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Jul 31, 2006

Republican Plans To Get Serious On Social Security Privatization In January

From a Washington Times interview with House Majority Leader John Boehner:

Q: Where does Social Security reform stand?

A: I just met with Congressman [Frank R. Wolf, Virginia Republican], a few minutes ago with his SAFE Commission [formed to fix the entitlement programs]. In 1990 when I first ran for Congress, I talked about the need to reform these big entitlement programs because the sooner we began the process, the easier it would be to make the necessary changes so that these programs were sustainable for the long term. … If I’m around in a leadership role come January, we’re going to get serious about this.


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  • Empire Justice Center Newsletter

    The Empire Justice Center of New York has published the July issue of Disability Law News, its quarterly newletter on Social Security and SSI disability issues.
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  • Pilot Program To Allow Representatives To Appear At Video Hearings Using Their Own Video Equipment

    Social Security has published a notice in the Federal Register that it "is now preparing to pilot a program wherein private representatives and their clients may appear at ALJ hearings using privately owned video equipment." This would dramatically simplify matters for Binder and Binder and others who seek to represent Social Security claimants on a national basis. No one has or is likely to have a truly national network of attorneys or other representatives who can easily appear at Social Security hearings anywhere in the country. Currently such firms must fly in attorneys for many hearings at considerable cost. Allowing the attorneys to participate via their own video equipment would be much cheaper. It would allow law firms who wish to represent Social Security claimants nationally to do so without ever having face to face contact with most of their clients.
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  • New Rules On Replacement Social Security Cards

    The Social Security Administration has published interim final rules on replacement Social Security cards. In general, the rules limit an individual to three replacement cards in one year and ten in a lifetime.
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  • Jul 30, 2006

    Backlogs in Nevada

    The Reno Gazette-Journal reports on growing backlogs in processing Social Security claims in Nevada. Because of workload pressures Nevada has stopped processing reconsideration appeals of Social Security disability benefits denials, with serious consequences for disability benefits applicants. The same thing is happening in many states. Other states have not stopped doing reconsiderations, but have merely slowed down.

    Stopping or slowing reconsiderations is a short term way for Social Security to deal with a shortage of personnel. This is not something that can be continued for more than a few months before there are articles in newspapers all over the country. So what is the long term fix for the problem? At the moment there is none. Social Security's staff is projected to shrink by another 2,000 in fiscal year 2007, which begins in a little over two months. The number of disability claims being filed is increasing and will continue to increase for a decade or more as baby boomers age. The workload pressures can only get worse. The Disability Service Improvement (DSI) plan that will substitute Reviewing Officers (RO) for reconsideration will only make the problem worse, at least in the short run and probably the long run, since it will almost certainly take more staff for RO review than for reconsideration, and few outside the immediate circle of the Commissioner of Social Security really believe that the introduction of ROs will significantly cut the number of people requesting hearings before Administrative Law Judges (ALJs). Even if the RO program does somehow cut the number of people requesting ALJ hearings, the staff cutbacks and increased claim load already coming will completely overwhelm any increased efficiency.

    Without significant budget increases, including increased staff, Social Security is heading towards massive problems. The only question is whether this will come to the public's attention as a sudden trainwreck or whether it can be managed so that the public only becomes aware slowly that the Social Security Administration has largely stopped processing appeals of disability claims. The answer to this question may depend upon which party is in control of Congress after this fall's election.
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  • Jul 29, 2006

    LTD Settlement in California

    There is a important interplay between long term disability (LTD) benefits under insurance policies and employer pension plans and Social Security disability benefits because LTD plans almost always offset their benefits by Social Security disabisity benefits. In December 2005 the California Insurance Commissioner issued an order that would have dramatically altered LTD benefits in the nation's largest state. The order would have forbidden LTD plans from reducing their benefits by the amount of Social Security disability benefits, among other things. The LTD industry sued. The Insurance Journal reports that there is now a partial settlement in the case. Apparently, the California Insurance Commissioner has dropped the ban on offsetting Social Security disability benefits, while the insurers have agreed that they cannot include a "discretionary" clause which gave them an almost unlimited ability to deny LTD claims at their discretion. The insurers also agreed to a standard definition of disability and pre-existing conditions.
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  • Jul 28, 2006

