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Aug 21, 2014

Union Concerned About Online Services

     From a press release issued by the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), a union which represents most Social Security employees:
The Social Security Administration has launched a new social media campaign that asks beneficiaries to plan for their ‘#Someday’ retirement dreams by registering for an account on the mySocialSecurity website but neglects to disclose that the website comes at the expense of face-to-face customer service and that it may open users to fraud.
“According to the Social Security Administration, fully one-third of the people attempting to access the website fail to successfully register,” said Witold Skwierczynski, President of the National Council of Social Security Field Operations Locals. “However, the website’s issues are more troubling than simply a poor customer experience.”
Skwierczynski attributed the high failure rate on the website to Experian Credit Corporation which is responsible for providing security for transactions on the site. Users must answer a series of complicated questions about their personal finances, distinguish between real and fake information, recall minute details of their credit history and have knowledge of their astrological sign.
It’s an overly cumbersome and difficult process to navigate and is also vulnerable to identity theft and fraud. An Experian subsidiary, as recently as 2013, was being investigated for either having lost or sold the same type of login information to a Vietnamese crime ring. Skwierczynski said that there is already evidence of identity theft and fraud at SSA, as the Office of Inspector General stated it received 37,000 reports from various sources concerning questionable changes to a beneficiary’s record.

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  • Aug 20, 2014

    Someday

         From WKZO in Washington:
    A new public relations campaign is being launched by the Social Security administration. The Someday campaign, as it's being called, will include TV and radio public service announcements, reminding young people of the importance of planning for retirement. Most experts will tell you that Social Security benefits alone won't make for the greatest retirement, and the Someday campaign is trying to get that message across to those who think the least about preparing for their golden years, young people. The Social Security Administration's Vonda VanTil says you'll probably be seeing some ads soon.
    "We have some fantastic PSAs that are coming out for the TV and radio, and they're really, really funny and fun to go along with this idea that, someday, you're going to wish that you did a little bit of planning," VanTil told WKZO. "As we all know, the older we get, the more we wish that we had done a little bit of better planning, whether it's for retirement, or anything else for that matter."

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  • Aug 19, 2014

    BOND Survey

         From a recent Social Security Emergency Message:
    The Social Security Administration has asked Abt Associates and Mathematica Policy Research (the surveyors) to conduct a survey to learn about the work experiences of people receiving Social Security Disability (SSDI) benefits. The survey is part of SSA’s Benefit Offset National Demonstration (BOND). From January 1, 2013 to December 31, 2015, the surveyors will contact approximately 22,600 SSDI participants. Some of these beneficiaries will be BOND participants and some will not. The surveyors will ask them about their and their family members’ work, health and education status, and about their attitudes toward work and their health. They will also ask whether they have worked with a benefits counselor recently.
    The surveyors will ask the beneficiaries to complete a survey. The survey responses will provide information on SSDI beneficiaries’ attitudes and efforts toward work.
    Beneficiary participation in the survey is voluntary. The survey will take approximately 50 minutes to complete. Participants will receive a $25 incentive payment for participation. Participation will not affect receipt of benefits from SSA.
         By the way, Social Security's "Emergency Messages" seldom deal with actual emergencies. It's just a medium for conveying information to the field.

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  • Aug 18, 2014

    Post Writer Pays Attention To Social Security Service Problems

         Joe Davidson at the Washington Post writes about the recent report by Social Security's Office of Inspector General (OIG) on the problems that the agency is having delivering service to the public with a dramatically smaller workforce.
         My gut feeling is that sooner or later Social Security's service delivery problems are going to blow up in the same way as the VA's problems blew up. The only question is who gets the blame.

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  • Aug 17, 2014

    It's Not Just The U.S.

         Canada has bad Social Security disability claim backlogs and they're getting worse. This is happening after a "reform" that was supposed to make the disability adjudication process more efficient and streamlined. The main problem in Canada, though, is not having enough employees to get the work done. As in the U.S., you can't "reform" your way out of the problems caused by inadequate staffing.

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  • Aug 16, 2014

    NADE Newsletter

         The National Association of Disability Examiners (NADE), an organization for the state agency personnel who make initial and reconsideration determinations for Social Security, has released its Summer 2014 newsletter.

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  • Aug 15, 2014

    Expansion Of CDIs

         From a press release issued by Social Security's press office (not from the Office of Inspector General's office but from Social Security's main press office):
    The Social Security Administration, its Office of the Inspector General (OIG), and the Michigan Department of Human Services today announced a new Cooperative Disability Investigations (CDI) Unit in Detroit. As part of the nationwide CDI Program, the Detroit Unit will identify and prevent Social Security disability fraud throughout the State of Michigan. ...
    With the opening of the Detroit Unit, the CDI program now consists of 26 units covering 22 States and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. The Detroit CDI Unit is the first of seven new CDI units that SSA and the OIG plan to establish by the end of fiscal year 2016 ...

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  • The Report Vanishes

         A few days ago, I posted a link to a study by the Mathematica Center for Studying Disability Policy on "Vocational Factors in the Social Security Disability Determination Process: A Literature Review." I know some of you read the study report. Interestingly, the link no longer works and Mathematica's website no longer has any reference to the study. Does anyone know what happened?

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  • Senator Hears About Social Security Service Problems

         From a story in the Missoulian about a town hall meeting that Senator John Walsh (D-MT) held in Missoula:
    Mary Olson, who worked for the Social Security Administration for 29 years and now works for Missoula Aging Services, told Walsh the plan to move the program entirely online in 11 years, called “Vision 2025,” is destined for disaster. 
    “The majority of rural America does not know how to use an online system, and it won’t work,” she said. “There is no simple part of Social Security. I wasn’t a social worker, but I became one working for the Social Security Administration. There are so many twists in the system. Even something as simple as putting in what date you want your benefits to start is extremely complicated if you don’t know all the information.”
     Olson recalled the story of one woman who didn’t realize she was eligible for $700 a month more in benefits because she had been married 40 years earlier. 
    “These are people that are facing end-of-life issues, they are destitute and they aren’t getting the benefits they need,” she said. “That’s a travesty in my opinion.” 
    Olson said that SSA supervisors are poorly trained.
     “There’s no quality control or accountability any more,” she said. “Back 10 or 20 years ago, we were focused on customer service. You couldn’t be rude with somebody. It’s all different now. The SSA needs a look, like the Department of Veterans Affairs got. It’s time to look into it, because the same things are going on.”

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