Mar 31, 2006
Mar 30, 2006
Mar 29, 2006
- Hire an overall director for the plan -- this job was just advertised;
- Write POMS;
- Write training manuals;
- Figure out what the new quality review process is supposed to operate and how it is different from current practice;
- Figure out how the Federal Expert Unit is supposed to operate;
- Adapt computer systems;
- Designate some current Appeals Council employees to work for Decision Review Board (DRB);
- Find office space for Reviewing Officers (ROs);
- Obtain office furniture and equipment for ROs;
- Write position description for RO supervisors;
- Advertise RO supervisor positions;
- Interview RO supervisors;
- Hire RO supervisors;
- Train RO supervisors;
- Write position description for ROs;
- Advertise RO positions;
- Interview RO candidates;
- Hire ROs;
- Train ROs;
- Train DDS, DO and OHA personnel.
With the exception of the Decision Review Board's replacing the Appeals Council, much of the rest of it is workable from our perspective. ... The final rules are more claimaint-friendly than the proposed rules were.
Mar 28, 2006
- The new regulations are effective on August 1, 2006.
- The new regulations will affect only the Boston region of SSA for at least a year. Commissioner Barnhart's term in office will be over before that year ends. Commissioner Barnhart may be nominated and confirmed for a second term, although that is uncertain. It is likely that there will be a new President before the new rules reach most of the country.
- Continuing disability reviews are not part of the new plan.
- The new rules are supposed to affect only disability claims, leaving non-disability claims to be processed under the old rules, but the new rules contain almost no discussion of how to handle cases in which a disability claim includes a non-disability issue.
- ALJs will be required to give 75 days notice of hearings.
- Claimants will be able to submit new evidence until 5 days prior to a hearing.
- The current rules on reopening will apply to all cases other than disability claims decided by ALJs. Those decisions could only be reopened within 6 months after the ALJ decision.
- The new quality review process is not described. Indeed, it seems obvious that it is far from ready.
- The Federal Expert Unit is not described in detail. Indeed, it seems obvious that it is far from ready.
- An ALJ would be required to explain "in detail" the reasons for any disagreement with a Reviewing Officer.
- There will be no specific requirement that a claimant submit adverse evidence, but there is a requirement to submit evidence and to not submit redacted evidence.
Many commenters, including the Administrative Office of United States Courts, thought that the shift of the Appeals Council’s functions to the DRB would have an adverse effect on the Federal court system and would result in an increase in the number of cases appealed to the Federal courts. To address these concerns, we plan a gradual rollout to minimize the impact on the judiciary. We plan to begin implementation of the new process in the Boston region, which is one of our smallest regions. Because we are beginning in a small region, we will be able to have the DRB initially review all or most of the administrative law judge decisions that are issued in the Boston region. At the same time, we will be fine-tuning the screening tools for selecting cases for DRB review in those regions where we cannot review every decision. In addition, the DRB will monitor administrative law judge decisions in order to identify trends or developments that we need to address. Lastly, we believe that comparing DSI with the process it is replacing fails to consider the many positive changes outlined in today’s rule.
Mar 27, 2006
SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION
Social security benefits and supplemental income:
Federal, old age, survivors, and disability insurance; and aged, blind, and disabled--
Initial disability claims adjudication; administrative review process, 06-3011
[ID RIN 0960-AG31; Filed 3/27/06 at 12:39pm]
Publication Date: 3/31/06
Mar 26, 2006
Mar 25, 2006
Mar 24, 2006
The incumbent of this position serves as the primary advisor to the Commissioner and lead Agency executive on he rollout and post-implementation phases of the Agency's new approach to the decision-making process when an applicant files an application for disability benefits under Title II or Supplemental Security Income disability benefits under Title XVI of the Social Security Act. In addition, this executive will be responsible for developing future refinements to the disability claims process. This new approach is the first major program enhancement to the Agency's disability programs in more than 20 years and capitalizes on the efficiencies and benefits gained by the Agency's successful implementation of an electronic disability case processing system.
