Feb 18, 2017

How Do You Beat This Efficiency?

Source: Center for Budget and Policy Priorities

Feb 17, 2017

Income Inequality Takes Toll On Trust Funds

     Rachel West and Rebecca Vallas of the Center for American Progress write about the serious effects of income inequality on the Social Security trust funds. Because of the $127,200 cap on wages covered by the FICA tax, rising income inequality a greater and greater portion of income is escaping FICA. It's not like those with incomes over $127,200 a year are struggling. That's the group receiving the vast majority of income gains. If, instead of a flat cap, the FICA cap had been set since 1983 so that 90% of wages are covered, the Social Security trust funds would be $1.3 trillion higher now.

Feb 16, 2017

Senate Votes To Allow Mentally Ill Claimants With Rep Payees To Buy Guns

     The Senate has now joined the House of Representatives in voting to block regulations adopted during the Obama Administration that would have prevented some individuals with representative payees drawing disability benefits from Social Security from buying firearms. 
     Great work by all those in the Obama Administration who slow walked these regulations. The GOP couldn't have blocked these regs without your help. Oh, I know, you rushed it from Notice of Proposed Rule-Making (NPRM) to Final Regulation. I'm talking about all the time this was being ever so slowly considered before the NPRM was published.

Feb 15, 2017

Report On DQ Reviews -- And I'm Not Talking About Dairy Queen!

     For some years, the Division of Quality (DQ) of Social Security's Office of Disability Adjudication and Review (ODAR) has reviewed a small number of Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) decisions granting disability benefits prior to effectuation of benefits. Some decisions are overturned as a result of these reviews. A recent report by Social Security's Office of Inspector General (OIG) looks into these DQ reviews. Here's the bottom line of the OIG report:
Overall, about 5 percent of the total PER [Pre-Effectuation Review]  cases processed in FY [Fiscal Year] 2011 led to a denial or dismissal. Given the rate of denials and dismissals, we estimated the potential net program savings ranged from $23 to $25 million for that year. Overall, the Agency saved $4 to $5 on average per $1 spent on the PER process in FY 2011.
     There's one big problem with these DQ reviews -- there's zero proof that DQ possesses the gold standard for determining who is and who isn't disabled. You could save money by randomly overturning ALJ decisions that approve disability claims with no less validity.  No one has a gold standard for determining disability.
     By the way, take a look at this table from the report (click on it to view full size):
      Notice the decline in dispositions at the same time as the agency's backlogs were increasing. Note also the much more dramatic decline in the number of favorable decisions. The 2010 election brought GOP control to Congress. The laws weren't changed but the climate at the agency changed dramatically. Backlogs were no longer a big concern. Denying as many cases as possible became a good thing. Anything like DQ that would cause more claims to be denied received favorable attention.
     In any case, I'm going to keep repeating, DQ isn't the repository of the gold standard for determining disability. There is no gold standard. DQ is a waste of money unless your goal is denying more claims.

Feb 14, 2017

Full Retirement Age Increasing

     From U.S. News and World Report:
Most baby boomers can receive the full amount of Social Security they have earned at age 66. However, retirees who will turn 62 in 2017 need to wait an extra two months to collect their full Social Security payments. Starting this year the retirement age begins a gradual increase toward age 67. Here's how the older retirement age will impact how much you receive from Social Security.
A longer wait to claim full payments. The Social Security full retirement age is 66 for people born between 1943 and 1954. For those born during the five years after that, the full retirement age will gradually increase in two-month increments from 66 and 2 months for people born in 1955 to 66 and 10 months for those born in 1959. The full retirement age is 67 for everyone born in 1960 or later. ...

Feb 13, 2017

Student Loan Debt Out Of Control

     The New York Times has an editorial today on the rapidly increasing problem of student loan debt among the elderly. The editorial urges an end to seizing Social Security benefits to pay off private lenders.

Feb 12, 2017

A Poll