Harrisburg adds new Workers Comp Judge

Harrisburg’s workers compensation adjudication office will add a new Judge, beginning on Monday.  Attorney Leah Lewis has been appointed a new Workers Compensation Judge.

Attorney Lewis spent five years between two defense firms representing employers and insurance carrier in workers compensation defense.  Most recently, Lewis spent the past two years working for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania as an Assistant Counsel.

We welcome Attorney Lewis tot he Workers Compensation bench.

Social Security Benefits to increase by 1.7%

Older and disabled Americans will see a 1.7% cost of living adjustment for their benefits for the year 2015.   The 1.7% increase marks the third consecutive year that the COLA for social security beneficiaries is held under 2%.

The government announced the benefit increase today.  The increase is based on the latest measure of consumer prices.  The Social Security Act provides for increases and those increases should be based on on inflation, mainly the Consumer Price Index.

Social Security retirement benefits are financed through a 12.4% payroll tax on the first $117,000 of a worker’s wages, in which half the tax is paid by the employee and half by the employer.  Social Security Disability benefits are funded through a payroll tax of 7.65% of earnings (subject to a maximum) that applies to both employees and employers (15.3 percent total).  These payroll taxes fund all Social Security programs and most of Medicare.  SSD benefits are payable and calculated on the basis of the worker’s earnings from Social Security–covered employment, and a Claimant must still have insured status.  Disability benefits are based on a measure of lifetime predisability earnings.  If an individual is awarded Social Security Disability, there is a a 5-month waiting period before benefits can start, and Medicare coverage for the Claimant is not available until the Claimant is entitled to disability benefits for 24 months.

So what is the average increase based on 1.7% COLA increase that recipients will see?  Well, it varies from person to person, depending on your benefits amount, but on average, the 1/7% increase will reflect approximately $20 increase per month.

If you or a family member or friend have recently applied for Social Security Disability and have been denied, call Mooney & Associates for a FREE case evaluation at 1-877-632-4656.  Remember, Social Security Disability is time sensitive.  If you received your denial letter more than 60 days ago, and failed to file an Appeal, then you must start the application process all over again.  Call us before the 60 day window expires.  We wills it down and talk over your case with you.  We provide an honest evaluation of whether we believe we can win you disability benefits.  No sugar coating from us!

Mooney & Associates has full-time staffed offices in Chambersburg, Carlisle, Harrisburg, York, Gettysburg, and Hanover in Central Pennsylvania.

NEWS: PA Justice Seamus McCaffery Suspended over Porn Email Allegations

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has suspended Justice Seamus McCaffery over the allegations rising from the widening porn email scandal gripping Harrisburg.  In the Order by the seven remaining justices, the case will be forwarded to the Judicial Conduct Board to determine if formal misconduct charges should be filed against Justice McCaffery.  CommCt

Justice McCaffery has been involved in a recent war of words with Chief Justice Ronald Castille.  Castille released the following statement regarding McCaffery’s suspension.

 “In my two decades of experience on this court, no other justice . . . has done as much to bring the Supreme Court into disrepute,” Chief Justice Ronald D. Castille wrote in a statement released with the order. “No other justice has failed to live up to the high ethical demands required of a justice of this court or has been the constant focus of ethical lapses to the degree of Justice McCaffery.”

Justice McCaffery responded.

“Today’s action against Justice McCaffery should surprise no one, given Chief Justice Castille’s relentless crusade to destroy his career and reputation. We will continue in our efforts to expose the malicious intent behind this effort to take down Justice McCaffery. We are confident that he will be cleared of any wrongdoing and returned to the bench soon.”

It will be interesting to watch how this continues to develop.  McCaffery has said int he past that he would not go down alone and would take another Justice with him.  Now its a wait and see.   The Justice that seems centered around McCaffery’s comments could be Justice Michael Eakin.