Mar 23, 2006
Mar 22, 2006
Mar 21, 2006
9:15 a.m. - 11:30 a.m. Dr. Ronald Leopold, MetLife
1:45 p.m. - 3:30 p.m. Michael G. Gallagher, Associate General Counsel (Office of General Law) and James A. Winn, Associate General Counsel (Office of Program Law)
Mar 20, 2006
Mar 19, 2006
A key part of British Prime Minister Tony Blair's plan is to draw a distinction between those who have the potential to return to work and those who do not and to give a good deal of return to work assistance to those who have that potential, as well as applying a good deal of compulsion to them. Such a plan would be attractive to many in the U.S. The British plan, which has not yet been implemented, is drawing criticism from a new study. The author of the study, Professor Richard Berthoud of the Institute for Social and Economic Research stated recently that:
The analysis [in the government consultation paper] shows a wide range of impairments among disabled people, with a gradual deterioration in job prospects across that range. It is by no means clear, from these data, where a dividing line could be drawn between those with realistic and unrealistic expectations. The paper does not explain how this judgment will be made. Nor does it say what will happen to disabled people who try but fail to find a job over a long period, even though they had been assessed as potential workers.
Mar 18, 2006
Mar 17, 2006
Mar 16, 2006
Even in normal circumstances, the operations of the Social Security Administration directly and crucially affect the lives of millions of Americans. Over the years of the Board’s existence, we have been continually impressed by the commitment and expertise of the agency, its management, and its employees at all levels to providing excellent service to the beneficiaries who depend on Social Security. Last year’s hurricanes showed that commitment and expertise to be deep and solid. Service is what SSA does. Its employees both in the area and throughout the country volunteered to do whatever was necessary to assure that service to the public in the affected areas would continue. Agency management did not stop to worry about its constrained budgetary circumstances, but immediately deployed the resources necessary to meet the crisis. The agency and its employees, and especially those in the Atlanta and Dallas regions, have every reason to be proud of their preparedness, resourcefulness, and dedication in meeting the needs of the population they serve under the most trying of circumstances.
Mar 15, 2006
Mar 14, 2006
During the comment period, SSA received almost 900 comments. We reviewed these comments very carefully. In fact, I met with my senior staff to consider all of these comments. And we have made changes in response. I am pleased to report that as of last month, the final rule was under review at the Office of Management and Budget, and we expect it to be published shortly.
Chairman Grassley, Senator Baucus and Members of the Committee, my name is Richard Warsinskey and I represent the National Council of Social Security Management Associations (NCSSMA). I am also the manager of the Social Security office in Downtown Cleveland, Ohio and have worked for the Social Security Administration for 30 years. On behalf of our membership, I am pleased to have the opportunity to submit this testimony to the Committee. The NCSSMA is a membership organization of nearly 3,400 Social Security Administration (SSA) managers and supervisors who provide leadership in SSA's 1,374 Field Offices and Teleservice Centers throughout the country. We are the front-line service providers for SSA in communities all over the nation. We are also the federal employees with whom many of your staff work to resolve problems and issues for your constituents who receive Social Security retirement benefits, survivors or disability benefits, or Supplemental Security Income. From the time our organization was founded over thirty-five years ago, the NCSSMA has been a strong advocate of locally delivered services nationwide to meet the variety of needs of beneficiaries, claimants, and the general public. We consider our top priority to be a strong and stable Social Security Administration that delivers quality service to the people we serve - your constituents. SSA is facing many challenges this year. My testimony today will focus on the following areas: limited resources and ever-increasing workloads and responsibilities.
The President's Fiscal Year 2007 budget proposes $9.496 billion for the Social Security Administration’s Limitation on Administrative Expenses (LAE) account. This account, which is included as part of the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations Bill, supplies the resources for SSA’s administrative budget. The budget request for FY 2007 represents less than a 1.0% increase over the amount requested for FY 2006. The Agency did not receive the full President’s Budget request for FY 2006 - the final appropriation was reduced by nearly $300 million during the appropriations process.
The Commissioner of Social Security is required by law to submit her own budget. This budget reflects what she sees as the level of funding necessary to meet the Agency’s service delivery improvements and fiscal stewardship plans through 2011. This budget also factors in that SSA has received less than the President’s budget request in recent years, thus leading to the need for additional resources in future years to meet the full service delivery plan. The budget amount submitted by the Commissioner of Social Security to the President for SSA’s FY 2007 administrative expenses was $10.25 billion. The budget submitted by the Commissioner takes into consideration the increasing workloads and new mandates that are confronting the Agency. The budget shortfalls in comparison to the Agency’s real needs, increased workloads, and new mandates have, and will continue to have, a tremendous impact on SSA’s service delivery. It is important to note that SSA's administrative budget constitutes less than 2% of program expenditures for the current fiscal year which is an outstanding value. This becomes all the more noteworthy when compared to private sector insurance companies which, as pointed out in a report issued by the Social Security Advisory Board, commonly have cost ratios of 10 to 20 percent or more. Certainly the American people deserve to have the Social Security Administration’s excellent service while maintaining such value. A good example of this value can be seen by the service we provided after the hurricanes this past fall. SSA detailed people throughout the country and moved a huge amount of equipment around to assist people in receiving their benefits after the hurricanes. Every possible effort was made to pay benefits due on a timely basis. Increasing Workloads The following are some key current and future workload trends that are impacting SSA:
• In 1999 SSA had 311,000 hearings pending. There are now an estimated 750,000 hearings pending, an increase of 140%. The average Administrative Law Judge has approximately 750 cases pending per available judge. As a result the average time to receive a hearing decision is often more than two years.
