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Jun 30, 2007

Death Of Bill Bredenberg

]From the Florida Times-Union of Jacksonville:
Karl W. "Bill" Bredenberg, one of the founders of the Social Security Administration, died Tuesday at his Jacksonville home from multiple myeloma. He was 95.

Mr. Bredenberg served in some of the agency's top national posts. He oversaw implementation of Medicare in 1966 before coming to Jacksonville in 1970 to manage the Jacksonville office and be close to his family. ...

In an interview with the Times-Union when he retired in 1972, Mr. Bredenberg recalled there was strong resistance to the new federal program many saw as foreign to American traditions.

He recalled processing one of the first survivor claims under Social Security in 1940 from a death that occurred just a few minutes after benefits first became available.

Mr. Bredenberg served as manager of several district offices and was in charge of the New York-New Jersey region and later the Atlantic region covering the Southeast. Under the Department of Health, Education and Welfare, he was responsible for coordinating all Health, Education and Welfare activities across the nation.

He became deputy assistant commissioner for Social Security and played a key role in reorganizing the field force. With the advent of Medicare, Mr. Bredenberg set up a control center to monitor problems.

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  • Jun 29, 2007

    NTEU Comments On Association Of ALJs Lawsuit

    The ALJ Improvement Board contains the text of what appears to be an e-mail message sent by Jim Hill, the head of the National Treasury Employees Union local that represents many of Social Security's attorney advisers, to his members. The e-mail is in response to the lawsuit brought by the Association of Administrative Law Judges and two attorneys in private practice seeking to prevent implementation of the new register from which Administrative Law Judges (ALJs) can be hired. Many of the attorney advisers have applied for the ALJ positions.

    All I can say is that I find this painful to watch.

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  • Jun 28, 2007

    Virtual Hold At Social Security

    A press release:

    AKRON, Ohio, June 26 /PRNewswire/ -- Virtual Hold Technology(R), LLC (VHT), the leading developer of virtual queuing solutions, announced today that the Social Security Administration (SSA) will implement Virtual Hold in its customer contact centers. The SSA processes between 40 and 50 million calls per year from Americans who require information regarding retirement, disability and survivors benefits for workers and their families.

    (Logo: http://www.newscom.com/cgi-bin/prnh/20070619/CLTU033LOGO )

    When the number of incoming calls exceeds the number of available SSA representatives, customers today must remain on hold. After implementing Virtual Hold, SSA customers will be informed of the estimated hold time and will be given the choice to hang up, yet keep their place in line. The Virtual Hold system will automatically call them back when it's their turn to speak to an SSA representative. With this new service, the customer experience is greatly enhanced. Customers are no longer tied to a phone and wasting valuable time that can be more appropriately devoted to their personal and business lives. They are free to be productive and maintain their peace of mind that their place in the queue is secure.

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  • Jun 27, 2007

    Poll

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  • Poll

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  • Association Of ALJs Complaint

    I had posted earlier about the lawsuit filed by the Association of Admininstrative Law Judges (AALJ). I had not posted a copy of the complaint even though I had seen a copy of it that was floating around. I did not post it because it appeared that it might have been a draft that was never filed.

    Someone on the Association of Attorney Advisors Board has retrieved and posted the complaint off the Pacer system used in the federal courts. However, you will have to register to read it on that board. You can register ever if you are not a member of that organization.

    I have retrieved the document, extracted the text and posted it on the second blog that I established as a group blog. So far, I have only gotten one response indicating an interest in the group blog, so, for now, I will use it as a place to post lengthy documents. It is in very rough shape there. There are problems because the document has segments in it which, accidentally, replicate HTML language. It seems almost impossible to get all of this out and reformat it properly, so I have just left it very raw.

    The complaint does go into two subjects -- requiring current Administrative Law Judges (ALJs) to be fully licensed to practice law and the short notice given for applicants for the new register from which new ALJs will be hired. The point has been raised by others that the ALJ Association does not have standing to raise the issue about the application period for the new examination. However, the complaint has a couple of named plaintiffs who are not ALJs, but attorneys in private practice who did not find out about the application period in time to apply. They should not have a standing problem. There may be an issue of misjoinder, that is of two issues being raised by one lawsuit that are too disparate to be raised in one lawsuit, but that is a technical matter which would not defeat the case in and of itself. Joinder and misjoinder is an obscure byway of civil procedure with which I am unfamiliar.

    The bigger issue here is the wisdom of the ALJ Association bringing this lawsuit at all, especially the part of it having to do with the application period. The lawsuit may be causing dissension among ALJs. Although ALJs may have a point about being misled on the necessity of maintaining bar membership, for the vast majority of ALJs who are now merely inactive bar members, becoming active again should not be much of a problem -- get a little continuing legal education and fill out a state bar form. Those who allowed their bar membership to lapse completely were taking a chance that most lawyers would find astonishing. Few other than ALJs are sympathetic to any part of the lawsuit. I do not think anyone, especially current ALJs, wants to delay hiring more ALJs. This lawsuit does has the potential to cause delay.

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  • Jun 26, 2007

    Commisioner Makes Many Personnel Changes

    A memorandum that went out yesterday:
    Date: June 25, 2007 Refer To: S7K

    To: Senior Staff

    From: Michael J. Astrue /s/
    Commissioner

    Subject: Organizational Realignments and Related Executive Personnel Assignments - INFORMATION

    Let me begin with an update regarding the status of our 2008 appropriations. While one can always get last-minute surprises in Washington, it looks like we are in the best budget shape for next year that we have been in for a long time. The House appropriations funding level is $100 million over the President’s FY 2008 budget request and it appears that the Senate level will be $125 million over the President’s budget request. While we will probably have new costs to absorb, I am optimistic that most components will be able to stay at current staffing levels instead of managing more attrition. We should all be grateful to Dale Sopper, Bob Wilson and their staffs for their fine work on the appropriations bills.

    In my first four months as Commissioner, I have been heavily engaged in examining the 2006 disability regulations and related business processes, examining the hearings workloads and stepping up efforts to reduce the backlogs. These reviews have led to today’s organizational realignments which will let key offices focus on their primary mission activities and return some functions to more logical organizational homes.

    While I would ideally mention many individuals who have made great contributions to their organizations, I do want to offer my special thanks to Manny Vaz for his outstanding service as Acting Deputy Commissioner for Disability and Income Security Programs. He came into a challenging assignment on short notice, quickly made some important immediate decisions and provided thoughtful advice for moving the organization forward.

    Over the course of the next few weeks, the following organizational and leadership changes will become effective:

    The Regulations Staff will move from the Office of Disability and Income Security Programs to the Office of the Commissioner and will report to David Rust. Dean Landis, currently in the SES Candidate Development Program, will serve as the Acting Director.

