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Knoxville Personal Injury Law Blog

Social Security Disability (SSDI) - Update on SSA Budget Crisis and Hiring Freeze

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) claimants and beneficiaries alike need to be aware of the drastic effects of budget cuts and hiring freezes on the Social Security Administration (SSA). I recently blogged about the temporary budget passed by Congress and this entry is to provide more information regarding the SSA's budget issues.  The SSA provides a vast array of services to Americans, including benefits for the disabled under the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program, and proper funding is imperative to all Americans.

Workers' compensation changes delayed by scandal

Even though legislation designed to protect workers hurt on the job has been through several revisions, it seems as though Tennessee is no closer to crafting an alternative to workers' compensation as proposed by lawmakers. News reports show that the workers' compensation changes may have been stymied by a scandal associated with one of the legislators, who is accused of sexually harassing several women. That man, who was the state's House majority whip, is now on a leave of absence, leaving the legislation without a major champion.

Representatives had been working on legislation designed to give employers in the state the option to "self-insure" themselves for workers' compensation situations. This would give employers the right to craft their own occupational benefit plans for workers, giving them more flexibility and potential cost savings. The plan was modeled after existing systems in Texas and Oklahoma that have reportedly saved a significant amount of money for employers in those states.

Fatal accidents rise in Tennessee

The National Safety Council has released its annual report on road deaths from the previous year. As we look back on 2016, there were more fatal accidents across the entire US than in 2015. That trend is repeated in Tennessee, where we lost 1,042 lives on the road this year. It is an increase of 81 more deaths than in 2015, or an 8 percent rise. The national average was a 6 percent increase.

The statistics from NSC differ from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, who showed a slight decline in 2015, though the total in-state numbers were still above the national average. The difference between the two statistics is that NHTSA measures deaths within 30 days of an accident, while NSC numbers account for the deaths that happen during the whole calendar year.

Feds ice speeding rule to prevent 18-wheeler crashes

Legal experts say that the new government administration's decrees under President Trump could lead to fewer rules for speed limiters in big-rig trucks. Proposed rules require speed limiters on certain types of trucks, and these limiters have proven useful in preventing deadly 18-wheeler crashes. One of the White House's first actions in 2017 was to bar federal agencies from enacting new regulations. The speed-limiting issue was first proposed in September. Other rules for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration have also been halted, with regulations governing national driver training standards now being delayed.

Although the speed-limiter rule had been heavily criticized by industry groups, it likely would have gone through revisions before being actually implemented, according to officials. The Department of Transportation had been working with the American Trucking Associations to develop and implement the rule, ostensibly designed to protect private drivers from speeding big-rig operators. Now, it appears that the rule could be dead altogether.

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) - Congress Reduces the Social Security Administration's Budget

The operating budget of the Social Security Administration (SSA) directly impacts Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) beneficiaries and claimants.  On Friday, December 9, 2016, the government passed a continuing resolution (CR) to fund the government through April 28, 2017. The CR contained an across-the-board cut to funding for the Social Security Administration (SSA) in the amount of .1901%. Although on initial blush this cut seems small, it must be considered in conjunction with the fact that the last continuing resolution had a reduction of spending by .496% and there has not been an increase for funding for the SSA in quite some time. The SSA is tasked with handling many issues for both retirees and disabled individuals and it is being continually asked to do more with less.

It is important that citizens pressure their elected officials to properly fund the SSA , as well as the Social Security Trust Fund that pays retirees and disabled individuals. One important step for the solvency of Social Security would be using the Social Security Trust Fund, which is funded by FICA and self-employment taxes, only for Social Security Retirement and Disability and prevent the Federal government from raiding the Trust Fund to use for other issues.



Do victims of dog bites suffer psychological harm?

Dog bites are physically painful and can lead to serious problems, including infection, surgeries, long healing times, and -- perhaps most overlooked -- deep psychological wounds as well.

