Oct 26, 2016

All The COLA Adjustments

     Some excerpts from Social Security's notice of cost of living and other adjustments for 2017, which will appear in the Federal Register tomorrow:
  • The maximum Federal Supplemental Security Income (SSI) monthly benefit amounts for 2017 under title XVI o f the Act will be $735 for an eligible individual, $1,103 for an eligible individual with an eligible spouse, and $368 for an essential person;
  • The dollar fee limit for services performed as a representative payee remains at $41 per month ($78 per month in the case of a beneficiary who is disabled and has an alcoholism or drug addiction condition that leaves him or her incapable of managing benefits) in 2017;
  • The dollar limit on the administrative-cost fee assessment charged to an appointed representative such as an attorney, agent, or other person who represents claimants remains at $91 beginning in December 2016;
  • The Old-Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance (OASDI) contribution and benefit base will be $127,200 for remuneration paid in 2017 and self-employment income earned in taxable years beginning in 2017;
  • The monthly exempt amounts under the OASDI retirement earnings test for taxable years ending in calendar year 2017 will be $1,410 for beneficiaries who will attain their Normal Retirement Age (NRA) ... after 2017 and $3,740 for those who attain NRA in 2017;
  • The taxable earnings a person must have to be credited with a quarter of coverage in 2017 will be $1,300;
  • The monthly amount deemed to constitute substantial gainful activity (SGA) for statutorily blind persons in 2017 will be $1,950. The corresponding amount for non-blind disabled persons will be $1,170;
  • The earnings threshold establishing a month as a part of a trial work period will be $840 for 2017;
  • The cost-of-living increase is 0.3 percent for benefits under titles II and XVI of the Act. Under title II, OASDI benefits will increase by 0.3 percent for individuals eligible for December 2016 benefits, payable in January 2017.

Oct 25, 2016

SSA Employee Indicted

     From a press release:
U.S. Attorney Kenneth A. Polite announced that MICHAELLE MARTINEZ, age 38, of Marrero, was indicted today for Theft of Government Funds.
According to the Superseding Indictment, MARTINEZ identified beneficiaries who were entitled to receive retroactive or back payments from the Social Security Administration (“SSA”).  MARTINEZ would change the recipient’s deposit information and would divert the SSA money bank accounts controlled by the defendant.  MARTINEZ then changed the deposit information back before the beneficiaries would notice a problem. ...
If convicted, MARTINEZ faces a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment, followed by up to three years of supervised release, and a $250,000 fine.

Oct 24, 2016

One More Extension For DEA

     From today's Federal Register:
We are extending, until December 28, 2018, the expiration date of our disability examiner authority (DEA) rule, which authorizes State agency disability examiners to make fully favorable determinations without the approval of a State agency medical or psychological consultant in claims that we consider under our quick disability determination (QDD) and compassionate allowance (CAL) processes. This is our last extension of this rule because we will phase out the use of DEA during the extension period under section 832 of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 (BBA). This extension provides us the time necessary to take all of the administrative actions we need to take in order to reinstate uniform use of medical and psychological consultants.

Oct 23, 2016

How Long Have You Been Suffering From This Delusion?

     Erik Sherman at Forbes Magazine believes that Hillary Clinton may be moving towards privatizing Social Security.

Oct 22, 2016

Hildred Appointed To SSAB

     The Speaker of the House of Representatives has appointed Kim Hildred to the Social Security Advisory Board. She had been staff director of the House Social Security Subcommittee.

Oct 21, 2016

Social Security Means What It Says -- Until It Becomes Inconvenient

     From Emergency Message 16036 recently issued by Social Security:
A. What is the purpose of this Emergency Message? This emergency message clarifies the following sentence in Social Security Ruling 83-20 – Titles II and XVI: Onset of Disability (SSR 83-20), “At the hearing, the administrative law judge (ALJ) should call on the services of a medical advisor when onset must be inferred.” 
B. What is the background behind this Emergency Message? There has been confusion as to whether the above-quoted sentence in SSR 83-20 imposes a mandatory requirement on an ALJ to call on the services of a medical expert when onset must be inferred. 
C. Does SSR 83-20 impose a mandatory requirement on an ALJ to call on the services of a medical expert when onset must be inferred? No, SSR 83-20 does not impose a mandatory requirement on an ALJ to call on the services of a medical expert when onset must be inferred. 
Instead, the decision to call on the services of a medical expert when onset must be inferred is always at the ALJ’s discretion. 
Direct all questions to your hearing office management chain or the Office of Appellate Operations Executive Director’s office, as appropriate.

Oct 20, 2016

Unsuccessful Work Attempt Regulations Improved

     This is Social Security's summary of new rules it recently published in the Federal Register:
The final rules at 20 CFR 404.1574(c), 404.1575(d), 416.974(c), and 416.975(d) remove the additional conditions that we used when we evaluated a work attempt in employment or self-employment that lasted between 3 and 6 months and use the current 3-month standard for all work attempts that are 6 months or less. Under these rules, ordinarily, work you have done will not show that you are able to do substantial gainful activity if, after you worked for a period of 6 months or less, your impairment forced you to stop working or to reduce the amount of work you do so that your earnings from such work fall below the substantial gainful activity earnings level. The new rules at 20 CFR 404.1592c and 416.999a allow a previously entitled individual to request EXR [Expedited Reinstatement] in the same month they stop performing SGA [Substantial Gainful Activity].
     The new rules are effective on November 16, 2016, except for the Expedited Reinstatement changes which are effective on April 17, 2017.


     The annual Cost Of Living Adjustment (COLA) for Social Security benefits for this year is only 0.3%. For the average recipient of benefits this is less than $4 a month. For the vast majority of beneficiaries this increase will be completely taken away by the increase in Medicare Part B premiums.