2012 Social Security Changes Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA): Based on the increase in the Consumer Price Index (CPI-W) from the third quarter of 2008 through the third quarter of 2011, Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) beneficiaries will receive a 3.6 percent COLA for 2012. Other important 2012 Social Security information is as follows: 2011 2012 Tax Rate: Employee 7.65% * 7.65%* Self-Employed 15.30% * 15.30%* NOTE: The 7.65% tax rate is the combined rate for Social Security and Medicare. The Social Security portion (OASDI) is 6.20% on earnings up to the applicable taxable maximum amount (see below). The Medicare portion (HI) is 1.45% on all earnings. * Section 601 of the Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act of 2010 reduced, for wages and salaries paid in calendar year 2011 and self-employment income in calendar year 2011, the OASDI payroll tax by 2 percentage points, applied to the portion of the tax paid by the worker and the self-employed individual. Section 101 of the Temporary Payroll Tax Cut Continuation Act of 2011 extends this reduction of the tax rate through the end of February 2012. (The reduced tax rate for earnings in 2012 applies only to the first $18,350 of a worker’s total wages and self-employment income. The limit of $18,350 is two-twelfths of the $110,100 taxable earnings limit for 2012.) Unless additional legislation is approved, the tax rate will then revert to the unreduced rate. Maximum Taxable Earnings: Social Security (OASDI only) $106,800 $110,100 Medicare (HI only) N o L i m i t Quarter of Coverage:
Earnings needed to earn one $1,120 $1,130 Social Security Credit Retirement Earnings Test Exempt Amounts: Under full retirement age $14,160/yr. $14,640/yr. ($1,180/mo.) ($1,220/mo.)
NOTE: One dollar in benefits will be withheld for every $2 in earnings above the limit.
The year an individual reaches full $37,680/yr. $38,880/yr.
retirement age ($3,140/mo.) ($3,240/mo.)
NOTE: Applies only to earnings for months prior to attaining full retirement age. One dollar in benefits will be withheld for every $3 in earnings above the limit.
There is no limit on earnings beginning the month an individual attains full retirement age.
Social Security Disability Thresholds:
Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA)
Non-Blind $1,000/mo. $1,010/mo.
Blind $1,640/mo. $1,690/mo.
Trial Work Period (TWP) $ 720/mo. $ 720/mo.
Maximum Social Security Benefit: Worker Retiring at Full Retirement Age:
SSI Federal Payment Standard:
Individual $674/mo. $698/mo.
Couple $1,011/mo. $1,048/mo.
SSI Resources Limits:
Individual $2,000 $2,000
Couple $3,000 $3,000
SSI Student Exclusion:
Monthly limit $1,640 $1,700
Annual limit $6,600 $6,840
Estimated Average Monthly Social Security Benefits Payable in January 2012:
3.6% COLA 3.6% COLA
All Retired Workers $1,186 $1,229
Aged Couple, Both Receiving Benefits $1,925 $1,994
Widowed Mother and Two Children $2,455 $2,543
Aged Widow(er) Alone $1,143 $1,184
Disabled Worker, Spouse and $1,826 $1,892
One or More Children
All Disabled Workers $1,072 $1,111
Diana Reeves MD is a diplomat of the American Board of Ophthalmology, highly trained in diagnosing and treating the full spectrum of retinal diseases. She holds an MD degree and a Master in Medical Sciences from Boston University School of Medicine from where she graduated Cum Laude. After years of experience in general surgery, neurosurgery and comprehensive hospital care she completed an ophthalmology residency followed by two consecutive fellowships in medical and surgical retina at Vanderbilt University with the world renowned professor J. Donald M. Gass MD and at the University of Washington in Seattle.
Dr. Reeves has been a clinical instructor and teaching assistant at many academic institutions including : University of Colorado Denver. She is the recipient of many awards and honors including; the best Resident Research Paper (2002), national winner of the Rabb-Venable Ophthalmology Award for Outstanding Research (2001) and the Memorial Achievement Citation from the American Medical Women’s Association (1995).
