In 1972, Congress passed legislation to provide automatic increases linked to a rise in consumer prices. Recipients would no longer have to wait for Congress to take action to receive an increase. The first automatic increases to Social Security benefits took effect in 1975. After 1982, cost of living adjustments (“COLAs”) were effective for December of each year and received by beneficiaries in January. Legislation enacted in 1973 provides for cost-of-living adjustments, or COLAs. With COLAs, Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits keep pace with inflation.

Last week the Social Security Administration (SSA) announced that the nearly 70 million recipients will see a COLA of 5.9% in 2022, the largest increase since 1982. Listed below are some of the notable changes that will take effect in January 2022 for Social Security recipients –

  • The average individual retired Social Security beneficiary is expected to see a monthly benefit jump from $1,565 to $1,657, an increase of roughly $92 per month or $1,104 for the year.

Wildfire
Wildfires have decimated swaths of California, leaving entire cities destroyed in their wake.  Many of the homeowners affected by these fires have found too late that they were dramatically underinsured and cannot rebuild or buy a similar home. In essence, their insurance is useless to them.

The Department of Insurance is aware of the problem and issued regulations designed to combat underinsurance – regulations that the insurance industry fought all the way to the California Supreme Court. In 2017, the California Supreme Court upheld the Department of Insurance’s regulation, Section 2695.183, which seeks to hold insurance companies more accountable for providing accurate estimates of replacement cost. That regulation states that an insurance company can breach the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing when the company chooses to provide an estimate of replacement cost without ensuring that the information on which it relies is accurate and updated.

It is no secret that the wildfires of the past decade have illuminated a huge problem with underinsurance in California.  Since 2017, courts have slowly been reviewing, and ruling upon, claims against insurance companies for failing to fully insure homes, leaving their insureds unable to rebuild or buy a similar home to the one they lost.  To date, only one California state court has evaluated how 2695.183 affects an insurance company’s obligations when insuring a home, and it provides valuable insight into what an insured needs to do if she wants to be protected in the event of the loss of her home.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed among women in the United States and is the second leading cause of death among women after lung cancer. On average, every 2 minutes a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer in the United States.

Group life insurance is a common benefit provided by employers to their workers. But unlike a private life insurance policy, your coverage is contingent on you remaining an employee. So when you stop working at that employer, what happens to your life insurance coverage?

There are multiple ways to keep your life insurance coverage from your employer once your employment ends, but it is important to choose the correct option. The possibilities might include conversion, continuation, or porting the coverage. Each of these will be specifically defined in your life insurance policy along with the procedure and conditions for exercising that option. Carefully consider each option available to determine what best fits your needs. An experienced employee benefits attorney can help you understand your life insurance policy if you have questions.

You Can Convert

Your news feed is constantly cluttered with natural disasters – wildfires, hurricanes, and floods seem to have become part of our daily conversations. According to a recent study by the Institute for Economics and Peace, natural disasters on a global scale have increased ten times since the 1960s. We often absorb this information with sorrow for those affected by the disaster, without stopping to think what we would do if our own home were affected. If you open mail for your homeowners insurer and stuff it in a draw or throw it in the garbage, this brief post is intended to help give you some tools to be a more proactive homeowner in the event you do need to file an insurance claim.

In order to adequately protect yourself before any potential loss, you should be intimately familiar with your homeowners policy. Upon receipt, you should set aside time to thoroughly review a complete copy of your homeowners policy. Highlight sections that are concerning to you and contact your agent for answers. Ask yourself questions such as:

  • What is the current value of your home?

Very

Medical records are an extremely important source of evidence in your disability claim. The records provide proof of the symptoms that disable you; they provide evidence of your treating provider’s opinion about your condition; and they provide proof of the period of time for which you have been disabled.

Beware

Why Do I Have to File a Lawsuit?

When an ERISA long-term disability appeal gets denied, the next step is, potentially, to file a lawsuit in federal district court. Some clients already know that they would like to settle their case and ask, why can’t we just negotiate a lump sum settlement with the insurance carrier? Why do I have to file a lawsuit? In short, while plaintiffs’ attorneys would likely be amenable to negotiating informally, insurers generally refuse to come to the table until a formal complaint has been filed. The weight of a formal lawsuit perhaps creates more real incentive and pressure for the insurer to settle, and the process is well established and well understood. Having already filed suit, one benefit of going through the court process for a plaintiff is that, in the event a settlement can’t be reached, there is the possibility of taking the case to trial within a shorter timeline –the complaint has already been filed, a judge has been assigned, and certain deadlines have already been put on the court calendar. The desirability of accepting a lump sum settlement varies from case to case.

What Does a Win at Trial Look Like?

In 2017, 47,000 Americans died by suicide and 17.3 million adults suffered at least one major depressive episode. When I see statistics like those, my mind floods with a flurry of thoughts all at once:

  • “Why?”
  • “How many more have died by suicide since 2017?”

September is National Recovery Month and is an observance held every September to promote and support new evidence-based treatment and recovery practices, the emergence of a strong proud recovery community, and the dedication of service providers and community members across the nation who make recovery in all its forms possible.

Mental health and substance use disorders affect all communities nationwide, with commitment and support, those impacted can embark on a journey of improved health and overall wellness. The focus of National Recovery Month this September is to celebrate all people that make the journey of recovery possible by embracing the 2021 theme, Recovery is For Everyone: Every Person, Every Family, Every Community.” National Recovery Month spreads the message that people can and do recover every day.

Mental health and substance use disorders affect people from all walks of life and all age groups. These illnesses are common, recurrent, and often serious, but they are treatable, and many people do recover. Mental disorders involve changes in thinking, mood, and/or behavior. These disorders can affect how individuals relate to others and make choices. Reaching a level that can be formally diagnosed often depends on a reduction in a person’s ability to function because of the disorder. For example:

I highly recommend the NPR series, “Bill of the Month,” which offers an expert analysis of medical bill surprises. This month’s bill concerns jaw surgery and a hospital bill of more than $27,000. The patient, Ely Bair, had a condition requiring two jaw surgeries. The first jaw surgery went very well and Bair paid his out of pocket maximum of $3,000 and his employer’s health plan with Premera Blue Cross covered the rest.

Bair’s second jaw surgery was with the same hospital and the health insurer was also Premera. But this time, Bair received a bill of $27,119 from the hospital.

The reason is in the fine print. Although Bair was covered under Premera policies for both surgeries, he changed employers between the two surgeries. Although both employers used Premera, the insurance coverage provided by Premera was different with each employer. The second Premera plan had a lifetime maximum of $5,000 for this jaw surgery. That left Bair responsible for the rest of the hospital bill. When he appealed, Premera pointed him to the specific language in the 80-page policy that addresses the lifetime maximum for this specific surgery.

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