    The Office of International Programs will move from the Office of Disability and Income Security Programs to the Office of the Commissioner and will report to Deputy Commissioner Andrew Biggs. Rogelio Gomez remains the Associate Commissioner for International Programs.

    Myrtle Habersham will move from the Office of the Chief Strategic Officer to be Senior Advisor to the Chief Information Officer. She will report to this assignment upon her return from the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight at the end of September 2007.

    We are currently in negotiation with and are confident that we will reach a successful outcome that will return Dalmer Hoskins to SSA as Chief Strategic Officer. Dalmer is currently Senior Policy Advisor at AARP and prior to that the Secretary General for the International Social Security Association.

    Laraine Williams will continue to serve as the Deputy Chief Strategic Officer; the strategic management function and staff remain and the organization will continue to report to the Office of the Commissioner.

    The competitive sourcing function and staff from the current Office of Competitive Sourcing will move to the Office of Budget, Finance and Management.

    The workforce analysis function and staff from the Office of Workforce Analysis will move to the Office of Quality Performance.

    Jacy Thurmond will move from Assistant Deputy Commissioner for Disability Adjudication and Review to Senior Advisor to Deputy Commissioner Andrew Biggs.

    Frank Smith has accepted a detail assignment as Acting Assistant Deputy Commissioner for Disability Adjudication and Review. While Frank is on assignment, Kristi Schmidt will serve as the Acting Regional Chief Counsel for OGC in Kansas City.

    Eileen McDaniel will be the Associate Commissioner for Management, Office of Disability Adjudication and Review.

    Pat Jonas will move from Assistant Deputy Commissioner for Disability and Income Security Programs to be Director of the National Hearing Center, ODAR.

    Marianna LaCanfora will move from Deputy Associate Commissioner for Public Service and Operations Support (Operations) to be Assistant Deputy Commissioner for Disability and Income Security Programs.

    Alan Lane will move from the Deputy Chief Quality Officer, Office of Quality Performance, to be Associate Commissioner for Income Security Programs, ODISP.

    Fritz Streckewald will move from Assistant Deputy Commissioner for Disability and Income Security Programs to be the Deputy Chief Quality Officer and Chair of the Immigration Reform Task Force.

    Pam Mazerski will move from Associate Commissioner for Program Development and Research, ODISP, to be Associate Commissioner for Quality Support, OQP. Richard Balkus, who has been the Acting Associate Commissioner for Disability and Income Assistance Policy, OP, will serve as Acting Associate Commissioner for Program Development and Research. Susan Wilschke will serve as Acting Associate Commissioner for Disability and Income Assistance Policy.

    Mary Chatel will report to the Associate Commissioner for Disability Programs and will be leading outreach activity, including quarterly public hearings in the area of compassionate allowances and listing improvements.

    David Morado has been appointed as the Regional Chief Counsel in OGC’s Seattle office. David joins the Agency from the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Seattle General Counsel’s office and brings a wealth of litigation experience to this assignment. Please join me in welcoming David to SSA.

    Web Phillips, Associate Commissioner for Legislative Development in the Office of Legislation and Congressional Affairs, has announced that he will retire July 3, 2007.
    Tom Parrott, currently in the SES Candidate Development Program, will serve as the
    Acting Associate Commissioner upon Web’s retirement.

    Linda Hill will move from Deputy Chief of Staff in the Office of the Commissioner to be Senior Advisor to the Deputy Commissioner for Legislation and Congressional Affairs.

    Upon Dale Sopper’s retirement August 3, Mary Glenn-Croft will be the Deputy Commissioner for Budget, Finance and Management.

    Roger McDonnell will move from Associate Commissioner for Public Service and Operations Support to Assistant Deputy Commissioner for Operations.

    Mark Blatchford will move from Associate Commissioner for Automation Support to Associate Commissioner for Public Service and Operations Support.

    Michelle King will serve as Acting Deputy Associate Commissioner for Public Service and Operations Support.

    Debbi Russell will move from the Office of Retirement and Survivors Insurance Systems (Systems) to be Associate Commissioner for Automation Support.
    Please remember in commenting upon this that the individuals changing jobs are career employees.

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  • Jun 25, 2007

    Want To Be A Blogger?

    I am starting a separate group blog for others interesting in blogging on Social Security issues. Read on if you might be interested in being one of the bloggers on this group blog.

    I have commented here about the relatively small number of blogs on the topic of Social Security. With over 50,000 employees at Social Security, perhaps 15,000 to 20,000 at the state disability determination agencies, 3,000 plus attorneys and non-attorneys actively engaged in representing Social Security claimants, and millions of Social Security claimants and beneficiaries, one might expect a more active Social Security blogging community. There is a message board for those who represent Social Security claimants and another message board for those interested in issues concerning Social Security's Administrative Law Judges and an online group for Social Security claimants, but these are far from covering the waterfront of those who are interested in Social Security topics.

    Perhaps, you have thought about blogging about Social Security, but did not think anyone would read what you had written. Perhaps you did not want to start a blog because you did not think you would be able to post on a regular basis. Perhaps, you just did not know where to start. A group blog helps with all of these problems.

    If you are interested, use the feedback button on the right side of this page to e-mail me. You can post under your own name or under a screen name. (Just do not post from your office if you are a Social Security employee.) I could use a number of bloggers for this group blog with differing backgrounds and viewpoints. After some minor formalities, I authorize you to post on the group blog. You then post what you want, when you want to post it.

    Remember, although I will not be posting on this group blog myself, I still own it. I can take down offensive posts and ban those who post them. In the end, on this group blog, I make the rules, I interpret the rules, I can change the rules whenever I want and I enforce the rules. There is no right of appeal. Of course, you can always start you own individual blog anytime you want and put up with essentially no rules.

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  • A Question

    My recollection is that some years ago there was a program by which the Office of Hearings and Appeals (OHA), as it was known then (and as I hope it will eventually be known again) had a program to pre-notify Social Security's payment centers when an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) was about to issue a decision approving a Social Security disability claim, so that implementation could begin even while the ALJ's office was still writing the decision.

    I was under the impression that pre-notification had been quietly dropped many years ago. At least I had seen no evidence that it still existed. However, today I received an attorney fee payment less than a week after I received a favorable decision from an ALJ -- and, no, there was no delay in my receiving the ALJ decision. Given the time frames involved in getting a check issued, I find it hard to believe that the ALJ decision could have been implemented that quickly unless there was pre-notification.

    Did the pre-notification of ALJ decisions never really end? Has it been re-implemented?

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  • Jun 24, 2007

    An Image From 1970

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  • Fraud In Blountville, TN

    The Tri-Cities Times News reports that William D. Pickel of Blountville, TN has pleaded guilty to one count of Social Security fraud. He had failed to report occasional employment as a truck driver and later as owner of a truck line while drawing Social Security disability benefits.

