820 Main Street
Akron, PA 17501
Phone: (717) 859-2200
Fax: (717) 859-1975
Email Us
Get a Quote
Policy Services

Archive for the ‘Seniors’ Category

If You Are Older, A Little Extra Fat Can be a Good Thing

Yes, it’s true. There are buffets that can cause the most disciplined dieter to succumb to temptation. They entice us to overeat. They tempt us with calorically dense foods and deserts that are rich and tasty.

Of course, few of us eat at buffets every day. Yet most of us have lifestyles that could be improved.

And we know that being obese can cause heart disease and is linked to some cancers, osteoarthritis, and yes, type-2 diabetes.

But it turns out that as we age, having some body fat can offer some advantages as a Senior.

Offset Illness

It’s pretty common for older individuals to lose weight later in life. A little extra body fat can help offset this. Also, individuals fighting cancer often lose weight so some body fat reserves can help during treatment.

Better Absorb Vitamins

Certain vitamins are absorbed by fat tissue. These are called “fat-soluble” vitamins and include A, D, E, and K. People who have minimal body fat often lack those vitamins. Fortified milk, avocados, cold-water fish, and other foods contain helpful fats that can help keep your skin healthy, reduce inflammation, and strengthen bones.

Keep Nice And Warm

Fat helps to keep a core temperature. It works as an insulator. It protects from extreme cold. Adding a few pounds in the Winter is the body’s natural way of keeping warm.

Protects Your Insides

Some fat around your body organs offers protective cushioning. This can be really helpful in situations like falling.

The key to this is moderation. If you are too skinny you could be at risk. And with more than 60% of Americans being obese, you may in fact be too heavy.

So take note. This is not an endorsement of obesity. Rather it is an acknowledgement that some fat on an otherwise healthy Senior body can have positive health benefits. So, If you have a few extra pounds, there’s no reason to feel shame. Simply recognize that a little bit of extra weight is a natural part of the aging process and a way for the body to help protect you.

Just be sure you watch out for rapid weight gain or loss as these can be signs of other underlying conditions. And always consult with a medical professional if you have any concerns about your weight.

Easy Workout Tips for The Young at Heart

Dwayne Johnson aka “The Rock” spends about 2 hours a day, six days a week just at the gym. That doesn’t include other physical activities! But it’s not easy for most folks to get to the gym on a daily basis, let alone spending 60 to 90 minutes once you get there.

While it may be a great goal to invest time in tougher workouts, folks who have been largely inactive will likely need to take smaller steps to help build habits that will last. This is especially true as you age.

Still you can find some clever ways to get active. Here are some fun ideas:

Stretch while watching TV.

The key is to work on perfecting your form and holding your poses for about 10 seconds.

Perform sit-ups while watching TV.

A simple sit-up can help you strengthen your core as well as tone and trim.

Do counter-top pushups while waiting for something in the microwave.

It could be you are re-heating some pasta or popping a bag of popcorn. No matter! Use the time to perform simple countertop push-ups to help tone your arms, shoulders, and chest.

Do mini-squats instead…

If you are tired of pushups, switch to mini-squats while you are waiting for the microwave to finish. Or perhaps while your coffee is brewing.

The goal is to be as creative as possible both with your time as well as your space.

Having great form and being careful is what’s important. And be sure you’ve talked with your doctor about ANY exercise program before starting one.

So while you may never look like Hercules, taking simple steps can help you feel stronger, leaner, and ready to take on whatever that day might bring to you.

For videos on how to perform these and other exercises, visit AARP.

Easy Workout Tips for The Young at Heart

Dwayne Johnson aka “The Rock” spends about 2 hours a day, six days a week just at the gym. That doesn’t include other physical activities! But it’s not easy for most folks to get to the gym on a daily basis, let alone spending 60 to 90 minutes once you get there.

While it may be a great goal to invest time in tougher workouts, folks who have been largely inactive will likely need to take smaller steps to help build habits that will last. This is especially true as you age.

