Google Docs phishing scam

I regret I did not see the article reproduced below sooner.   Early this morning my email was hacked using this scam to those that know me.  I am very sorry and recommend that if you use Gmail you reset your GMail password immediately and consider turning on Google’s “two step” verification mechanism described at  A link to the article below from Virgina Commonwealth University PhishingNet is

Google Docs phishing scam (3/1/13)

The following scam attempts to trick its victims into entering their information into a fake Google Docs page, thus stealing the victims’ user names and passwords. Please remember to alway hover your mouse over a link to check its actual destination, and never click on any links from unknown senders, and be careful when clicking on links from known senders. For more information on email and phishing scams, please contact VCU helpIT center at 828-2227 or

Are You Ready To Be … the Personal Representative?

Since April 2010 I have been serving as the personal representative for my dad’s estate.  A recent    New York Times Blog post caught my eye since the writer was also serving in the same role.  She, a non-lawyer, had just purchased “The American Bar Association Guide to Wills and Estates.”   What is not often considered is the “other” job, that of “attorney-in-fact” as the person nominated in a Durable Power of Attorney.  Do(es) your parent(s) have one?  This is another job that I have held since my dad died, and it has been a joy to serve in that capacity.  My mom is in good health, and may outlive me at the rate she’s going.  I am grateful she and my dad signed the necessary documents when it was appropriate to make things easier.


SGA, TWP and Other Important Numbers

Just as benefits increased in 2013, so too did the amount for SGA (substantial gainful activity).  This is perhaps the most misunderstood amount when people speak of disability.  Many believe they can make this much money and keep their disability.  The truth is that the amount is the gross wages per month, which for 2013 is $1,040 for non-blind persons and $1,740 if you are blind.  The problem comes if you are paid every two weeks – you will go over in the months you receive 3 paychecks when you had been planning on 2 checks per month to keep you under.

But wait!  TWP (trial work period) refers to amounts earned during a specific time frame.  One can both work and receive benefits, but upon successful completion of the TWP, benefits cease!  For 2013, the amount that triggers a TWP analysis is $750 … almost $300 less than SGA!  People often get these amounts confused, and this information is just the tip of the iceberg.  For further information on TWP, go to

Social Security Disability: Who Is Eligible?

The following article written by Thomas E. Bush is provided courtesy of

Examples of who is disabled under social security law, and advice on dealing with SSA.

by Thomas E. Bush

Excerpted from Social Security Disability Practice

You cannot always rely on common sense to tell you who is and who is not disabled under social security law.



  • He is 35 years old with 10 years of trial experience.

  • He is not working, but he is looking for a job.
  • He lost his left foot in a car accident a year ago.

Because of stump complications, he is unable to use a prosthetic device to walk one block at a reasonable pace, though he uses it to walk shorter distances, e.g., around an office or around his apartment. When he goes longer distances, he rides a motorized scooter.

He is disabled. See C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1, §1.05B.



  • He has a college education.
  • He is a quadriplegic with only limited use of his right hand and arm and no use whatsoever of his legs and left arm.
  • He uses an arm brace to write.
  • He works a few hours per day as a bookkeeper and earns, after deductions for expenses related to his impairment, about $900 per month on average.

Because of his earnings he is not disabled. See 20 C.F.R. §§404.1520(b) and 404.1574(b)(2).


Construction Worker

  • He is 48 years old.
  • He has done heavy unskilled construction work since age 16.
  • He has a fourth grade education and is capable of reading only rudimentary things like inventory lists and simple instructions.
  • He has a “low normal” I.Q.
  • He is limited to sedentary work because of a heart condition.

He is not disabled unless he has some additional limitations. See 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 2, Rule 201.18.


Machine Operator

  • He is 38 years old.
  • He has done medium exertion level unskilled factory work, operating a machine since he graduated from high school.
  • A cardiovascular impairment limits him to sedentary work, and a permanent injury of the right hand limits him to such work not requiring bimanual dexterity.

He is probably disabled. See Social Security Rulings 83-10 and 96-9p.


Truck Driver

  • He is 61 years old.
  • He worked as a truck driver all his life except that 10 years ago during a downturn in the trucking industry, he worked for 1-1/2 years at a sedentary office job which he got with the help of his brother-in-law.
  • He is limited to sedentary work because of a pulmonary impairment.

He is not disabled because he is still capable of doing the office job. See 20 C.F.R. §§404.1520(f) and 404.1560(b).



