North Carolina disability statistics

Definitions of Disability

There are different definitions of disability.  For Social Security Disability, disability is defined as the inability to engage in substantial gainful activity.  For workers’ compensation in North Carolina, disability is defined as “incapacity because of injury to earn the wages which the employee was receiving at the time of injury in the same or any other employment.”  A person can have a disability, but not be disabled from working or engaging in certain activities.

Disability Statistics

“There are an estimated 1,336,000 people in North Carolina over the age of five who have a form of disability.

Approximately 242,000 people, or 3.1% of the state’s population, experience difficulties with performing activities of daily living such as dressing, bathing, or getting around inside of their homes.

There are around 753,000 people in the state who have a form of work disability, and around 274,000 people with disabilities in North Carolina who are employed.

Around 45,000 people with disabilities in the state are unemployed, while 426,000 are currently not in the workforce.”

Citation: Disabled World News – Recent news stories and articles from North Carolina USA including medical related news and coming events: http://www.disabled-world.com/news/america/nc/#ixzz2Qlm2QCZj

 

Tax Day

Taxes and Legal Matters

So it is tax day again.  Those who receive a refund likely filed way before today.  It is the people who have to pay who wait to the last day.  Many people file extensions as well.

With all the talk of budgets, raising taxes, cutting expenditures, it is important to know what is taxable and what is not regarding legal matters.  I am not a tax attorney, but some benefits or damages are taxable and some are not.

Damages recovered from personal injury cases are generally not taxable.  There are of course exceptions as usually in the law.  Punitive damages are taxable.  See IRS publications for specifics.

In regards to Social Security disability benefits, “you will have to pay Federal taxes on your Social Security benefits if you file a Federal tax return as an individual and your total income is more than $25,000. If you file a joint return, you will have to pay taxes if you and your spouse have a total income of more than $32,000.”

 

Posted in Uncategorized |

Parents use medical marijuana to treat their 11 year old autistic son

Oregon Family uses medical marijuana to treat their 11 year old autistic son

A story on Fox News about an Oregon family who is using a liquid form of medical marijuana on their 11 year old autistic son. http://www.foxnews.com/health/2013/04/04/family-uses-medical-marijuana-to-treat-severely-autistic-son/?test=latestnews

They claim it changed his self-destructive behavior in 1 – 1 1/2 hours.  I can say I do not know enough about medical marijuana at this point, but the stigma of marijuana for recreational creates concern for use on a child.  Self-destructive behaviors can be dangerous.  They claim the benefits of the use outweigh any potential long term effects.

Posted in Uncategorized |

Autism Awareness

Today is World Autism Awareness day.

April is National Autism Awareness Month in the United States.  Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius released a statement on this topic.  The statement included a definition of Autism and the limitations associated with the various forms of autism.

Secretary Sebelius noted in her statement that the Affordable Care Act will prevent insurers from declining coverage for people with autism based on a pre-existing condition.  Also, health insurance plans must now cover for autism screening of children between 18 and 24 months with no out-of-pocket costs to the parents.

Autism is generally seen as a spectrum.  People with autism exhibit various symptoms and have varying difficulties adapting to various situations.

Children with autism can qualify to receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits.  They usually need accommodations and adaptations in the classroom in order to be included in a regular classroom setting.  Equipment such as electronic devices and “squishy toys” can be provided by a school system for a child with Autism.

There are various services for families with Autism.   There is a Durham chapter of the Autism Society.  Also, several agencies provide respite for families with children with disabilities.  This is an important and needed service.  It can be exhausting caring for a special needs child 24/7.  Giving the parent(s) time away is priceless.

Posted in Uncategorized |

Exceptional Children

Placement and Accommodations

Now that the first round of lottery selections have been completed in Durham County schools, some parents of children with special needs may be wondering whether they selected the proper school for their child and what accommodations will be needed.