Still you can find some clever ways to get active. Here are some fun ideas:

Stretch while watching TV.

The key is to work on perfecting your form and holding your poses for about 10 seconds.

Perform sit-ups while watching TV.

A simple sit-up can help you strengthen your core as well as tone and trim.

Do counter-top pushups while waiting for something in the microwave.

It could be you are re-heating some pasta or popping a bag of popcorn. No matter! Use the time to perform simple countertop push-ups to help tone your arms, shoulders, and chest.

Do mini-squats instead…

If you are tired of pushups, switch to mini-squats while you are waiting for the microwave to finish. Or perhaps while your coffee is brewing.

The goal is to be as creative as possible both with your time as well as your space.

Having great form and being careful is what’s important. And be sure you’ve talked with your doctor about ANY exercise program before starting one.

So while you may never look like Hercules, taking simple steps can help you feel stronger, leaner, and ready to take on whatever that day might bring to you.

For videos on how to perform these and other exercises, visit AARP.

Ten of The Biggest Medicare Mistakes You Can Make

Ten of The Biggest Medicare Mistakes You Can Make

Medicare can be difficult to navigate for folks who are new to the system. More than 10,000 individuals find their way into the program each day. If you are going to be one of them soon or just recently turned 65, invest a few minutes here to make sure you’re properly protected
First, get acquainted with the Medicare Rights Center. This is a consumer advocacy group that represents folks on Medicare. They offer a lot of valuable resources regarding protecting your Medicare Rights.

 

So what are the 10 biggest mistakes you can make with Medicare? Here goes…

 

  1. Assuming you don’t qualify.

 

Medicare Part A requires 40 “credits” to get Part A services without having to pay premiums. A “credit” is simply a quarter of a year, so 40 credits is about 10 years worth of work in total. You can qualify for Part B without work credits. And Part D simply requires that you be 65 years or older and a citizen or legal resident who’s lived in the U.S. for at least 5 years.

  1. Failing to register for Part B coverage when you should.

 

If you fail to register at the correct time you risk penalties in the form of surcharges that will be added to your Part B premiums. There is an exception. Do you have health insurance beyond 65 from an employer where you (or your spouse) are actively working? Does the company have 20 or more employees? If so, you can put off Part B registration without facing a penalty until you or your spouse are no longer working for that firm. Otherwise, if you plan to have Part B protection, you must enroll in Part B coverage when you turn 65. (You can register up to 3 months before turning 65 and 3 months after.)

  1. If you have COBRA benefits, you still must register for Medicare Part B.

While Part B coverage is optional, you should talk with your insurance professional / financial advisor about your options. COBRA allows you to continue on your employer’s health plan after you retire for about 18 months. But if you need Medicare Part B, COBRA doesn’t give you a reason to put off getting Medicare Part B coverage. So if you are on COBRA and just turned 65, you need to be sure to get on Part B coverage if you plan to enroll in it.

  1. Thinking you need to reach complete retirement age before registering for Medicare

 

The retirement age is creeping up. (It’s 67 for folks born after 1959.) But to avoid late penalties, you still need to sign up for Medicare when you turn 65. (Again, if you or your spouse are still actively employed with health protection, you can wait.) They key here is that you don’t need to wait to start receiving Social Security benefits to enroll in Medicare and waiting to do so could cost you.

  1. Avoiding Part D if you currently aren’t taking medications.

 

Part D offers protection against the high cost of drugs such as cancer treatment. But like all insurance, you can’t wait until you need the insurance to sign up for it. You need to have Part D coverage even if you are 100% healthy currently. Otherwise, you could face substantial late charges that will be incorporated into your Part D premiums. But if you are retired, your income is typically more limited. So, a little bit of forethought could help make life much easier for you by keeping your premiums low.