• SSA’s Program Service Centers (PSCs) have seen their pending cases more than double in the past two years, increasing by more than 350,000 cases. Backlogs in the PSCs have contributed to an increase in requests from Congress for status of cases by over 40% and requests for special high priority payment of cases by over 110%.
• Waiting times in Field Offices rose dramatically for the first six weeks of the year. Walk-in traffic increased by approximately 40% from the same time last year. Since then traffic has moderated somewhat but walk-in traffic is currently up an estimated 25% from the same time last year.
• SSA’s 1-800 number received nearly 4.8 million more calls for the first two months of this year compared to the first two months of last year.
• Failure to receive an adequate appropriation led SSA to make the decision to cut back on processing Medical Continuing Disability Reviews. This year SSA has reduced the number by about 235,000 and by over 500,000 since FY 2002. SSA estimates that every one dollar spent on a Continuing Disability Review saves ten dollars in program costs.
• Failure to receive an adequate appropriation led SSA to make the decision to cut back on processing SSI redeterminations by approximately 750,000 this year. SSA estimates that every one dollar spent on an SSI Redetermination saves seven dollars in program costs.
• In FY 2005, SSA processed 64% more new claims for Title II and Title XVI disability claims than it did in FY 2000.
• SSA will process an increasing number of retirement claims as the baby boom generation retires. Last year SSA Field Offices processed 16% more retirement claims than the previous year.
• SSA will send out an estimated 2 million letters for those that qualified for Extra Help for Part D Medicare in August to determine whether the amount of Extra Help will change. Many of these cases will need to be reworked by SSA Field Offices.
• SSA will also mail out an estimated 2 million letters for those potentially affected by the Income-Related increased Medicare Part B Premiums this fall. Many of those affected will contact SSA Field Offices with questions and for assistance in helping them determine the correct premium to pay.
One of the areas where SSA Field Offices have seen the most significant impact on their workloads and on the public has been due to the implementation of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 (IRTPA) on December 17, 2005. This law significantly strengthened the rules for issuing new and replacement Social Security numbers and cards. Immediately after this law went into effect, SSA Field Offices throughout the country saw a dramatic increase in waiting times and number of visitors. This is due to the need to complete a much more intensive interview of those applying for Social Security Account numbers. This more intensive interview process and review of documents has led to an increased number of visitors that must go home and return with additional documents, sometimes multiple times. We estimate that nearly one-third of the people currently coming into SSA Field Offices to apply for an original or duplicate Social Security Account number card have to return to the office with additional documentation for their card. We have seen countless numbers of people leaving our offices angry and frustrated because of the inconvenience. For example someone living in Shenandoah, Iowa would have to make a 150-mile return round trip to their servicing office in Creston, Iowa. If you live in Broadus, Montana you would need to make a 337-mile round trip to the servicing office in Billings, Montana. Last year SSA processed 13.4 million requests for new and replacement cards. If one-third of the public has to obtain additional documentation and return to an SSA Field Office to complete the interview process this is affecting nearly 4.5 million people. An example of the impact on a local Field Office can be seen in this message received from a manager in the metro Washington, DC area:
“The number one impediment in providing acceptable service to the public is the increase in daily visitors to the office, the majority of which are in the office to apply for Social Security cards. We used to have 7 Service Representatives and we are now down to 4 full time and 1 part time employee. We seldom see less than 250 visitors in a day and 55% came in for Social Security Number cards. The reception area is inadequate for the number of visitors, the waiting time often exceeds 2 hours and more importantly the Service Representatives are not able to do much of any other work other than Social Security numbers and are simply burned out. They dutifully handle reception all day, day after day without many complaints but it certainly takes a toll. There are other offices in the Washington, DC Area in similar situations.” As these increased demands on SSA facilities throughout the country have hit the Agency, we are faced with a reduction in staffing of 500 positions this year and an estimated 2,000 people next year. This reduction in staffing will occur even if SSA is funded at the full level of $9.496 billion as proposed in the President’s budget. It is estimated that SSA will have 500 fewer employees on duty next year than before the Agency started working on Medicare Part D cases. Moving forward, we realize that we no longer have the large workloads