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Who is Eligible?

Most people who receive Social Security Benefits will be eligible to receive the $1,200.00 Economic Impact Payment as part of the CORONAVIRUS AID, RELIEF, AND ECONOMIC SECURITY (CARES) ACT. That means that persons receiving Social Security Disability Insurance benefits (SSDIB), Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, and even people receiving Social Security Retirement benefits may be eligible to receive a direct deposit or check from the United States Treasury Department.

Coronavirus-300x169Economic Impact Payments will be made through the Internal Revenue Service (irs.gov). Do not contact the Social Security Administration with questions about economic impact payments. The Social Security Administration has enough extra work trying to process claims, take applications, etc., online and by telephone, without allowing persons to come into the field offices, which are all closed to the public because of the COVID-19 Pandemic.

Persons receiving Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits or Social Security Retirement Benefits will be eligible to receive $1,200.00 as long as their total adjusted gross income under a certain limit. If all the income you have is your Social Security disability or retirement benefit, you do not need to worry about the other qualifications.

If you have other investment income, you should know that you are still eligible for payments if your adjusted gross income is $75,000.00 or less for individuals or $150,000.00 or less for married couples filing joint returns. The payments will be reduced from $1,200.00 by $5 for each $100 above the $75,000.00/$150,000.00 limits. Once an individual’s adjusted gross income exceeds $99,000.00, or a married couple’s adjusted gross income exceeds $198,000.00, they will not be eligible for any Economic Impact Payment.

People who receive Supplemental Security Income will be eligible for the full $1,200.00 payment.

How Do You Receive Your Payment?

There has been a lot of confusion about how the IRS will get your payment to you. Some of the information initially said that you must file a tax return for 2018 or 2019 in order to receive the Economic Impact Statements. For a few days, even the IRS was saying that a “simple tax return” would be required.

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38 C.F.R. pt. 4 (§§ 4.1 – 4.150) contains the VA’s Schedule for Rating Disabilities.  This is the law that the VA applies the facts of a specific Veteran’s claim for disability compensation to in order to rate that Veterans condition.  For example, let us say a Veteran submits a claim for a mental health condition. After assisting the Veteran with developing his or her claim, the VA determines that this condition is service-connected and that the Veteran suffers from:

  • mild memory loss,
  • chronic sleep impairment, and
  • occupational and social impairment with occasional decrease in work efficiency due to anxiety.

Based on these symptoms, the VA may assign a rating of thirty stockfresh_4360615_soldier-having-counselling-session_sizeS-300x200percent (30%).  This is because 38 C.F.R. § 4.130 (Mental Disorders) list these symptoms as justifying such a rating.  A problem arises when a Veteran files for a condition that is not listed in the rating schedule.

Suppose a Veteran of the Persian Gulf Wars filed for a number of claims, including: Continue Reading

There are many health reasons to give up cigarettes for good, and you can start today as part of the American Cancer Society’s Great American Smokeout, but if you need another reason to quit you may be motivated by knowing that smoking could lead to a doctor refusing to perform surgery on you.  In February 2018, the Charlotte Observer reported that a growing number of physicians have begun to ask patients to quit smoking or at least stop four to six months before and after the surgery.

stockfresh_3942704_cigarette-butt-no-smoking_sizeS-200x300According to the Observer, smokers do not fare as well as non-smokers following spinal fusion surgery and joint replacements, and one study found that smokers had an 80 percent higher chance than nonsmokers of needing repeat surgery after a joint replacement because of complications from an infection. This is because smoking inhibits blood flow, which in turn inhibits healing.

The Observer also reported that most doctors are paid through fee-for-service systems under which they are reimbursed for every appointment, test, or procedure and, thus, make more money when a patient has complications. Some surgeons who perform spine surgery and knee and hip replacements in Charlotte, however, have started using “value-based” systems in which a single “bundled payment” is accepted for each patient encounter. A doctor or hospital keeps the savings when care is delivered for less than the contract price but must absorb the extra cost when there are complications for which the patient requires additional care.

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, an average of 230 people per day are admitted to the hospital for injuries caused by fireworks in the days leading up to the Fourth of July. Several of these injuries result in fatalities.

Fireworks have been known to prematurely explode and cause severe injuries. Most of the injuries due to the use of fireworks are burns to the head, face, ears, hands and fingers. Even fireworks like sparklers pose a huge safety risk since they can burn at over 2,000 degrees. Using handheld fireworks can be very dangerous and are the reason why so many people end up in an emergency room during the Fourth of July holiday.

Due to the dangers posed by fireworks, North Carolina has fairly restrictive laws. Fireworks that are illegal in North Carolina include:

According to a study conducted by Kaiser Permanente, there is a noticeable spike in emergency room visits during the warm summer months. The study showed a 15 to 27 percent increase in visits to emergency rooms from Memorial Day to Labor Day.

Children made up a significant portion of the increase in accidents and illness, and the pattern of injury was very distinct. This led researchers to conclude that the longer days and increases in popular activities in the summer also put individuals at higher risk of injury.

