Aug 31, 2006
Aug 30, 2006
The latest trustees report (2006) indicates that the DI Trust Fund is projected under the trustees intermediate assumptions to remain solvent until 2025, during which year the trust fund is projected to become exhausted. If these assumptions are realized, and there is no Congressional action between now and 2025, monthly benefits scheduled in the law would no longer be payable in full on a timely basis after the exhaustion of the trust fund assets. However, even in this case, continuing tax income for the program would be sufficient to pay 82 percent of scheduled benefits for the remainder of 2025. Due to projected further increases in the cost of the program above the expected tax income, the percentage of scheduled benefits that would be payable would decline very gradually, reaching 75 percent for 2080.
Aug 29, 2006
Jim Burkert reported that the Commissioner and Linda spoke at the dedication of the new Auburn WA teleservice center. There were managers in attendance from all over the region. The Commissioner stated that for every $100 million we lose in budget, it’s an extra 5 days of furlough per employee. The funding level recommended by the Senate Appropriations Committee looks like it would result in a 10-day furlough. The Commissioner also stated that the entire Agency would be furloughed at one time and mentioned the possibly of closing all offices (1) day a month rather than a straight 10-day furlough. This would allow the Agency to save on heat, guard service, etc. She stated that the Agency can’t cut everything else just to avoid furloughs. The Agency will look very closely at what makes the best sense to cut.
The Commissioner also talked about conducting a pilot to close 30 offices (1) day a week. The purpose is to determine if the Agency gains productivity by enabling offices uninterrupted time to process work.
Aug 28, 2006
There was a report at one time that Barnhart hoped for another term as Commissioner. It is unclear whether she still is interested or if the President is interested. Barnhart's support for the President's Social Security "reform" proposal was half-hearted at best.
It is unclear whether Barnhart, or anyone else appointed by President Bush, could be confirmed as Commissioner. The Commissioner has a six year term. This takes the next Commissioner through the entire term of the next president. Democrats may wish to prevent anyone appointed by Bush from being confirmed so that the next president can appoint his or her own man or woman to the job. There is an easy pretext for blocking confirmation. It seems obvious that Bush will appoint someone who supports his ideas for Social Security "reform", which Democrats call privatization. Even Barnhart publically supported Bush's plan to some extent. Although the Commissioner of Social Security has little role in this debate -- and, indeed, the debate is over for all practical purposes -- Democrats can easily seize upon this as grounds for refusing to confirm someone appointed by Bush.
Regardless of whom the President nominates for Commissioner of Social Security, there will be an Acting Commissioner after January 19, 2007 for a period of at least a few months in 2007, since it will take that long for the Senate to act upon a nomination. That person could end up being Acting Commissioner for two years or more if no one appointed by President Bush can be confirmed as Commissioner.
Earlier this year, the President issued an order setting forth the following line of succession for Commissioner of Social Security:
Deputy Commissioner of Social Security (vacant)
Chief of Staff -- Larry Dye
Deputy Commissioner for Operations -- Linda McMahon
Regional Commissioner, Philadelphia -- Laurie Watkins
Regional Commissioner, Dallas -- Ramona Schuenemeyer
We may become very familiar with Mr. Dye next year, or maybe not, since he may not stay around Social Security if Barnhart leaves, or Bush could alter the succession order. Here is Dye's biography provided by NOSSCR:
Larry Dye, Chief of Staff, has worked in government and politics since 1971. His federal service includes more than 15 years on Capitol Hill. He has worked on both the House and Senate side of the Hill in a variety of capacities, including research assistant, executive assistant, professional committee staff, budget analyst and chief of staff. In the political realm, he has worked on a variety of campaigns. Larry is a sixth-generation Kentuckian and graduated from Centre College of Kentucky. He also was an Eagleton Fellow at Rutgers University before moving to Washington, D.C., to begin his first job at the Republican National Committee.The important thing about this is that Dye is not a career Social Security employee. He is a long time Republican operative.