    The Unknown Hero and Pariah Has Something To Say

    Ron Cooley, the subject of An Unknown Hero And A Pariah posted on this blog has asked me to post the following on his behalf:
    "The contents of this message are mine personally and do not reflect any position of the Government or SSA."
    The July 16 LA Times article -- He Wants No Good Deed to Go Unpaid -- quotes me as follows:

    "When I bring up new groups of severely underpaid — and in some cases severely overpaid — beneficiaries, they ignore or dismiss my information. I have definitely been frozen out."

    Indeed I have a list of “groups of severely overpaid” beneficiaries, each a multi-million dollar group, that SSA is ignoring. But for the present I wish to elaborate a bit on the two underpaid groups specifically referred to in the article.

    The last few lines of the LA Times article state:

    And Cooley is busy uncovering other cases of alleged injustice. For instance, he said, he has found 11,034 elderly and disabled widows and widowers who have been underpaid $120 million in pension benefits.

    "We've been trying for over a year just to get the agency to recognize that one," he said, "and 1,372 of them have died in the meantime."

    Allow me to describe that situation just a bit further. In 2004, we identified 11,034 disabled widows and widowers (97% are women), all over age 65, who are owed $120 million in back pay -- an average of about $10,900 each, from a minimum of a few dollars to a maximum of about $50,000. They are also owed an ongoing additional benefit averaging $103 monthly.

    Unlike the Special Disability Workload group described at length in the article, for which resolution of the underpayments involves “mind numbingly complex” policy (and medical) issues, this group’s underpayments are simply the result of miscalculation at the time the individuals turned age 65. Whether by omission or commission, SSA did not calculate the benefit correctly. Correcting the benefits requires no more than a relatively simple recalculation. But so far, SSA has refused to do it. I have notified numerous top officials, including SSA’s Commissioner, to no avail.

    A simple review of these individuals’ benefit levels (and that of their deceased spouses) shows that this group is far from affluent. The vast majority are struggling to get by. They need every penny to which they are entitled. Further, they are dying -- about 1,400 have died so far since the identification. Eventually SSA will be forced to pay the benefits, but how much of the money will go to estates -- rather than to the individuals who should get it?

    One would think Commissioner Barnhart would order the correction of this problem. See her 2002 testimony: http://www.ssa.gov/legislation/testimony_022802.html.

    At any rate, I am going to keep pressing to get these underpayments corrected.

    Regarding the other underpaid group -- the group featured in the article -- I have taken an SSA press release from 2001 on the Special Disability Workload (before it had that name), and updated or commented on it to reflect today’s situation:

    Mistakes Cut Social Security Benefits
    Retroactive Payments To Average $2,000 [$6,000]

    Associated Press
    Friday, July 6, 2001; Page A23
    [Updates in brackets are as of July 27, 2006]

    About 130,000 [500,000] disabled Americans may have been shortchanged on government benefits, but officials said yesterday that they have fixed the problem and will settle up now [as of July 2006, the problem is still not fixed; the software has been deficient since the 1970s].

    Those disabled Americans could begin receiving up to $20 [the average is $71] more a month and retroactive payments averaging $2,000 [$6,000], the Social Security Administration said. [The retroactive payments range from a few dollars to over $200,000].

    The 130,000 [500,000] had been getting money through a supplemental security program for the needy and were not notified they could be eligible for traditional Social Security, the administration said. [Unfortunately 200,000 are dead, and about 4,000 additional are dying each year, nearly all of whom died never having seen the money owed them.] In some cases, people could be owed benefits for several years [average retroactivity is 12 years, back to 1994].

