Friday, June 25, 2010

Your Disability Benefit: It Is What It Is

The following article was authored by Quatrini Rafferty attorney A. Tereasa Rerko and originally published in our newsletter, the Legal Update.

Quite often, I am asked how much monthly income a person will receive if they are approved for Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits. My answer is always, "It depends." What it depends upon is your individual earnings history. Monthly SSD benefits are similar to snowflakes: no two are exactly alike. Even if your neighbor or relative is working for the same employer and making similar wages, the calculation of your SSD benefits may not be the same.

SSD benefits are calculated using your unique work history, which includes your earnings for all jobs that you have worked during your lifetime. At the time you are determined to meet the disability requirements of SSD, your benefits will be computed using that work history. The Social Security Administration (SSA) looks at not only how much was earned, but when the income was earned. That income is then subjected to a complex formula to calculate your disability benefit amount.

It is always a good idea to check your earnings history on file with the SSA for accuracy. As long as your earnings history recorded by the SSA is correct, there is really no way to increase the monthly disability benefit amount. However, if your earnings history is not complete or accurate, then the calculations used to determine your monthly benefit amount will be incorrect. We suggest that you make any corrections to that record as soon as possible. To obtain a copy of the earnings record that SSA has on file, a simple request form needs to be completed. To obtain that form, contact your local SSA office, go to, or contact our office.


Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Tribune Democrat: School Closure Hearing Delayed

GREENSBURG — A hearing scheduled today in the ongoing battle over a school near New Florence has been canceled.

The hearing – on the preliminary objections filed by Ligonier Valley School District in response to a lawsuit by a citizens group seeking to keep the school open – had been scheduled in Westmoreland County Court before Judge Gary P. Caruso. The citizens group, Save Our Rams Education, filed a lawsuit against the district in May.SORE is seeking an injunction to block the planned closure of Laurel Valley Middle-High School. The district plans to send those students to its other middle and high schools in Ligonier in the fall.

One of the objections the district had was that the lawsuit did not contain enough details, said district Solicitor Dennis Rafferty. The citizens group filed an amended complaint that contains more details, putting a halt to today’s hearing and causing the process to start over again, he said.

The school district believes the amended lawsuit still doesn’t contain enough details and expects to file another preliminary objection, Rafferty said. A hearing on the objections probably will be held in July, he said.Judge Gary P. Caruso has scheduled Aug. 2 and 3 as the dates for the hearing on the injunction request.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

QR Partner Dennis B. Rafferty Quoted in the Tribune Democrat

School hearing slated

Citizens group, district at odds over Laurel Valley closing

GREENSBURG — A Westmoreland County judge has scheduled a hearing June 22 on the preliminary objections the Ligonier Valley School District has filed in response to a lawsuit by a citizens group seeking an injunction to block the closure of the Laurel Valley Middle-High School near New Florence.

Dennis Rafferty, school district solicitor, filed the objections Tuesday at the Westmoreland County Courthouse in Greensburg.

On May 10, the citizens groups, Save Our Rams Education, filed a lawsuit that asks a judge to overturn the board’s April 19 decision to close the school.

Rafferty said the hearing on the objections was scheduled for 2:45 p.m. before Judge Gary P. Caruso.

If the case is not settled then, the judge scheduled Aug. 2 and 3 as the dates for the hearing on the injunction, he said.

Rafferty said he will be assisted at the court proceedings by the Pittsburgh law firm of Anderson and Price, whose services were obtained through the Pennsylvania School Boards Association.

The citizens group is being represented by Gary J. Matta, a Pittsburgh lawyer.

Rafferty said one of the preliminary objections is that the district should not be prevented from closing the school.

Another objection is that in addition to the school district, the lawsuit

names all board members who voted

to close the school and the superintendent.

“We’re contending that they should not be named in the suit because they have immunity under Pennsylvania law,” Rafferty said.

No other points are being addressed specifically, he said.

One of the points being raised by the citizens group in the lawsuit is that students will be forced to undergo long and arduous bus trips over dangerous roadways.

Rafferty said that Pennsylvania law says that school boards can make decisions on closing schools so long as they take all relevant factors into consideration.

So even though there is no question that there will be long bus rides, the bus rides were

factors that were taken into

consideration by the board, he said.

“In spite of that, they still felt it was in the best interest of the district and taxpayers to close the school,” he said.

Another point raised in the lawsuit is that sending Laurel Valley middle and high school students to the Ligonier Valley Middle School and Ligonier Valley High School will create serious overcrowding.

Rafferty said the same analysis for the bus rides applies to each point the citizens group raises in the lawsuit.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Dennis B. Rafferty Featured in Pittsburgh Tribune Review Article

By Jewels Phraner
Tuesday, June 8, 2010

A Westmoreland County judge will hear arguments June 22 in a case involving the decision to close Laurel Valley Middle/High School.

The Ligonier Valley school board voted 8-1 in April to close the complex in the northern end of the district.

Shortly after the decision, 13 district residents filed a complaint against the district, the eight board members who voted in favor of the plan and Superintendent Christine Oldham. Director Victor Sansing voted against the closing.

District Solicitor Dennis Rafferty said the hearing is scheduled for 2:45 p.m. before Judge Gary P. Caruso.

If the case is not decided at that time, an injunction hearing is scheduled Aug. 2 and 3, he said.

The citizens' complaint alleges the school board acted illegally and violated public trust. It also alleges the decision to close the school was arbitrary, capricious, done in bad faith and "motivated by reasons unrelated to providing quality education."

The citizens are represented by Pittsburgh attorney Gary Matta.

Rafferty will represent the district, along with attorneys John Smart and Lee Price of Pittsburgh's Andrews & Price. Rafferty said Smart and Price's services were obtained through the Pennsylvania School Boards Association.

The district responded to the complaint June 1, arguing that the plaintiffs do not meet the burden of proof established in previous court cases.

According to the district's response, courts historically have chosen not to interfere with decisions of governmental bodies unless officials have acted in bad faith, abused their power or acted capriciously or fraudulently.

The district's decision to close the school is neither arbitrary nor capricious, Smart contended.

"Arbitrariness and caprice are not to be confused with bona fide differences of opinion, allegedly unwise acts or asserted mistakes in judgments," the district said in its response.

Residents opposing the closure filed for an injunction that would stop the district from moving forward with the closure.

The group says that unless the district stops proceeding with the plan to move Laurel Valley students in grades six to eight to Ligonier Valley Middle and students in grades nine to 12 to Ligonier Valley High schools, the district will cause "immediate and irreparable harm."

The district argued that no such injunction is required.

"To the contrary, (the district) will suffer harm if the preliminary injunction is granted," Smart stated in his response.