Aug 25, 2006
Aug 24, 2006
Aug 23, 2006
Here is the portion of the Senate Appropriations Committee Report dealing with Social Security.
|Appropriations, 2006 1||$9,108,606,000|
|Budget estimate, 2007||9,494,000,000|
|1 Excludes $38,000,000 in emergency supplemental appropriations enacted pursuant to Public Law 109-234.|
The Senate Report includes the following language:
The Committee encourages SSA officials to educate adjudicators at all levels about the functional impact of CFS and the application of the April 1999 CFS ruling (99-2p) to ensure that adjudicators remain up to date on the evaluation of disability that results from this condition. The Committee encourages SSA to examine obstacles to benefits for persons with CFS and to keep medical information updated throughout all levels of the application and review process.
Aug 22, 2006
Jo Anne Barnhart, Commissioner of Social Security, sent the following letter to Senator Robert Byrd, the Ranking Minority Member of the Senate Appropriations Committee on July 19:
I am writing to express my concern about the impact the funding included for Social Security in the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies Appropriations bill will have on Social Security employees and service to the public. The subcommittee mark provides $9.093 billion to the Social Security Administration (SSA) for administrative expenses in Fiscal Year (FY) 2007. This represents a $401 million reduction from the President's FY 2007 request and is $54 million belowe the FY 2006 appropriation level.
This $401 million reduction means SSA would need to cut an additional 4,000 workyears beyond the budgeted 1 for 3 replacement level in FY 2006 and FY 2007. After implementing a staffing freeze and reducing overtime to minimum operating levels in SSA and the Disability Determination Services, achieving a $401 million reduction would require employee furloughs of approximately 10 days Agency-wide.
Without this funding, SSA will reduce the number of continuing disability reviews (CDRs) processed by 486,000 from a planned level of 597,000 to 111,000. CDRs save $10 for every $1 spent administering them, so this reduction would result in a significant increase in Federal spending.
SSA's administrative expenses are used to pay for the people needed to do the work, so fewer resources mean fewer people to serve the public in all areas of SSA's operations. Because these budget reductions will affect all employees, they will result in major service disruptions across all workloads. These include delays in the public's ability to file for retirement or disability benefits, apply for a replacement SSN card, reach a representative on our 800-number or obtain decisions on pending disability claims and appeals.
I appreciate the support you and Congress have given SSA in the past. However, as Commissioner of Social Security, I believe it is my responsibility to inform you that this reduction is too large and will result in furloughs and service reductions. Once again, I hope I can count on your support for the President's request for SSA. Please do not desitate to contact me or have your staff contact Mr. Dale Sopper, Deputy Commissioner for Budget, Finance and Management at (410) 965-2914.
Jo Anne B. Barnhart
Aug 21, 2006
September 1998 65,629
September 1999 63,957
September 2000 64,521
September 2001 65,377
September 2002 64,648
September 2003 64,903
September 2004 65,238
March, 2006 64,297
Aug 20, 2006
Provides expert medical policy, procedural, and technical advice and guidance to DDSs, ROs, ALJs, the DRB, OQP and the national network of experts affiliated with the OMVE on the most complex issues encountered in making the determination or decision in a disability claim. This technical advice and guidance includes confirming what medical, psychological and vocational expertise is needed as well as verifying the need for additional medical or lay evidence, tests, or a consultative examination. Verifies that the request is in accordance with disability law, regulations, and policy.
Serves as a medical program expert and technical authority by providing technical advice on medical disability program issues, concerns, initiatives and requirements. Provides oral and written reports and conducts briefings on behalf of the Director to other SSA central office and regional components.
Provides expert medical advice and guidance for cases with multiple impairments to the DDSs, ROs, ALJs, DRB, OQP and the national network of medical and vocational experts.
This job description does not suggest that the Nurse Case Managers will have any direct contact with claimants, but it does suggest that the Nurse Case Managers may play something of an advocate's role in the process. They could be present at ALJ hearings, by video, to explain why the prior decision denying the claim was right. Still, the job description raises as many questions as it answers.