  1. Misunderstanding registration periods

 

You might have read about “open registration” and gotten the idea that this is the only time you can register for Medicare. Not so! In Medicare, open enrollment (Oct. 15 to Dec. 7 each year) is simply for individuals who are already in the program. That’s the time they can alter their protection for the following year. If you are new to Medicare, your enrollment period is around the time you turn 65. (3 months before & 3 months after.) You also have up to 8 months after your health insurance ends with your employer if you’ve already turned 65. Either way, waiting for “open enrollment” could be a costly mistake.

  1. Selecting Part D drug coverage because of premium costs, brand name, rather than the protection it offers.

 

Part D protection varies quite a bit. Not all plans have standard amounts for what drugs they include and what they charge for co-pays. The best thing to do is to compare costs base on the actual drugs you currently take. You can call Medicare at (800) 633-4227 for further details or talk with your insurance professional.

  1. Being late to purchase Medigap.

Medigap supplemental insurance offers extra protection that you can opt to buy. It covers some or the majority of your out-of-pocket expenditures in standard Medicare. This can include deductibles and copays. To get the complete federal protections, you need to purchase it when you turn 65. The rules that govern getting Medigap insurance can be complex. So we highly recommend you seek advice if you are thinking about putting off getting protected when you turn 65.

  1. Failing to read your Annual Notice of Change.

 

Each year you are sent a document in September if you are enrolled in Medicare or have Part D coverage. This document details the changes the plan will be making in the protections it offers and in what that protection will cost. If the changes aren’t to your liking, it’s time to consider what changes you may need to make in your plans during open enrollment.

  1. Not recognizing that you may qualify for assistance to reduce your costs.

There are a lot of costs to Medicare. You pay premiums, co-pays, and deductibles. Many retired folks find it difficult to keep up with the payments. If you are in that situation, there are two programs that can help you if you qualify.
The first is called a Medicare Savings Program. With this program your state pays the Part B premiums and may cover additional costs.
The second is called the Federal Extra Help program and can help you obtain affordable Part D drug coverage.
To see if you can be approved for either program you need to call the state’s health insurance program and find out what options are available. You can go to https://shiptacenter.org, select your state, and find the right phone number to call.
Final Thoughts on Medicare

Medicare is complex. And like all insurance, it’s best to talk with folks who understand the options available in the market as well as your personal situation. This way you can know that you have the protection you need at a price that will be affordable to you.

Ten of The Biggest Medicare Mistakes You Can Make

Medicare can be difficult to navigate for folks who are new to the system. More than 10,000 individuals find their way into the program each day. If you are going to be one of them soon or just recently turned 65, invest a few minutes here to make sure you’re properly protected
First, get acquainted with the Medicare Rights Center. This is a consumer advocacy group that represents folks on Medicare. They offer a lot of valuable resources regarding protecting your Medicare Rights.

 

So what are the 10 biggest mistakes you can make with Medicare? Here goes…

 

  1. Assuming you don’t qualify.

 

Medicare Part A requires 40 “credits” to get Part A services without having to pay premiums. A “credit” is simply a quarter of a year, so 40 credits is about 10 years worth of work in total. You can qualify for Part B without work credits. And Part D simply requires that you be 65 years or older and a citizen or legal resident who’s lived in the U.S. for at least 5 years.

  1. Failing to register for Part B coverage when you should.

 

If you fail to register at the correct time you risk penalties in the form of surcharges that will be added to your Part B premiums. There is an exception. Do you have health insurance beyond 65 from an employer where you (or your spouse) are actively working? Does the company have 20 or more employees? If so, you can put off Part B registration without facing a penalty until you or your spouse are no longer working for that firm. Otherwise, if you plan to have Part B protection, you must enroll in Part B coverage when you turn 65. (You can register up to 3 months before turning 65 and 3 months after.)

  1. If you have COBRA benefits, you still must register for Medicare Part B.

While Part B coverage is optional, you should talk with your insurance professional / financial advisor about your options. COBRA allows you to continue on your employer’s health plan after you retire for about 18 months. But if you need Medicare Part B, COBRA doesn’t give you a reason to put off getting Medicare Part B coverage. So if you are on COBRA and just turned 65, you need to be sure to get on Part B coverage if you plan to enroll in it.

