Passover, Syria and a Presidential Prayer

Passover and its seders deal with two fundamental concepts. The first is a celebration of a very dramatic escape from slavery to freedom.

The second is empathy. At the seder, we are asked to place ourselves in the footsteps of those who were physically there, as Jews note that we were slaves in Egypt and now we are free. A central part of the reading of the Passover Haggadah states:

“In each generation, each person is obligated to see himself or herself as though he or she personally came forth from Egypt.”

This concept is repeated in song and other readings as we attempt to “relive” history, so that its lessons are not forgotten.

So what does this mean for the current catastrophe in Syria, with an exodus of people fleeing to freedom as fast as they can get out the door?

Should we not place ourselves — to the best such placement can even be contemplated — into the shoes of others living in oppression?

If people are enslaved or living under tyranny elsewhere, how can we really be free if we have empathy?

Aren’t those who are currently free, mostly free due to little more than the lottery of birth?

An additional Passover prayer for President Trump, in the event that he can attend a seder or two this week:

Let him contemplate that the Jewish escape from tyranny and slavery 3,000+ years ago is not just history, but that others remain in such dire circumstances today. Let him have the wisdom and the charity to open our doors to those fleeing oppression, and recognize that those who make it to freedom are often the best that this world has to offer.

While freedom may be a lottery for most, it is not for all.


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Trump’s Budget Director Attacks Social Security Disability As “Very Wasteful Program”

On a recent appearance on Face the Nation, Trump’s budget director, Mick Mulvaney, finished his interview with an attack on Social Security and Social Security disability in particular.

“Do you really think that Social Security disability insurance is part of what people think of when they think of Social Security? I don’t think so,” Mulvaney said. “It’s the fastest-growing program. It grew tremendously under President Obama. It’s a very wasteful program, and we want to try and fix that.”

The truth is that while Social Security retirement enrollment has continued to increase at a steady pace since 2008, disability is far from the fastest-growing Social Security program. It’s not even growing with enrollment that barely expanded between 2012 and 2014 before steadily declining. At a peak in 2014, disability enrollment reached 8.95 million disabled Americans but it had fallen to 8.81 million by last year, dropping about 3% in two years.

Social Security trustees predict disability enrollment will pick up again in the coming years but at an average pace of around 0.5% a year. On the other hand, retirement enrollment is expected to increase from 41.5 million last year to nearly 69 million in 2036, or 66% compared to 11.7% with disability over the same time period.

Calling the program wasteful is also a stretch. The average disabled worker receives just $1,165 per month under Social Security disability for an annual income of just $13,985. That’s hardly more than the federal poverty level of $12,060.

The myth that Social Security disability is a waste and huge amounts of government money go to people who are gaming the system is damaging and potentially complicating the claims process for workers who find themselves disabled. Despite anecdotal evidence, the disability error rate in the program is less than 1%, which includes underpayments and overpayments.

Disability benefits are not easy to obtain, contrary to popular belief, but may involve a long certification process that may take many months. Only around 40% of disability applicants even end up receiving benefits.

Government officials perpetrating these harmful misconceptions can have a very real effect on the 11 million workers and their family members who depend on disability benefits to get by.

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Trump’s Budget Director Attacks Social Security Disability As “Very Wasteful Program”

On a recent appearance on Face the Nation, Trump’s budget director, Mick Mulvaney, finished his interview with an attack on Social Security and Social Security disability in particular.

long term disability appeal“Do you really think that Social Security disability insurance is part of what people think of when they think of Social Security? I don’t think so,” Mulvaney said. “It’s the fastest-growing program. It grew tremendously under President Obama. It’s a very wasteful program, and we want to try and fix that.”

The truth is that while Social Security retirement enrollment has continued to increase at a steady pace since 2008, disability is far from the fastest-growing Social Security program. It’s not even growing with enrollment that barely expanded between 2012 and 2014 before steadily declining. At a peak in 2014, disability enrollment reached 8.95 million disabled Americans but it had fallen to 8.81 million by last year, dropping about 3% in two years.

Social Security trustees predict disability enrollment will pick up again in the coming years but at an average pace of around 0.5% a year. On the other hand, retirement enrollment is expected to increase from 41.5 million last year to nearly 69 million in 2036, or 66% compared to 11.7% with disability over the same time period.

Calling the program wasteful is also a stretch. The average disabled worker receives just $1,165 per month under Social Security disability for an annual income of just $13,985. That’s hardly more than the federal poverty level of $12,060.

The myth that Social Security disability is a waste and huge amounts of government money go to people who are gaming the system is damaging and potentially complicating the claims process for workers who find themselves disabled. Despite anecdotal evidence, the disability error rate in the program is less than 1%, which includes underpayments and over payments.

