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Emily Pogue

The four levels of the Social Security appeals process

By Tips, Uncategorized

Sometimes the Social Security Administration will make a change to your benefits. This post describes options if your appeal to have the original benefits reinstated is turned down.

Reconsideration is the process by which someone unrelated to the first review, goes through your full file to see if your claim is valid and takes into account any new evidence you have provided. 

If you are not satisfied with the outcome of a reconsideration, a Hearing is held with an administrative judge overseeing the process and one that has not been involved in any decision making on your claim before. You may provide additional information to support your claim, talk about your situation, or have witnesses available to be interviewed. 

The hearing takes place within 75 miles of your home but you also have the ability to participate via video conferencing. If you are not able to be physically present at the hearing or are not able to attend via video, you will need to let the judge know as soon as possible. The SSA will send a letter of the judge’s decision and a letter. 

If you are not satisfied with the outcome of a hearing, you can request that your claim be reviewed by the Social Security Appeals Council. The council will either say that the administrative hearing judge’s ruling stands, that they will review and give a decision, or they will send it back to an administrative law judge. The SSA will make sure to send you information about the outcome and which avenue they took to determine it. 

If you are not satisfied with the outcome of the appeals council or they denied your claim immediately, you have the right to ask for a Federal Court to hear your case. There would be information on doing so within the letter from SSA upon denial from the Appeal Council. 

For more information about Social Security appeals, check out the last chapter of Social Security In 30 Minutes, Volume 2: Disability Benefits

What is the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP)?

By Tips, Uncategorized

There have been some loopholes in the Social Security system and the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) helps to close one of them.

Prior to 1983, if you worked for an employer that did not have have to pay into the Social Security system, technically you could have drawn a higher benefit based on a higher percentage of your earnings. Add to that the fact that these workers often received a pension, meant that there was a large advantage to them.

This provision affects people who are receiving a retirement or disability pension from a job where the employer DID NOT pay into Social Security AND you also qualify for retirement or disability benefits from a different job where you DO/DID pay Social Security taxes.

If you reached age 62 after 1985 or became disabled after 1985 AND you first became eligible for a monthly pension from a job where you did not pay into Social Security, you are likely to be affected.

These do not apply to:
 Survivors benefits
 Federal workers hired after Dec. 31st, 1983
 Employed by a non-profit that initially did not pay into Social Security but now is
 A pension from railroad retirement, all the work occurred before 1957, or you have over 30 years of substantial earnings under Social Security.

There are formulas to determine what the Primary Insurance Amount (PIA) would be and that coupled with your age at retirement will determine your benefit amount. Congress passed the provision in 1983 because workers under these certain employers were having the higher percentage of their earnings used in calculations plus they received a pension and again, did not pay into SS.

For more information about the Windfall Elimination Provision, check out chapter 4 of Social Security In 30 Minutes, Volume 1: Retirement Benefits.