Feb 8, 2016

Social Security Advocates For The Disabled Sold

     From a press release:
J. Scott Penny, Chief Acquisitions Officer of Brown & Brown, Inc. (NYSE: BRO), and Ann Marie Beaudoin and Victor Arruda, the founders of Social Security Advocates for the Disabled, LLC ("SSAD"), announced that The Advocator Group, LLC, a subsidiary of Brown & Brown, Inc., has acquired substantially all of the equity interests of SSAD.
Since its founding in 1994, SSAD has provided Social Security disability insurance ("SSDI") advocacy services to individual clients on behalf of long-term disability insurance carriers. SSAD has annual net revenues in 2015 of approximately $10.0 million. ...

Feb 7, 2016

Two Senators Want Social Security Disability "Reforms"

     Senators James Lankford (R-Okla.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) have written a letter to Senator Orrin Hatch, the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee urging further "reforms" to Social Security disability. Apparently, the Senators are urging passage of an amendment sponsored by Lankford that would require, in his words:
  • Updating the Social Security Administration (SSA) medical and vocational guidelines for eligibility, which hasn’t been updated since 1978
  • Making sure that claimants who are assumed to be able to work (i.e., eligible for Unemployment Insurance) don’t get trapped in a benefits system that discourages work
  • Streamlining the process to eliminate unnecessary steps for claimants for reconsideration
  • Tightening rules and requirements, and reducing fees to keep Administrative Law Judges (ALJs), claimant representatives, medical experts, and SSA accountable.
  • Strengthening SSA and Congressional oversight of SSA and ALJs
  • Creating a separate budget account for SSA’s program integrity work, to ensure benefit processing is accurate and efficient
  • Making available information to Disability Determination Services and ALJs about medical improvement, and,
  • Ensuring that claimants whose records are not fully-developed have their cases thoroughly reviewed.

Feb 6, 2016

Claims Rep Gets White House Recognition

     From Social Security Matters, the agency's blog:
The White House announced winners of the first ever President’s Award for Customer Service, and we’re proud to share that one of our employees received this honor among four other government awardees.
Shawn Lynch, a claims representative from the Dothan, Alabama, field office, was recognized for her superior customer service. Among her many contributions, Shawn led efforts to reduce appointment wait times and increase the number of my Social Security registrations within her office. She also took the initiative to reach out to applicants before their appointments, giving them the opportunity to have their disability claims taken early. Shawn educated claimants on the Self Help PC as well. Furthermore, she showed her commitment to service by taking part in community outreach.

Feb 5, 2016

Problems Yesterday With Social Security's Online Systems -- Today?

     My firm experienced serious problems accessing Social Security online yesterday. We heard from others who were having the same problem. Social Security sent out a broadcast e-mail about the service outage so I know the problem was national. It turns out that it wasn't just the public than was having problems with Social Security's online systems. Social Security's employees were also having problems with their data systems.
     I haven't tried to access Social Security online yet today. Anyone know what's going on now?

     Update 11:10 am EST: I've tried to get in. I can check on case status but I can't access the electronic folder. It's the same as late yesterday afternoon. It would be nice if you sent out a broadcast e-mail, Social Security.

Appeals Council Won't Return Evidence -- But They Won't Consider It

     From today's Federal Register:
This final rule revises our rules regarding returning evidence at the Appeals Council (AC) level. Under this final rule, the AC will no longer return additional evidence it receives when the AC determines the additional evidence does not relate to the period on or before the date of the administrative law judge (ALJ) decision.

Feb 4, 2016

Interesting Statements At Confirmation Hearing

     From the statement of Orrin Hatch, Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, at today's hearing on the nomination of Andrew Lamont Eanes to become Deputy Commissioner of Social Security:
... Today we will also consider the nomination of Andrew LaMont Eanes to be the Deputy Commissioner of the Social Security Administration . Currently, Mr. Eanes serves as Senior Advisor in the Office of the Acting Commissioner and has a vast background in management, technology, and a demonstrated history of simply getting things done. We can always use more of that in our government. ...
 Even with these fiscal challenges [of the Social Security trust funds], operationally speaking, the Social Security Administration, or SSA, has fared better than most agencies in terms of budget allocations. Of course, we generally don’t hear that from them. Instead, we tend hear persistent claims from many SSA officials that any and all problems at the agency are caused by Congress’s supposed refusal to provide adequate funding. 
Fortunately, however, there are also those at SSA who work hard, day in and day out, to ensure that taxpayer funds are used as efficiently as possible for the sake of beneficiaries. And, everything that I’ve see n thus far indicates that Mr. Eanes is one of these diligent officials working to protect taxpayer resources and to make sure the benefit programs can be run as efficiently and effectively as possible. 
That is precisely what hardworking taxpayers and beneficiaries of these important programs deserve. ...
     Senator Hatch, it's just a fact that because of inadequate administrative appropriations the Social Security Administration was forced to reduce its workforce dramatically at a time when its workload was increasing dramatically because of the aging of the baby boom generation.

