How To Protect Yourself From Tax Scams and Frauds

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Gunfire in the Classroom is No Accident

The story popped up yesterday that a teacher in California “accidentally” fired his gun in a classroom. He was teaching a class in gun safety at the time.

Headline after headline read that way: Accident. Accident. Accident.

No. No. A thousand times no. ‘Twas no accident. It was negligence. There’s a difference, for this was preventable with the exercise of reasonable care.

I covered this ground in 2013 when the NYPD changed its Accident Investigation Squad to the Collision Investigation Squad. According to then Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly, “In the past, the term ‘accident’ has sometimes given the inaccurate impression or connotation that there is no fault or liability associated with a specific event.”

An accident it when a dear bolts into the path of a car. A collision occurs when a second car is following too closely and slams into the first. One may not be avoidable, no matter how much due care you use. The other, very much avoidable.

Accidents do not simply “happen.”

And so it is with guns. Accidents don’t really happen.

As Jim Wright points out at Stonekettle, “there are no accidents with guns.”

For example, if a child picks up a gun to play cops and robbers with a sibling and shoots it, it is not an accident. It was negligence by the gun’s owner for leaving a loaded pistol in an unsecured place.

Part of the problem here is that the use of the word “accident” has been ambiguous. Similar to bimonthly meaning either twice a month or every other month. Or the word “sanction” meaning something has been approved (a sanctioned event) or is a punishment.

Accident has been unfortunately used in both matters where there is fault and matters where there is not. But there is a massive difference in meaning, particularly with news events such as this, where a shot is fired in a classroom.

Media headline writers should recognize this problem. They are, after all, in the word smithing business.

It’s lazy to use the word accident when it doesn’t actually convey the true meaning of what happened. It makes negligent conduct appear as if there was nothing that could be done to stop it.

And that is the media being negligent, for with the use of due care, the persistence of such ambiguous conduct can easily be crippled.



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The Many Hurdles to Overcome When Suffering From Mental Illness and Disability

With mental health being an important topic widely discussed across America today, it is no wonder that many people have struggled to maintain balancing work and other aspects of their life when they are suffering from a mental illness. One of the unfortunate facts of life for somebody who struggles with mental illness is that they may have difficulty portraying this illness in a way that reaches others. This means that, just because the illness is not always seen on the surface, must mean that you are not suffering in some way. This is not true and we want to help you in your time of need, especially when a mental illness has caused difficulties in your work life and everyday well being. There are many challenges that may be unique to a variety of these cases, but just know that it is not impossible to receive disability when you are struggling. We are here for you.

Challenges of Mental Illness and Disability

mental illness disability lawyerThe biggest challenge that you face is that your mental illness may appear “invisible” to many people, including insurance companies. Without seeing the source of your disability, many people may start to doubt its existence even though this is far from the truth. This is because many insurance companies are uneducated about the many types of mental illness and believe that somebody is trying to “fake” it just because it doesn’t show up on an x-ray, scan, or other tests all the time. It is important to work with an attorney who understands the many types of illnesses out there, from those that affect you physically and mentally, especially when you are applying for long-term disability benefits. It also helps to have a good doctor on your side who is treating you and can stand up for your rights in a desperate time of need when your illness has become debilitating.

Another challenge is the fact that you may not be able to work due to your illness, but the insurance company may fight over the fact that you should only be on short-term disability until you “get better.” This means that you may be approved for disability for a short amount of time, only to lose it many weeks or months later – even if your condition hasn’t improved. This is why it always helps to have good documentation when it comes to your illness and show how your illness has affected your ability to maintain a good quality of life, and how this obviously also affects your ability to work.

The last challenge is the fact that many people who suffer from mental illness are not receiving continuing care for their illness. If you want to be successful in your disability claim, you should always be under the regular care of a treating physician, consult a psychiatrist to speak further about your illness, and attend all treatment sessions or meetings to talk about the state of your illness. By doing so, your claim will be made legitimate and you will have good backing from reputable doctors.

If you are looking to legitimatize your case and show how a disability has had an effect on your life, you should always talk to an experienced attorney about your claim. At Edelstein Martin & Nelson, we understand the ins and outs of disability claims and can help you every step of the way. Call us today for more information on how we can help you at 800-300-0909.