There is a worrisome history behind the idea of "case management" in the Social Security disability programs. The first recommendation that Social Security ought to have case managers that I can find came from Patricia Owens, formerly head of the Office of Disability Operations at Social Security and more recently an advisor to UNUM, the nation's largest Long Term Disability (LTD) insurer. She was pushing "case management" in 1999 in testimony to the House Social Security Subcommittee and she clearly had in mind people who would find a way to get claimants back to work, or at least off Social Security disability benefits.
The General Accounting Office, now the Government Accountability Office (GAO), picked up on this. The GAO testified, approvingly, in 2000 to the House Social Security Subcommittee about the practices of private long term disability insurance companies who were using nurse claim managers, among other personnel, to "encourage" recipients of long term disability (LTD) benefits under employee pension plans or under private insurance plans to return to work. GAO rehashed much the same subject in an early 2001 report. In 2002, in a report on disability determination at both Social Security and VA, GAO again urged "case management." None of the GAO reports acknowledged that the return to work "encouragement" was often perceived by the LTD recipients as harrassment aimed at lowering resistance to termination of benefits or that, in general, the insurance companies' handling of LTD claims has been extremely controversial in recent years.
Aug 19, 2006
Aug 18, 2006
To ensure more secure retirement for all Americans we've got more work to do. We must also prepare for the impact of the baby boomer generation's retirement, and what that impact will have on federal entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare. As more baby boomers stop contributing payroll taxes and start collecting benefits -- people like me -- it will create an enormous strain on our programs. Entitlement programs are projected to grow faster than the economy, faster than the population and faster than the rate of inflation. If we fail to act, spending on Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid will be almost 60 percent of the entire federal budget in the year 2030. And that's going to leave future generations with impossible choices: staggering tax increases, immense deficits or deep cuts in benefits.
We have an obligation to confront this problem now. The Secretary of Treasury understands what I'm telling the Congress: Now is the time to move; now is the time to do our duty. I'm going to continue to work with the Congress and call on the Congress to work with the administration to reform these programs so we can ensure a secure retirement for all Americans.
Aug 17, 2006
Aug 16, 2006
Much of her career appears to have been shaped by her service to [former Republican Senator from Delaware] Roth, a former Senate Finance Committee chairman, for whom she worked off and on in several capacities since shortly after graduating from the University of Delaware in 1975.
Through the course of five Roth re-election campaigns and various stints on Roth's Senate staff, she developed into a fiercely protective senior adviser to the veteran lawmaker. She served him much as presidential counselor Karen Hughes serves President Bush, as chief spokesman and gatekeeper as well as a top tactician and alter-ego.
"She was intensely loyal to Roth and fiercely committed to [his] cause," said Brian Selander, press secretary to Delaware Democrat Thomas R. Carper, who defeated Roth last year in his bid for a sixth term at age 79.
Celia Cohen, a political writer who has covered Delaware politics for 20 years, called Barnhart "relentless."
The Roth campaign "was known as 'The Thrasher' because they just ground [rival candidates] up," said Cohen. "Jo Anne is very much a control person - nothing escaped her notice."
During the 1988 campaign, Cohen said, Barnhart was nine months pregnant with her son, Niles, and on the campaign trail full time. She left on a Friday, Cohen recalled, gave birth over the weekend and was in campaign headquarters directing traffic - with a days-old infant at her side - by Tuesday.
Aug 15, 2006
Aug 14, 2006
Aug 13, 2006
Aug 12, 2006
Aug 11, 2006
Social security benefits and supplemental security income:
Determinations or decisions; administrative review requests; additional options
Aug 10, 2006
The Bush administration has begun sounding out lawmakers and other key figures about mounting a new bipartisan effort to rein in the costs of Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security after the midterm elections, according to officials in the administration and on Capitol Hill.The Post reports that Bush "appears fixated on the issue."