Disability benefits are not easy to obtain, contrary to popular belief, but may involve a long certification process that may take many months. Only around 40% of disability applicants even end up receiving benefits.

Government officials perpetrating these harmful misconceptions can have a very real effect on the 11 million workers and their family members who depend on disability benefits to get by.

If you are in need of assistence for Social Security disability insurance, then contact the best disability insurance attorneys in Philadelphia, which is Edelstien Martin & Nelson. Contact them today to discuss your case.

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Own Occupation vs Any Occupation Disability: What You Should Know

back painWhen it comes to long-term disability insurance, few areas are as confusing and difficult to overcome as how the insurance policy defines a disability. Disability insurance falls into two primary categories: own occupation policies and any occupation policies. The type of policy you have will have a dramatic impact on whether the insurance company even considers you disabled. Here’s what you should know about the difference between these two types of disability claims.

What is Own Occupation vs Any Occupation?
When the policy covers “own occupation” disability, it means your policy requires that you be unable to perform the duties of your particular occupation to be classified as totally disabled. More commonly, disability insurance uses the “any occupation” standard. This means disability is defined much more broadly to the inability to perform any occupation for which you are reasonably suited based on your work experience and education.

With most long-term disability group insurance policies, the policy offers benefits under the “own occupation” disability definition for the first two years. To continue receiving disability benefits, you must be considered disabled under the “any occupation” standard.

Without the “own occupation” coverage, you face the risk that the insurance company may decide you could work in some other capacity. This is especially important if you have a high level of skills or training that could lead the insurance company to determine you are able to work in another occupation, even if you would be unable to perform your current job.

What is Your Own Occupation?
While the “own occupation” clause is fairly specific in terms of defining your disability, it does leave room for question. An experienced LTD attorney will argue that your policy’s “own occupation” definition should be limited to the exact work you were doing at your job when you were hurt, not an occupation performed in a similar setting in the general industry in which you worked.

There are also two types of “own occupation” clauses: one states that you are disabled when you can no longer perform the duties of your own job but you are not gainfully employed in another area, while a “true own occupation” definition just means you can’t perform your own occupation. In the latter case, you can still find employment in another industry without sacrificing your disability benefits. This type of “own occupation” clause is most favorable but it’s rarely found in group insurance plans.

The “own occupation” clause is an important form of protection as it can also give you the ability to work in another field if you can. If you find work in another industry, you can still receive long-term disability benefits under this clause without negative consequences. As an example, a surgeon who is determined to be totally disabled and unable to perform his or her own occupation could work as a general practitioner and still receive disability benefits.

Understanding how your insurance company defines disability is crucial and every insurance company is different. It’s important to work with a long-term disability attorney who has extensive experience handling LTD claims to help you build a strong case. Contact Edelstein Martin & Nelson today for a free consultation with a Philadelphia long-term disability lawyer to discuss your case.

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Jacoby & Meyers Goes Down Bigly

Jacoby & Meyers had an idea. If only they could get non-lawyers to put money into its firm for a share of the profits, they could fund expansion. The only itty, bitty problem with that is that it’s ethically impermissible to share legal fees with non-lawyers.

So it brought suit back in 2011, trying to claim its rights were violated. And worse yet, to me, tried to claim it was doing so on my behalf, when they wrote that suit was being brought:

“…on behalf of itself and all others authorized to practice law in the State of New York…”

Blech. Non-attorneys owning a share of law firms is an awful idea, and one that the Second Circuit Court of Appeals shot down last week. The firm tried to lawyer its way around the ethical prohibition by claiming it was a First Amendment violation of its right to freely associate. The problem, of course, is that the right to associate with a lawyer belongs to the client, not to the lawyer trying to finance business expansion.

As Scott Greenfield notes, it wasn’t always this way. It started, sort of, as the People’s Express of law firms:

When Jacoby & Meyers began, it was supposed to be the People’s law firm, solid lawyering at prices regular folks could afford. Some wags might argue that this was merely a marketing stance, as they wanted money as much as any other law firm. When they didn’t get it, they pivoted to a personal injury firm.

The firm having pivoted to personal injury, I’ll rehash what I’ve said before about non-lawyers owning any portion of a firm:  It is an invitation to ambulance chasing. The non-lawyers simply skirt the ethics rules to which they are not accountable, and impermissibly hustle business. The concepts of ownership, solicitation and marketing all become fused into one unaccountable mess.

And what will the lawyers say when the non-lawyers gets found chasing? They would no doubt profess shock (shock!) that such activities were going on under their roof.  “We’re so sorry!  We had no idea!!”

Let’s hope this miserable idea is finally put to bed, for the surest way to degrade the practice of law and diminish the residual respect we still have in some quarters is to introduce non-lawyers into the mix.

 


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