  1. Thinking you need to reach complete retirement age before registering for Medicare

 

The retirement age is creeping up. (It’s 67 for folks born after 1959.) But to avoid late penalties, you still need to sign up for Medicare when you turn 65. (Again, if you or your spouse are still actively employed with health protection, you can wait.) They key here is that you don’t need to wait to start receiving Social Security benefits to enroll in Medicare and waiting to do so could cost you.

  1. Avoiding Part D if you currently aren’t taking medications.

 

Part D offers protection against the high cost of drugs such as cancer treatment. But like all insurance, you can’t wait until you need the insurance to sign up for it. You need to have Part D coverage even if you are 100% healthy currently. Otherwise, you could face substantial late charges that will be incorporated into your Part D premiums. But if you are retired, your income is typically more limited. So, a little bit of forethought could help make life much easier for you by keeping your premiums low.

  1. Misunderstanding registration periods

 

You might have read about “open registration” and gotten the idea that this is the only time you can register for Medicare. Not so! In Medicare, open enrollment (Oct. 15 to Dec. 7 each year) is simply for individuals who are already in the program. That’s the time they can alter their protection for the following year. If you are new to Medicare, your enrollment period is around the time you turn 65. (3 months before & 3 months after.) You also have up to 8 months after your health insurance ends with your employer if you’ve already turned 65. Either way, waiting for “open enrollment” could be a costly mistake.

  1. Selecting Part D drug coverage because of premium costs, brand name, rather than the protection it offers.

 

Part D protection varies quite a bit. Not all plans have standard amounts for what drugs they include and what they charge for co-pays. The best thing to do is to compare costs base on the actual drugs you currently take. You can call Medicare at (800) 633-4227 for further details or talk with your insurance professional.

  1. Being late to purchase Medigap.

Medigap supplemental insurance offers extra protection that you can opt to buy. It covers some or the majority of your out-of-pocket expenditures in standard Medicare. This can include deductibles and copays. To get the complete federal protections, you need to purchase it when you turn 65. The rules that govern getting Medigap insurance can be complex. So we highly recommend you seek advice if you are thinking about putting off getting protected when you turn 65.

  1. Failing to read your Annual Notice of Change.

 

Each year you are sent a document in September if you are enrolled in Medicare or have Part D coverage. This document details the changes the plan will be making in the protections it offers and in what that protection will cost. If the changes aren’t to your liking, it’s time to consider what changes you may need to make in your plans during open enrollment.

  1. Not recognizing that you may qualify for assistance to reduce your costs.

There are a lot of costs to Medicare. You pay premiums, co-pays, and deductibles. Many retired folks find it difficult to keep up with the payments. If you are in that situation, there are two programs that can help you if you qualify.
The first is called a Medicare Savings Program. With this program your state pays the Part B premiums and may cover additional costs.
The second is called the Federal Extra Help program and can help you obtain affordable Part D drug coverage.
To see if you can be approved for either program you need to call the state’s health insurance program and find out what options are available. You can go to https://shiptacenter.org, select your state, and find the right phone number to call.
Final Thoughts on Medicare

Medicare is complex. And like all insurance, it’s best to talk with folks who understand the options available in the market as well as your personal situation. This way you can know that you have the protection you need at a price that will be affordable to you.

Best of 2016: Four Ways to Get More Enjoyment Out of Your Retirement

Four Ways to Get More Enjoyment Out of Your Retirement

Less than half of retired Americans are very satisfied in their retirement according to a new study by the Employee Benefit Research Institute. Only 48.6 percent currently report that their retirement has been “very satisfying” (down from 60.5 percent in 1998), while those reporting their experience as “not at all satisfying” has increased to 10.5 percent (from 7.9).

While this downward trend was seen in every economic group, higher retirement satisfaction was still positively correlated with net worth and good health. If you’d like to be among the most satisfied in your golden years, you’ll need an aggressive savings plan as well as a willingness to explore a few of these adventurous suggestions to get more enjoyment out of your retirement.

