By Hook Law Center
Each year, the Social Security Board of Trustees releases its yearly report on the long-term financial outlook of the Social Security Trust Funds. The report includes projections for when those trust funds will be depleted.
Social Security holds reserves in two trust funds: one for Old-Age and Survivors Insurance, and another for Disability Insurance. Both of these programs are funded by payroll taxes. When tax revenue exceeds benefit payouts, the trust funds grow; when payouts exceed revenues, they shrink.
According to the Board’s recently-released report, the Disability Insurance trust fund is projected to be fully depleted in 2016. At that point, ongoing revenues are projected to pay for just 80 percent of scheduled benefits.
The Old-Age and Survivors Insurance trust fund is in somewhat better shape. It is projected to be depleted in 2033, the report said, at which time revenues will pay 77 percent of benefits.
These figures are based on the government’s best estimates for the variables involved, including economic and population forecasts. Congress will presumably act before allowing programs on which so many Americans depend to suffer such severe budget shortfalls. However, the apparent lack of action on Capitol Hill despite the fact that the disability trust fund’s projected depletion is just three years away is troubling in itself. If the economy’s slow recovery does not pick up or if the sharp recent growth in disability beneficiaries continues, the Board’s estimates might in fact turn out to be optimistic.
At Hook Law Center, we advocate for a robust Social Security system that remains solvent far into the future. Our estate planning attorneys know that your Social Security benefits are a key part of your financial security.
By Hook Law Center
The Department of Veterans Affairs has partnered with two private veterans service organizations to promote the use of fully-developed claims by new benefits applicants.
A fully-developed claim is an application for benefits in which all available medical records and other evidence to support the claim is submitted at the time of the initial filing. The veteran certifies upon filing that he or she has no additional evidence to submit. The VA says that it is able to process a fully- developed claim in half the time required for a traditionally-filed claim.
Because private veterans service organizations assist many veterans with their claims, the VA is partnering with two of them – the American Legion and Disabled American Veterans – to steer applicants toward this more efficient process.
The initiative is part of the VA’s plan to eliminate the current massive backlog of claims in 2015 and, thereafter, process new claims within 125 days. The wait for new applicants in major urban areas averages more than 18 months in some cases.
In April 2013, the VA announced that it would expedite decisions on claims that are more than one year old. That plan involves issuing provisional decisions, which are eligible to be revised following the submission of additional evidence or appealed for a period of one year.
And on May 15, 2013, the VA announced that claims processors in its 56 regional benefits offices were required to work overtime for the remainder of fiscal year 2013.
These recent efforts, combined with the VA’s transition to computerized claims processing, should bring some much-needed relief to veterans awaiting the benefits they deserve.