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  • Jun 23, 2007

    Social Security And Supported Employment

    From the San Antonio Express News:
    The Social Security Administration is sponsoring an important four-year study of supported employment to determine how to best assist those living with mental illness. ... Supported employment offers some close supervision and skill coaching to assist the individual in coping with work stress and demands, and the demands of the illness. ...

    The Mental Health Treatment Study extends an earlier pilot study in 1996 ...

    Based on this earlier success [what earlier success?], the government is further investigating the Individual Placement and Support Model in a larger national study. The IPS model involves providing job coaching (only two weeks of pre-employment training so individuals can begin working sooner), a rapid job search and an emphasis on mainstreaming individuals rather than referring them to "enclaves." ...

    The national study will include 22 sites this time instead of nine. From our site [in San Antonio], the study is recruiting 150 Social Security Disability Insurance beneficiaries who have mental illness; those already enrolled in supported employment cannot participate in the study.

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  • Jun 22, 2007

    Bad Day For Claimant: Legal Malpractice And A Possible Privacy Act Violation

    From a recent opinion published in Social Security's Program Operations Manual Series (POMS):
    The evidence provided indicates NH [Number Holder] reached a compromise settlement with his employer through the South Carolina Workers' Compensation Commission (SCWCC) in his workers' compensation case. NH was rated as having a 28% impairment to his spine. As part of the settlement, NH's employer agreed to pay NH a sum of $140,000. The parties agreed the sum would include attorney's fees and costs and $93,055.34 over NH's life expectancy of 57 years at the rate of $31.40 per week ...

    ... when a disability beneficiary receives a lump-sum settlement that is a commutation of, or substitute for, periodic workers' compensation benefits, the Act requires the Agency to prorate that lump-sum payment. Act § 224(b), 42 U.S.C. § 424a(b), 20 C.F.R. § 404.408(g). The Act instructs the Agency to prorate the lump-sum payment in a manner that "will approximate as nearly as practicable the reduction" that would have been applied had the beneficiary received his or her workers' compensation payments on a weekly or monthly basis. Id.. To accomplish this, the Agency must determine the amount of workers' compensation payments the beneficiary would have received weekly or monthly had he not opted for a lump-sum payment, prorate the lump-sum award using the prorated amount, and impose the statutorily prescribed offset accordingly. To guide Agency adjudicators, the longstanding policy in the POMS sets forth a three-tiered set of priorities for prorating state lump-sum workers' compensation awards at an established rate. In priority order, the Agency is to prorate the award at:

    1. The rate specified in the lump-sum award.

    2. The latest periodic rate paid prior to the lump-sum, if no rate is specified in the lump-sum award.

    3. The state's maximum workers' compensation in effect in the year of the injury/illness, if no rate is specified in the award and there was no preceding periodic benefit.

    POMS DI 52001.555(C)(4)(a). However, the Agency has for some time been aware that attorneys have seized upon the opportunity offered by these POMS instructions to insert artificially low rates in settlement agreements to lessen or perhaps avoid entirely the reduction that otherwise would be required by section 224 of the Act. While the Agency's long-standing interpretation of section 224 has been that the Act requires it to look to state law to determine what rate would have been paid had the workers' compensation been made on a periodic basis, see § 224(a)(b) of the Act, 42 U.S.C. § 424a(a)(b); 20 C.F.R. § 404.408(g) (2006), the Act still places the ultimate responsibility for determining the offset rate in the hands of the Commissioner. See B~ v. A~, 150 F.3d 177, 181-182 (2nd Cir. 1998). ...

    In the settlement, the parties state this weekly allocation rate is based on a life expectancy of 57 years which was determined pursuant to S.C. CODE ANN. § 19-1-150. However, in reviewing this statute, we find that the SCWCC erred in calculating NH's life expectancy. The proper application of S.C.CODE. ANN. § 19-1-150 reveals that a person of NH's age of 57 actually has a life expectancy of 23.10 years. See S. C. CODE ANN. § 19-1-150. Therefore, the SCWCC's life expectancy determination was incorrect in light of the South Carolina statute relied on by the parties. (emphasis added) ...

    The life expectancy determination by the SCWCC was incorrect. The Agency is not bound to follow the weekly allocation rate set forth in NH's settlement agreement as would be customary under step one of POMS DI52001.555(C)(4)(a).
    If you are following this, the attorney representing this claimant based the worker's compensation settlement upon a life expectancy of 57 years, but 57 was how old the claimant was. His life expectancy was actually 23.1 years.

    By the way, I will not repeat it here, but this opinion happens to list the actual name of the claimant. Only his Social Security number is redacted. It may not just the claimant's attorney who fouled up. I wonder if Social Security has some obligations under the Privacy Act in this case.

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  • Jun 21, 2007

    Statements To House Social Security Subcommittee On Identity Theft and SSNs

    Several of the written statements to the House Social Security Subcommittee for today's hearing on protecting the privacy of Social Security numbers from identity theft are now available online. The statement of Marc Rotenberg of the Electronic Privacy Information Center contains this interesting information:
    H.R. 948, the Social Security Number Protection Act of 2007, has passed before the Committee on Energy and Commerce and has been reported to the House. The purpose of H.R. 948 is to prohibit the display and purchase of Social Security numbers in interstate commerce pursuant to rules to be promulgated. ...

    Sections 3(a)(1) through (3)(a)(3) of H.R. 948 create a facially broad prohibition on the public display of Social Security numbers on the Internet, the requirement to use an individual’s Social Security number as a password for access to any goods or services, and the display of Social Security cards on any membership or identity card. However, Section 3(c) grants the Federal Trade Commission open-ended authority to promulgate exceptions to the prohibitions contained within the bill.

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  • Senate Finance Committee Written Statements

    The written statements for the Senate Finance Committee's hearing today barriers to work for Social Security disability recipients are now available online.

    The only witness whose written statement suggests a strong attachment to the delusion that some change in policy could return vast numbers of disability recipients to work was Dr. David Stapleton of the Cornell University Institute for Policy Research. Stapelton has been receiving a good deal of grant money from Social Security. Could considerations of his own self-interest have something to do with this paragraph at the close of his statement?
    I urge this Committee, all government leaders, and advocates for people with disabilities to support the design, testing, and eventual implementation of transformative disability policy changes – changes that will help people with disabilities achieve both greater economic self-sufficiency and more fulfilling lives. Within that framework, the highest priority should go to efforts that will reduce the premature exit of workers with disabilities from the labor force and
    into SSDI.
    I would like to read even one report or statement from one of these researchers that did not call for more research dollars to be funeled to them.