Make your own excitement. Imagine all the things you can do once you’re no longer obligated to punch a time clock every workday. Forty hours a week is more than enough to write a book, learn a new language, take up an instrument, mentor young professionals, help those less fortunate or pursue any other passions you’ve previously ignored for lack of time.

Reconnect with old friends. Busy lives naturally create distance in all but the closest relationships, and chances are good that you’ve lost touch with a few friends over the years. Now that you’re retired, it’s time to reach out and reestablish those connections. Social media platforms such as LinkedIn and Facebook are great tools for locating old chums. If you don’t know how these sites work, your grandkids will probably enjoy showing you how to use them.

Build a few new friendships as well.Research has shown that a strong network of friendships can help ward off depression, improve health and lead to a longer life. You can meet potential new friends while volunteering for charity, working a part time job, taking a class, exercising at the gym, hiking the local trails, walking in the park or attending community events. Look for senior meet ups all over the world here, or find interesting volunteer opportunities in your area here.

Don’t get too attached to a routine. We all tend to be creatures of habit, and it’s far too easy to exchange the daily work grind for a repetitive post-retirement routine. Unfortunately, doing the same things over and over again, day after day and week after week, can lead to boredom and a decline in overall happiness and satisfaction. Spontaneity is the antidote. You can inject a bit of it into your everyday life by trying out new hobbies, checking out new restaurants, visiting new cities, traveling to new countries, or even doing something as simple as taking a different route home from the grocery store.

Whether you’re still years away from retirement or have already collected your last paycheck, it’s never too late to improve your retirement savings plan. We’re here to help you review investments, explore options, and make certain you get as much satisfaction out of your senior years as possible.

Best of 2016: Four Ways to Get More Enjoyment Out of Your Retirement

Less than half of retired Americans are very satisfied in their retirement according to a new study by the Employee Benefit Research Institute. Only 48.6 percent currently report that their retirement has been “very satisfying” (down from 60.5 percent in 1998), while those reporting their experience as “not at all satisfying” has increased to 10.5 percent (from 7.9).

While this downward trend was seen in every economic group, higher retirement satisfaction was still positively correlated with net worth and good health. If you’d like to be among the most satisfied in your golden years, you’ll need an aggressive savings plan as well as a willingness to explore a few of these adventurous suggestions to get more enjoyment out of your retirement.

Make your own excitement. Imagine all the things you can do once you’re no longer obligated to punch a time clock every workday. Forty hours a week is more than enough to write a book, learn a new language, take up an instrument, mentor young professionals, help those less fortunate or pursue any other passions you’ve previously ignored for lack of time.

Reconnect with old friends. Busy lives naturally create distance in all but the closest relationships, and chances are good that you’ve lost touch with a few friends over the years. Now that you’re retired, it’s time to reach out and reestablish those connections. Social media platforms such as LinkedIn and Facebook are great tools for locating old chums. If you don’t know how these sites work, your grandkids will probably enjoy showing you how to use them.

Build a few new friendships as well.Research has shown that a strong network of friendships can help ward off depression, improve health and lead to a longer life. You can meet potential new friends while volunteering for charity, working a part time job, taking a class, exercising at the gym, hiking the local trails, walking in the park or attending community events. Look for senior meet ups all over the world here, or find interesting volunteer opportunities in your area here.

Don’t get too attached to a routine. We all tend to be creatures of habit, and it’s far too easy to exchange the daily work grind for a repetitive post-retirement routine. Unfortunately, doing the same things over and over again, day after day and week after week, can lead to boredom and a decline in overall happiness and satisfaction. Spontaneity is the antidote. You can inject a bit of it into your everyday life by trying out new hobbies, checking out new restaurants, visiting new cities, traveling to new countries, or even doing something as simple as taking a different route home from the grocery store.

Whether you’re still years away from retirement or have already collected your last paycheck, it’s never too late to improve your retirement savings plan. We’re here to help you review investments, explore options, and make certain you get as much satisfaction out of your senior years as possible.

