plan for retirement.

The decision to suspend the mailings was unrelated to the talk of a possible partial government shutdown. It was, however, related to the agency’s operating budget, which has essentially been frozen at 2010 levels — minus about $350 million in economic stimulus money the agency had been using to handle claims.

Claims for retirement and disability benefits are up significantly since the nation’s economy soured in 2008. About 2.7 million people applied for retirement benefits last year, a 17 percent increase from 2008, according to agency statistics. About 3.2 million people applied for disability benefits last year, a 23 percent increase.

Since the 1980s, Social Security statements have been mailed each year to workers older than 25. They include a history of taxable earnings for each year — so people can check for mistakes — as well as the total amount of Social Security and Medicare taxes paid over the lifetime of the worker.

The statements provide estimates of monthly benefits, based on current earnings and when a worker plans to retire. Workers can claim early retirement benefits starting at age 62. Full benefits are available at age 66, a threshold that is gradually increasing to 67 for people born in 1960 or later.

The statements are mailed throughout the year, so many people have already received them this year. Tens of millions have not.

The agency does offer a benefits estimator on its website that Astrue said can be even more helpful than the annual Social Security statements. Workers can enter their Social Security numbers on the website and get estimates of future benefits, depending on when they plan to retire.

The website, however, does not provide the detailed earnings and payroll tax history that workers had been receiving in the mail each year.

Ending the statements is part of a trend in government to conduct more of its business electronically. Social Security already mails out few paper checks. About 88 percent of beneficiaries have their payments deposited directly into their bank accounts.

About 41 percent of applications for retirement benefits come in online, Astrue said. About 44 percent of Medicare applications are done online. In all, the agency’s website attracts about 11 million visitors each month.

What Happens to Social Security If the Government Shutsdown?

Wednesday, April 6th, 2011

The Federal Government may shut down this Friday 4/8/2011, which will probably cause disruptions in all government programs and events.

In regards to Social Security, based on what happened the last time the Government shut down in 1995, all social security checks should continue to arrive on schedule. This includes Social Security Disability checks.

However in the last shutdown, there were no Social Security Disability hearings, no Social Security Disability decisions issued, no back Social Security Disability payments made, and no emergency SSI payments made. All Social Security offices will be closed, including the hearing offices.





Sheri has concentrated her law practice to the areas of Social Security Disability Law MORE...




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