Placement

All Exceptional Children (EC) students are entitled to the same education as other children in public, magnet and charter schools.  N.C.Gen.Stat. § 115C-107.1 provides that all children are entitled to a free appropriate education.  Inclusion should be the rule, not the exception.

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 prohibits discrimination of children with special needs in education settings.  However, there is not an enforcement mechanism for a Section 504 plan.  You can only file a complaint with the Office of Civil Rights.  Twenty U.S.C. § 1401(9) provides that a Free Appropriate Education includes services that are “in conformity with the Individualized Education Program . . . “  The EC program, established as a result of Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and Article 9 of Chapter 115C of the North Carolina General Statutes prohibit discrimination and provide for enforcement of the anti-discrimination requirement through an Individualized Education Plan (IEP).

Accommodations

Reasonable accommodations must be provided for children to participate in regular classroom settings.  The accommodations include, but are not limited to, one-on-one assistants, test taking accommodations (time extensions, alternative places for test taking, assistance with writing or typing, filling in bubble sheets), physical or occupational therapy, medication assistance and hearing/speech devices.

Unfortunately, some students are denied testing to see if they qualify for an IEP.  Others have an IEP, but are not given the proper accommodations and services needed to help them participate as much as possible in a regular classroom setting.  Some parents have told me they have an IEP for their child, but the school refuses to let their child into a regular classroom.  The child is placed in an EC classroom where the child may not receive adequate social interaction and attention they need.

Whether your child is in year-round school or traditional, now is the time to evaluate the services your child is receiving and see if they are adequate, especially if your child is changing schools this year.

Posted in Exceptional Children |

Social Security Disability Processing Times

ODAR Processing Times

A hearing before an Administrative Law Judge is the second appeal in the Social Security Disability appeal process.  At a hearing, you appear in-person before an Administrative Law Judge or by video teleconference.

In North Carolina, there are hearing offices, called ODARs (Office of Disability Adjudication and Review), in Raleigh, Greensboro, Charlotte, and Fayetteville.  When you file a claim for disability benefits, you file at the local office in your area.  When you reach the hearing level and you file your Application for Hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (form HA-501), then your case is assigned to the ODAR closest to your reported residence.  (NOTE:  all requests for hearing must be filed online now).

When you file a request for a hearing, the ODAR office will schedule a hearing by contacting you no earlier than 20 days before the hearing date.  If you live more than 75 miles from the nearest ODAR, you case may be heard at a satellite hearing office either with a judge present or by video.

Depending on the volume of work for each office, staffing, budgets, etc., the wait time for receiving a hearing date varies for each office.  The Social Security Administration keeps track of the average time for final disposition of cases.  The Charlotte, NC ODAR has the best processing time for cases in North Carolina, with an average process time of 393 days.  Out of all of the hearing offices throughout the country, Charlotte ranks 121.  The Raleigh, NC ODAR is ranked 130, with an average processing time of 402 days.  The Fayetteville, NC ODAR is ranked 143 with an average processing time of 421 days.  The Greensboro, NC ODAR is ranked 162 out of 165 offices, with an average processing time of 466 days.

See http://www.ssa.gov/appeals/DataSets/05_Average_Processing_Time_Report.html

So obtaining a hearing date is just part of the disposition process.  Once you obtain a hearing date, you then need to attend the hearing.  If you do not have all of your evidence to present before or at the hearing, sometimes a hearing would be held open for a time to allow for submission of additional evidence.  Also, most administrative law judges do not make a decision regarding a claim at the hearing.  They will review the evidence, hear the claimant’s testimony and any other witnesses, then make a decision.  The judge’s opinion and reasoning are given to a decision writing unit.  This unit prepares the actual decision.  There is not a deadline or requirement for a specified time for the decision to be sent to a claimant after a hearing.  Some decisions take a few weeks, others a month or more.  This time is factored into the processing time for cases.  The longest time I have seen for a decision was 4 months after the hearing date.

