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West Virginia Social Security Blog

Bayer ordered to pay more than $2 billion in Roundup cancer case

Roundup is the most popular weed killer in West Virginia and around the country, but its prolonged use has been linked to the development of deadly cancers including non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. Roundup was originally sold in the United States by Monsanto, which was acquired by the German multinational chemicals company Bayer in 2018. Bayer decided to proceed with the $66 billion deal despite knowing that the Missouri-based agrochemical manufacturer faced thousands of lawsuits over its controversial glyphosate-based herbicide.

One of these lawsuits was filed by an elderly California couple who claimed that their non-Hodgkin's lymphoma was directly related to their long-term use of Roundup weed killer. On May 13, a jury awarded the couple $55 million in compensatory damages and $2 billion in punitive damages after determining that Roundup was a defective product and its makers had not adequately warned the public about the dangers of using it.

Important dates for Social Security Disability back payments

The Social Security Administration has not established a maximum amount of back pay available to Social Security Disability applicants in West Virginia and around the country. The amount of disability benefit back payments is determined by such a large number of factors that establishing a maximum is practically impossible. The four most important factors impacting the payment amounts are the date of filing, the established date of onset, the waiting period, and the month of entitlement.

The date of filing is a key to potential retroactive benefits. If the filer has not been able to work for at least 17 months prior to filing, he or she may be allowed 12 months of retroactive benefits. Medical evidence is generally used to substantiate that the person was disabled for the claimed period.

Family members could collect benefits as well

If an individual in West Virginia or any other state receives disability benefits, family members may also collect benefits. Children, current spouses and former spouses of the recipient may be entitled to up to 50% of the recipient's benefit. The extra benefits are capped at up to 180% of a disabled person's monthly payment, and a former spouse who receives a payment won't count toward that limit.

There are criteria that these eligible parties must meet to receive payment. A biological or adopted child must be under the age of 18 and not married. Children who are under 19 and still in high school can also receive payment. Spouses must be at least 62 and caring for a child who is either disabled or under the age of 16. Former spouses must be at least 62 to collect a benefit check, and they must have been married to a disability recipient for at least 10 years.

Worries about long-term viability of Social Security

Some people in West Virginia are concerned about reports from Social Security trustees that the program will face serious problems that could affect its viability. Trustees say that the cost of paying out benefits will exceed the program's income in 2020, marking the first time since 1982 that this was the case. They also warned that this situation, if allowed to continue, could deplete the program's $2.9 trillion trust fund entirely for people receiving retirement benefits before 2034. They also said that the disability funds trust could persist until 2052. Both retirees and people with serious disabilities rely on Social Security for income to cover basic, necessary expenses.

Social Security Disability benefits in particular are a lifeline for people forced out of the workplace due to disabilities. Depleting the Social Security trust fund could put these recipients at serious risk, given their vulnerability and lack of access to other forms of support. Therefore, the trustees urged action on the legislative level to make changes to keep the program viable. These kinds of changes could include tax increases or benefit changes, such as raising the retirement age. Costs are expected to increase as more baby boomers retire, especially since there are fewer workers in the younger generation.

Appeals can be important after an SSDI benefits denial

Some Social Security disability applicants in West Virginia may not know what to do after they receive an initial denial notification. Because these applicants are generally too disabled to work, they may be relying on an approval to support themselves. However, it is important to keep in mind that many people who successfully receive disability benefits begin the process with an initial denial. It is possible to surmount an initial negative result through the appeals process.

Unfortunately, some applicants for SSDI benefits do not pursue their claims after a denial. They accept the notice as a final resolution rather than moving through the appeals process, even though applicants who file an appeal have a much greater likelihood of success. Others opt to file a new complaint from the beginning instead of appealing the denial of their original complaint. Unfortunately, this is likely to put them back in the same situation.

An overview of substantial gainful activity

To qualify for disability benefits, an individual in West Virginia would need to stay below the substantial gainful activity threshold. Those who exceed this limit will have their applications denied on a technicality. When an application receives a technical denial, it means that it is not looked at by a disability examiner. In 2019, an individual can make $1,220 per month or less in gross income and still qualify for disability benefits.

Self-employment income does count toward that limit. Those who are making more than that amount are urged to wait to send in their applications. It is important to note that the substantial gainful activity level can change based on inflation. If an individual earns $1,220 or less per month, an application will likely be reviewed by an examiner. This person will review an applicant's work and medical history to determine if he or she has a condition that will make it impossible to do any type of job.

Contaminated water can cause fatal illness -- even to Marines

It is a troubling fact that many of us in West Virginia are exposed to toxic chemicals on a regular basis. Poisons may be in the air you breathe, the food you eat or the water you drink.

Repeated exposure to pollution, contamination and toxic substances, whether at work or at home, has stricken millions of Americans with chronic or deadly diseases - including those who served their country in the military.

Waiting for an SSD decision

West Virginia residents who are waiting for a decision regarding their Social Security Disability eligibility often wonder how long it will take to receive it. This is understandable, as applicants are often financially strapped due to an inability to work.

The time that it takes to receive a letter confirming or denying Social Security Disability benefits depends on an individual's case and whether it has gone into appeals. Initial applications for SSD are routinely denied by the Social Security Administration. In fact, it is believed that 70 percent of these applications are rejected. In many cases, applicants will have to file several appeals before receiving benefits.

Spinal cord injuries and the impact on a person's ability to work

When a person suffers an injury to his or her spinal cord, it can cause lasting damage. These types of injuries are largely unpredictable, and it is often not immediately clear how the damage will impact a person's physical capabilities going forward. Some spinal cord injuries are relatively mild, and others can limit a person to the point where he or she can no longer work.

If you suffered an injury to the spinal cord, you may be wondering what this means for your future. The type of injury, whether it was complete or incomplete, has a large effect on this, as does the location of the injury. When a person is no longer able to work due to a traumatic injury, he or she could be eligible for disability benefits through the Social Security Administration.

How to get benefits after a stroke

Those who experience a stroke may experience significant health issues for the rest of their lives. However, these issues may not rise to the level that would make a person eligible for Social Security Disability benefits. It is also important for West Virginia applicants to know that an application won't be evaluated until at least three months after the stroke occurs. From there, an examiner will determine if it has made it impossible for a person to earn a gainful living.

Generally speaking, the stroke must have some lasting impact on a person's ability to walk, speak, or otherwise carry out basic functions that would allow that individual to work. If an individual is not approved for benefits based on his or her limitations after a stroke, there may be an alternate method of getting approved. This would involve a person seeking a medical-vocational allowance.

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