5 Key Considerations When Switching to Medicare

5 Key Considerations When Switching to Medicare

When you are switching from your employer’s medical insurance to Medicare, being prepared is key.

#1: Medicare is about you and ONLY you.

While many employee medical plans offer coverage for the worker and the spouse, Medicare is per individual… each person is required to have their own Medicare plan. With differing health conditions each person will likely end up with quite different Medicare policies and potentially supplemental insurance.

Have a spouse that doesn’t qualify for Medicare? You’ll have to find separate coverage for them as well.

# 2: Cap? What cap?

Most employer plans (and plans purchased in the insurance marketplace through the Affordable Care Act) have limits on out-of-pocket healthcare expenses you’ll be expected to pay each year. Standard Medicare pays 80% of covered costs and there’s no cap so you could face quite a big bill at a time when your cashflow could be limited. To help, there are Medicare Advantage andMedigap policies with out-of-pocket caps. Exploring your options around these areas is crucial to ensure you’re adequately protected.

#3: Strategically leverage your benefits

Take the time to understand the pros & cons of each type of coverage… what you may currently have and what you’ll be getting under Medicare. If there are medical procedures you are entitled to under your employer’s plan where it is of greater financial benefit for you to take advantage of your current benefits before switching over to Medicare, it’s wise to schedule and take care of those treatments before you switch to Medicare.

Interestingly, sometimes the opposite is true and you might find better benefits under Medicare depending on the treatment. That’s why it is so important to clearly understand your options well before you find yourself transitioning from employer-offered insurance to Medicare.

#4: Medicare is about wellness

Medicare places an emphasis on helping individuals cope with chronic health conditions. It also tends to offer more personal care options while many company sponsored health plans have attempted to cut costs by compelling initial care by phone.

Be sure to check with your HR department on your existing benefits vs. what you should expect to see with Medicare. You may find that Medicare offers a better overall care experience as you age.

#5: Say yes to Part D.

While employee health benefits often include prescription drugs as a part of the plan, with Medicare you’ll need Part D coverage. There are many plans available and for this you’ll rely on private insurance. Shop around to find a plan that offers the price and benefits you need. One tip: Be sure to include the total cost of Part D coverage + your expected costs of medication to get an accurate view of which Part D plan is truly best for your situation.

Your financial advisor should be able to give you some helpful insights as you face these difficult issues. And for a great extra resource, check out “How to Navigate Medicare Plans” (http://time.com/money/page/how-to-navigate-medicare-plans/) featured on Time’s website.

 

5 Key Considerations When Switching to Medicare

When you are switching from your employer’s medical insurance to Medicare, being prepared is key.

#1: Medicare is about you and ONLY you.

While many employee medical plans offer coverage for the worker and the spouse, Medicare is per individual… each person is required to have their own Medicare plan. With differing health conditions each person will likely end up with quite different Medicare policies and potentially supplemental insurance.

Have a spouse that doesn’t qualify for Medicare? You’ll have to find separate coverage for them as well.

# 2: Cap? What cap?

Most employer plans (and plans purchased in the insurance marketplace through the Affordable Care Act) have limits on out-of-pocket healthcare expenses you’ll be expected to pay each year. Standard Medicare pays 80% of covered costs and there’s no cap so you could face quite a big bill at a time when your cashflow could be limited. To help, there are Medicare Advantage andMedigap policies with out-of-pocket caps. Exploring your options around these areas is crucial to ensure you’re adequately protected.

#3: Strategically leverage your benefits

Take the time to understand the pros & cons of each type of coverage… what you may currently have and what you’ll be getting under Medicare. If there are medical procedures you are entitled to under your employer’s plan where it is of greater financial benefit for you to take advantage of your current benefits before switching over to Medicare, it’s wise to schedule and take care of those treatments before you switch to Medicare.

Interestingly, sometimes the opposite is true and you might find better benefits under Medicare depending on the treatment. That’s why it is so important to clearly understand your options well before you find yourself transitioning from employer-offered insurance to Medicare.

