The National Association of Disability Examiners (NADE), an organization of the people who make initial and reconsideration determinations on Social Security disability claims, has issued its Spring 2009 Newsletter
. It is not surprising that much of the newsletter is devoted to the furloughs hitting many NADE members, who are almost all state employees, but there are other interesting things discussed.
Here are a couple of excerpts from an article about a meeting between NADE officials and Social Security Commissioner Michael Astrue:
SSA is continuing to explore the possibility of expanding the Single Decision-Maker (SDM) model and expanding the list of conditions to be included in the Compassionate Allowances (CAL) initiative. However the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) is not considering any new regulations until the economic problems have been addressed ...
NADE also renewed its call for a reduction in the 15 year vocationally relevant time period to 5 years. The Commissioner reported that the Agency was seriously considering this proposal and Associate Commissioner Glenn Sklar reported he had formed a workgroup to examine this proposal and that he expected a reduction would be forthcoming. While it may not be 5 years, it would be considerably less than the current 15 years. [Apparently, they are thinking about ten years. See below.]
Here is a little nugget from an article about a meeting between the NADE Board of Directors and Kelly Croft, Social Security's Deputy Commissioner for Quality Performance:
The Office of Quality Performance has changed the pull [of disability determinations made at the initial and reconsideration levels by NADE members] for Pre-Effectuation Review (PER) cases to one that is more of an integrity review. ...
40,000 denials will be reviewed at random (with probably more reconsiderations being reviewed). Denial case accuracy runs 90-91%. Allowance accuracy rates are 97-98%.
Social Security agrees that initial and reconsideration allowances are much more accurate than denials. A lot of people who represent claimants have been saying that for years.
This article also says that "An Occupational Information Development Advisory Panel is in place and conducting a study to change the time frame for past relevant work (PRW) from 15 years to 10 years." I did not know that the definition of past relevant work was part of that group's charter. The article quoted above indicates that Glenn Sklar is forming a workgroup to study the issue. Sklar's workgroup and the Occupational Information Development Advisory Panel's study on this issue may be the same thing.
While the issue of how far back past work may be considered relevant is heating up, it has been under study for years and may remain under study for many more years. The issue needs little study. The problem is that reducing this time period to five years would cost money -- probably not much, but some. It would be fairer, but when fairness in disability determination collides with budget considerations, the budget almost always wins.
Think about it. If you last worked at a job 14 years ago, do you think you could pick back up on that job and be able to perform it again without additional training? The answer is obviously "no" and the answer would be the same even if you reduced the time period to ten years or even seven. Resuming an old job without additional training after even five years could be a stretch. This may sound boring and technical but claimants are being denied based upon a policy that, as best I can tell, no one is willing to defend.