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Dec 22, 2014

ALJ Lawsuit Over Alleged Quotas Not Going Well

     The Association of Administrative Law Judges, a labor union that represents Social Security's Administrative Law Judges (ALJs), brought suit in federal court over the agency's productivity guidelines. They had no success at the District Court level. Apparently, things didn't go any better at oral arguments before the Court of Appeals. The panel they drew included Judge Posner.

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  • Dec 21, 2014

    Merry Christmas


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  • Dec 20, 2014

    A Few Details On The Binder and Binder Bankruptcy

         A few details are emerging about Binder and Binder's bankruptcy. The company, which is not a law firm, listed its assets and liabilities as being between $10 million and $50 million. The biggest creditor was Stellus Capital Management at $16.7 million. However, the company had to get a secured loan of $23 million from US Bank and Capital One to stay in business.

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  • Dec 19, 2014

    Issa Report On ALJs

         Darrell Issa's House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform issued a report yesterday on Misplaced Priorities: How the Social Security Administration Sacrificed Quality for Quantity in the Disability Determination Process. The report talks about the great pressures that have been placed upon Social Security's Administrative Law Judges (ALJs) to produce as many decisions as possible. The report accepts at face value the assertion that the pressures to produce have led to a higher proportion of favorable decisions issued. The report demands that Social Security fire some ALJs, which it lists by name, and discipline others. The report insists that Social Security should stop hiring more ALJs and focus its efforts on controlling ALJ decision-making. 
         Social Security lacks the power to act against ALJs in the manner recommended by the report. To protect ALJs from agency influence, it's quite difficult to fire or discipline them. What Issa wants is heavy-handed agency influence on ALJ decision-making. You can't do that. 
         A halt in hiring of ALJs and a total focus on controlling ALJ decision-making would result in an explosion of Social Security's already unacceptable hearing backlog. Darrell Issa might be happy with that but it's unworkable. It's inevitable that as the hearing backlog explodes media coverage of the backlog will explode.

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  • Binder and Binder In Bankruptcy

         The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Binder and Binder filed for Chapter 11 bankrupcty last night. I wonder what they're telling their employees.

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  • This Is Also Part Of Chrismas

    December is the busiest time of the year for psychiatrists.

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  • Dec 18, 2014

    TV Station Covers Hearing Backlog

         A Nevada television station is continuing to cover Social Security's serious hearing backlog.

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  • Dec 17, 2014

    ABLE Act Approved By Congress

         The Senate approved the ABLE Act last night and sent it to the President. Here's a description of ABLE:
    Modeled after tax-free college savings accounts, the ABLE bill would amend the federal tax code to allow states to establish the program.
    To qualify, a person would have to be diagnosed by age 26 with a disability that results in "marked and severe functional limitations"; those who are already receiving Social Security disability benefits would also qualify. Families would be able to set up tax-free accounts at financial institutions, depositing up to $14,000 annually to pay for long-term needs such as education, transportation and health care.
    The contributions would be in after-tax dollars but earnings would grow tax-free.
    The ABLE accounts would be able to accrue up to $100,000 in savings without the person losing eligibility for government aid such as Social Security; currently, the asset limit is $2,000. Medicaid coverage would continue no matter how much money is deposited in the accounts.

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  • Criticism For Senate Democrats On Colvin Nomination

         Michael Histzik is giving Senate Democrats a tough time for abandoning Carolyn Colvin's nomination for a term as Commissioner of Social Security. I'm with him.
         As best I can understand what happened, Senate Republicans threatened to drag out cloture on Colvin's nomination as long as possible which would have delayed the start of the Christmas break for all Senators. Their real reasons for making this threat are unclear but their stated reasons are ridiculous, as Hiltzik demonstrates. All Senate Republicans could do was delay since they lacked the votes to prevent confirmation. Would Republican Senators have actually insisted on hanging around the Capitol for a losing battle to prevent Colvin's nomination when there was no real reason to oppose her in the first place? We'll never know since Senate Democrats simply gave up on the nomination instead of taking the risk that they would be forced to delay their holiday break. No wonder Democrats are about to be in the minority in the Senate.
         As a footnote, the two Democratic Senators from Colvin's home state, Maryland, Mikulski and Cardin, went to the Senate floor yesterday to pointlessly ask for unanimous consent for the consideration of Colvin's nomination. Of course, a Republican Senator objected. Neither Mikulski nor Cardin spoke up Saturday night when Senator Reid asked for unanimous consent to withdraw cloture on Colvin's nomination. No one spoke up then. That's how Colvin's nomination died.

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  • Dec 16, 2014

    Commissioner's Broadcast E-Mail


    From: ^Commissioner Broadcast
    Sent: Monday, December 15, 2014 6:02 PM

    Subject: COMMISSIONER'S BROADCAST--12/15/14
    A Message To All SSA and DDS Employees
     
    Subject: Important Updates

    I want to update you on some important Congressional actions that took place over the weekend.
    First, the U.S. Senate did not vote on my nomination to be Commissioner of Social Security, citing the parliamentary requirement that, as a cabinet level official, 30 hours of debate would be required at a time when they had only a few days left to confirm over 20 nominees.  I will continue, however, to serve as the Deputy Commissioner of Social Security and as Acting Commissioner.  As always, I am heartened by your support and deeply appreciate your daily efforts to serve the American public.
    Second, I am pleased to let you know that Congress approved our FY 15 budget, and the President is expected to sign it shortly.  This level of funding will enable us to continue to provide quality services to our customers today, and help position the agency for success in the future.
    I look forward to continuing to work with you and the new Congress.  There is much to be done.  I know I can count on you to demonstrate the dedication and professionalism that makes our agency one of the top 10 best places to work in the Federal government.
    Again, thank you for your support and well wishes.
    Best regards,
    Carolyn

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