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Rheumatoid Arthritis: Will I Be Eligible For Long Term Disability?

Rheumatoid arthritis is the most common type of autoimmune arthritis. It is mainly known for causing pain and swelling in the wrists and small joints of o the hand and feet when the immune system is not working properly. Though RA can have a huge effect on your life, there are treatments out there that can help with joint pain and swelling. Today, about 1.3 million Americans are affected by RA and about 75% are women.

A rheumatologist may tell you that one of the best things you can do for your RA is to remain physically active, but sometimes activities can be majorly impacted when your disease flares. When a joint is inflamed or you feel tired because of the symptoms of RA, it is difficult to participate in any activity and you may feel as if you just want to rest. When you have been diagnosed with a life-changing disease that may be difficult to manage at first, you may wonder what to do when the disease flares and it is impossible to focus at work. Every year, handfuls of people find it nearly impossible to return to work when their RA is leaving a huge impact on their lives. But are they eligible for long-term disability?

How RA Impacts Your Ability to Work

Rheumatoid Arthritis and disabilityEverybody is affected differently by his or her RA. If your RA is causing you to suffer from severe symptoms, your daily life could be impacted in a huge way – from causing you achiness, crushing fatigue, and leaving a huge impact on your mobility and ability to function. You may find that the malaise associated with the disease makes it impossible to focus for a long time, affecting your concentration in ways you could have never imagined. This means that you might experience daily limitations in the workplace, from not being able to stand for long periods of time or having to leave frequently for medical treatment, as some people will need dialysis if it affects their kidneys. If you type at a desk, you will even find that you could be impacted, as your fingers and wrists may not be able to move well most days.

So, can you be approved for long-term disability if RA is having a huge, lasting impact on your life and interfering with the way that you complete work? A big part of qualifying for long-term disability benefits is having the right evidence in your medical records, which means that it starts with your doctor. For Social Security to review your claim, this means that you should have records that detail your disease like imaging results, mobility evaluations, blood work that documents autoimmune types, and other lab work that shows what level your disease is functioning at.

It can also help to keep a diary of all symptoms that you experience on a daily basis and enlist in the help of an attorney who understands you are suffering from a very real disease that negatively impacts you from day to day. At Edelstein Martin & Nelson, we understand your case and how RA can affect every aspect of your life, making it difficult to remain at work in some cases. Call us today for more information on how we can help at 800-300-0909.




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Busting the Myths You May Have Heard About Long-Term Disability

You want to be prepared for anything that happens in your life, especially when it comes to your job and your security. Many people look at the aspect of workplace accidents and think: “It could never happen to me.” But then, suddenly, they’re left with a workplace injury and very few options to help them. You may have heard certain myths about long-term disability and today we will debunk these myths so that you can learn more about how disability works and whether or not it’s right for you.

The Myths

Overexertion Injury Workplace lawyer“I don’t need long-term disability coverage.” This is one of the most common myths because many people think that they can survive without it until it’s too late. You may be under the impression that protection will be offered to you in other ways, but this is not true, and you could be left with very little in the end. In the case of a workplace injury, for instance, many people believe that they will just rely on workers’ compensation benefits. However, not all of your expenses could be covered in this way, which means that it helps to have this type of disability insurance as a safety net. It is quite simple to assume that you won’t be one of the many people to be disabled; however, consider the statistics: 1 in 4 people in their 20s will become disabled sometime before their retirement, which gives rise to disability.

“An insurer will never pay my claim.” People are sometimes left with the fear that they will become disabled one day, and the insurer won’t pay their claim. Though some disability payments are denied on occasion, most are very cut and dry: You gain a disability, won’t be able to return to work, and will receive long-term disability as long as you need it.

“If I can’t work, I’ll rely on social security.” Many people think that, when it comes to long-term disability, they can go without. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. It is actually quite difficult to receive social security disability insurance – even more so than disability insurance in some cases! In fact, in 2012 alone, only 35% of insurance claims for social disability were accepted. Even if you do qualify, you may not receive what you were hoping for, which could lead to many more issues.