Duration Requirement

These times seem long and they are.  However, the Social Security regulations provide that a claimant must be disabled for more than 12 months or expected to be disabled for more than 12 months.  Faster hearing times may lead to some denials because of this regulation.

Social Security Disability Case Processing Times

Social Security Hearing Office Processing Times

A hearing before an Administrative Law Judge is the second appeal in the Social Security Disability appeal process.  At a hearing, you appear in-person before an Administrative Law Judge or by video teleconference.

In North Carolina, there are hearing offices, called ODARs (Office of Disability Adjudication and Review), in Raleigh, Greensboro, Charlotte, and Fayetteville.  When you file a claim for disability benefits, you file at the local office in your area.  When you reach the hearing level and you file your Application for Hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (form HA-501), then your case is assigned to the ODAR closest to your reported residence.  (NOTE:  all requests for hearing must be filed online now).

When you file a request for a hearing, the ODAR office will schedule a hearing by contacting you no earlier than 20 days before the hearing date.  If you live more than 75 miles from the nearest ODAR, you case may be heard at a satellite hearing office either with a judge present or by video.

Depending on the volume of work for each office, staffing, budgets, etc., the wait time for receiving a hearing date varies for each office.  The Social Security Administration keeps track of the average time for final disposition of cases.  The Charlotte, NC ODAR has the best processing time for cases in North Carolina, with an average process time of 393 days.  Out of all of the hearing offices throughout the country, Charlotte ranks 121.  The Raleigh, NC ODAR is ranked 130, with an average processing time of 402 days.  The Fayetteville, NC ODAR is ranked 143 with an average processing time of 421 days.  The Greensboro, NC ODAR is ranked 162 out of 165 offices, with an average processing time of 466 days.

See http://www.ssa.gov/appeals/DataSets/05_Average_Processing_Time_Report.html

So obtaining a hearing date is just part of the disposition process.  Once you obtain a hearing date, you then need to attend the hearing.  If you do not have all of your evidence to present before or at the hearing, sometimes a hearing would be held open for a time to allow for submission of additional evidence.  Also, most administrative law judges do not make a decision regarding a claim at the hearing.  They will review the evidence, hear the claimant’s testimony and any other witnesses, then make a decision.  The judge’s opinion and reasoning are given to a decision writing unit.  This unit prepares the actual decision.  There is not a deadline or requirement for a specified time for the decision to be sent to a claimant after a hearing.  Some decisions take a few weeks, others a month or more.  This time is factored into the processing time for cases.  The longest time I have seen for a decision to be made was 4 months after the hearing date.

These processing times seem long and they are.  However, the Social Security regulations provide that a claimant must be disabled for more than 12 months or expected to be disabled for more than 12 months.  Faster hearing times may lead to some denials because of this regulation.

TSA performs patdown on 3-year Old Girl in a Wheelchair on Her Way to Disney World

On February 9th, TSA agents at the St. Louis airport detained Lucy Forck as she and her family were boarding a flight for Orlando, FL.  Lucy has spina bifida and is confined to a wheelchair.  Lucy, her parents, Nathan and Annie Forck, along with her two siblings, cleared the TSA checkpoint without incident. However, as they were at the gate ready to board, a TSA agent pulled Lucy aside for additional screening measures.  They wanted to pat her down.  According to Nathan Forck, the TSA agents told him they were singling her out for this additional screening because she’s in a wheelchair.  They said they are specifically targeting disabled people for this special scrutiny.

Annie Forck tried to videotape the incident and the TSA agents told her this was illegal.  This is government intrusion at its worse.

This policy of the TSA is highly offensive.  It flies in the face of all of the anti-discrimination laws.  I realize radical people have used children to carry out suicide bombings and other outrageous acts of terrorism, but to specifically target people with disabilities is offensive.

To add insult to injury, the TSA did this to another 3 year old in 2010 at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport.  The TSA claimed this patdown occurred prior to their modified screening measures.   Did their modified measures include targeting people with disabilities?