    Larry G. Massanari, the Social Security Administration's acting commissioner, said a review caught the mistake [I caught the mistake -- actually it was many mistakes.], and the administration would ensure people get money they are owed [only after my campaign and not without immense amounts of pressure from me]. Those people will be contacted about the benefits.

    [Yes, the living ones will be contacted over the next 10 years, through about 2015. Because a large number of these people will be receiving SSI over the next few years, but should be receiving traditional Social Security only, SSA is spending a net amount of about $16 million per year on needless SSI "maintenance" and overpayment costs.]

    [Another 100,000 living SSI recipients should be added to this group, as well as another 50,000 mostly deceased former SSI recipients.]

    [Complicating the problem yet further, most states could be owed large sums of Medicare dollars because these individuals received only Medicaid during those years.]

    [In a smaller, separate development, over 11,000 widows and widowers, all of whom are over 65 and disabled, have been identified as owed an average of about $10,900 each in back pay (totaling $120 million) and an additional average $103 per month in current benefits. They were identified in 2004 but SSA has yet to attempt to pay them.]

    ……………………[unrelated material removed]…………………

    Cheezum said 99.7 percent of the 52 million people who receive traditional Social Security or supplemental benefits get accurate monthly checks.

    [original release] © 2001 The Washington Post Company

    --Ron Cooley

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  • Barnhart Testifies On Social Security Cards And Immigrants

    There have been many calls for dramatic tightening up of the requirements for issuance of Social Security numbers and Social Security cards as a means for controlling illegal immigration. There have even been calls for issuing new Social Security numbers to all Americans. Social Security Commissioner Jo Anne Barnhart testified on July 26 to the House Ways and Means Committee on the problems associated with some of these proposals. After noting but not detailing that SSA already has budget problems, she said the following:
    Currently, each year staff of the agency devotes approximately 3,300 work years of effort to the SSN card issuance process. Because of the need to interview everyone receiving a new card, and examine original documents, last year’s estimate indicates that we would need an additional 67,000 work years to issue everyone a new card. This would require hiring approximately 34,000 new employees if we were required to complete the work within two years and 14,000 new employees to complete the work in five years. As noted, this estimate assumes replacing cards for 240 million individuals, which the Administration has not proposed. An approach that would mandate new tamper resistant cards to be issued only during the normal course of initial issuance and reissuance would involve significantly less additional costs. For a phased approach that limited new cards to only the approximately 30 million people who change jobs at least once during a year and the additional five million young people reaching age 14, the cost would be approximately $1.5 billion per year, using last years cost numbers.

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  • Anti-Assignment Interpretation On LTD Offset Collection

    There have been issues with some corporations and individuals representing Social Security claimants at the behest of insurance companies administering Long Term Disability (LTD) plans that pay disability benefits subject to offset for Social Security disability benefits. Many of these representers have engaged in various schemes to help the LTD insurers collect their offset out of the claimants' back benefits. Some of these schemes have been held to violate the anit-assignment provision of the Social Security Act. This is an excerpt from a change that was just posted to Social Security's Program Operations Manual Series (POMS) that points the way to a method to which SSA will not object:
    A company that is paying long-term disability (LTD) benefits to a claimant requires the claimant to file for Social Security benefits. If the claim is allowed, the LTD benefit amount is offset by the amount of Social Security benefits received. As an incentive to induce the LTD insurer to refer claimants, a claimant’s representative offers to assist the insurer with recovering the overpayment made by the insurer to the claimant. The representative does not charge the claimant a fee for this service. The representative also makes it clear to the claimant that the claimant may pay the LTD directly and does not have to pay the LTD through the representative.

    A company that is paying long-term disability (LTD) benefits to a claimant requires the claimant to file for Social Security benefits. If the claim is allowed, the LTD benefit amount is offset by the amount of Social Security benefits received. As an incentive to induce the LTD insurer to refer claimants, a claimant’s representative offers to assist the insurer with recovering the overpayment made by the insurer to the claimant. The representative does not charge the claimant a fee for this service. The representative also makes it clear to the claimant that the claimant may pay the LTD directly and does not have to pay the LTD through the representative.