  • He is 50 years old.
  • He has a high school education.
  • He has done unskilled light exertion factory work as a packer for the past 30 years.
  • He had a heart attack on January 1 and, after being off work for eight months, he recovered after an angioplasty. His cardiologist gave him a clean bill of health and was ready to send him back to work when he broke his leg in a fall unrelated to his heart condition. In a cast and unable to stand and walk as required by his job, he could not return to work until February. He was off work a total of 13 months.

He is not disabled for the time he was off work. 20 C.F.R. §404.1522(a) provides that unrelated impairments may not be combined to meet the requirement that a claimant be unable to work for 12 months.



  • She is 55 years old.
  • She has an eleventh grade education.
  • She has not worked in the past 15 years. Before that she was a secretary.
  • She has a back problem diagnosed as status post laminectomy.
  • She is limited to maximum lifting of 50 lbs. with frequent lifting of 25 lbs., is capable of frequent bending, stooping, etc., and has no limitation for standing or walking.

She is disabled for the SSI program as long as she meets the income and asset limitations for that program.See 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 2, Rule 203.10. See also 20 C.F.R. §404.1562(b). (She is not eligible for social security disability benefits because she has not worked for so long.)

§108     SSA: A Bureaucracy

For the most part, attorneys deal with SSA’s Office of Disability Adjudication and Review (ODAR), which includes the more than 140 hearing offices scattered around the country, and, until it is transformed into the Disability Review Board under the DSI program (see §150.1), the next level of appeal, the Appeals Council, which is located in a suburb of Washington, D.C. In all, ODAR has about 8,000 employees, including about 1,150 administrative law judges and 27 administrative appeals judges. Dealing with hearing offices is generally a pleasant experience. Although dealing with the Appeals Council can be frustrating for attorneys, it is nothing compared to dealing with SSA outside of ODAR.

There is a rigidity of rule-following, whether or not application of the rule makes any sense, which characterizes the approach of low-level bureaucrats. This problem exists in all bureaucracies and is present at SSA, for the most part outside of ODAR. It is something that has been known to cause both claimants and lawyers to tear out their hair. To deal with this, you will find that it is best to be firm and persistent but never obnoxious.

For example, do not let anyone at SSA tell you that they cannot speak with you about your client’s case because they do not have proof that you are the claimant’s attorney. Pub.L. 101-239, Title X, §10307(a)(1), (3), Dec. 19, 1989, 103 Stat. 2485, effective June 1, 1991, requires SSA to keep the name of a claimant’s representative in its computer system. If SSA fails to put your name into the computer as the claimant’s representative and an SSA employee refuses to speak with you, you may fax a copy of your Appointment of Representative form to the local office. Insist that the SSA computer system be updated with your name as the claimant’s representative.

A fundamental problem in dealing with SSA outside of ODAR is, of course, the sheer size of the agency, which has more than 57,000 employees in addition to those employed by ODAR. Also, there are more than 14,000 state agency employees nation-wide involved in making determinations of disability below the ALJ hearing level. It is difficult for a lawyer first to figure out whom to contact about a claimant’s particular problem and then to determine how to contact them, whether by phone, fax, mail or, in some limited circumstances, e-mail. Once you figure it out in a particular case, be sure to keep good notes for that particular case; and also start keeping a master list of telephone and fax numbers and addresses for use in future cases. You will discover that there are knowledgeable and helpful people at all levels of SSA. You will do well to cultivate a relationship with them. Treasure their phone numbers.

The problem of SSA’s size is compounded by the complexity of its programs, the most complicated of which are the two disability programs, social security disability and SSI. When there are program changes, it is a huge task to ensure that everyone within SSA who needs to know gets the information, and often they do not. Sometimes it will be up to you to tell SSA employees about policy changes.

To take just one example of problems created by complexity, consider the Social Security Administration’s nationwide toll-free telephone number, 1-800-772-1213 (which SSA likes to write as 1-800-SSA-1213). In theory, the toll-free number is staffed by knowledgeable SSA employees capable of answering a wide variety of questions, including questions about entitlement to disability benefits. However, this is not the reality. One test showed 25 percent wrong answers to questions involving SSI, by far the most complicated of SSA’s programs. The toll-free number, if you can get past the busy signals and the recorded messages, is most useful for information about the retirement program, not for questions that a lawyer might have about disability benefit entitlement.

