Winter 2008-2009 Newsletter

2009 Cost of Living Increase (COLA) and Other Changes

  • As many of you may have seen, your December, 2008 checks (which arrived in January, 2009) reflect a 5.8% cost of living increase. This is one of the highest cost of living increases ever paid.
  • In 2009, you are required to earn $1,090 per month or $13,080 per year in order to qualify for a Quarter of Coverage (QC).
  • In 2009, the maximum Supplemental Security Income benefit rate in NJ is $705.25.

Electronic Record Transfer

The SSA has announced implementation, planned for early 2009, of a new system that would allow the Agency instant access to some medical records through the Nationwide Health Information Network (NHIN). The Agency hopes this electronic link will speed up processing times for disability claims. To read the press release from SSA, click on the following link: http://www.ssa.gov/pressoffice/pr/nhin-pr.htm

Administrative Changes Due to Election

Some things will change and some will remain the same following the presidential election in November. President-Elect Obama will be nominating a candidate for the second-in-command position at SSA, that of Principal Deputy Commissioner (a six-year term). There are numerous other high level positions which are subject to change under the new administration but the head of SSA, Commissioner Michael Astrue who was appointed to a six year term under President Bush, will remain in office until 2013. It was rumored that Commissioner Astrue was in favor of privatization at the time of his appointment.

President-Elect Obama has indicated that he favors increased funding for SSA and is opposed to privatization of the Agency.

Compassionate Allowances

The Commissioner of Social Security has allowed special expedited processing for "compassionate allowances" which Social Security Administration defines as medical conditions that are so severe that the conditions obviously meet Social Security's standards. The SSA is launching this program in an effort to expedite the processing of severe claims.

This program is different, however, from the "quick disability determinations" (QDD). "Quick determinations" include situations where a finding of disability is a "strong likelihood". The "compassionate allowances" conditions involve a single condition that is "certain" to be determined to be disabling. Most conditions that qualify for "compassionate allowance" are either rare diseases or cancers. An example of some of the 50 conditions that qualify for compassionate allowances is as follows:

  1. Acute Leukemia
  2. Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)
  3. Bone Cancer - with distant metastases or inoperable or unresectable
  4. Breast Cancer - with distant metastases or inoperable or unresectable; or Inflammatory Breast Cancer (IBC)
  5. Glioblastoma Multiforme (Brain Tumor)
  6. Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer - with metastases to or beyond the hilar nodes or inoperable, unresectable or recurrent; or Small Cell Lung Cancer
  7. Ovarian Cancer - with distant metastases or inoperable or unresectable
  8. Pancreatic Cancer
  9. Stomach Cancer - with distant metastases or inoperable, unresectable or recurrent
  10. Thyroid Cancer

Sheryl Gandel Mazur, Esq.

And Staff