Screen readers are software programs that allow blind or visually impaired users to read the text that is displayed on the computer screen with a speech synthesizer. A screen reader is the interface between the computer’s operating system, its applications, and the user. The user sends commands by pressing different combinations of keys on the computer keyboard to instruct the speech synthesizer what to say and to speak automatically when changes occur on the computer screen. A command can instruct the synthesizer to read or spell a word, read a line or full screen of text, find a string of text on the screen, announce the location of the computer’s cursor or focused item, and so on. In addition, it allows users to perform more advanced functions, such as locating text displayed in a certain color, reading pre-designated parts of the screen on demand, reading highlighted text, and identifying the active choice in a menu. Users may also use the spell checker in a word processor or read the cells of a spreadsheet with a screen reader.
Screen readers are currently available for use with personal computers running Linux, Windows 98, Windows ME, Windows NT, Windows 2000, and Windows XP operating systems. Each screen reader incorporates a different command structure, and most support a variety of speech synthesizers. Prices range from $250 to $1,500.
Screen readers are used mainly by people who do not have useful vision to read text on the screen. A screen reader can also be the product of choice for someone with vision that is useful for travel, but not for reading. In the long run, learning to listen to speech output will prove more productive for such individuals than struggling to read text while leaning close to the computer screen.
Here are some questions to ask when purchasing screen readers:
• Is the screen reader compatible with your computer’s operating system?
• Does it work with your braille display?
• Can it read a word, line, and paragraph of text?
• Do its commands conflict with Windows keyboard commands?
• What keystrokes are used for the program’s basic and advanced functions? Are the keystrokes easy to remember? Is it possible to change the key combinations if they conflict with those used by application programs?
• Do you need high-quality speech, which is more expensive, or can you function comfortably and efficiently with lower quality speech?
• Does the synthesizer mispronounce many words? Can you listen to it comfortably for more than 15 minutes without getting a headache?
• Is the synthesizer to be used on one desktop machine or in more than one location? If the synthesizer is to be used in one location, an internal card may be preferable because it does not occupy a computer port.
16 Products in Category
JAWS (Job Access with Speech) for Windows (Professional)
JAWS (Job Access with Speech) for Windows (Standard)
NVDA (Nonvisual Desktop Access)
System Access Stand-alone Mobile
System Access Surfboard
What is low vision?
Low vision is a term used to describe a level of vision that is 20/70 or worse and cannot be corrected with conventional glasses. Unlike a person who is blind, a person with low vision has some useful sight. However, low vision usually interferes with the performance of daily activities. A person with low vision may not be able to recognize images from a distance or differentiate colors.
Low vision can occur at any stage of life, although it primarily affects the elderly. Low vision is not a natural part of aging. Most people experience some physiological changes with age (presbyopia) where the need for glasses occurs. These changes usually do not lead to low vision. People develop low vision because of eye diseases. Common causes particularly in older adults are age-related macular degeneration, glaucoma, and diabetic retinopathy.
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD): a chronic condition that causes central vision loss.
Symptoms: Straight lines or faces appearing wavy.
Doorways seeming crooked.
Objects appearing smaller or farther away.
Glaucoma: a disease of the eye caused by a gradual degeneration of the cells in the optic nerve. It increases the pressure inside the eye that causes damage.
Symptoms: Narrowing field of vision starting at the periphery.
Optic disk cupping.
Diabetic Retinopathy: a visual disorder associated with diabetes that causes retinal blood vessels to leak into the retina causing macular edema.
Symptoms: Blurring of vision.
Some risk factors are but aren’t limited to; high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity and smoking, just to name a few. Location is also a factor in risk. Higher altitude with less atmospheric cover causes eye problems. Sunglasses are always recommended.
The information is endless and knowledge is power. To learn more, attend a free seminar “ Maintaining Your Independence with Low Vision” on Wednesday, February 8th, 2012, from 9 – 2 at the Center for Independence 740 Gunnison Avenue, Grand Junction. Experts in the field of eye care and treatment will be presenting on several topics. Please call 241-0315 to reserve your seat at the seminar. For more information, call 241-0315, 1-800-613-2271, or www.cfigj.org.
Hope your Holidays were the best ever! The Low Vision group (Western Slope Visionaries) continues to grow and prosper. This past Holiday was very busy for the group. We had Steve Davis, one of own members teach the group how to fold paper money to allow us to differentiate between the denominations, very helpful! Our annual Christmas Party was once again hosted by Carl and Sandy Hyde at their home. Thanks so much Sandy and Carl, great fun was had by all!! John, CFI's Tech Specialist gave interesting and useful Tech Tips to the group. We took a break between Christmas and New Years but are gearing up for more fun and education upcoming in the New Year! Please contact Cathy at 214-3015 for information about this support group and to find out how to join.
