Thursday, February 25, 2010

Social Security Administration Announces Approval/Denial Numbers for Hearing Offices

The Social Security Administration recently released information on the number of favorable and unfavorable awards for 2009 at the regional hearing offices. Quatrini Rafferty attorneys actively try social security cases in front of the judges from each office.

This data includes social security disability (SSD) and supplemental security income (SSI) hearing results through December 2009. Out of the 860 decisions issued through the Pittsburgh Hearing Office, 538 were favorable awards (this includes fully favorable and partially favorable decisions) and 322 were denials.

The Johnstown Hearing Office (including hearings held at remote locations such as Latrobe, Dubois, and Altoona) awarded 549 cases while denying 247.

The Cranberry/Seven Fields Hearing Office issued 660 awards and 385 denials.

Finally the Morgantown, WV hearing office awarded 426 cases while denying 286.

- Quatrini Rafferty -

Monday, February 22, 2010

UPDATE: COBRA Continuation Coverage Assistance Under ARRA

In February and October 2009, the Quatrini Rafferty blog authored posts detailing COBRA assistance through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (aka: Stimulus Bill.) This is intended as a follow-up.

The following article was posted on the U.S. Department of Labor's website:

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA), as amended on December 19, 2009 by the Department of Defense Appropriations Act, 2010 (2010 DOD Act) provides for premium reductions for health benefits under the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985, commonly called COBRA.

Eligible individuals pay only 35 percent of their COBRA premiums and the remaining 65 percent is reimbursed to the coverage provider through a tax credit.

To qualify, individuals must experience a COBRA qualifying event that is the involuntary termination of a covered employee's employment. The involuntary termination must occur during the period that began September 1, 2008 and ends on February 28, 2010. The premium reduction applies to periods of health coverage that began on or after February 17, 2009 and lasts for up to 15 months.

For more information, visit the Department of Labor's website:

- Quatrini Rafferty -

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Social Security Administration Adds 38 New Diagnoses to Compassionate Allowance List

The Social Security Administration maintains a Compassionate Allowance List (CAL) as a way to quickly identify medical conditions that will likely qualify for disability benefits, lessening the wait time for a decision.

When Social Security receives a claim that alleges a condition listed on the Compassionate Allowance list, the case is marked as expedited. While a favorable decision is not guaranteed based on the condition being listed on the CAL, it may decrease the wait time a claimant typically faces. If Social Security is not able to make a favorable decision after examining the case under the CAL guidelines, it will then be processed as a non-expedited claim.

As of March 1, 2010, Social Security has expanded the initial CAL to include 38 new medical conditions. The 38 new Compassionate Allowance conditions are:

1. Alstrom Syndrome
2. Amegakaryocytic Thrombocytopenia
3. Ataxia Spinocerebellar
4. Ataxia Telangiectasia
5. Batten Disease
6. Bilateral Retinoblastoma
7. Cri du Chat Syndrome
8. Degos Disease
9. Early-Onset Alzheimer’s Disease
10. Edwards Syndrome
11. Fibrodysplasia Ossificans Progressiva
12. Fukuyama Congenital Muscular Dystrophy
13. Glutaric Acidemia Type II
14. Hemophagocytic Lymphohistiocytosis (HLH), Familial Type
15. Hurler Syndrome, Type IH
16. Hunter Syndrome, Type II
17. Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis
18. Junctional Epidermolysis Bullosa, Lethal Type
19. Late Infantile Neuronal Ceroid Lipofuscinoses
20. Leigh’s Disease
21. Maple Syrup Urine Disease
22. Merosin Deficient Congenital Muscular Dystrophy
23. Mixed Dementia
24. Mucosal Malignant Melanoma
25. Neonatal Adrenoleukodystrophy
26. Neuronal Ceroid Lipofuscinoses, Infantile Type
27. Niemann-Pick Type C
28. Patau Syndrome
29. Primary Progressive Aphasia
30. Progressive Multifocal Leukoencephalopathy
31. Sanfilippo Syndrome
32. Subacute Sclerosis Panencephalitis
33. Tay Sachs Disease
34. Thanatophoric Dysplasia, Type 1
35. Ullrich Congenital Muscular Dystrophy
36. Walker Warburg Syndrome
37. Wolman Disease
38. Zellweger Syndrome

If you have been diagnosed with one of the conditions listed on the CAL, please contact the Quatrini Rafferty Social Security Department at either our Greensburg or Latrobe office at 1-888-288-9748 or at our website

- Quatrini Rafferty -

Friday, February 12, 2010

WC Benefits And Retirement Benefits Don’t Mix

The following article was authored by Quatrini Rafferty attorney Peter J. Gough and originally published in our newsletter, the Legal Update.

Every so often the Pennsylvania courts issue decisions which result in attorneys rushing to contact their clients with advice. Now is one of those times. We want you to be aware of a change in the law which could result in the loss of your workers' compensation benefits.

The Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania recently issued two decisions, both of which involved injured workers who were receiving workers' compensation benefits at the same time they were receiving pensions and/or Social Security retirement benefits. The Court concluded that if the injured worker receives a pension or Social Security retirement benefits, that worker is presumed to have been voluntarily removed from the work force - in other words, "retired." For that reason, that worker will not be entitled to workers' compensation benefits.

