Social Security Disability Benefits NOT subject to Equitable Distribution in PA

Received a call from a colleague recently wanting to know if Social Security benefits are subject to equitable distribution in divorce matters in the state of Pennsylvania. I love these kinds of questions from my colleagues as it’s a good opportunity to check the status of the law – and a refresher.

Here’s what I found –

“. . . Social Security benefits are not subject to equitable distribution. See Flemming v. Nestor, 363 U.S. 603, 609-10, 80 S. Ct. 1367, 1371-72, 4 L. Ed. 2d 1435 (1960) (“[t]o engraft upon the Social Security system a concept of `accrued property rights’ would deprive it of the flexibility and boldness in adjustment to ever-changing conditions which it demands.”); Sorbello v. Sorbello, 21 D & C 3d 187, 196 (1981) (social security benefits are not marital property; “[w]hereas, in general, individuals accrue property rights to pensions, a form of deferred compensation, they accrue no property rights to Social Security benefits.”). A trial court may only distribute money and property that is part of the marital estate. In the instant case, the trial court divided monies that were not assets of the marriage.” Powell v. Powell, 577 A.2d 576 (Pa. 1990, Supreme Court of Pennsylvania.

If you have a concern about how Social Security disability benefits impact your divorce, an attorney who handles family law matters can help you. Also, if you have a Social Security Disability or Supplemental Security Income case – my office understands the challenges you are facing and can guide you through the difficult decisions you need to make. Many times we work hand in hand with divorce lawyers.

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What Happens If My Marriage Status Changes?

Your marital status has an effect on you benefits, or if you are receiving benefits as the result of having a deceased spouse.

If you are applying for Social Security benefits, the Administration will ask for the combined income of you and your spouse. That number will be evaluated to determine how much you are eligible to receive if you are applying for SSI benefits, since part of the qualification is based on your assets. If your spouse’s income is determined to be too high, you may not be able to qualify to receive SSI benefits. In addition, if you are receiving SSI benefits and you get married, your benefits may be adjusted based on the income of your new spouse. Whether or not you are working, the Administration looks at the household income for SSI.

If you are married, you are eligible to claim your spouse’s Social Security benefits. You can receive up to half of the retired worker’s benefit. They can also receive the higher earner’s benefit if they are a surviving spouse. If you are divorced, but the marriage last ten years or more, you are eligible to receiving survivor spouse benefits as well. If you are divorced and the marriage was under 10 years, then you are not eligible for benefits.

Remarrying after your spouse has died if you are under the age of 50 and disabled or under the age of 60 and not disabled will result in a discontinuation of the benefits. However, if you remarry and you are over the age of 60, you will still receive survivor benefits.

Be sure to report your marital status and name changes to the Administration if you are receiving benefits, have an application open, or believe there is any reason why the amount may be adjusted otherwise.

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How Can I Lose My SSI Benefits?

How Can I Lose My SSI Benefits?

Social Security Income and Social Security Disability are two different programs. If you are receiving Social Security Income (SSI), you are disabled and have also fallen into a specific income bracket.

In order to be eligible for SSI, you have to have less than $2,000 to your name. this includes any bank accounts, child support, or assets. You also must be disabled.

If you have been approved for SSI and are receiving benefits, it is still possible to lose those benefits. There are various reasons you can lose your SSI benefits:
1) Your living situation changes
2) You get married
3) You get a full-time job
4) You receive a check or payment that is over $2,000
5) You are gift an asset that is over $2,000
6) You win a settlement or claim that is over $2,000
7) You are no longer disabled

Almost every reason that you would lose your benefits stems from the monetary qualifications needed for SSI. If something does happen in which you are receiving a temporary payment, it is best to see if that can be broken up so as not to affect your SSI benefits.

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How Does SSD/SSI Affect Worker’s Compensation?

Worker’s compensation and Social Security benefits are two different categories of monetary rewards. It is possible, however, that you are eligible for both. If you were injured n the job or have an illness that is related to work, you may be eligible to receive worker’s compensation. If you are disabled, you can also still qualify for Social Security benefits.

While you are able to qualify and receive both benefits, if you are receiving worker’s compensation, your Social Security benefits will be affected. Social Security will reduce the amount of benefits that you receive to offset the worker’s compensation. The total monthly amount that a person receives on both sets of benefits cannot be more than 80% of the amount that they received while they were employed. As a result, Social Security will adjust accordingly.

Worker’s compensation is state run and therefore differs from state to state, meaning that where you live will change the amount you receive. If you received a worker’s compensation settlement in a lump sum, Social Security will still divide it out and calculate it into monthly installments in order to figure out the amount that you will receive from them.