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  • Social Security Indendent On Budget

    An anonymous poster responded to something I had written to say that regulations of the Office of Management and Budget prohibit federal agency heads from lobbying for appropriations in excess of what is contained in the President's recommended budget. This is true and an important fact for agencies other than Social Security.

    However, the Social Security Administration is in a unique position. The Social Security Independence Act now only allows, but requires Social Security to submit its own budget request directly to Congress, which means that the Commissioner of Social Security is free to lobby Congress for whatever budget he feels that his agency needs. Indeed, if the Commissioner of Social Security is unwilling to do so, there is little point in the Social Security Administration being an independent agency.

    In refusing to advocate for his own agency's budget, Michael Astrue is making the case that the "independence" of the Social Security Administration is a sham and that in the next administration Social Security should either be returned to the Department of Health and Human Services or made a cabinet level department. Either of these would put Michael Astrue out of a job, which might not displease a newly elected Democratic president.

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  • Schumer And Barton Added As Witnesses For House Social Security Subcommittee Hearing

    Senator Charles Schumer and Congressman Ed Markey have been added as witnesses for today's House Social Security Subcommittee hearing on Social Security numbers and identity theft.

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  • Stem Cells And Social Security

    From the Associated Press:
    President Bush hasn't seen the last of legislation to allow federal funding for new embryonic stem cell

    Supporters are answering his veto with an effort Thursday to add to an appropriations bill permission to use taxpayer dollars for new lines of embryonic stem cells. ...

    The pushback was expected to begin Thursday. The Senate Appropriations Committee was to vote on a must-pass bill for the Labor and Health and Human Services departments that includes permission to use federal funding for embryonic stem cell lines derived after Bush in 2001 banned taxpayer dollars from being used on new studies of that kind.
    The Labor-HHS appropriations bill includes the Social Security Administration. This has the potential for delaying a new funding bill for Social Security.

    By the way, since when does the Associated Press' style manual permit contractions in a story -- and in the lead sentence, no less?

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  • Astrue Appearance On CSPAN

    I have receieved an anonymous tip about a recording of an appearance by Michael Astrue on C-SPAN. Here is a link to a streaming video. This was taped on June 14. I have not had a chance to watch it.

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  • Jun 20, 2007

    Congressional Three Ring Circus On Thursday

    There will be two Congressional hearings and one appropriations markup session affecting Social Security on Thursday, June 21. The hearings, but not the markup session, should be available in live streaming video. Here is the list:

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  • Disappointing Senate Appropriations Subcommittee Report

    From a press release issued by the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies Subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee:
    Social Security Administration (SSA) -- $9.7 billion is included for the administrative expenses of the SSA, $125 million over the President􀂶s budget request and $426.38 million more than FY 2007, to ensure that the backlog of disability claims will decrease, as opposed to increase as assumed under the budget request. Within the recommendation, $476.97 million is dedicated to program integrity activities, including disability reviews. SSA reviews current disability cases to ensure beneficiaries remain eligible for Social Security. As a result of those reviews, some beneficiaries are found to be no longer eligible for benefits - for example, their situation may have improved such that they could return to work. If so, there are savings to the Social Security trust funds and estimates show that for every dollar spent on these activities, SSA saves $7 for redeterminations of eligibility reviews and $10 for continuing disability reviews.
    We had been hoping for about $400 million over the President's recommended budget. Basically, this budget will do little more than keep things from getting worse. Michael Astrue seems to have been successful so far in his efforts to keep his agency's budget down.

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  • Witnesses For House Social Security Subcommittee Hearing

    The House Social Security Subcommittee has announced the following witness list for its hearing on June 21 on "Protecting the Privacy of the Social Security Number from Identity Theft":
    The Honorable Ed Markey, a Representative in Congress from the State of Massachusetts

    The Honorable Patrick O’Carroll, Inspector General, Social Security Administration

    Joel Winston, Director, Division of Privacy and Information Protection, Federal Trade Commission

    Dan Bertoni, Director, Education, Workforce, and Income Security, Government Accountability Office

    Justin Yurek, President, ID Watchdog, Denver, Colorado<

    Stuart Pratt, President, Consumer Data Industry Association

    James D. Gingerich, Director, Administrative Office of the Courts, Supreme Court of Arkansas, on behalf of the National Center for State Courts, Williamsburg, Virginia

    Annie I. Antón, Associate Professor of Software Engineering, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, North Carolina, on behalf of the Association for Computing Machinery

    Marc Rotenberg, Executive Director, Electronic Privacy Information Center

    Gilbert T. Schwartz, Partner, Schwartz & Ballen LLP, on behalf of the Financial Services Coordinating Council

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  • Amazing Claim

    From the Senior Journal:
    The immigration bill being debated by the Senate would allow over two million illegal workers who received Social Security numbers prior to 2004 to receive more than $966 billion in Social Security benefits by 2040, according to the TREA Senior Citizens League.
    How did they come up with that figure, which is almost half a million dollars per illegal immigrant? And how much will those illegal immigrants pay into the Social Security trust funds? There are probably many good reasons to support or oppose this immigration bill, but its effects on the Social Security trust funds is not one of them.

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  • Sacramento Woman Accused Of Fraud

    The Sacramento Bee reports that Valerie Jean Rogers has been charged with submitting false information to obtain almost $35,000 in Supplemental Security Income (SSI) over seven years.

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  • No HALLEX Update In A Year

    I do not know what this means, perhaps nothing, but Social Security's Hearings, Appeals and Litigation Law Manual, known as HALLEX has not been updated in more than a year. Actually, there was a trivial update in January 2007, but it was so minor that it is not even listed as an update. Perhaps, it is just a sign of a hiatus in policy development with Commissioner Barnhart heading out the door and Commissioner Astrue still trying to get up to speed.

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  • Ripoff Artists

    Take a look at this scam and this one. I will save some folks the money. Here is the same thing for free.

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  • Jun 19, 2007

    Another Field Office To Close

    Social Security is closing its Slidell, Lousiana field office, according to the New Orleans Times Picayune.

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  • Customer Service Report Card Coming For Social Security?

    From Government Executive magazine:

    Legislation that would prod government agencies to be more consumer-driven with an annual review was approved by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Tuesday.

    The measure (H.R. 404), approved on a voice vote, would establish a report card system to gauge customer service performance at each agency. Federal agency leaders would be responsible for gathering data using surveys and focus groups, which would then be submitted to and evaluated by the Government Accountability Office.

    The head of each federal agency would also have to appoint a customer service representative to implement standards and oversee progress, according to language in the bill.

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  • Listings Extended

    Today's Federal Register contains a notice from the Social Security Administration extending until July 1, 2008 the effective date of the Listings for eight body systems. Commissioner Astrue has indicated that he intends to work hard on the Listings, which may explain the short extension time.