In the first case, the Court held that an injured worker who accepts a pension is not entitled to workers' compensation unless that worker establishes that a) he or she is actively seeking employment, or b) the work-related injury forced him or her to retire from working any job in the entire labor market and not just from performing the pre-injury job.

A short time later, the Commonwealth Court made life even harder for injured workers. In the second decision, the injured worker applied for and received a disability pension. Then, he testified during his workers' compensation case that he did not actively seek employment for a period of time after receiving the pension. The Court again found that the injured worker had retired during the time that he did not actively seek work. Thus, he was not entitled to workers' compensation wage loss benefits.

Moreover, the Court laid out in detail what injured workers must do to demonstrate that they are not retired. Simply put, the Court said that searching the internet or newspaper ads for jobs is just "window shopping" and does not constitute a true job search. To show a good faith effort to find employment, one must prove that job applications were submitted.

What this means is that injured workers who are currently receiving benefits and who are receiving, applying for, or considering taking pensions and/or Social Security retirement benefits must be actively looking for work on a regular basis in a meaningful manner. These workers have to read the classifieds and then contact potential employers about the jobs. The worker must keep a diary or calendar detailing the jobs they looked into, the employer's name, when they applied, with whom they spoke, and any other important details.

Further, injured workers must never describe themselves to their physicians, employer, co-workers or anyone as "retired" or "resigned."

In sum, an injured worker who is considering retirement must be cautious.

The best way to deal with this is to see a workers' compensation attorney at QuatriniRafferty before applying for retirement, pension or Social Security benefits. To have attorney Peter J. Gough and the Quatrini Rafferty Workers' Compensation department evaluate your Pennsylvania Workers' Comp Claim, contact our Greensburg or Latrobe office at 1-888-288-9748 or at our website

If you are already receiving workers' compensation and retirement benefits, start applying for jobs, keep the diary, and see your Quatrini Rafferty attorney as needed.

- Quatrini Rafferty -

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Quatrini Rafferty Announces New Practice Area: Veterans' Disability

The attorneys at Quatrini Rafferty are pleased to announce a new, full-time practice area: Veterans' Disability. QR attorneys Brian Patrick Bronson and Michael V. Quatrini were recently certified by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to represent members of the armed services who suffer service connected disabilities or diseases.

In short, Veterans' Disability is available to members of the armed services who suffer physical or psychological injuries or diseases while on active duty. This even includes injuries or diseases that were made worse by active duty military service.

The amount of the monthly benefit depends on the degree of disability. In certain instances, additional benefits are payable where there is a loss of limbs, a spouse/children/dependent parent, or a seriously disabled spouse.

Applying for Benefits

The process for obtaining benefits is similar to Social Security Disability. The veteran submits an application, through our office, outlining his or her injuries, and detailing the connection between the injuries and a particular event during their time in service.

A specific description of the precipitating event is critical, along with medical evidence supporting the connection between the event and the injury. Official military documentation of the event is very beneficial to the claim, as are testimonies from fellow services mates. We will also need discharge or separation papers (DD214 or equivalent). It should be noted that disability benefits are not available for those who were discharged under dishonorable conditions.

Some conditions, depending on the dates and locations of your active duty, are eligible for "presumptive" status, meaning that the VA process presumes that active duty service caused these conditions. It is then up to the VA to disprove the connection. These include, but are not limited to, Lou Gehrig's Disease (ALS), Hodgkin's disease, prostate cancer, diabetes mellitus (Type 2), chronic lymphocytic leukemia, chronic fatigue syndrome, and fibromyalgia. Prisoners of war, for any length of time, can receive presumptive status for psychosis, anxiety, post-traumatic osteoarthritis, heart disease, stroke and a few other medical complications.

Once the application is complete it is submitted to a local office for review. The local office makes a decision as to whether the claim is (1) service connected, and if so, (2) the percentage of disability assigned to the injury.

The Appeal

Where the local office either denies the claim (i.e. saying the injury is not service connected) or assigns a low, or zero, percentage of disability to the condition(s), the claim can be appealed to a Veterans Law Judge at the Board of Veteran' Appeals. This must be done within one year of the initial decision.

There is some bad news:the average wait time for a hearing is 971 days.

Prior to the hearing, we will meet with the veteran to review the initial decision, the veteran's file and collect additional, updated medical evidence.

The Hearing - Veterans' Law Judge at the Board of Veterans' Appeals

Again, similar to the Social Security Disability process, the hearing will involve testimony from the veteran concerning the disability - how is happened, how is it limits the individual, etc.

After the hearing, the BVA can do one of two things: they could affirm the Regional Office's denial of your claim. Or, they can reverse the decision made by the Regional Office and grant you benefits.

Should the BVA affirm the denial of your claim, the next appeal would go to US Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims.

To have attorneys Brian Patrick Bronson or Michael V. Quatrini evaluate your Veterans' Disability claim, contact our Greensburg or Latrobe office at 1-888-288-9748 or at our website