    At the representative’s request, the claimant grants the representative pre-authorization to withdraw funds from the claimant’s bank account if SSA allows the claim and awards the claimant past-due benefits. AFTER the past-due benefits are deposited into the claimant’s (now an SSA beneficiary) account, the representative gets oral authorization (in addition to the pre-authorization) to transfer those funds to the LTD insurer to satisfy the LTD overpayment. The representative also documents the oral authorization.

    This arrangement is not contrary to Section 207’s prohibition against assignment. The beneficiary is exercising control over the past-due benefits deposited into his account before the funds are transferred, and the beneficiary understands that he could have elected to pay the LTD directly. The representative is not getting a fee from the beneficiary and only gets a pre-authorization to transfer funds from the beneficiary’s account in order to satisfy an obligation to a third party (i.e., the overpayment of LTD benefits). The representative also gets an oral authorization AFTER the social security money is deposited into the beneficiary’s account.

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  • Jul 27, 2006

    Two District Courts Rule Deficit Reduction Act Constitutional

    The Hill reports that two U.S. District Courts have ruled that the Deficit Reduction Act was constitutionally passed by Congress. The Act has been challenged on the grounds that the versions passed by the two Houses of Congress were not identical. The Deficit Reduction Act contains provisions affecting Social Security, most prominently provisions concerning the payment of back SSI benefits. Judge Richard Berman in the Southern District of NY ruled the act was constitutional. This decision is on appeal to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. Judge Frank Damrell in the Eastern District of California has made a similar ruling which may not be appealed, largely because the constitutional issue is peripheral to that lawsuit. Several similar lawsuits are pending in other Districts.
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  • Testimony on SSA's Role In Illegal Immigration

    Martin Gerry, SSA's Deputy Commissioner, Office of Disability and Income Security Programs testified before the House Government Reform Committee on July 25 concerning SSA's role in illegal immigration. His testimony included the following refutation of an urban legend:

    I would like to address several misconceptions surrounding SSNs and the composition of the ESF [earnings suspense file]. First is the notion that SSA has assigned the SSN 000-00-0000 to hundreds of thousands of workers. In reality, Social Security has never assigned a social security number consisting of all zeroes to any person. 000-00-0000 is not a valid SSN and Social Security does not verify an all zero SSN.

    Second, many people believe that the use of all zero SSNs is growing. Actually, wage reports with all zero SSNs have declined dramatically over the past 20 years. For example, for Tax Year 1984 Social Security has approximately one million reports with an all zero SSN, remaining in the ESF, In contrast, for Tax Year 2003, Social Security has approximately 200,000 reports with an all zero SSN in the ESF.

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  • Jul 26, 2006

    Chief FEDRO Job Announcement

    With the Federal Reviewing Official (FEDRO) set to start in less than a week Social Security has finally posted a job announcement for a Chief Federal Reviewing Official.
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  • Ticket to Work Meeting

    The Ticket to Work and Work Incentives Advisory Panel has scheduleded a meeting in Arlington, VA for August 16-18, 2006.
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  • Jul 25, 2006

    SSA To Keep Attorney Fee Database And Issue 1099s

    The Social Security Administration has announced that it is establishing a database of attorneys and what it is now calling "EDPNA", Eligible Direct Pay Non-Attorney, to keep records of fees paid by Social Security for representing claimants. Attorneys and "EDPNA" will have to submit their Social Security Numbers or Employer Identification Numbers (EIN) to get paid. SSA will start issuing 1099s to attorneys and "EDPNA." The notice also suggests that this database would allow SSA to collect debts owed the federal government by seizing fees. It is unclear when this will begin or how attorneys and "EDPNA" would sign up. Probably, attorneys and "EDPNA" will have to submit some form for each case giving their SSN or EIN.
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  • Jul 24, 2006