    We are still awaiting the major changes in the mental impairment Listings promised recently by Glenn Sklar.

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  • Federal Times On Social Security Budget

    The Federal Times is reporting on the letter from 43 senators urging a bigger budget for Social Security. The letter was published here yesterday.

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  • Jun 18, 2007






    See the letter above signed by 43 Senators urging that Social Security's operating budget by about $400 million above the President's recommendation. The following is the list of Senators who signed, with members of the Appropriations Committee highlighted:

    Akaka (D-HI)

    Baucus (D-MT)

    Bayh (D-IN)

    Biden (D-DE)

    Bingaman (D-NM)

    Boxer (D-CA)

    Brown (D-OH)

    Cantwell (D-WA)

    Cardin (D-MD)

    Casey (D-PA)

    Clinton (D-NY)

    Coleman (R-MN)

    Collins (R-ME)

    Conrad (D-ND)

    Dodd (D-CT)

    Dole (R-NC)

    Dorgan (D-ND)

    Durbin (D-IL)

    Enzi (R-WY)

    Feingold (D-WI)

    Hagel (R-NE)

    Kennedy (D-MA)

    Kerry (D-MA)

    Kohl (D-WI)

    Levin (D-MI)

    Liberman (I-CT)

    Lincoln (D-AR)

    Menendez (D-NJ)

    Mikulski (D-MD)

    Nelson, Bill (D-FL)

    Obama (D-IL)

    Pryor (D-AR)

    Reed (D-RI)

    Rockefeller (D-WV)

    Salazar (D-CO)

    Schumer (D-NY)

    Smith (R-OR)

    Snowe (R-ME)

    Stabenow (D-MI)

    Tester (D-MT)

    Voinovich (R-OH)

    Whitehouse (D-RI)

    Wyden (D-OR)


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  • Witness List For Senate Finance Committee Hearing

    The Senate Finance Committee has announced the following witness list for its June 21 hearing on "Barriers to Work for Individuals Receiving Social Security Disability Benefits."

    Sue Suter, Associate Commissioner for Employment Support Programs, Social Security Administration, Baltimore, MD

    Allen Jensen, Senior Research Staff Scientist, Center for Health Services Research and Policy, The George Washington University, Washington, DC

    Dr. David C. Stapleton, Director, Cornell Center for Policy Research, Washington, DC

    Jim Brown, SSDI Beneficiary, Independent Advocate, Billings, MT

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  • Senate Appropriations Committee Schedules Markup Session

    The Senate Appropriations Committee has scheduled the full committee markup of the Labor-HHS appropriations bill for Thursday, June 21 at 2:00. This bill includes funding for Social Security's administrative budget.

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  • Fort Wayne Journal Gazette On Hearing Backlogs

    Eventually, there will be a story like this in every newspaper in America. Some excerpts from the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette:
    In nearly 30 years, Thomas Williams has worked in a hospital, an ice cream factory and a group home. With each paycheck, he’s paid into a government system that promises to help workers if they get too sick to hold a job.

    A degenerative back condition has put him in a wheelchair, unable to do the jobs he’s qualified for. But instead of paying his bills with money from monthly disability checks, Williams, 47, relies on food stamps, some help from the township trustee, a subsidized apartment and whatever his sister and sons can chip in.

    Since the summer of 2005, Williams has been waiting for the government to agree with his doctors’ assessment. His case hasn’t been scheduled for a hearing. ...

    Thousands of Hoosiers are scraping the bottom of their savings accounts, relying on food banks and bunking with relatives while they wait to find out whether their Social Security disability claims are approved under the safety net Congress created decades ago for physically injured or mentally disabled Americans who can’t work. ...

    “It puts people under a tremendous stress and strain,” said Thomas Knight, a Fort Wayne attorney who has seen the waiting period stretch dramatically since he started handling Social Security disability cases six years ago.

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  • San Pedro Field Office Closing

    The Social Security Administration is planning to close its office in San Pedro, CA, forcing residents of that city to drive to Long Beach or Torrance to do their business with Social Security, according to the Daily Breeze. What a name for a paper!

    The local Congresswoman, Jane Harman, is very unhappy. A Los Angeles Daily News blog quotes her as saying:

    After months of effort by residents and elected officials, including me, to keep the San Pedro office open, the offer of a part-time contact office is insulting. Apparently, SSA has not been watching the meltdown of our passport system. Putting too few resources on a big issue creates a bigger problem.

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  • Computerworld Honors For eDIB

    Computerworld has added eDIB, the paperless system that the Social Security Administration is now implementing, to the list of those it honors for achievement.

    It appears to me that Social Security must have exaggerated the achievements of eDIB to the point of complete dishonesty to get this award. Fully operational? Saving money? Most effective system of its type? Achieved its goal? The "grapevine" in Social Security fully supports eDIB?

    Some excerpts from Computerworld:
    In 2006, SSA completed the rollout of an $800 million all-digital system known as eDib to process disability claims at nearly 1,500 locations nationwide. eDib will save more than $1.3 billion when compared with the cost of creating, mailing and storing paper folders. The eDib system allows applicants to file claims over the Internet directly or with the help of SSA staff at one of its offices. ...

    For SSA employees, eDib has:

    • Significantly reduced the amount of time spent searching for folders and associating folder documentation
    • Eliminated the need to reconstruct lost folders
    • Eliminated the need to prepare a paper folder for routing to the DDS
    • Eliminated the need to store a paper-based claims folder
    • Provided immediate access to claim files for appeals or post-entitlement processing
    • Reduced the amount of time lost on misrouted cases
    • Allowed for the propagation of data to various systems ...

    Is it the first, the only, the best or the most effective application of its kind? Most effective

    Success
    Has your project achieved or exceeded its goals? Achieved

    Is it fully operational? Yes

    How many people benefit from it? 2M/year ...

    How quickly has your targeted audience of users embraced your innovation? Or, how rapidly do you predict they will?
    ... But once they adapted, “selling” the value of eDib to other employees was easier than expected as our field office employees have an incredibly accurate and rapid “grapevine.”

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  • Jun 17, 2007

    An Image From 1939

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  • Social Security Stats By Congressional District

    Social Security's Office of Policy has released a set of Social Security statistics by Congressional district.

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  • Social Security Press Release On Medicare Part D

    This has to be a Social Security Administration press release, but it does not show up on Social Security's webpage that is supposed to list press releases.

    WASHINGTON (AP) - The Social Security Administration and Medicare are using this Father's Day to spread the word about its prescription drug plan for low income seniors.

    Social Security Commissioner Michael Astrue (AS'-troo) is encouraging anyone who knows a senior or someone who is eligible for Social Security and fits the income levels to apply. Astrue says they've made the application as simple as possible.

    You can't make more than $15,000 to qualify as an individual for the plan or 20,000 as a married couple living together. There are asset limitations as well.