How deeply someone is emotionally affected by a dog bite usually depends on both internal and external factors:

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) - Interesting Information on Judges

The Social Security Administration (SSA) recently released statistics regarding fiscal year 2016 dealing with Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) determinations on Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) claims. I recently have blogged about average processing time in hearing offices and some of these statistics tie into the processing time of claims. The numbers indicate that there were slightly over 50 ALJs that only produced 10 decisions during fiscal year 2016 and about 75 ALJs that produced more than 600 decisions. The bulk of the ALJs produced between 400 and 600 decisions per year, though there is a sizeable group deciding less than 300 claims.

New technology promises to limit 18-wheeler crashes nationwide

Big-rig crashes: They are scary possibilities for every Tennessee driver who spends time on our state's roads. The fact is that 18-wheeler crashes are notorious for their severity, often leaving victims with serious injuries that are difficult to recover from. Now, new technology promises to reduce the number of these dangerous incidents, as vehicles learn to actually "talk" to each other and prevent crashes.

The trucking industry nationwide is beginning to realize the value of higher-tech solutions like dash cams and other in-cab solutions. Industry leaders such as Wal-Mart are implementing these new safety measures in their trucks in an attempt to prevent collisions and related settlements. So-called "inward-facing" technology designed to be triggered by hard brakes and sharp turns is making strides in preventing dangerous activities - such as speeding -- that cause problems for drivers on Tennessee roads.

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) - SSA Publishes Final Rules on Evaluation of Medical Evidence

The Social Security Administration (SSA) recently published final rules regarding the evaluation of medical evidence in Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) claims. These rules become effective March 27, 2017. A very important change under the new rules is that adjudicators of Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or SSI claims no longer have to give special weight to the medical opinions of a claimant's treating source, i.e, a treating primary care physician, psychiatrist, or psychologist. The medical opinions now will be evaluated equally for "persuasiveness" based supposedly on consistency and supportability.

On a positive note, the opinions of Physicians Assistants (PAs) and Advance Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs) are now included in the list of acceptable medical sources, as well as licensed audiologists and optometrists for issues within their specific scopes of practice. The rule change involving Pas and APRNs is well overdue and is an acknowledgment of the changing healthcare landscape in America where many people primary care is not delivered by medical doctors (MDs).

Chiropractors, Licensed Clinical Social Workers (LCSWs) and Registered Nurses are still not acceptable medical sources and are considered "other sources."

Additionally, adjudicators will give no special weight to the disability decisions of other governmental agencies, such as Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The SSA adjudicators will still consider and evaluate the medical evidence submitted to that agency in support of that decision.

These new evidence rules will cause the SSA to rescind certain Social Security Rulings (SSRs) that are now inconsistent or duplicative with the new rules. Those SSRs include:

· SSR 96-2p: Titles II and XVI: Giving Controlling Weight to Treating Source Medical Opinions;

· SSR 96-5p: Titles II and XVI: Medical Source Opinions on Issues Reserved to the Commissioner;

· SSR 96-6p: Titles II and XVI: Consideration of Administrative Findings of Fact by State Agency Medical and Psychological Consultants, and Oher Program Physicians and Psychologists at the Administrative Law Judge and Appeals Council Levels of Administrative Review; Medical Equivalence; and

· SSR 06-03p: Titles II and XVI: Considering Opinions and Other Evidence from Sources who are not "Acceptable Medical Sources" in Disability Claims; Considering Decisions on Disability by other Governmental and Non-governmental Agencies.

Falls in Tennessee contribute to workplace injury rates

Falls at work are among the most common mechanisms of injury for today's industrial employees. The fact is that falls at the same level and falls to a lower level account for billions of dollars in lost productivity and workers' compensation claims every year. These workplace injuries can cause emotional, physical, and financial difficulties for those affected. A worker injured on the job can lead to costs related to hiring a temporary replacement and other indirect expenditures related to quality of production, according to insurance companies.

Expert say that workplace leaders in Tennessee and the rest of the nation should prioritize safety measures related to preventing the occurrence and severity of falls. This type of workplace injury accounts for more than $15 billion in costs to American businesses every year. Businesses have a motivation to save themselves money - but they should also be concerned about their workers' health and safety. Taking the time to prevent common workplace injuries benefits everyone in a company.

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