See:  http://radio.foxnews.com/toddstarnes/top-stories/tsa-detains-3-year-old-in-wheelchair.html

Posted in Uncategorized |

Star Wars-Type Technology Coming to Life

As a disability and personal injury lawyer, it pains me to see my clients in pain.  It is just as disheartening to see children and veterans suffer.

The technology for lower limb loss is ahead of the game over upper limb devices.  But an article on Fox News today was really encouraging.  Silvestro Micera of Switzerland’s École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) revealed a new bionic hand that may let amputees feel again.  The electrical components of the hand can be attached directly into the nerves of the patient.  They were able to record signals from the device related to grasping.  See the link below for the full article.

This is huge.  There are devices out now for amputees to use.  The typical hook-type hand that allows a person to open and close the device to pick up items is probably the most common.  Touch Bionics, a company in Massachusetts, developed the I-Limb.  This is a mechanical hand with individual moving fingers.  This is great, but the leap to creating the touch sensation is amazing.  Remember the scene in Star Wars – Empire Strikes Back, when Luke gets his mechanical hand and the robot taps the mechanical hand with a pin and Luke responded.  This technology may be reality soon.

Advancements in technology for people with disabilities are awesome.  The emotional weight these people feel is incredible.  They lose their freedom at times.  They feel less than what they were.  Giving independence to people with disabilities is a great gift.

Obamacare threatens these advancements as the new taxes on medical equipment could slow the research of such devices.

On major obstacle people with disabilities face is the cost of these devices.  Some health insurance companies cover very little or nothing at all for durable medical equipment.  With increasing costs and changes in health care, Medicare and Medicaid may not cover these items.

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/tech/2013/02/18/new-bionic-hand-may-let-amputees-feel-again/?intcmp=HPBucket#ixzz2LILcEjOt

Posted in Uncategorized |

Why U.M./U.I.M. is important for Y.O.U.

Personal Injury – Insurance Issues

In North Carolina, all owners of registered vehicles must carry insurance coverage.  Vehicle owners are only required to carry liability insurance on their vehicles.  Liability coverage is insurance coverage in the event someone hits another driver.  The problem is that the minimum coverage for liability insurance is $30,000 per person/$60,000 per accident.  So, if another driver hits your vehicle and you are injured and they have minimum coverage, there is only $30,000 available to you for your injuries.  If there are multiple people in your vehicle, then the maximum amount available for the accident is $60,000.  Thus the importance of UIM coverage.

UIM stands for underinsured motorist coverage.  With all of the ads by insurance companies about saving money on your car insurance, this seems to be the most overlooked and undersold coverage.  Clients have told me that their insurance agents told them they did not need underinsured coverage.  UIM is coverage to protect YOU.  If you only carry minimum liability insurance ($30,000/60,000), then you cannot get UIM coverage.  In order to get UIM, you must carry more than minimum liability coverage.  If you carry $100,000 per person liability coverage then you have $100,000 UIM coverage.  So, if you were in a car accident and the other driver was at fault, then there would be $100,000 in insurance coverage for you, not just $30,000.  Here’s how it works.  If your injuries are such that a $100,000 settlement or judgment would be appropriate, then you would collect the $30,000 from the insurance company for the other driver and then seek the other $70,000 from you insurance company under your UIM coverage.  It is $100,000 total.  Your insurance company gets credit for the liability amount.  If the other driver had $50,000 liability coverage, then you could collect up to $50,000 from your insurance company.

Insurance agents may tell you that you can save money on your car insurance by rejecting UIM coverage or by selecting a lower amount.  You can chose either, but you have less money to recover from in the event of an accident.

U.M. coverage is uninsured motorist coverage.  This is insurance coverage in the event someone causes an accident and they do not have any insurance coverage.  If you carry minimum liability insurance, then you have the same amount of UM coverage.  If you carry a higher liability amount, then you get the same amount of UM coverage, unless you select differently.

UM and UIM benefit YOU and your passengers.

Posted in Personal Injury |