    FEDRO Jobs Posted

    Social Security has posted what is described as "� few vacancies" for G.S. 13 Management Analysts with the Office of the Federal Reviewing Officer.
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  • Jul 23, 2006

    International Update

    Social Security's Office of Policy has released its International Update, giving information about Social Security developments in other countries.
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  • Jul 22, 2006

    DSI New Decisional Software

    Some excerpts from the minutes of recent Executive Committee meetings of the National Council of Social Security Management Associations (NCSSMA) (emphasis added):
    The DDS’s will have new software that will walk them through the decision making process [under DSI] to improve accuracy and consistency. They believe that the cases will initially take them longer due to the learning curve of the new software. It will probably not take less time but will standardize and upgrade the quality of the product...

    Now the first appeal level is the federal reviewing officials (FEDRO) that will be centralized in Falls Church, VA. ... This level of appeal is expected to take the same amount of time as a reconsideration takes now. However, due to the quality of the decision making using the new software, the expectation is that allowance will be identified sooner keeping some cases out of ODAR (formally [sic] OHA). If the FEDRO disagrees with anything that the DDS documented, they have to document point by point what the changes are. The changes will be sent to the DDS so that they can see where issues are being overturned...

    The judges have to follow the same process using similar software as DDS and the FEDRO.
    There have been indications all along that Social Security intended to use some new software for the DSI experiment. It was unclear though whether this was merely sofware designed to keep track of cases or whether it was more substantive, software that would potentially have an effect upon how the case was decided. The material above makes it fairly clear that this new software is substantive. This raises at least a couple of issues. First, will it work? SSA has a history of trying to implement software that did not work and had to be abandoned. If that happens, DSI is likely to die quickly. Second, to what extent will the new software influence the outcome by making it harder for ROs and ALJs to overturn prior decisions? It sounds from the description above that this is the intended result. At the initial level all that DDS must do is to make a decision. At the RO or ALJ level, there must be "point by point" documentation to justify overturning the prior decision. This could easily make the ALJ hearing something other than a de novo proceeding.

    This also adds a new abbreviation -- FEDRO. That name makes anyone who has traveled much on I-95 think of South of the Border.
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  • SSA To Contract Out Fraud Investigation

    Social Security has announced its intention to contract out fraud investigation to the Cook County, IL Sheriff's Department. The announcement makes it clear that SSA expects the Sheriff's Department to make arrests.
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  • Jul 21, 2006

    Disabled Veterans Not Applying for Social Security Disability Benefits?

    The Congressional Budget Office reports that only 15% of those who receive Veterans' Disability benefits are also receiving Social Security disability benefits. It is unclear how many of these disabled veterans should be receiving Social Security disability benefits. Most of those on VA benefits receive only partial disability benefits, such as 10% or 20%, while Social Security disability benefits are either 100% or nothing. Also, many of the veterans are beyond Social Security's full retirement age and can no longer be eligible for Social Security disability benefits.
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  • Eileen Sweeney Passes

    This month's newsletter from the National Organization of Social Security Claimants Representatives (NOSSCR), the Social Security Forum, contains the depressing news that Eileen Sweeney passed away on June 13, 2006. Eileen had been an incredibly effective advocate for Social Security claimants. She had been a mainstay of the National Senior Citizens Law Center and later played a key role at the Children's Defense Fund and the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. She will be greatly missed.
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  • SSA Gives Awards

    The Dover Post reports that Jo Anne Barnhart, Commissioner of Social Security, visited Delaware, her home state, this week and handed out Social Security's Public Service Awards to Ruth Anne Beideman and April Willey for helping advise seniors on the Medicare Prescription Drug benefit. A local Social Security manager handed out the same award, for much the same reason in Pennsylvania to Anne Rappaport and Joe Giebus according to the Times Leader.
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  • An Unknown Hero And A Pariah