    Astrue says if your dad is a Donald Trump or Bill Gates -- don't call, but if they are close to the income levels, check it out.

    An application is available on the Social Security website.

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  • Jun 16, 2007

    Attorney Fee Payments

    Social Security has released its attorney fee payment numbers for May 2007. Below, I have reproduced the numbers for this year.

    Let me explain why these are significant for people other than attorneys. These are the only numbers that Social Security releases showing how well or how poorly its payment centers are functioning. The payment centers are Social Security's back office. They are where the actual work of authorizing payment of Title II Social Security benefits is done. Regardless of what happens in other parts of Social Security, no one gets Title II Social Security benefits until a payment centers does its job. Attorneys who represent Social Security claimants get paid at about the same time as their clients, so these numbers reflect what Social Security claimants are experiencing.

    When you look at these numbers, you see dramatic fluctuations in attorney fee payments. This is a direct reflection of dramatic fluctuations in payments to claimants. These dramatic fluctuations occur because the payment centers are under stress. They lack sufficient personnel and they are being called upon to backup other parts of the Social Security Administration, particularly the teleservice centers. When calls to Social Security's 800 number spike up, the payment centers get "spiked" as they put it -- called away from their regular duties to answer the telephone -- which they do poorly. The payment centers get spiked badly in January and February of each year, because of seasonal fluctuations in the number of calls to the 800 number, but, in general, spiking is becoming more frequent because the teleservice centers are understaffed. Since the payment centers are also understaffed, the result is more backlogs and delays in payment of benefits.

    The payment centers are not sexy. No one is going to pay much attention to the payment centers unless they completely break down, in which case all hell breaks loose. My understanding is that the payment centers are under enough stress that a breakdown is not inconceivable.

    Fee Payments

    Month/Year Volume Amount
    Jan-07
    15,331
    $55,149,991.81
    Feb-07
    19,301
    $69,731,683.72
    Mar-07
    26,505
    $94,396,916.02
    Apr-07
    26,889
    $96,650,134.82
    May-07
    24,429
    $86,625,391.60

    Fee payments also include payments made to eligible non-attorneys participating in the demonstration project authorized by section 303 of the Social Security Protection Act of 2004 (Pub. L. 108-203).

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  • Bill Introduced To Waive Disability Waiting Period

    Earl Pomeroy (D-N.D.)and Chip Pickering (R-Miss) have introduced a bill to waive the five month waiting period for Disability Insurance Benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act for claimants who are terminally ill, according to the Senior Journal. Pomeroy is on the House Social Security Subcommittee.

    It will be difficult to pass even such a limited change. The "paygo" rules that Congress is working under require that any bill that goes forward in Congress that would increase expenditures must contain some provision to pay for the increased expenditures. In this case, if a bill eliminated the waiting period, even for a small group of people, it would have to contain some other provision that would cut costs or raise money to offset the increased expenditure.

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  • Baltimore Sun On Social Security Role In Immigration Enforcement

    Some excerpts from a Baltimore Sun article:
    ... the linchpin of future of immigration enforcement is stored in a secure facility in Woodlawn [Maryland, where the Social Security Administration's central offices are located], where computer servers hold the digital Social Security records of hundreds of millions of Americans.

    Since 1996, a growing number of employers have logged on to a password-protected Web site and queried those records to see whether job applicants are here legally. ...

    The now-imperiled Senate immigration proposal would require such a search, starting with new hires and, within three years, the rest of the work force...

    [T]he Social Security database contains errors. A recent report from the agency's inspector general found a 4.1 percent error rate. ...

    No matter whose fault it is, the error rate is still enough to generate an enormous amount of work for Social Security employees. ...

    If the program is to expand, the agency will need more staff and, therefore, more money. ...

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  • Jun 15, 2007

    NCSSMA Posts Minutes

    The National Council of Social Security Management Associations (NCSSMA), an organization of Social Security management personnel, has posted the minutes of its annual meeting from May 1 to May 4, 2007. Here are two excerpts from a meeting on May 3, 2007 between the NCSSMA Board and Mary Glenn Croft, Social Security's Assistant Deputy Commissioner for Operations, and Roger McDonnell, head of the Office of Public Services and Operations Support in the office of Social Security's Deputy Commissioner for Operations:
    Mary said there’s no good or easy answer for staffing. Even for FY08, Congress may stipulate that specific workloads be processed with any extra money we receive and the money may not go to address staffing shortages. Jim Burkert [a member of the NCSSMA board] asked why field component staff is dropping faster than any other component. He further stated that Part D hires are no longer helping because staffing levels are lower now than they were before we had the Part D workloads. ... Mary stated that there is no master plan to close or consolidate offices. Infrastructure costs (leases and guard service) are extremely high however, and the regions look at leases when they are ready to expire to determine whether it makes good sense to close or consolidate the office.
    Note that Social Security is already expecting earmarks in its 2008 budget requiring that it deal with the hearing backlogs. Note also that Social Security's budget is so tight that the agency is starting to close field offices. Members of the House of Representatives and the Senate will not like to hear about field office closings.

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  • Senate Finance Committee Hearing

    The Senate Finance Committee has scheduled a hearing on June 21 at 10:00 on "Barriers to Work for Individuals Receiving Social Security Disability Benefits."

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  • Jun 14, 2007

    AALJ Files Suit

    Anonymous posters on the ALJ Improvement Board are stating that the Association of Administrative Law Judges (AALJ) has filed suit in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia over a recent decision by the Office of Personnel Management that requires that federal Administrative Law Judges (ALJs) retain active bar status. A copy of the complaint has been forwarded to me. The named plaintiffs in addition to the AALJ are David Agatstein of Milwaukee, WI, Karl Alexander of Morgantown, WV, Jon Hunt of Raleigh, NC, John Kraybill of Oakbrook, IL, James Norris of Indianapolis, IN, Cheryl Rini of Cleveland, OH and Edwin Shinitzky of Chicago, IL, all of them Social Security ALJs.

    The problem with retaining active bar status is that one must meet continuing legal education (CLE) requirements. Many ALJs are not in compliance with the CLE requirements of their state bars.

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  • Social Security Subcommittee Hearing

    From the Social Security Subcommittee of the House Ways and Means Committee:
    McNulty Announces a Hearing on Protecting the Privacy of the Social Security Number from Identity Theft
    Congressman Michael R. McNulty (D-NY), Chairman, Subcommittee on Social Security of the Committee on Ways and Means, today announced that the Subcommittee will hold a hearing to examine the role of Social Security numbers (SSNs) in identity theft and options to enhance their protection. The hearing will take place on Thursday, June 21, in room B-318 Rayburn House Office Building, beginning at 10 a.m.

