The DisabilityStL Blog
News, Information and Tips on Social Security Disability
The President has signed the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act of 2014 into law following its approval by bipartisan majorities in both the House and Senate.
The ABLE Act provides a means of achieving financial security for some SSI and SSDI recipients and other disabled individuals. In the same way that Section 529 Qualified Tuition plans allow creation of tax exempt accounts for educational expenses, the ABLE Act allows for creation of tax exempt accounts for the accumulation of funds for individuals with disabilities and their families to meet needs connected with their disabilities.
Perhaps the most important aspect of the ABLE Act is that assets in ABLE accounts are excluded from SSI recipients’ resources in determining their eligibility to receive SSI benefits. As discussed more fully here, the law requires that SSI recipients possess less than $2,000 in resources ($3,000 for a couple) in order to receive benefits. Under the ABLE Act, SSI may accumulate their earnings in an ABLE account without jeopardizing their SSI eligibility.
More will be known about how ABLE Act accounts will work after the Treasury Department publishes regulations on their operation and the accounts are authorized by the individual states.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) issued a bulletin aimed at clarifying what documentation may be requested from potential borrowers who receive Social Security Disability benefits. The bulletin notes that “Social Security disability income recipients have faced special challenges in providing proof that their disability payments are likely to continue.”
The bulletin discusses how lenders may consider Social Security disability income for purposes of the ability-to-repay/qualified mortgage rules. It states that income may be verified by means of a Social Security Administration benefit verification letter and states that a lender can consider such income as “effective and likely to continue” if the letter does not give a defined expiration date within three years of loan origination.
So, if you apply for a loan, and your benefit verification letter does not specify an expiration date, then the lender should consider your SSDI income “effective and likely to continue”. The lender should not request additional evidence, such as a letter from your doctor, that your disability is likely to continue.
Read the entire CFPB Bulletin here.
How do you obtain a benefit verification letter?
Two SSA brochures explain the process. One brochure explains how to create a MySSA account if you don’t already have one (SSA – Create MySSA Account brochure). The other brochure explains how to have the benefit verification letter issued instantly – you don’t have to wait for SSA to mail it out to you (SSA – Request Online Benefit Verification Letter through MySSA brochure).
The Social Security Administration’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) released a warning that individuals posing as Government officials have sent texts to Social Security disability applicants. The recipients have reportedly been located in several US cities, including the Greater St. Louis area.
The texts read, “Disability Alert: Please call 253-xxx-xxxx regarding your recent disability benefits application.”
The OIG warns that “Social Security will never send you a text message about your application for Social Security benefits.”
Monthly Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits for nearly 64 million Americans will increase 1.7 percent in 2015, the Social Security Administration announced today.
The 1.7 percent cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) will begin with benefits that more than 58 million Social Security beneficiaries receive in January 2015. Increased payments to more than 8 million SSI beneficiaries will begin on December 31, 2014. The Social Security Act ties the annual COLA to the increase in the Consumer Price Index as determined by the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Some other changes that take effect in January of each year are based on the increase in average wages. Based on that increase, the maximum amount of earnings subject to the Social Security tax (taxable maximum) will increase to $118,500 from $117,000. Of the estimated 168 million workers who will pay Social Security taxes in 2015, about 10 million will pay higher taxes because of the increase in the taxable maximum.
Information about Medicare changes for 2015 is available at www.Medicare.gov.
The Social Security Act provides for how the COLA is calculated. To read more, please visit www.socialsecurity.gov/cola.
A fact sheet showing the impact of the increase for various benefit recipients is available here: SSA – Cost of Living Adjustment – 2015.
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