    For several years Social Security has been working on straightening out what it refers to the Special Disability Workload (SDW), a complicated mess affecting benefit payments to tens of thousands of disabled individuals, many of whom were badly underpaid. What has not been revealed to the public was how this came to light. The Los Angeles Times reports on Ronald Cooley, the Social Security employee who found the problem, or set of problems, and forced the agency to begin the process of making things right. Cooley has been recognized already for his achievement, with $45,000 of cash rewards. Social Security Commissioner Barnhard has recommended him for $32,000 more, but the Office of Personnel Management is blocking the payment -- prompting Cooley to sue, but that is not his only problem. Cooley reports that he is now regarded as a pariah by many at Social Security. The L.A. Times quotes Cooley as saying:
    Social Security officials have made it very clear that they don't want to hear any more from me about agency mistakes ... When I bring up new groups of severely underpaid — and in some cases severely overpaid — beneficiaries, they ignore or dismiss my information. I have definitely been frozen out.

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  • Jul 14, 2006

    Skwierczynski Speaks

    From an AFGE press release:
    Witold Skwierczynski, the American Federation of Government Employees' (AFGE) National Council of Social Security Field Operations Locals President, will appear on AFGE’s new radio program on Friday, July 14 at 10 a.m. EDT on www.federalnewsradio.com and 1050 AM in the Washington, D.C., area.

    “Inside Government” is a one-hour weekly nationwide radio/Internet program dedicated to issues that impact all federal employees.
    Skwierczynski is a keen observer of developments within the Social Security Administration, who speaks bluntly. The possibility of furloughs of SSA personnel is certain to come up during this show.
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  • 36 Applicants to Take NC Social Security Specialization Exam

    The NC State Bar is the first in the nation to offer an examination process by which attorneys may become board certified specialists in Social Security Disability Law. (Tennessee accepts the certification of the National Board of Trial Advocacy which has just started offering a similar certification on a national basis -- a certification that most state bars do not accept.) The deadline to apply to take the NC exam was June 30. Thirty-six NC attorneys have applied to take the exam this year. This high degree of interest is likely to spur other states to offer this specialty.
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  • Fugitive Felon

    The Baxter Bulletin has a story on Albert Roy, who found himself in desperate staits after he was discovered to be a "fugitive felon" and suffered a cutoff of Social Security disability benefits. Fortunately, Roy's neighbors helped him over a difficult time until the State of Texas dismissed an old charge, that apparently was never a felony to begin with.
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  • SSA Not The Only Agency With Disability Adjudication Backlogs

    The Army Times reports on growing backlogs at the Court of Veterans Appeals, which deals primarily with Veterans Disability Benefits appeals. The backlog has more than doubled in the last two years to 5,800. It is now taking a year for a case to go through the Court.
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  • Jul 13, 2006

    Monthly Social Security Stats

    Social Security has released its monthly statistical packages for Title II and Title XVI of the Social Security Act.
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  • Fee Payments Up in June

    Payments of fees to attorneys and others for representing claimants before SSA were up 19% in June over May 2006 and up 46% over June 2005, according to a report on a Social Security website. Below are the numbers for 2006.

    Fee Payments

    Month/Year Volume Amount
    Jan-06
    18,752
    $64,848,326.02
    Feb-06
    20,426
    $70,312.586.15
    Mar-06
    26,227
    $91,045,934.83
    Apr-06
    23,042
    $79,714,961.76
    May-06
    23,581
    $82,015,869.29
    June-06
    27,771
    $97,085,724.60
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  • Jul 12, 2006

    SSA May Require Attorneys To Use On-Line Filing

    According to a letter from the National Council of Social Security Management Associations (NCSSMA), an association of Social Security management personnel, Social Security is considering a proposal to require what is described as "large, for-profit third party filers", which would be lawyers representing Social Security claimants, to use Social Security's electronic form 3368, a lengthy form required for disability benefits claims. Social Security is having trouble persuading lawyers or claimants to use the on-line form voluntarily, largely because the form is not considered user-friendly. NCSSMA strongly supports making the online form mandatory.
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  • Jul 11, 2006

    SSAB Meeting Agenda

    The Social Security Advisory Board (SSAB) has released the following agenda for its meeting on July 12, 2006:

    1:45 p.m. - 3:30 p.m. SSA e-gov initiatives; Assistant Deputy Commissioner for Communications,

    Phil Gambino;Associate Commissioner for Electronic Services, Jo Armstrong

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  • Already Behind?