    In view of the limited time available to hear witnesses, oral testimony at this hearing will be from invited witnesses only. However, any individual or organization not scheduled for an oral appearance may submit a written statement for consideration by the Subcommittee and for inclusion in the printed record of the hearing.

    BACKGROUND

    As many as ten million Americans fall victim to identity theft every year. The effects of identity theft can be catastrophic to the lives of affected individuals. The reported costs are significant - according to the Federal Trade Commission, businesses lose $50 billion and consumers expend another $5 billion annually to recover from identity theft. The SSN is a critical tool for identity thieves looking to establish a credit account in someone else’s name. And it is often the key that identity thieves use to gain access to other personal information such as bank accounts.

    Because it is a unique piece of personal information that does not change over time, the SSN provides a convenient way to track individuals throughout public and private records. As a result, SSNs have become ubiquitous in these records, and they are being used for purposes far beyond their original role of tracking earnings in order to compute Social Security benefits. While the widespread use of SSNs can be advantageous to business and government, it is also useful for identity thieves and other criminals. Moreover, records containing the SSN are increasingly available in electronic form, and easily accessible over the Internet. Thus, the need for streamlined business processes and openness of public records must be balanced against the increasing risks of identity theft and other crimes.

    Despite its widespread usage, there is no Federal law that requires comprehensive confidentiality protection for the SSN. An SSN may be found on display to the general public on employee badges and in court documents, or offered for sale on the Internet. Some limited protection of SSN confidentiality is provided by the Fair Credit Reporting Act (P.L. 91-508) and the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (P.L. 106-102), which restrict the use and disclosure of SSNs by financial institutions. Also, many states have enacted legislation to restrict the use, disclosure or display of SSNs. Still most private sector use of the number remains unregulated.

    In the 108th Congress, the Committee on Ways and Means approved comprehensive legislation to enhance SSN privacy to protect against identity theft (H.R. 2971; H. Rept. 108-685). Among other provisions, the bill would restrict the use, sale, purchase or display of SSNs. Members of Congress concerned about the magnitude of identity theft and its devastating effects on victims have introduced similar legislation this year.

    In announcing the hearing, Chairman McNulty stated “there is no question that we need stronger protections for Social Security numbers to combat the growing crime of identity theft. Identity theft can destroy an individual’s or family’s financial well-being with a touch of a button. We must begin to place some common-sense limits on the use of the SSN by government and business in order to ensure the privacy of the information and prevent theft.”

    FOCUS OF THE HEARING

    The Subcommittee will examine what role the SSN plays in identity theft, and the steps that can be taken to increase SSN privacy and thereby limit its availability to identity thieves and other criminals. The hearing will examine how SSNs are currently used, what risks to individuals and businesses arise from its widespread use and options to restrict its use in the public and private sectors.

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  • Markup Of House Appropriations Bill Delayed

    The House Appropriations Committee website shows that the markup session for the Labor-HHS appropriations bill that covers Social Security's administrative budget has been canceled. A dispute over earmarks is the likely cause. See this article from the Green Bay Press Gazette.

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  • Jun 13, 2007

    New EAJA Payment Issue

    The Equal Access to Justice Act (EAJA) reimburses civil litigants who sue or who are sued by the federal government for their legal fees if the government's position is not "substantially justified." EAJA is used far more often by claimants suing the Social Security Administration than by any other group of litigants.

    EAJA has evolved into a well understood routine for the Social Security Administration and attorneys who represent Social Security claimants. The end result if EAJA is approved has been that Social Security makes a direct deposit of the fee into the attorney's bank account. Since the EAJA fee is almost always received long before any other fee in a Social Security case and, indeed, before the claimant is paid, the EAJA fee is just used to reduce the fee that the attorney would otherwise receive coming out of the claimant's benefits.

    The problem is that the Department of Justice -- not Social Security -- is insisting that the EAJA fees be sent to the person who has sued or been sued by the federal government. This means the end of payments to the attorney. Instead, the Social Security claimant, who generally has not yet received any Social Security benefits, will be paid the EAJA fee, leaving it to the attorney to try to collect the fee directly from the client. I have heard directly from Social Security today that a memo has come out directing Social Security's attorneys from refusing to agree to an EAJA payment that goes directly to the claimant's attorney.

    This is going to lead to two things. First, there will be efforts to get Social Security claimants to agree to assign the EAJA fee to the attorney. Second, there will be litigation that will probably get to the Supreme Court eventually, if some new Attorney General appointed after George W. Bush leaves office decides that this is not worth fighting over.
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  • House Appropriations Bill Only $100 Million Over President's Proposed Budget For SSA

    Despite a mistaken press release from the House Appropriations Committee and despite an erroneous report from the Disability Policy Collaboration, I am being told that the fiscal year 2008 Labor-HHS appropriations bill that covers Social Security is currently only $100 million over the President's proposed budget for the Social Security Administration (SSA), instead of the $400 million expected.

    I know you are thinking, a hundred million dollars here or there, what difference does it make? Trust me, $300 million in the context of Social Security's budget is REAL money that will make a real difference in how well or how poorly the agency performs.

    The $100 million figure has been reported out of Subcommittee. The entire House Appropriations Committee takes up the matter on June 14 at 9:00. You can watch it live on your computer in streaming video, although the vast majority of the markup session will be about other agencies. Although a small matter in the context of the entire bill, the Social Security appropriation seems certain to get some discussion. The public confusion we are getting on this is probably the result of some behind the scenes differences of opinion.

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  • An Old Error Corrected

    From The Day of Connecticut:
    Montville — A local man was recently awarded more than 25 years worth of disability benefits, retroactive to the Reagan era.

    Uncasville resident Robert Kram, 64, could receive about $150,000 in benefits dating back to December 1982, according to his lawyer, Thomas Albin. ...

    Kram was granted Social Security disability benefits in July 1970, when he was 27 years old, based on chronic schizophrenia that was diagnosed and well-documented, according to Albin. Kram was paid monthly disability checks until the Social Security Administration, pursuant to a policy initiated by President Reagan, determined in December 1981 that Kram had made significant medical improvement.

    Kram, living with his parents at the time, did not contest the decision and went without funds for many years while his parents took care of him.

    “His parents didn't know how to go about filing an appeal, so instead, the following year they filed a new application,” Albin said.

    His new application was also denied and not appealed.

    In 1995, Kram's sister, Dorothy Smith of Quaker Hill, brought Kram to Albin's office to see what recourse he might have. ...

    everal years passed and several court appearances followed. Kram's parents died during the appeal process, and another sister, Dolores, moved in to his Uncasville home to take care of him. ...

    At a hearing in March, Billings S. Fuess, a medical expert, testified that Kram's condition had been disabling at all times, that he had never made any significant improvement and that his condition would have prevented him from filing his own appeal.