As summer begins, you should be aware of the top reasons for summer ER visits and how to prevent injury to yourself and your children. Some of the most commonly reported injuries that result in ER visits during the summer include:

Hiking and exploring waterfalls are great ways to see nature, explore, and get some exercise. Enjoying the great outdoors can come with specific risks though. In Western North Carolina and Upstate South Carolina, including popular sites like Table Rock State Park and DuPont State Forest, hikers have suffered serious, and sometimes fatal, injuries in recent hiking accidents and waterfall accidents.

The Charlotte Observer reports that the first local waterfall death in 2018 occurred at Western North Carolina’s Catawba Falls in the Pisgah National Forest. There, an out-of-state visitor walked ahead of his hiking group and fell over the edge of a 50-foot cliff while trying to take a picture. In another recent tragedy from April, a man visiting a North Carolina waterfall near Twin Bridges fell nearly 70 feet and suffered fractures.

Failure to follow basic hiking and waterfall safety precautions while hiking and visiting waterfalls could easily lead to serious injury or death. In order to avoid serious or fatal accidents, outdoor enthusiasts should consider the following safety tips:

The 2018 hurricane season has begun and continues until November 30, with the peak season occurring between mid-August and late October. Hurricanes are powerful systems with winds of 74 miles per hour or higher. When tropical storms or hurricanes move onto land, they sweep the ocean inward and cause tornadoes, heavy winds and rain as well as massive flooding.

Not only do hurricanes affect the coastal areas, but they can also affect mountain areas hundreds of miles from the coast. Catastrophic high winds and extensive flooding are real threats. In 2004, Hurricane Frances and Hurricane Ivan struck back to back, dumping parts of Western North Carolina including Asheville with more than 18 inches of rain. In 2017, Hurricane Irma made its way through Greenville and surrounding areas of Upstate South Carolina, causing flooding and heavy wind damage.

Hurricane Preparedness Tips

It’s all over the news; Bill Cosby was found guilty of sexual assault.  But many people might ask, why was he convicted this time and not last time? Last year Cosby was tried, and because the jury couldn’t reach a unanimous verdict, a mistrial was declared.  So what made the big difference this time? Same victim, same crime, same investigation. One key difference was the prosecution’s use of an expert witness.  What is an expert witness? How are they different than a normal witness? Expert witnesses are people with so much training and education in a specific field that they are qualified to be “experts” in a particular field.  This is important because it allows them to testify to their opinion, rather than just testifying to the facts like is required of normal witnesses.  The expert in the Cosby trial was Dr. Barbara Ziv, a psychiatrist who specialized in the treatment of sexual assault victims and offenders. While a sexual assault prosecutor in the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office, I had several opportunities to work with Dr. Ziv and call her as an expert witness.  In any case, where an expert is called, the expert’s schooling and work history is presented to the jury.  So, Dr. Ziv’s education in becoming a psychiatrist and her work history working in the field of sexual assault would have been analyzed in depth by both the prosecution and defense before the Judge in the case qualified her as an expert witness.  After this Dr. Ziv would have been allowed to testify to her opinion regarding the behavior of sexual assaults victims, combating many pre-conceived notions and myths held by jurors. This education of jurors from the witness stand likely played a critical part in their ultimately reaching the guilty verdict.

It’s not just in criminal cases that experts can mean the difference between success and failure.  In the right case, expert witnesses can and should be used in a personal injury case.  When people are seriously hurt in a car accident or a slip and fall, there are several experts that are used in court.  Calling an expert to testify to the cost of future medical care they will need or calling an expert to testify to the ramifications on a person’s ability to earn a living can have a huge impact on what a jury will award an injured person.  It is essential to have an attorney on your side who knows when an expert should be used, knows those best qualified in their fields, and knows how to present them to a jury.   Just like in the Cosby trial, use of an expert in a personal injury case can have a huge impact on the outcome of a case.  You need an attorney who understands that and who is skilled in their use of experts.  At Grimes Teich Anderson LLP we use expert witnesses when we believe it will help our clients’ case.

Senta Rhodes is a personal injury attorney at Grimes Teich Anderson LLP

If you are shopping for a Christmas gift for a child this holiday season, remember that safety should be a top priority. While toys may appear to be safe, some are not properly labeled or tested and may pose serious health risks.

Fortunately, watchdog groups like the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) have taken the time to research the most popular toys this year. They recently released their “Trouble in Toyland” report, warning consumers about potentially dangerous toys and other gifts for kids.

Over the past three decades, U.S. PIRG reports have led to more than 150 recalls of potentially dangerous toys, and its public awareness campaigns have helped lawmakers and consumers alike realize the dangers of these defective products. For 2017, the group’s attention focused on the newest and biggest threats that these products pose to children today, including: Continue Reading

 

Workplace injuries can be devastating for anyone, regardless of gender. But a recent report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that while women have historically received fewer workplace injuries than men, the types of on-the-job injuries can be quite different for females.

According to the recently released data, men accounted for 4,836 workplace fatalities in 2015. By contrast, 344 women died on the job during the same period. The leading cause of job-related deaths for both genders is the same – transportation accidents that occur by road, air, water or railway.

Then the numbers begin to diverge, where the second most common cause of workplace deaths death for women is by violence and other injuries by persons or animals. By contrast, the second leading cause for men are caused by slip, trip, and fall mishaps.

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