associated with the start up of Part D. Although resources were provided by the Congress in Fiscal Years 2004-2006 to address the initial workload related to Medicare Part D, there are still incredible challenges to be met in addressing the ongoing Medicare Part D workloads, rule changes in issuing Social Security Number cards, and new Medicare Part B premium increase cases, as well as increased retirement and disability claims and telephone calls. SSA Field Offices receive about the same number of telephone calls as SSA’s 1-800 number. This is because many people prefer to talk to the local Field Office and because all letters that are mailed out must include the local Field Office telephone number on the letter. Yet most local Field Offices do not have adequate staff to answer telephone calls. In the NCSSMA’s 2005 Survey of Management, 78% of the 2,400 respondents stated they did not have enough staff to provide adequate local telephone service. In addition, Field Office telephones systems are antiquated and desperately need to be replaced. Field Offices nationwide are forced to cannibalize parts to keep some telephone systems running. SSA has also made enormous investments in the Electronic Disability Claims Process (e-Dib) which will revolutionize the way the Agency handles disability claims. While these changes will lead to significant savings and improve processing times down the line, it is actually a more labor-intensive process and results in longer interview times for local Field Offices. In fact it takes nearly 30 minutes longer to take an interview under e-Dib because of the amount of information that must be formatted electronically. Is the $9.496 billion dollars requested by the President for FY 2007 sufficient to address the backlogs and increasing workloads described above? Unfortunately, the National Council of Social Security Management Associations would have to say no. We do understand the fiscal constraints of today’s budget environment, but at a minimum, it is absolutely critical that Congress match the President’s FY 2007 budget request for SSA. Each year that SSA receives less than adequate funding for the LAE account, it has a compounding effect on our workloads. This compounding has meant that we have over 8,000 fewer work years than we would have received had we received the full level of funding recommended in recent years in the President’s budget.
This staffing shortage is one of the key reasons for massive backlogs in the Hearings Offices and Program Service Centers, reductions in processing stewardship workloads such as SSI redeterminations and Continuing Disability Reviews in Field Offices, major strains on Field Office employees to handle the increased walk-in traffic, and for Field Offices and Teleservice Centers to handle the nearly 135 million calls per year. The key problem is that SSA is being given more and more responsibilities without sufficient funding to handle these responsibilities. On the horizon is another enormous workload SSA could receive due to language in the Border Security Act that would require the Agency to verify approximately 50 million Social Security numbers a year. SSA would need additional funds to administer the provisions of this bill if it becomes law. The Agency also needs additional funds for IRTPA, ongoing workloads associated with Medicare Part D, and the upcoming income-related Medicare Part B premium changes that take effect in January 2007. SSA is making every effort it can to address these increasing mandates. Our Agency’s productivity continues to rise, and in fact has risen at least 2% a year this decade. When you invest the people’s money in SSA they get their money’s worth and much more. Think of the hundreds of millions of dollars that would be saved if SSA could process more Continuing Disability Reviews and SSI redeterminations. But, because of all of the additional workloads that must be addressed by the Agency this is just not possible without additional funding. Conclusion SSA is facing an enormous challenge to keep up with all of its workloads. Without additional funding backlogs will increase and we will not be able to provide the level of service we believe the American public deserves. At a minimum, SSA needs to receive the FY 2007 budget proposed by the President. Our Agency also needs to receive additional funds for new tasks we are given such as those mandated by IRTPA and the proposed Border Security Act, which has the potential to task SSA with a new and immense workload. Without additional funding for these new workloads, the Agency will have to delay processing various existing workloads, leading to even more backlogs and delays. Ultimately, this will lead to increased costs. We understand the current budgetary constraints, but when making decisions about how limited appropriated funds should be allocated keep in mind that SSA has a reputation as an Agency that gets results, and it has earned that reputation. As the only face of government a broad number of Americans ever see, it is important to retain confidence in our government and that SSA be able to provide these Americans the efficient, accurate, and compassionate service they deserve. On behalf of the members of the NCSSMA, I thank you again for the opportunity to submit this testimony to the Committee and would welcome any questions that you may have.