     From the statement of Ron Wyden, the ranking Democrat on the Committee: 
Some have raised questions about this nomination because Mr. Eanes background is not in social insurance or public management. But sometimes, a fresh perspective may be valuable in helping tackle challenges in federal agencies. Mr. Eanes brings significant management and technology expertise from his time in the private sector, which could be highly beneficial to Social Security in delivering the best possible customer service.
Finally, I want to remind the committee that Social Security has not had a confirmed commissioner in place since February 2013. This committee should consider whether or not it is wise to confirm a deputy before a commissioner is confirmed. SSA runs best when its uppermost leadership positions are filled by strong leaders who’ve been approved by the Senate, but legitimate questions have been raised about the best way to proceed.
So I look forward to discussing that issue with my colleagues, and my hope is the administration puts forward a nominee to be commissioner for the committee to process as soon as possible.

NCSSMA Newsletter

     The National Council of Social Security Management Associations (NCSSMA), an organization of Social Security management personnel, has issued its January 2016 newsletter, which they now characterize as a blog.

Feb 3, 2016

Hearing On Eanes Nomination

William Lamont Eanes
     The Senate Finance Committee will be holding a hearing on February 4 on the nomination of Andrew Lamont Eanes to become Deputy Commissioner of Social Security. The hearing will not just be on Eanes' nomination. The nominations of a Deputy Secretary of HHS and two Tax Court judges will be on the table. This suggests that the hearing is little more than a formality.
     If Eanes is confirmed, he will immediately replace Carolyn Colvin as Acting Commissioner of Social Security. Colvin's term as Deputy Commissioner expired quite some time ago. The Senate never acted on her nomination to become Commissioner. I don't believe he renominated her after the last midterm election. Eanes had been nominated on July 31, 2014.
     Here's what I can find out about Eanes from a Cleveland Plain Dealer article
  • From Cleveland and still roots for the Browns (poor man)
  • Goes by Lamont
  • About 59 years old
  • Has a wife and two grown sons
  • He worked for an Ohio state senator and later coordinated his run for mayor of Cleveland
  • Has an undergraduate degree from Northern Ohio University and an MBA from Baldwin Wallace University
  • Has worked in Kansas City, Baltimore, Hong Kong and Sydney
  • Has been chief operating office of two telecommunications companies. In 2012 he and his wife started Agile Government Services, a software consulting business that mostly serves the Department of Defense.
  • "Eanes said he heard about the job opening at Social Security's headquarters in Baltimore and applied with no special connections. 'I was an Obama enthusiast but not particularly involved.'"
     When I posted about Eanes' nomination in 2014 almost all the comments had to do directly or indirectly with Eanes' race. Most commentators simply assumed he is incompetent and got the nomination merely because of his race. That's disgusting. Eanes has held positions of significant responsibility in the past. He lacks Social Security experience. It would be nice if he did but that's usually not the case with high level appointments at Social Security no matter who the President is and regardless of the race of the person being nominated. 
     I have no idea why this nomination is moving forward at this time but I'd have to guess the Carolyn Colvin, the Acting Commissioner of Social Security, wants to retire now.

Final 2015 Disability Insurance Trust Fund Numbers

     The Social Security Administration has released the final numbers for last year on the performance of the Disability Insurance Trust Fund. Because of a temporary change the Disability Insurance Trust Fund's revenues will increase in 2016. The fund's balance should be higher at the end of 2016 than it is today. Please note however that the annual deficits in the Disability Insurance Trust Fund have gone down each of the last two years. Continuation of this trend would slowly move the Disability Trust fund towards balance.

Disability Insurance
(Amounts in millions)
Calendar year Total income Total outgo Net increase
in asset reserves
Asset reserves at end
of calendar year
2011 $106,276 $132,332 $-26,056 $153,850
2012 109,115 140,299 -31,184 122,666
2013 111,228 143,450 -32,221 90,445
2014 114,858 145,060 -30,201 60,244
2015 118,595 146,581 -27,985 32,259

Feb 2, 2016

Obama To Visit Social Security Headquarters -- Apparently Only Its Parking Lot

Social Security Headquarters, October 12, 1966
     I looks like President Obama will be visiting Social Security headquarters on Wednesday -- but apparently only its parking lot which will be used as a staging area for a visit to a nearby mosque.
     It's been almost 50 years since the last Presidential visit to Social Security headquarters. That doesn't seem right to me.