However, Grover Norquist, a Republican strategist has a different view. He:
... said he can envision no circumstance in which Bush could secure any overhaul of the Social Security program, including creating personal accounts. "The Democrats cannot be bribed, cajoled or threatened into voting for Social Security reform -- it can't happen," he said.
Current regulations at 20 CFR 404.906 and 416.1406 authorize us to test, individually, or in any combination, different modifications to thedisability determination procedures. We have conducted several tests under the authority of these rules, including a prototype that incorporates a number of modifications to the disability determination procedures that the DDSs use. The prototype included three redesign features, and we previously extended the tests of two of those features: the use of a single decisionmaker, in which a disability examiner may make the initial disability determination in most cases without requiring the signature of a medical consultant; and elimination of the reconsideration level of review. We are extending the testing of the two redesign features of the disability prototype.
We also have conducted another test involving the use of a single decisionmaker who may make the initial disability determination in most cases without requiring the signature of a medical consultant. We are extending the period during which we will select cases to be included in this test of the single decisionmaker feature in the following DDSs: West Virginia, Florida, Kentucky, North Carolina, Kansas, Nevada, Guam, and Washington. We are not extending this test in the Maine and Vermont DDSs due to the publication of the final rule change to 20 CFR 404.1527(f)(1). The rule change goes into effect on August 1, 2006 in the Boston Region only.
Aug 9, 2006
In conducting a blog search on the web, I noticed that you initiated one on our new Electronic Records Express initiative. As the lead for marketing on this initiative, I wanted to let you know that the Electronic Records Express website is up now, the website is www.socialsecurity.gov/ere. I thought you might want to update the blog with this information. If you need any additional information please contact me.
Thank you for your support.
Social Insurance Specialist
Social Security Administration
Phone (410) 966-0439
Fax (410) 966-4871
Aug 8, 2006
Social security rulings and acquiescence rulings:Disability claims; consideration of opinions and other evidence from non-acceptable medical sources
Aug 7, 2006
Aug 6, 2006
Aug 5, 2006
Aug 4, 2006
Each of these current listings, except current listing 14.09D [for AIDS], also requires you to have all four of the constitutional symptoms or signs: Severe fatigue, fever, malaise, and involuntary weight loss. We propose to revise this requirement to ‘‘at least two’’ of the constitutional symptoms or signs instead of all four, because we believe that the requirement in the current listing is too severe.The proposal continues the trend of making the Listing preambles longer and longer. If current trends continue, the Listings will eventually be well over a hundred pages in length. An example of the padding of the Listing preambles occurs in the discussion of the AIDS Listing, which would be amended by the NPRM to include the following language that is already more appropriately included elsewhere in the Regulations:
Your symptoms, including pain, fatigue, and malaise, may be important factors in our determination whether your immune system disorder(s) meets or medically equals a listing or in our determination whether you are otherwise able to work. In order for us to consider your symptoms, you must have medical signs or laboratory findings showing the existence of a medically determinable impairment(s) that could reasonably be expected to produce the symptoms.
Aug 3, 2006
• August 1, 2006: DSI begins.The Newsletter provides the following information about staffing and training for DSI:
• Early September 2006: Initial cadre of FedROs are ready to accept cases; the Medical and Vocational Expert System (MVES) is ready to accept cases.
• Early December 2006: ODAR hearing offices and the Decision Review Board (DRB) are ready to accept cases.
• Early 2007: Cases start arriving at hearing offices and DRB in larger numbers.
SSA is hiring 70 FedROs; about 15-20 support staff; and 7 supervisory ROs, who will all be located in Falls Church, VA, at ODAR headquarters to facilitate close monitoring during the initial DSI implementation. Eventually, they may be located in other areas of the country. To distinguish the FedROs from the ALJ hearing process, there is a separate ODAR Associate Commissioner for FedROs. The current Acting Associate Commissioner is Jim Winn. FedROs will receive eight weeks of training, starting in August; support staff will receive two weeks.The Newsletter reveals that SSA plans to tell the claimant and their attorney in an acknowledgment letter the name and contact information for the Federal Reviewing Officer assigned to the case.