McCaffery and Justice J. Michael Eakin abstained from Monday’s vote. Eakin last week accused McCaffery of threatening to leak to reporters pornographic and racially tinged e-mails that Eakin had received, allegedly telling Eakin he “was not going down alone.”

This is the latest in a series of mishaps by the Commonwealth’s highest Court.   The most recent involved former Justice Joan Melvin Orie, who was forced to resign after being convicted by a jury on public corruption charges, mainly charges stemming from using her Superior Court office in her campaign for the Supreme Court.

Amazon hires 80K season workers

The Christmas season is upon us, in terms of retail.  Amazon.com is in the process of hiring 80,000 season workers at its distribution centers across the country.  Locally, Amazon.com has a large distribution center located in Carlisle, Pennsylvania off Exit 44 of Interstate 81 and Lewisberry, Pennsylvania.   Retailers, including Amazon.com, are expecting an uptick in holiday sales in comparison to last year.

The pace of hiring at a retailer can serve as an indicator of expectations for the holiday shopping season, which accounts for 20 percent of the industry’s annual sales, according to the National Retail Federation, a trade group.

Overall, the National Retail Federation said it expects sales during the November and December period to increase 4.1 percent to $616.9 billion, up a percentage point higher than last year. It marks the highest increase since 2011 when the rise was 4.8 percent.

If you live in Carlisle and are looking for employment, check out Amazon.com website for opening in the Amazon Carlisle distribution center or Amazon Lewisberry distribution center

Proving your Social Security Disability appeal

I am often asked how Social Security Judges evaluate appeals that come before them for decision.  The answer to that questions is simple.  Social Security formalized a  five-step sequential evaluation process to determine if a Claimant should be entitled to Social Security Disability benefits (SDD).   In fact, they write their decisions granting or denying benefits utilizing the five step process.  So what is this five-step evaluation process?

Step 1.  Have you been Unable to Work for 12 Months?

This is always an easy step to make, at least in Claimants that come to me.  If the applicant has not been out of work for 12 or more months or is not expected to be out for 12 or more months, my intake with the client ends.  If you haven’t been out of work or expected to be out of work for 12 or more months, then you are NOT ELIGIBLE for SSD.   When we are talking about out of work, we are talking about social security’s definition of substantial gainful activity.   Substantial gainful employment amount for 2014 is earning $1070 per month.   In other words, if you are making over $1,070 per month, then you are NOT ELIGIBLE for SSD benefits.  If you have not had any substantial gainful employment for 12 or more months, then you move to Step 2.

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Step Two – Do you have a Severe Medical Impairment?

The condition you indicate on your application and your medical records and evidence you provide must find your alleged condition(s) to be a ‘severe medically determinable impairment.’   In my practice, this usually is not an issue.  Social security usually does indicate on your denial letter that “although your medical condition is severe . . . ”  If your condition was not severe, I would not consider taking your appeal.  Medical records, diagnostics reports, and reports for your Doctor would indicate the severity of your condition.  In many regards, my clients are told by their doctors to apply for SSD.  That’s a pretty good indiciation that your medical records would point to a severe medical condition.  So, if your medical condition is determined to be severe, then move to Step 3.

Step Three – Does the Severity of the Impairment Meet the Listings?

Federal Regulations contains a list of medical conditions within a description of a certain severity of that impairment.   For example, an applicant can be awarded benefits for Diabetes.  However, just because you have Diabetes does not mean you meet that listing nor does it mean you are eligible for SSD.  To meet the listing, you must meet the specific criteria listed for that listing.  The criteria are very specific and must be documented throughout the medical records.   If your medical records indicate that you meet a listing, then the sequential process ends and benefits can be awarded.  I find most clients do not meet a listing.  In fact, several Judges do not want listing arguments, because they believe if the records indicated a listing was met, benefits would never have been denied.  If you do not meet a listing, we then go to Step 4.

Step Four – Can you Perform Their Past Relevant Work?

