Jul 1, 2016

New Neurological Listings

     The Social Security Administration has revised its Listings for neurological disorders. The new Listings go into effect on September 29.

Jun 30, 2016

An Opinion On eBB

     Below is a comment posted on this blog concerning the Electronic Bench Book (eBB) for drafting Social Security Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) decisions that I think deserves more attention:
Blogger David Hatfield said...
This should have been a classic case of "if it ain't broke, don't fix it", but some just could not leave well enough alone. FIT [Forms Integrated Template] was designed by a handful of users from the hearings operation. Decisions were made by me, an ALJ, with input from users. Then Commissioner Barnhart saw the wisdom of allowing adjudicators to create their own tools, and she gave me full decision authority to make it happen. It was done by users for users. Expenses were virtually zero, utilizing the amazing talents of SSA's DGS [Digital Government Strategy] staff. We created the system in less than a year, and by the following year almost every decision was written in FIT and it was embraced by almost every ALJ. Why? It saved folks time, and led to better written decisions. ALJs liked it because the quality of drafts increased, allowing the ALJs to hear and decide more cases instead of editing drafts all day. Decision writers liked it as the prompts inside the templates gave them a virtual GPS, saving them time and reducing errors. Perhaps most importantly it allowed for flexibility and did not impede the huge process of hearing and deciding cases. We never had to mandate its use, as users wanted it. We made modifications based on user input, and everything we did was with the user in mind. We were not concerned with data mining, or production of management reports. FIT was all about making the adjudication process better in quantity and quality. We built in SmartFIT features that eliminated obvious errors, such as not allowing a favorable decision to be written when the date last insured expired before the established onset date, or not allowing a case to be denied when the medical/vocational Grid directed a conclusion of disabled.
True, FIT was and is just a WORD product. But when the agency was looking at a web-based system, it could have easily converted FIT. We urged that. But some thought the hearing level could be converted to the eCAT system that was being designed for the DDS. We tried to convince folks that while the polices at the levels are the same, the adjudicative operations are very different. FIT "fit" the hearings operation. I thought they were listening. eBB was then created, and I, along with a colleague, sat down with a big group of people, none of them hearings operation employees, attempting to guide them toward FIT. However, unlike FIT, eBB had many masters and agendas, each wanting features to serve their own purposes (eg, data mining), or who still wanted elements of eCAT at the hearings level. The primary purpose of creating an adjudicative tool was frustrated. It was clear decisions had been and were being made behind the scenes. As a result, 4 years and a lot of money expended later, eBB is still struggling. It is a case of too many cooks in the kitchen, with many of them never having cooked a meal.

Jun 29, 2016

Closing That Office For A Day Will Really Deter Vandalism

     From WLUK:
The Social Security Office in Green Bay was closed Tuesday after graffiti was found spray-painted on the building.
Police say the decision to close was made by social security officials.
The phrase "bomb the system," was scrawled on the brick building.
Police say anytime the word "bomb" is used, it's very concerning.

Jun 28, 2016

As Social Security Workload Increases, Agency's Headcount Decreases

The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) has posted updated figures for the number of employees at the Social Security Administration as of March 2016:
  • March 2016 64,264
  • December 2015 65,518
  • September 2015 65,717
  • June 2015 65,666
  • March 2015 64,432
  • December 2014 65,430
  • September 2014 64,684
  • June 2014 62,651
  • March 2014 60,820
  • December 2013 61,957
  • September 2013 62,543
  • June 2013 62,877
  • March 2013 63,777
  • December 2012 64,538
  • September 2012 65,113
  • September 2011 67,136
  • December 2010 70,270
  • December 2009 67,486
  • September 2009 67,632
  • December 2008 63,733
  • September 2008 63,990

Jun 27, 2016

SSA.Gov Having Problems

     The Social Security Administration is reporting that some people are having difficulty accessing its ssa.gov website. This problem has been going on since Friday.

Stay Classy Eric Conn, Stay Classy

     Eric Conn's defense team is getting ready for a trial on the criminal charges brought against him for his representation of Social Security disability claimants. They're hired an investigator who is himself under indictment in an unrelated case.

Jun 26, 2016

Electronic Bench Book Controversial

     Social Security has spent $25 million to develop and implement "electronic Bench Book" (eBB), a system to process hearing decisions. Only 20% of Administrative Law Judges use it. A recent report by Social Security's Office of Inspector General (OIG) shows that it is controversial. Many at Social Security believe it increases processing time. Here's a chart based upon interviews of those who use eBB showing what OIG heard from ALJs and others who have used or tried to use eBB.

Jun 25, 2016

It's Not April 1 And This Isn't The Onion -- Social Security For Robots?

     From Reuters:
Europe's growing army of robot workers could be classed as "electronic persons" and their owners liable to paying social security for them if the European Union adopts a draft plan to address the realities of a new industrial revolution. ... 
The draft motion called on the European Commission to consider "that at least the most sophisticated autonomous robots could be established as having the status of electronic persons with specific rights and obligations". ...