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Dallas SSDI attorneysAccording to a report from the agency's inspector general, Social Security has overpaid disability benefits recipients by $17 billion over the last decade. The discovery has added fuel to the debate lawmakers are already having concerning the program's future.

AsThe Chicago Tribune reports, the ten-year investigation found that Social Security has continually paid benefits to those who made too much money to qualify for disability. Payments were also regularly issued to those who were no longer disabled, were in prison, or had died. The study also claimed that Social Security was able to recover about $8.1 billion of the accidentally issued money, but that the recouping process can take years to complete.

The new report has already inspired more criticism from Republicans, who want the Social Security Disability system dismantled. "Every dollar that goes to overpayments doesn't help someone in need," Republican Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa told the press. "Given the present financial situation of the Social Security Disability Insurance trust fund, the program cannot sustain billions of dollars lost to waste."

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Dallas SSDI attorneysWhen they won a majority in congress during the 2014 mid-term elections, Republicans almost immediately went to work to attack the Social Security Disability program. They moved to block replenishing funds from the Old-Age Survivors Insurance Fund (Social Security Retirement fund) until Democrats agreed to fiscal cuts. Without the transfer of funds between the two accounts, SSDI would run out in 2016, leaving countless citizens without the benefits that they need.

Now, just last month, Democrats have fired back with an unexpected proposal that would end long-standing contention between the two funds: combine them. As Talking Points Memo reports, the proposal to merge Social Security Retirement and Disability funds would not only make Social Security solvent until 2033, but also reap a number of other benefits.

Most notably, experts believe that combining the Social Security programs would help public perception of the programs-which are commonly seen as one body, anyway. "2034 [deadline] is for retirement, 2016 [deadline] is for disability, but way too often the public just hears one number and so for many they don't actually understand that they're two separate programs, they just think it's one program," Jason Fichtner of George Mason University Mercaucs Center told TPM.

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Dallas SSDI attorneysSome individuals receiving Social Security benefits must pay federal income taxes. The tax is computed only if you have substantial income. That income can include wages from work, self employment, interest dividends and other income. It is important to note that no one pays taxes on more than 85 percent of their Social Security benefits.

If you file an individual federal tax return, you must pay taxes on some portion of your benefits if your combined income exceeds $25,000. If you file a joint return, you must pay taxes if you and your spouse have combined income of more than $32,000. If you are married and file a separate return, you probably will have to pay taxes on your benefits. You can read more about tax preparation relating to Social Security benefits at www.socialsecurity.gov/planners/taxes.htm.

Social Security benefits include retirement, survivor and disability benefits. Those individuals who only receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments do not have to worry about paying federal taxes as SSI benefits are not taxable.

Dallas SSDI attorneysThe Veterans Choice Act was authorized by Congress to address the health care access issues faced by Veterans. The Act authorized a fund to operate for three years to provide Veterans who were enrolled as of August 1, 2014 or who were eligible to enroll as a recently discharged combat Veteran.

The Act would provide Veterans with a Veterans Choice Card. The program was designed to allow Veterans to obtain medical care from private physicians when the Veteran lives at least 40 miles from a VA health care facility OR if they face a wait of more than thirty (30) days for an appointment.

The Veterans Choice, Access and Accountability Act of 2014 was signed into law. Since its enactment, approximately 8.5 million veterans nationwide have received cards. Unfortunately, only 0.37 percent of the Veterans have been authorized access to private care.

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Will the VA Reach Its 2015 Goal?

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Dallas SSDI attorneysIn 2013, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) reported that it had a staggering 600,000 veteran benefits claims backlogged, waiting to be seen and reviewed. The shocking number, attributed to a surge in new claims from Vietnam veterans' Agent Orange claims, grabbed headlines and spurned the agency into setting a lofty goal in 2015: to work through its entire backlog of claims and make sure that the veterans who have applied get the assistance they need.

A new report from the Houston Chronicle details the renewed efforts by the VA to improve its efficiency and eliminate waiting times for veteran applicants. They have reported:

  • They currently has approximately 235,700 back logged claims
  • The VA has processed more than a million claims a year for four years
  • The Houston VA office (serving all of Texas), has reduced its total number of standing claims by 64% since 2013

Still politicians and experts are skeptical that the VA will be able to hit its 2015 goal. As Jim Richman, Director of Claims Representation & Counseling for the Texas Veterans Commission told the Houston Chronicle, achieving the proposed efficiency under the current processing system is "science fiction."

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