Mar 13, 2006
Jo Anne B. Barnhart, Commissioner, Social Security Administration, Baltimore, Maryland
Patrick P. O’Carroll, Jr., Inspector General, Social Security Administration, Baltimore, Maryland
Richard E. Warsinskey, President, National Council of Social Security, Management Associations, Inc., Cleveland, Ohio
Eileen Sweeny, Co-Chair, Social Security Task Force, Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities Senior Fellow, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Washington, DC
Erwin Hathaway, Social Security Disability Insurance Beneficiary, Trego, Montana
One major reason for the decrease in the percentage of claims allowed is a huge increase in technical denials, which went up from 104,330 in 1999 to 374,430 in 2003. This may be due to Social Security's staffing problems. More claimants with low intelligence levels or serious mental illness, who needed but did not get sympathetic help from Social Security, may have been denied for failure to cooperate.
Mar 12, 2006
Mar 11, 2006
Mar 10, 2006
The team from the Social Security Administration was honored with this award as a result of their innovation in network connectivity, which resulted in providing thousands of employees with a network that is significantly more resilient, reliable and scalable to better manage data regarding taxes, retirement, disability, family benefits, survivors and Medicare.
Mar 9, 2006
Mar 8, 2006
Congressman Jim McCrery (R-LA), Chairman, Subcommittee on Social Security of the Committee on Ways and Means, today announced that the Subcommittee will hold the fourth in a series of Subcommittee hearings on Social Security number (SSN) high-risk issues. The hearing will examine expanding uses of the SSN card and measures to prevent SSN card fraud. The hearing will take place on Thursday, March 16, 2006 in room B‑318 Rayburn House Office Building, beginning at 10:00 a.m.
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Mar 7, 2006
Mar 6, 2006
Mar 5, 2006
Mar 4, 2006
Mar 3, 2006
We propose to add to our regulations a new subpart, Medicare Part B Income-Related Monthly Adjustment Amount, to contain the rules we would follow for Medicare Part B income-related monthly adjustment amount determinations. The monthly adjustment amount represents the amount of decrease in the Medicare Part B premium subsidy, i.e. the amount of the Federal Government’s contribution to the Federal Supplementary Medical Insurance Trust Fund. This new subpart would implement section 811 of the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act of 2003 (the Medicare Modernization Act or MMA) and would contain the rules for determining when, based on income, a monthly adjustment amount will be added to a Supplementary Medical Insurance (Medicare Part B) beneficiary’s standard monthly premium. These proposed rules describe: what the new subpart is about; what information we would use to determine whether you would pay an income-related monthly adjustment amount and the amount of the adjustment when applicable; when we will consider a major life-changing event that results in a significant reduction in your modified adjusted gross income; and how you can appeal our determination about your incomerelated monthly adjustment amount.
Mar 2, 2006
Mar 1, 2006
- March 2-3, 2006 Institute Of Continuing Legal Education in Georgia CLE, Atlanta, GA
- March 8, 2006 Philadelphia Trial Lawyers Association CLE, Philadelphia, PA
- March 24, 2006 NC Academy of Trial Lawyers CLE, Winston-Salem, NC
- March 24, 2006 Social Security Advisory Board Meeting, Washington, D.C.
- April 2-5, 2006 National Association of Disability Representatives Educational, Boston, MA
- April 5-8, 2006 National Organization of Social Security Claimants Representatives (NOSSCR) CLE, Boston, MA
- April 27, 2006 National Business Institute CLE, Milwaukee, WI
- May 16-19, 2006 National Association of Disability Examiners Meeting, Virginia Beach, VA
- May 16-19, 2006 National Association of Disability Examiners (NADE) Meeting, Jackson, MS
- May 17, 2006 Indiana CLE Forum, Indianapolis, IN
- May 19-20, 2006 Stetson University CLE, Tampa, FL
- August 10-11, 2006 Retirement Research Consortium, Washington, DC
- August 11, 2006 8th Circuit Social Security CLE, Omaha, NE
- September 16-21, 2006 National Association of Disability Examiners, San Diego, CA
- October 11-14, 2006 National Organization of Social Security Claimants Representatives (NOSSCR) CLE, Phoenix, AZ
- October 16-19, 2006 National Council of Social Security Management Association Meeting, Milwaukee, WI
- May 20-23, 2007, National Association of Disability Examiners Meeting, Stowe, VE