The Newsletter contains news about the Medical Vocational Expert System and the Nurse Case Managers it will employ:
The Medical and Vocational Expert System—MVES – will be the new way that medical and vocational expertise is sought by adjudicators. As explained by Martin Gerry, the FedRO “may” obtain a medical expert (ME) or vocational expert (VE) for a case from the MVES. The FedRO is “required” to contact the MVES if new evidence is submitted or he or she intends to change the DDS decision. He stressed that the FedRO will “consult” with the MVES and is not required to follow the MVES expert’s opinion. ALJs who want an ME or VE will be required to go through the MVES.Despite the description of the duties of the Nurse Case Managers, I would suggest watching this carefully. The number of Nurse Case Managers being hired just for Region I, 90, plus the job title suggests that some additional duties are being planned for the Nurse Case Managers.
How will expert requests be handled? SSA provided this example. The FedRO gets case with new evidence. The FedRO contacts the MVES to “consult” and get medical advice. The case will be assigned to a nurse case manager (NCM), a new position. While most will be in units for different body systems, there will be some who can deal with multiple impairments. The NCM will identify the problem and then refer the case to an appropriate expert in the MVES. With the electronic folder, it will be easy for the expert to access the folder.
Who are the experts? Initially, doctors in the Federal DDS will form the core of the MVES. SSA is working with Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, MD, to provide the rest of the expertise. As examples of MEs who will be available nationally, Mr. Gerry mentioned specialists in autoimmune diseases, Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS), and claimants who are chronically homeless. For VEs, current lists will be used until national qualifications are established.
Who will conduct CEs? SSA is preparing a request for proposal to medical professionals in Region I, primarily in academic medical institutions, who will be paid the “going rate” to perform CEs. SSA understands the need for local access and is looking at these major medical institutions because they generally have clinical networks in a number of locations.
The Newsletter says that "SSA headquarters will provide the Field Offices with DSI instructions on August 1st, but a public version of instructions will not be available for one to two months."
Aug 2, 2006
Aug 1, 2006
- August 1, 2006, Massachusetts Legal Services CLE, Boston, MA
- August 4-5, Philadelphia Regional Management Association Annual Meeting, Williamsburg, VA
- August 9-11, 2006 8th Circuit Social Security CLE, Omaha, NE
- August 10-11, 2006 Retirement Research Consortium, Washington, DC
- August 16-18, 2006 Ticket to Work and Work Incentives Advisory Panel, Arlington, VA
- September 8, 2006 Louisiana State Bar CLE, New Orleans, LA
- September 8, 2006 SSI Coalitition Meeting, Boston, MA
- September 11-13, 2006 NADE Regional Training Conference, Jefferson City, MO
- September 16-21, 2006 National Association of Disability Examiners NADE), San Diego, CA
- September 21, 2006, Social Security Advisory Board Meeting, Washington, DC
- October 6-7, National Council of Social Security Management Associations (NCSSMA) Regional Meeting, Atlanta, GA
- October 11-14, 2006 National Organization of Social Security Claimants Representatives (NOSSCR) CLE, Phoenix, AZ
- October 16-19, 2006 NCSSMA National Meeting, Milwaukee, WI
- November 2-4 2006, NCSSMA Regional Meeting, San Juan, PR
- November 17, 2006 SSI Coalition Meeting, Boston, MA
- April 18-20 2007, NADE Regional Conference, Albuquerque, NM
- April 18-21 2007, NOSSCR CLE, Baltimore, MD
- May 7-10 2007, NADE Regional Conference, Atlanta, GA
- May 20-23, 2007, National Association of Disability Examiners Meeting, Stowe, VE
- October 17-20, 2007, NOSSCR CLE, St. Louis, MO
- April 8-11, 2008 NADE Regional Conference, Austin, TX