First, what is past relevant work?  Past relevant work is work that you have done over the past 15 years.  There is also an issue with whether you performed that specific work long enough to be deemed to be past relevant work.  If the work is determined to be past relevant work, then it will be classified as one of the following:  sedentary work, light work, medium work, or heavy work.  These determinations are based on exertion levels of the work.  Legal arguments can be made to dispute whether the appropriate work designation is made..  If it is determined that the you can perform your past relevant work then the Judge will deny benefits.  Social Security will determine your residual functional capacity (RFC). This is their determination based on your file review and possibly a consultative examination on what specifically they believe you can still do despite your medical conditions.  If the Judge finds you can’t perform any past relevant work, then we move on to the final Step 5.

Step Five – Can you Perform Other Work?

This is where most social security disability cases are decided.  If you can’t do any past relevant work, then the Judge must decide if you can do any other types of jobs. The examination under this step considers your RFC,  your age, your education, and any relevant skills to determine what other types of jobs you may be able to do. A vocational expert is present in your social security hearing to possibly identify jobs that you may be able to do, within your RFC and restrictions identified by the Judge.  If it is determined that you can’t perform any other work, then your will be granted SSD benefits.

Our law firm handle social security disability appeals.  We are not the type of law firm that will lead you on months and months and months.  We will provide an honest assessment of your case.  If you have applied for social security disability benefits and have been denied, call us today for a FREE CONSULTATION to discuss your case.  You can contact Mooney & Associates at 1-877-632-4656 or email us directly at info@mooneyandassociates.com.  We have offices spread throughout South Central Pennsylvania for your convenience, including staffed offices in Chambersburg, Carlisle, Harrisburg, York, Gettysburg, and Hanover.  We can also meet you in one of our satellite office in Mercersbutrg, Shippensburg, Duncannon, Halifax, New Oxford, and Stewardstown.

 

 

Mooney & Associates discounts for Military Veterans

My law firm, Mooney &Associates, provides more legal services than just Workers Compensation and Social Security Disability.  Our General Practice Division offers legal services in the following areas of law:    Family Law, including Divorce, Support, and Custody, Criminal Defense, Real Estate Settlement, Estate Planning and Administration, Bankruptcy, Veterans Planning, Crisis Planning (Medicaid and Asset protection), Business Law (Formation), Unemployment Compensation Appeals, Long Term Disability Appeals, and Civil Litigation.

To honor our Military Veterans and to thank for their service to this great nation, we offer the following to our Veterans!

Mooney & Associates offers a 35% discount on all flat fee document charges and a 25% discount off Attorney hourly rates. For VA pension planning, we offer a FREE qualification review of their assets.

It’s our way of saying — THANK YOU!

If you are a Military Veteran and need legal services, contact us right away at 1-877-632-4656.  Take advantage of our discounts!  We have convenient offices for you in Chambersburg, Shippensburg, Carlisle, Harrisburg, York, Duncannon, Halifax, Gettysburg, Hanover, and New Oxford.

Mooney & Associates is Hanover, PA Attorney of Choice!

Mooney & Associates is the top choice of Hanover, Pennsylvania for Lawyers.   The results are in!  Mooney & Associates finished in FIRST place in the Hanover Evening Sun Reader’s Choice Awards as the top Law Firm in the Hanover area.  We are proud of the recognition and humbled by the support and thank you for selecting us as your top Law Firm.

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Mooney & Associates provides legal services in General Practice, including Family Law, Criminal Law, Estates Planning and Administration, Business Law, Real Estate Law, and Civil Litigation.  Another big and growing part of our practice is Personal Injury.  We have a full litigation Workers Compensation practice, Social Security Disability, Motor vehicle Accidents, Slip & Falls, Dog Bite litigation, and more.   Check our website out for more detailed information about our law firm.

Our firm serves Adams County, Cumberland County, Dauphin County, Franklin County, Fulton County, Perry County, and York County in Central Pennsylvania.  We have full time operating office in Hanover, York, Gettysburg, Harrisburg, Carlisle, and Chambersburg.

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