Today's blog is sponsored by Siri. Well, not really, but im using Siri to write it.
For those of you who are not total geeks like me, Siri is the new voice recognition software that comes pre-installed on the new iPhone 4S. For those of you who use Dragon or Dictate, you will be pretty familiar with how Siri works, as it would appear that Siri is using the same system.
Although I have the Dictate App on both my iPhone and iPad, and the DragonDictate software on my Mac, I have not really started using it for writing. I don't really know why, because the software is excellent and I am always amazed at how well it renders my waffle. Conversely with Siri, I am finding that I want to use it quite a lot, not only because it listens to me and obeys me, but because it is just so darn convenient. It is so well integrated into the iPhone 4S that it's almost impossible not to use it, as it is readily available within the keyboard as an alternative to typing.
In addition, and probably more importantly, Siri is the first mainstream implementation of Artificial Intelligence (AI) I have seen that is anywhere close to what I would hope it to be. I know that it's early days, but I wanted to write whilst Siri and I are still in our honeymoon period.
I clapped hands on my new phone last Friday and I have been exploring and enjoying all of the new features, but I keep on coming back to playing with Siri. It is a vast improvement on the voice recognition that was on my old iPhone 3GS. I remember trying to call my friend David and having it ask me if I wanted to listen to Miles Davis. Siri is light years ahead, and although it is far from perfect, I am hoping that this is the beginning of a beautiful relationship.
A bit of a disclaimer for fanboys and pedants - this is not a full scale review or a critique of the software, as this blog post is also serving as a little experiment: I want to find out if I can write a full blog using Siri without having to edit it by hand, apart from the occasional mistake. Even artificially intelligent beings make mistakes! So, what is it that is making me love this little being so much?
Well, in no particular order these are the things that Siri has been able to do for me completely hands-free, i.e. using voice activation only;
- Told me what time it was in various locations around the world.
- Let me know what the weather was at my current location.
- Allowed me to identify members of my family and associate these relationships with my existing contacts.
- Sent quite a few text messages to unsuspecting recipients.
- Sent emails to several other people.
- Searched for some pretty random things on the web.
- Told me whether I was busy or free on different dates, and,
- Set up several meetings and appointments in my calendar.
I was pretty excited when I saw a demo of Siri a little while ago, where folk were booking restaurants and hair appointments willy nilly. Unfortunately Siri does not have a database of businesses in the UK, so this highly publicised and anticipated feature is only available in the US right now. I guess we'll just have to wait and see.
I have heard various different reports about whether or not Siri is accurate enough to be a substitute for typing, and I expect that for visual users this first iteration may not necessarily be up to scratch, but for this visually impaired girl it is an absolute godsend. I expect that for some blind folk and other people in general, there will definitely be a learning curve in terms of how to use voice activation, but as I'm already a DragonDictate user there is no learning curve for me. I know that Apple has not stated publicly that Siri is using the DragonDictate software, but what was a mere suspicion at the beginning of writing this blog has turned into a fairly confirmed opinion.
So to summarise - as an initial view I would say that I'm pretty happy with Siri, but it's a new toy and I'm having fun using it. However, what I have also found in writing this blog is that the same things that irk me about using DragonDictate are starting to irk me when using Siri, so only time will tell.
The TSA blog post written by blogger Bob Burns said in part:
"[W]e're in the process of establishing an 800 number dedicated to travelers with disabilities, medical conditions, or those who may require assistance during screening. Passengers will be able to call this number prior to flying to get guidance and information about screening, based on their needs." The agency also said TSA agents are regularly trained in how to screen such travelers.
The actions come after Lenore Zimmerman, 85, of Long Beach, N.Y., says she was "strip searched" by the TSA in late November. The agency says it never conducts strip searches. Her son Bruce Zimmerman told the N.Y. Daily News that his mother had to remove her blouse and underwear in front of a TSA agent.