The Truth About Long-Term Disability

The truth is, it pays to have long-term disability insurance even if you don’t see the benefits right off the bat. You should always be prepared for the future no matter the cost because an accident at work could happen before your very eyes even if you didn’t expect it. You could be entitled to long-term disability benefits for very important matters when you are left without income from your job. We care about your recovery and want to help you in your time of need after you have received a workplace injury. We want to talk to you at Edelstein Martin & Nelson, where we have experience in these claims. Call us as soon as possible at 800-300-0909.



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Dumbledore’s Army Comes Alive In Gun Debate

Cameron Kasky, a 17-year-old student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, confronting Sen. Marco Rubio live on CNN for his support for the NRA.

(We interrupt our regular programming to bring you this off-topic, special message that might affect your life.)

Like many people, I’ve watched in awe as an army of teenagers has taken on the National Rifle Association and the extraordinary proliferation of guns across America. As organic as any movement ever created, it spontaneously erupted from the survivors at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL, who were cowering in classrooms and closets as their classmates and teachers were gunned down.

It started with three busloads of kids, some coming straight from funerals, going to Tallahassee to vent their anger at those who are supposed to  represent them.

That awe comes from watching kids use their old playrooms to meet and organize on one of the great political debates of the day. That’s a helluva thing, no matter what your political persuasion. After all, at every graduation I’ve ever attended — and probably every one that you attended too — the mantra has always been that the graduating group are our future leaders. And there they are leading, whether they were prepared for it or not.

To put this into kid-perspective, consider that the Columbine massacre happened in 1999. And many more have taken place since then. That means that today’s high school seniors, born in 2000, have always lived with instructions regarding potential attacks, lock-downs and places to hide.

The objectives list, on our basement chalkboard that my kids have used throughout their lives.

But kids brought up to hide are not hiding now. They’re out there now in force, not only in Florida, but around the country. One of my own teenagers, just days after starting a Facebook group to organize and see how students here in Westchester County can assist, had 500 members in just days.  And that’s for a strictly local group in a place that already has decent gun safety laws. Kids are interested in doing what they can. Big time.

My oldest — soon bound for college — met with some friends in the basement playroom this weekend. An initial objectives list they put together on their old chalkboard is shown here.

In the Harry Potter series, the Hogwarts kids form  Dumbledore’s Army to combat the dark arts. Today’s kids were raised on these books, which  inspired so many to become active readers. That fantasy world of a kid army at Hogwarts, in one sense, seems to be springing to life around us as they mobilize.

Battle, of course, can take many forms. None are so stupid as to believe that a magic wand will suddenly make them safe.

Raised in the era of social media, they know that their weapons of choice will have nothing to do with physical (or magical) arms, but the art of mass movements, protest and persuasion. And voting as they all come of age.

The #BoycottNRA movement has already caused the NRA to lose valuable relationships with car companies, airlines, hotels, banks and insurance companies. One would expect that less money means less financial support for politicians that have been doing its bidding in exchange for contributions.

Decreasing the power of the NRA is already underway. And that is before any nationwide boycotts or walkouts have occurred to help bring yet more attention to the issue. In other words, it is likely that the Florida kids are already making a substantial political difference.

Some have now started pushing their older brothers and sisters to avoid Florida for spring break, to pressure pressure their legislators to act.

As they organize, they will, of course, make mistakes, though none will be as grave as those that allow guns to be purchased willy-nilly, with less regulation than a driver’s license.

Like others who’ve preceded them in the gun debate over the decades, some will allow themselves to get sucked into semantic discussions about what constitutes an assault weapon, and lose sight of the fact that 30,000+ people are killed each year in the U.S. by firearms. It’s the easy access to guns in some states that has had an extraordinary impact on suicides, drunken rages, homicides (of the “regular” kind) and accidents.

Others will get sucked into debates over protecting schools, as if malls, movie theaters, restaurants, and the entrances to sports/music venues (among other places that people gather) couldn’t also be targets for madmen and terrorists alike.

And still others will get sucked into Second Amendment debates. They should not. For it isn’t a question of “supporting” the Second Amendment, but of its (mis)interpretation. Even under the deeply strained logic of D.C. v. Heller that reversed prior law to say that the Second was an individual right instead of a collective one belonging to a well-regulated militia, it didn’t say that all gun safety laws were unconstitutional. It said that an absolute ban was.