SSA, like all bureaucracies, attempts to routinize complex decisions; however, the more complicated the decision, the less effective this is. It does not work well at all for disability determinations below the administrative law judge hearing level because the medical-vocational issues tend to be complicated and because state agencies are not equipped to assess the actual impact of a medical impairment on a particular claimant, which often involves a credibility determination. State agency disability determinations tend to be inadequate, and many people within SSA remain almost blissfully unaware of state agency decision shortcomings. For example, studies using SSA’s own peculiar methodology repeatedly conclude that state agency determinations are correct more than 93% of the time. Such studies are unable to explain why ALJs have always found disabled more than half the claimants who come before them. These studies have led many state agency employees to believe that ALJs issue mostly wrong decisions, and there is a component within SSA (outside of the Office of Disability Adjudication & Review) that thinks so, too.

It is a mistake to view SSA as being of one mind. For example, there are those within SSA who think that disability determination would be improved by getting rid of lawyers, administrative law judges, due process hearings, and appeals. Thus, there is a component of SSA that is opposed to the very existence of the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review. This tension between different components of SSA tends to produce turf wars and, whenever restructuring of SSA is going on as it has been for the past several years, a search for hidden agendas is made to see if this or that bureaucratic change will ultimately be a benefit or detriment to the future of a particular component of SSA.


Thomas E. Bush has devoted his practice to social security disability issues since 1977.  He was elected to NOSSCR’s Board of Directors in 1988, and was President of NOSSCR for the 1997-98 term.  He is the author of Social Security Disability Practice, from which this article is excerpted.

Updated 07/30/12

Social Security Offices to Close to the Public a Half Hour Early Each Day and at Noon on Wednesdays

According to a recent press release from the Social Security Administration:

“Effective November 19, 2012, Social Security field offices nationwide will close to the public 30 minutes early each day.** For example, a field office that is usually open to the public Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. will close daily at 3:00 p.m. In addition, beginning January 2, 2013, offices will close to the public at noon every Wednesday.

While agency employees will continue to work their regular hours, this shorter public window will allow them to complete face-to-face interviews and process claims work without incurring the cost of overtime. The significantly reduced funding provided by Congress under the continuing resolution for the first six months of the fiscal year makes it impossible for the agency to provide the overtime needed to handle service to the public as it has done in the past.”

The release went on to say “Most Social Security services do not require a visit to a local office. Many services, including applying for retirement, disability or Medicare benefits, signing up for direct deposit, replacing a Medicare card, obtaining a proof of income letter or informing us of a change of address or telephone number are conveniently available at  or by dialing our toll-free number, 1-800-772-1213. People who are deaf or hard of hearing may call our TTY number, 1-800-325-0778. Many of our online services also are available in Spanish at”

Cost-Of-Living Adjustment (COLA) Information For 2013

According to the Social Security Administration, on October 16, 2012:

Monthly Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits for nearly 62 million Americans will increase 1.7 percent in 2013.

The 1.7 percent cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) will begin with benefits that more than 56 million Social Security beneficiaries receive in January 2013. Increased payments to more than 8 million SSI beneficiaries will begin on December 31, 2012.

Congress enacted the COLA provision as part of the 1972 Social Security Amendments, and automatic annual COLAs began in 1975. Before that, benefits were increased only when Congress enacted special legislation.

The purpose of the COLA is to ensure that the purchasing power of Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits is not eroded by inflation. It is based on the percentage increase in the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W) from the third quarter of the last year a COLA was determined to the third quarter of the current year. If there is no increase, there can be no COLA.

The CPI-W is determined by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in the Department of Labor. By law, it is the official measure used by the Social Security Administration to calculate COLAs.

Based on the increase in average wages, the maximum amount of earnings subject to the Social Security tax (taxable maximum) will increase to $113,700 from $110,100

The earnings limit for workers who are younger than “full” retirement age (age 66 for people born in 1943 through 1954) will be $15,120. (We deduct $1 from benefits for each $2 earned over $15,120.)

The earnings limit for people turning 66 in 2013 will be $40,080. (We deduct $1 from benefits for each $3 earned over $40,080 until the month the worker turns age 66.) There is no limit on earnings for workers who are “full” retirement age or older for the entire year.

Information about Medicare changes for 2013, when announced, will be available at For some beneficiaries, their Social Security increase may be partially or completely offset by increases in Medicare premiums.