During the screening, Zimmerman's back brace was removed and X-rayed, an action the agency now says went against its own policy and resulted from a misunderstanding. The brace was mistaken for a money belt, the TSA says.
Ruth Sherman, 88, of Sunrise, Fla., says TSA agents pulled down her pants after seeing something concealed in the waistband, according to the N.Y. Daily News. Sherman has a colostomy bag and was "crying and very upset" when agents handled it, her son Ralph Sherman told the paper.
The complaints prompted Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and New York state Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Queens) on Sunday to ask the TSA to create "passenger advocates" who know the rules but would be sensitive to the needs of passengers.
"Pat Garland (the Recreation, Health & Wellness Program Manager) is so creative to do so many excercises from a chair. She makes exercise fun. You are the greatest! Thank you from my heart." Toni Fredrickson
For more infomration or to join the Sit & Fit class, please contact us at 970-241-0315 or visit our website at www.cfigj.org.
My daughter who turned 18 almost a year ago has Cerebral Palsy. When she was 17 1/2 I knew the time was coming that I needed to begin the process of getting her on SSI benefits. I was told that I could contact Valarie Castle at the Center for Independence and she would walk through this whole process with me. Wow…. That is exactly what happened! We started with the stacks of paperwork that needed to be filled out. She was there to answer all my questions, over the phone or a special trip to her office. She helped me focus on getting all the correct doctors, school IEP’s and any other medical information that would help my daughters case in receiving SSI benefits. She accompanied my daughter and I to the Social Security Office for our initial interview with a caseworker. This process, because of Valarie was not overwhelming, not frustrating, and not even scary. I feel very grateful that because of the excellent guidance of Valarie my daughter has been receiving SSI benefits since January 2011. Thank you Center for Independence and Thank you Valarie for your excellent service!
Next Wednesday, November 9th, at noon Grand Junction time, a national test of the emergency alert system will be performed. This is the first time this has been done nationwide. In order to try to prevent unnecessary concern on the part of the public and to hopefully keep 911 from receiving too many calls, we are trying to get the word about this out to as many people as possible. Please help out by sharing this information with your family, friends and neighbors. It is strictly a test of the system to verify it works.
More information can be found at here.
The Western Slope Visionaries (WSV) here at the Center for Independence has a full schedule ahead this month. On November 1st we celebrated Halloween and The Day of The Dead: November 8th will find us listening to Kim Wardlow of Audio Information Network of Colorado who will tell us about this free service for low vision folks: and our own John Nolan from our IT Department will be speaking with the group about all things technical on November 15th: on Nov 22nd a group member will tell their life story and the last Tuesday of Nov, Denise Roberts of WesTac will show and tell Assistive technology devices. As can be seen, The WSV are a busy group. If you or someone you know is struggling with maintining their indpendence because of vision issues, please give us a call at 970-241-0315.
In the summer of 2010 on of our clients, Heidi Kendall, had the opportunity to learn to ride a Handcycle (an adaptive trike) through Colorado Discover Ability. She did great and was having a blast until she wrecked and broke her right arm. Heidi is a mom of two young boys and uses a wheel chair but she was determined to ride again. She’d love to go for a bike ride with her boys someday. This summer Heidi got back on that Handcycle. We did stay in the safe zone of a large parking lot but she only came away exhausted with no broken bones or scrapes. In October she didn’t hesitate to get out on the path with the rest of the group. No accidents. Congratulations Heidi!
Monthly Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits for more than 60 million Americans will increase 3.6 percent in 2012, the Social Security Administration announced on October 19th. The 3.6 percent cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) will begin with benefits that nearly 55 million Social Security beneficiaries receive in January 2012. Increased payments to more than 8 million SSI beneficiaries will begin on December 30, 2011. Some other changes that take effect in January of each year are based on the increase in average wages. Based on that increase, the maximum amount of earnings subject to the Social Security tax (taxable maximum) will increase to $110,100 from $106,800. Of the estimated 161 million workers who will pay Social Security taxes in 2012, about 10 million will pay higher taxes as a result of the increase in the taxable maximum. Information about Medicare changes for 2012, when announced, will be available at www.Medicare.gov. For some beneficiaries, their Social Security increase may be partially or completely offset by increases in Medicare premiums. The Social Security Act provides for how the COLA is calculated. To read more, please visit www.socialsecurity.gov/cola.