    Administrative Law Judge Ronald Thomas found that Kram was impaired by schizophrenia and that he had not engaged in substantial activity since his diagnosis in 1970. He noted that Kram's condition had not improved, and the claimant meets the criteria to receive disability benefits.

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  • Monthly Social Security Stats

    The Social Security Administration has issued its monthly packages of statistics on Social Security and Supplemental Security Income.

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  • Hearing Office Backlogs Correction

    Let me correct something I posted yesterday. I said that the hearing backlog numbers that Social Security is releasing to the public understate the severity of the problem, since they do not include backlogs that delay requests for hearing reaching Social Security's hearing offices. I am pretty sure this is now incorrect.

    The problem of Social Security's hearing backlog statistics being inaccurate because they counted only the time from the date the appeal reached a hearing office rather than from the date it was filed was one that existed in the old Hearing Office Tracking Systems (HOTS), but that has been replaced by the more accurate Case Processing Management System (CPMS), which apparently solved this problem. There is a report from Social Security's Office of Inspector General that discusses the improvements in going from HOTS to CPMS.

    Remember, I am an attorney in private practice. I have never used either HOTS or CPMS.

    The problem of data entry backlogs at Social Security's Field Offices to which I referred is a very real and growing problem that is receiving virtually no attention.


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  • Jun 12, 2007

    Somebody Is Confusing Me

    The Disability Policy Collaboration is reporting that the House Appropriations Subcommittee that covers Social Security has reported out a $400 million increase for the Social Security Administration (which was what was expected), yet the Subcommittee's summary shows only a $100 million increase (which had surprised me). Is the Disability Policy Collaboration confused or is the Subcommittee summary misleading?

    The same report from the Disability Policy Collaboration also says that:
    House Republican leaders are urging their colleagues to sign a pledge to uphold the President’s promised vetoes of eight FY2008 appropriations bills that are expected to exceed the Administration’s budget request, including the Labor/HHS/Education proposal. The support of two-thirds of the House is necessary to override a veto. At the end of last week, about 140 Republicans had signed a letter being circulated by Representative John Campbell (R-CA) promising to support the President, leaving the GOP leadership still shy of having enough votes to sustain the veto threats.

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  • More Personnel Or More Williard Scott Expenditures?

    It looks as if Social Security may end up with more money than was called for in the President's proposed Fiscal Year 2008 budget. The appropriations bill pending in the House of Representatives would increase the budget by $100 million. Others want to increase the budget by $400 million or more above Bush's budget. However, Michael Astrue, Social Security's Commissioner wants no more than Bush's proposed budget.

    This raises an important question. If Social Security ends up with more money than Bush and Astrue are asking for, what will Astrue do with the extra money? The assumption may be that he would use the extra money for more employees. There seems to be near universal agreement that Social Security needs more employees. However, I said near universal agreement. There are signs that the Office of Management and Budget is extremely interested in holding down the number of employees at the Social Security Administration. During former Commissioner Barnhart's term of office, the number of employees at Social Security declined rapidly, even though Social Security's operating budget was going up at greater than the rate of inflation. Bush's proposed 2008 budget for Social Security contains a 4% increase in agency funding -- but holds employment steady. Mike Astrue has already said that he intends to add about 1,000 employees to Social Security's Office of Disability Adjudication and Review (ODAR). Does that mean that he intends to cut employment elsewhere at Social Security by 1,000? With extra money, does he just increase ODAR employment and hold employment elsewhere in Social Security steady? Does he just continue cutting employment elsewhere in Social Security and find other ways to spend the money?

    There are always ways that an agency can spend money that do not involve hiring more people to get the work done. There are always contractors to hire and computer equipment to buy. Also, you can just waste money. My favorite Social Security waste of money was hiring Ari Fleischer and Willard Scott in 2006 to speak at a gathering of Social Security public relations personnel, as service was rapidly deteriorating at Social Security Field Offices.

    So, if Social Security gets more money than the President proposed, does Astrue spend the money for more employees, who are hard to get rid of, or does he spend it on contractors and equipment that may or may not be needed, or does he just find ways to just fritter it away?

    I have read some bad things about earmarks in appropriations bills, but I think some earmarks in Social Security's appropriations bill could be a good thing.

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  • The Name "Mohammad"

    This is a bit off topic, but fascinating. It is from a blog by the editors of Foreign Policy Magazine:

    Last week we learned that Mohammed was the #2 name for baby boys in Britain last year, when the top 14 spellings were considered.

    Of course, that made me wonder, how popular is Mohammed in the United States? So I visited the website of the U.S. Social Security Administration, which provides the top 1,000 baby names for each sex going back to the late 1800s. No spellings of Mohammed made it into the top 1,000 until 1976, when Muhammad came in 976th place with 73 births.

    In 2006, Mohammed ranked #217, between Dominick and Rafael, when the four spellings that made it into the top 1,000 (Mohamed, Mohammad, Mohammed, and Muhammad, in order of decreasing popularity) were considered. No other spelling has ever made it into the top 1,000.

    Then I wondered, were Muslims hesitant to name their sons Mohammed after the 9/11 terrorist attacks? It looks like that might have been the case, at least for a while. The graph below shows how many Mohammeds of all four aforementioned spellings were born in the United States each year since 1976, with data coming from Social Security card applications.

    Interestingly, a total of 27,350 Mohammeds of the top four spellings were born from 1976 to 2006. That may sound like a lot, but 24,418 Jacobs were born last year alone.

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  • Social Security Appropriations Bill Markup Available In Streaming Video

    The House Appropriations Committee is making its June 14 meeting to markup the Labor-HHS Appropriations bill available in streaming video. I had earlier reported that the bill had been reported out of committee, but it was only reported out of subcommittee. The markup session is to begin at 9:00 a.m.

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  • Hearing Office Backlogs Report





    The National Organization of Social Security Claimants Representatives (NOSSCR) has obtained lists showing the backlogs at each of Social Security's hearing offices. I have reproduced this above. Click on each page to see it in full size. These shows the length of the wait time in days from the time that a Social Security hearing office receives a request for a hearing until the case is disposed of, for each hearing office and for each of Social Security's regions.

    As bad is it looks, this understates the backlog, since it only shows the wait time from the date a hearing office receives and logs in an appeal. However, each appeal must pass through a Social Security field office before getting to a hearing office. In most cases, the field offices must do a significant amount of data entry before sending the appeal on to a hearing offices. There are increasing data entry backlogs at the field offices which delay these appeals getting to hearing offices, making the hearing backlogs look less bad than they actually are. The field office data entry backlogs are four months and longer in some locations. As best I can tell, no one is keeping track of the extent of the data entry backlogs. Upper levels of Social Security management appear to be trying hard to ignore the problem.

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