Given that many states that have good gun safety laws have withstood legal challenges — and those laws correlate to lower rates of gun deaths that those with lax safety laws — one should not stop arguing for gun safety.

Most folks don’t know that New York has one of the lowest rates of gun deaths in the nation, not just because of our gun safety laws, but because our surrounding states also have them making it less likely that they will be trafficked into New York. The graph you see here is extraordinary, with that grouping states in the lower left corner of NY, CT, MA, NJ and RI.

If the kids were asking me — and none of them have, though it hasn’t stopped me from offering up my two bits — I’d urge them to do everything possible to maintain the focus on tightly restricting access to guns of all kinds. It’s the big picture of 30,000+ annual gun deaths that counts, and they shouldn’t let anyone try to play small ball with them.

As the kids step forth into politics, they might well be asking how it is that, when an overwhelming majority of America wants gun safety, it hasn’t yet happened. They may find themselves looking for the first time at how the influence of gerrymandering and pubic financing for elections has resulted in radicals being elected to office. The subjects are related.

Hopefully, they will also figure out fast not to overstate their case, giving opponents material to latch on to in order to distract the conversation.

The gun debate is hardly new, and was the subject of an early ’70s All in the Family episode when I was growing up. It’s been fought over long before this generation was born. The question is, will our Twenty-First Century Kids succeed where my generation has failed?

Don’t let anyone tell you “it’s too soon” after a tragedy. It has been going on for decades. It will not magically end on its own.

Go kids, go. Your parents are cheering you on to accomplish something that prior generations have been unable to do.

Go forth into the battle for gun safety laws. All of our lives depend on it.

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Two leading causes of disability

Two of the leading causes of disability in Philadelphia and the country are joint problems and arthritis.  

If you suffer joint pain or damage for any reason, including arthritis, you may be eligible for Philadelphia Social Security disability benefits.  

How joint damage and arthritis cases are evaluated by the Social Security Administration (SSA)

joint damage laywerIn order to judge whether or not you have been disabled as a result of your joint or arthritis problems, the Social Security Administration first looks at the severity of your joint dysfunction.  They will compare your problems to the listing pertaining to joint dysfunction.  This comparison comes as part of Step three of the Social Security Administration’s Sequential Evaluation Process.

For many of the most common impairments, including joint damage and arthritis, the Social Security Administration has established a set of rules known as the Listing of Impairments.  The listing for any single impairment gives a description of a certain level of severity that the SSA assumes might prevent one from performing significant work.  In the event that your immobility or joint pain is severe enough to meet or exceed what is described in the listing, the SSA will consider you to be disabled.  

The joint dysfunction listing for Social Security is 1.02.  This listing contains two parts: part A and part B.  If you meet either of the two parts, you will satisfy the requirements of the listing and be eligible for Philadelphia Social Security Disability benefits.  

Parts A and B of listing 1.02 both require that you have the following:

  • Significant dysfunction of a joint for any reason
  • Gross anatomical deformity (e.g., instability, subluxation, contracture); and
  • Chronic stiffness and joint pain; with
  • Visible indications of limited motion or other impaired motion of the affected joints; and
  • Appropriate medical imaging findings of bony destruction or ankyloses of the injured joints.

In addition to the requirements listed above, you also must meet either Part A or part B’s additional requirements, listed below.

Part A.  Part A requires at least one major peripheral weight-bearing joint such as a hip, ankle, or knee joint be impaired to the point of an “inability to ambulate effectively”.  An inability to ambulate effectively is defined by listing 1.00B as an extreme limitation in one’s ability to walk that will interfere with one’s ability to begin, maintain, or complete activities.

Part B.  Part B requires at least one major peripheral joint in the upper extremities such as the wrist-hand, elbow, or shoulder, resulting in a lack of ability to perform gross and fine motor movements effectively. The inability to perform fine and gross movements constitutes an extreme loss of function of both upper extremities, which interferes with one’s ability to begin, maintain, or complete activities.  

The above is only a partial list of the requirements set forth in sections 1.00 and 1.02.  

If you’re suffering from an inability to work or complete daily tasks of living due to extreme arthritis or joint pain, contact our office today.  Our experienced Philadelphia disability insurance lawyers will fight to get your claim accepted.


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