Do not let the presence of worker’s compensation deter you from applying to Social Security benefits. It is important to know that your benefits may be affected, but you are not barred from receiving them.

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Last Opportunity to Vote in Butler’s Best Contest

Our Law Office was recently nominated as one of Butler’s Best Law Offices. The contest is run by the Butler Radio Network. Voting ends October 25, 2018. We are honored to be nominated. Please vote for our law office today.VOTE TODAY

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What Happens If I Move?

Social Security is a federal entity, but it is dealt with on a state level. As a result of this, moving can have an effect on the filing and receiving of your benefits.

If you move while you are receiving benefits, your benefits will transfer with you. If you are receiving SSD, this is wholly federally administered, and therefore the amount will not change. You must make sure you report your change of address to the Administration, but your benefits will stay the same.

If you are receiving SSI, a part of that amount is federal, and a part of it is given through the state. This section is called the state supplement, and it varies from state to state. Some states, such as Virginia, do not have a state supplemental program. As a result, if you move, you will no longer receiving the state supplement from your original home state. Depending on where you move to, you may receive a different state’s supplement if you qualify and it is available.

In addition, moving means that your living situation is now different. As a result of this, the amount you receive may be adjusted depending on how much your cost of living has changed.

If you move while you are in the middle of the appeal process, you must speak with the Administration. Depending how far along you are in the process, you may have to come back to your home state for the hearing or transfer the case to another state.

The most important thing is to make sure to call the Administration at 1-800-772-1213 with any plans of moving. Your monthly payments can get penalized if you do not report the move right away, and your hearing can get slowed down if a change has to be made.

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We’ve Been Nominated as one of Butler’s Best

Our Law Office was recently nominated as one of Butler’s Best Law Offices. The contest is run by the Butler Radio Network. Voting began yesterday and runs through October 25, 2018. We are honored to be nominated. Our office has been serving the Western PA area – working primarily in the area of Social Security Disability and Supplemental Security Income. We are committed to putting people first, being fit, taking the next step, making it better, owning it, treat people better, and celebrate often. Please vote for our law office today.

Vote for Law Office of Elizabeth A. Smith

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What Is An Overpayment?

An overpayment with your Social Security benefits occurs when your monthly check comes in and the monetary amount is more than you should have been paid. The overpayment amount is the different between the two numbers. Overpayments are common and can be easily remedied. They occur for several reasons:

1) Your marital status changes
2) Your living situation changes
3) Your income changes
4) Your income is more than was estimated
5) You are no longer disabled but are still getting benefits
6) You have more than the allotted resources
7) A change occur that is not reported
8) The Administration incorrectly calculates your benefits

If an overpayment does occur, the Social Security Administration will notify you with a notice in the mail. The notice will detail the overpayment and ask for a full refund of the difference within 30 days.

An overpayment notice is sometimes sent in error, and if this is the case, you can request a reconsideration. You must appeal this within 10 days of receiving the notice, and in the interim, any payment that is being made will continue until they have made a determination.

If you do not give the refund, your payments will be withheld until the amount is evened out. It is important to know that if you were overpaid, it was not your fault, and you cannot pay back the overpayment because you need the money to meet your living expenses, you may file for a waiver of the overpayment.

Overpayments are common and must be dealt with in a quick and timely manner.

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How Does Same Sex Marriage Affect My Spouse’s Entitlement To Benefits?

In June 2016, the Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry in all states and that the marriage would be recognized. They ended the debate or whether same-sex marriage was legal, giving homosexual couples the same rights that had been afforded to heterosexual couples for decades.

Among all other legal rights given, same sex couples could now qualify to receive Social Security benefits for themselves and their family from their spouse. Upon the passing of the legalization of same-sex marriage, the Social Security Administration encouraged all same sex couples who believe they might qualify for benefits to apply immediately, so as not to lose any more time. If you are a same-sex couple, the benefits you are eligible for are the same as if you were a heterosexual couple; you can now qualify for survivor benefits, retirement benefits, or disability benefits.

The benefits that you are eligible to receive would depend on the earnings of your spouse, and it would be a percentage of their Social Security amount. It is also important to note that if you remarry before you are 60 years of age, you will no longer be able to receive benefits. Any remarriage after 60, however, still allows you to qualify for benefits from your deceased spouse.

The Social Security Administration also recognizes some non-marital legal relationships, such as civil unions and domestic partnerships, for the purposes of determining some benefits as well.

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