#4: Medicare is about wellness

Medicare places an emphasis on helping individuals cope with chronic health conditions. It also tends to offer more personal care options while many company sponsored health plans have attempted to cut costs by compelling initial care by phone.

Be sure to check with your HR department on your existing benefits vs. what you should expect to see with Medicare. You may find that Medicare offers a better overall care experience as you age.

#5: Say yes to Part D.

While employee health benefits often include prescription drugs as a part of the plan, with Medicare you’ll need Part D coverage. There are many plans available and for this you’ll rely on private insurance. Shop around to find a plan that offers the price and benefits you need. One tip: Be sure to include the total cost of Part D coverage + your expected costs of medication to get an accurate view of which Part D plan is truly best for your situation.

Your financial advisor should be able to give you some helpful insights as you face these difficult issues. And for a great extra resource, check out “How to Navigate Medicare Plans” (http://time.com/money/page/how-to-navigate-medicare-plans/) featured on Time’s website.

 

What Happens When Social Security Disagrees With You?

Did you know that you have rights to appeal decisions made by the Social Security Administration on your behalf?  It’s true.

Let’s say that you’re being paid something less than you believe you are due. You’ve reached out to them via their toll-free number and you’ve been told what you’re being paid is right… but you are convinced it should be different.

If that scenario sounds familiar it’s because you aren’t alone. As of 2015, nearly 60 million U.S. citizens were paid nearly $900 Billion in benefits… and there were plenty of complaints that the numbers were off.

So the Social Security Administration has created a specific appeals process. Be prepared to spend a little money and time walking through the process but can be worth it… as of the writing of this article, the Social Security Department has publicly declared that if there are mistakes they want to address them.

What you need to know is that there are 4 appeal levels.

Reconsideration

This offers a comprehensive review of your situation by agents at the Social Security Administration who didn’t take part during the past evaluations. They will closely examine all the facts of your situation and why the benefits were set at your current levels. Sometimes, you may have an opportunity to submit additional information.

Administrative Law Judge

Assuming Reconsideration doesn’t go your way, the next step is to go before an Administrative Law Judge. Whenever possible, the Social Security department prefers to have meetings within a 75-mile radius of your location. If that’s a hardship, the case will be heard via an alternate method such as videoconference.  As in the “Reconsideration” stage, the judge has zero prior experience with your case or the original decision that you’re appealing.

The ALJ (Administrative Law Judge) will review the merits of the case. You’ll have the opportunity to bring witnesses and the judge may ask them questions. The judge may also call on experts to help clarify concerns.

Appeals Council

If the hearing before the Administrative Law Judge doesn’t go in your favor, the next step is to bring your case before the Social Security Department’s Appeals Council. Comprised of 3 members, this is the last review that can occur inside the Social Security Administration. They can hear your case, simply make a finding, or refer it back to an Administrative Law Judge for further review.

Federal Court

This is the final stage assuming all other appeal methods have been exhausted. At this point the decision making process is removed from the Social Security Department and placed in the hands of a Federal Court. Lose your case here and you have no more rights to appeal.

Should you be considering having your benefits case reviewed, here are some extra things to remember:

 

  • You have 60 days to appeal starting on the date you received the Social Security decision.
  • If you miss a deadline, tell the Social Security department why you were late and they may be able to still grant an appeal.
  • You can have an attorney to help you organize your case and testimony. The Social Security Department strives to work with your representative. But you can just as easily have a good friend or family member also represent you while the process is internal to the Social Security Department.
  • To start an appeal, there is a special form that should be submitted. Simply ask for the form when speaking with a Social Security representative.
  • Bear in mind the appeals process can be quite lengthy.

Just in case, here’s a direct link to the Social Security Department’s Request for Reconsideration website page: https://www.ssa.gov/forms/ssa-561.html

And remember that if you are feeling squeezed by a Social Security Department finding, be sure to talk with your financial advisor and independent insurance agents to help you minimize expenses and get the best coverage for your specific situation.