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Obamacare may impact disability benefits programs

Unlike the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs -- which allows for partial determinations -- the Social Security Administration applies an all-or-nothing approach to disability classification. To be eligible for Social Security disability insurance benefits, a person generally must be unable to perform work of any kind, and for an anticipated period of 12 months or more. Under the SSA’s Supplemental Security Income program, there is also an income ceiling for eligibility.

Some commentators suggest it is unfair to make disabled individuals choose between benefits and working. It’s unclear whether the rationale behind that rule may have been economic. Lawmakers may have feared that an excess of working individuals would flood the programs with applications seeking partial disability applications, or benefits that they could receive in addition to their work income.

The Obama administration apparently disagrees with that rationale, or at least some potential consequences of the policy. Under Obamacare, the income ceiling under Medicaid for single adults will be raised to 133 percent of the federally defined poverty level. Obamacare also has a program that permits a disabled individual to receive treatment at outpatient community programs, instead of institutional care.

Although these are two small steps, they may indicate a shift in how lawmakers are approaching disability programs. As Obamacare is implemented, there may be additional changes in existing rules and approaches. Those changes can be hard to keep up with. In fact, some commentators have compared the Affordable Care Act to the federal tax code in difficulty to read. Fortunately, an attorney that specializes in disability law might be up to speed on the changes and be able to offer a foundational strategy

Source: philly.com, “Disability and Obamacare: New freedom to return to work,” Katheryne Lawrence, Aug. 18, 2013

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