    The Disability Service Improvement plan begins on August 1. The most important element of this plan is the Reviewing Official (RO) position. There is an unconfirmed report that the first ROs will start work on August 7 and will then begin a two month training period. If this is true, it means that once the ROs finish training and start their actual jobs they will be greeted by a large backlog. There has been concern from the beginning that the RO position will dramatically reduce the backlog of claimants waiting for ALJ hearings, by creating a huge backlog of claimants waiting for RO review.
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  • Jul 10, 2006

    SSAB To Hold "Public Discussion" on July 19

    The Social Security Advisory Board (SSAB) has scheduled a "public discussion" on July 19 in Washington on the U.S. disability "system". The Board's press release says that it has been looking at recommendations for a new "system" that "maximizes economic self-sufficiency at a reasonable standard of living." The press release talks at some length about aspects of a "system" which seems completely geared towards encouraging disabled people to return to work, which may be much more controversial in practice than it sounds. A similar approach is taken by insurance companies administering long term disability insurance plans -- and the encouragement to return to work often takes the form of terminating benefits. What may be a similar plan in Britain is predicted to throw one million people off their Social Security disability benefit program.
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  • Jul 9, 2006

    Martin Gerry To Speak At ADA Conference

    Martin Gerry, who is, in effect, the number two man at Social Security, will be speaking on July 26 at the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) Town Hall Meeting in Washington, sponsored by the National Council on Disability.
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  • Jul 8, 2006

    Fraud in Jacksonville

    WPMI reports that in separate cases two Jacksonville, FL women have been charged with fraud for cashing the Social Security checks of their deceased mothers.
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  • Jul 7, 2006

    Britain To Throw One Million Off Social Security Disability Benefits

    From The Guardian:
    Radical changes to the social security system aimed at saving billions of pounds in incapacity and housing benefit payments were announced yesterday by John Hutton, the work and pensions secretary.

    The government's welfare reform bill, published yesterday, aims to take 1 million of the 2.7 million claimants off incapacity benefit by replacing it with a new two-tier employment allowance to encourage people back to work. Higher rates will be paid to those who genuinely cannot work, lower rates to those refusing to be reassessed for a job.

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  • Jul 6, 2006

    All It Would Take Would Be 60 Republican Senators

    Major Republican party strategist Grover Norquist speaking at a meeting last week:
    I believe that when there are 60 Republican senators we will move Social Security from the present Ponzi scheme to a fully funded, individually held system.
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  • Disability Specialist, Inc.

    The Timberjay News reports on Disability Specialists, Inc., a Minnesota non-attorney group that represents Social Security claimants. In 18 years the firm has grown from a closet in Tom Ehrbright's house to a business that now employs 18 people.
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  • Jul 5, 2006

    Collecting Overpayments From Federal Salaries

    Social Security has adopted new regulations on collecting overpayments made to federal employees by offsetting the employees' salaries.
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  • Jul 4, 2006

    Additional CLE

    August 1, 2006, Massachusetts Legal Services CLE, Boston, MA
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  • Interesting Database Online

    Maximus, the prime contractor for the Ticket to Work Program, has an interesting database service available online. With the service, you can see exactly how many Social Security disability benefits recipients there are per zip code per diagnostic category.
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  • Jul 3, 2006

    Delays in Child Support and Alimony Checks

    Social Security has issued an emergency message stating that 23,000 child support and alimony checks that were supposed to have been released today (July 3) have been delayed. They should now be received by July 12. Child support and alimony can be paid out of Social Security benefits under court orders.
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  • Upcoming Meetings and CLE

    If you know of others, please e-mail me.
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