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Chambersburg Injured Workers Blog

Wait times for disability benefits decisions

Pennsylvania residents who have submitted claims for Social Security disability benefits should know that their wait times will depend on many factors. Applicants who have been denied disability benefits should expect to receive their notices rather quickly as there is a 65-day deadline they will have to maintain when submitting an appeal.

The Social Security Administration provides disability benefits under two programs, including the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program and the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program. Individuals who apply for the benefits are required to show that because of their mental or physical impairment, they cannot earn the monthly substantial gainful activity (SGA) amount.

Preventing injuries can reduce workers' compensation claims

Workers' compensation claims provide Pennsylvania employees with a way to get financial assistance after an on-the-job accident. Such accidents can range from minor slips and falls to roadway crashes in vehicles owned by the company. Employers are responsible for maintaining safe workplaces. This might involve informing employees of any worksite construction or cleaning areas that could be hazardous. Employers also need to provide their workers with proper training and make sure that they understand common safety standards.

To reduce the number of compensation claims filed, more employers now offer prevention programs. These programs can reduce claims by millions of dollars each year. Many of the programs help workers stay healthy and keep an eye on their overall wellness. One example is the coal mining industry, which now requires that employees have chest X-rays on a regular basis to check for health problems.

Date of disability onset crucial for retroactive SSD benefits

The process of evaluating an application for Social Security Disability benefits involves the determination of when the disability started. Known as the established date of onset, this date will influence how far back in time the Social Security Administration will go to determine the back payment of benefits for a Pennsylvania applicant.

The time that passes from the onset of disability and the approval of benefits can be considerable. A person might have gone through multiple denials and waited a long time to get a hearing before an administrative law judge. Benefits could be retroactively payable for months or years since the filing of the initial application. A judge even has the power to reopen multiple denied applications and consider evidence of disability that was overlooked. A judge who rules that a denial was improper could award disability pay back to the onset time described within the first application.

The dangers of repetitive motion work activities

When most think of injuries in the workplace, they think of traumatic sudden injuries, like a fall from an elevated surface, being hit by or run over with heavy machinery and more. However, repetitive motion injuries also contribute to many workplace injuries and workers’ compensation claims across Pennsylvania.

What are repetitive motion injuries?

Social media may be used when evaluating a disability claim

Pennsylvania residents have likely seen examples of individuals who have had negative experiences at work, at school or with law enforcement because of what they posted on social media. Now, the Social Security Administration may start turning to Facebook and Instagram when evaluating a person's disability claim.

The Social Security Administration already uses social media to identify fraudulent activity. However, the proposed budget for the 2020 year shows that SSA is hoping to expand the way they use social media to evaluate an applicant's claim for disability benefits. The goal is to assess the consistency and supportability of a claim.

Tesla cited for more OSHA violations than other auto plants

Innovative vehicles from Tesla might interest consumers in Pennsylvania, but the company's track record on workplace safety does not compare well to other automakers. According to a report published by Forbes, the company had far more Occupational Safety and Health Administration violations between 2014 and 2018 than the other top 10 auto manufacturing plants put together.

An OSHA database recorded a total of 48 violations for Tesla between August 22, 2014, and June 21, 2018. Twenty-two violations emerged after the investigation of nine accidents. Another 18 violations resulted from seven complaints about safety. The remaining eight violations arose from miscellaneous incidents that did not involve complaints.

How to standardize lockout-tagout procedures

Employers in Pennsylvania who have a lockout-tagout program may consider standardizing it if they have not done so already. This can help boost compliance with OSHA standards and keep workers safe. The first step in standardization is to set consistent expectations for all departments and facilities.

One could, for example, create a standard audit schedule to let everyone know that lockout-tagout procedures will be consistently updated and reviewed at a particular date every year. Completing the annual audit can be a more streamlined process with a standard template. For example, machine-specific photos can be incorporated to identify energy isolation points.

Small electronics could enhance workplace safety

For some Pennsylvania workers, wearable technologies may help to prevent accidents and injuries on the job. These kind of electronics are attached to the body and can encompass a wide range of activities, from small fitness trackers to substantial protective gear. Hard hats may have sensors embedded to detect incoming dangers, while goggles may include displays that alert workers to potential problems. They could also help to correct ergonomic issues in the work environment while monitoring stress, fatigue and other conditions that could contribute to risk.

These devices give a greater view of workers' activities on the job. While the motivation behind their development may be to improve workplace safety, some observers have worried about privacy concerns. The devices could be used to measure productivity and encourage workers to move even more quickly, potentially further endangering safety. Some companies may justify the equipment as a safety aid but then use it to discipline workers or intensify their workload, leading to a greater distrust of other workplace health initiatives. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health has supported opt-out programs and other options that could protect workers' privacy and safety.

OSHA releases fact sheet on carbon monoxide poisoning

When the weather gets colder in Pennsylvania, the risk of carbon monoxide exposure for workers increases. To help reduce the risk, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has released a communiqué to employers about the potential hazards of carbon monoxide. The administration also has a fact sheet pamphlet written for employers. This sheet provides techniques for minimizing exposure to workers.

Carbon monoxide is a poisonous gas that is undetectable by smell or sight. Inhalation in smaller amounts can cause sickness. Inhalation in larger amounts or over prolonged periods can be fatal. In commercial or industrial settings, the main source is through the combustion of fossil fuels, including wood, kerosene, gasoline and diesel fuel.

How to qualify for supplemental security income

People with disabilities in Pennsylvania who are unable to hold gainful employment may qualify for assistance through the Supplemental Security Income program. For those over the age of 65, qualifying may not be very difficult even if their disability isn't debilitating. For those under 65, however, a person must demonstrate that they have a disability that prevents them from working and that they have no other means of gaining financial assistance.

Another requirement for SSI is that the person can not own more than $2,000 in assets as well as insufficient or no income. For people who have worked within the past 10 years, applying for SSDI in addition to SSI may be a good idea. The optimal time to start the application process for either program is as soon as a person realizes they have a disability that is likely to last a year or more. Approval can take a relatively long time.

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