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Nov 28, 2011

An Astroturfer Comes To Social Security News?

     Below is a post made by Obshellums in response to a post I had made about Congressional Republicans who were expressing concern after the horrendous report of mentally disabled individuals being locked in a basement while their representative payees stole their Social Security disability checks:
SSA's hearing offices or at least mgmt at the one I worked at was annoyed if an employee pressed the issue that incorrect payee, recipient might be getting checks by virtue of an outdated or improper designation. I was accused of "denigrating" co-workers many times when I tried to bring old & wrong recipient and/or address info to managements' attention. Check on this a year from now & you'll see little to no improvement. SSA's ODAR is an elite and badly supervised part of SSA that cruises along ineffectively and expensively because there is no oversight that benefits taxpayers and claimants, just a subservient mind-set to pamper judges, overpaid do-little attorneys and too much middle management. Collect overpayments? Concern themselves with payee info? No, they pretend to "care about privacy of claimants--ask no questions about payees" but really that just makes their work easier. Once they decide to pay or not pay, their work is done. Looking at all that other recipient-relationship, etc., residence info might "hurt thier numbers" by slowing them down a little and hey, the money keeps pouring in to pay out so, why stress?
     Let's go through and outline what this person is saying:
  • I used to work at a hearing office.
  • Management at that hearing office was annoyed if an employee pressed the issue of an improper payee getting payment due to an outdated or improper designation.
  • I was accused of "denigrating" co-workers many times when I tried to bring old & wrong recipient and/or address info to managements' attention.
  • The conditions that I saw will not change because the hearing offices are an elite and badly supervised part of SSA that cruises along ineffectively and expensively because there is no oversight that benefits taxpayers and claimants, just a subservient mind-set to pamper judges, overpaid do-little attorneys and too much middle management.
  • Hearing office management pretends to "care about privacy of claimants--ask no questions about payees" but really that just makes their work easier.
  • Looking at all that other recipient-relationship, etc., residence info might "hurt their numbers" by slowing them down a little.
  • The money keeps pouring in to pay out so, why stress? 
     This may sound like a plausible grassroots report of malfeasance if you don't work at Social Security or deal with it first hand. However, if you do, the post is nonsensical, almost gibberish. Social Security's hearing offices are not responsible for policing representative payees. They recommend that payees be appointed. On very rare occasions they adjudicate whether a payee is needed but, in general, they are just not involved, not because they are poorly managed but because others at Social Security, mostly those who work in field offices, have that responsibility.
     Other items in the post also ring a false note. Pretending to care about the privacy of claimants as a reason not to do something about representative payee problems? Social Security is obsessive about privacy for good reason. It is expected of them. However, it is hard to imagine privacy being given as a reason for failing to act on a representative payee problem. Dealing with "recipient-relationship" and "residence" issues would cause delay? What is the poster talking about? Why is the poster making comments about the hearing offices being "elite", "badly supervised", "ineffective" and "expensive." Why is the poster going out of his or her way to talk about "pampered" judges and "do-little attorneys" or to suggest that money is "pouring" in or out? I could go on but why bother. This sounds like something that Newt Gingrich would have written.
     This is not the first time I have seen this sort of post. There have been a number that rang a false note. This is just the most obvious example. Prior examples have put forth the notion that Social Security is badly overstaffed and ought to be given lower appropriations.
     I cannot imagine this post having been written by someone who used to work at Social Security. So, who did write it and why? There are "trolls" on the internet who like to write things that are wildly provocative in order to draw a response. Could this have been written by a "troll" who jut wants to annoy and provoke? Maybe, but I doubt it. Why be a troll when you don't understand enough to even troll effectively or to understand the outrage you provoke?
     Obviously, the poster has a political agenda. He or she is pretending to have been a Social Security employee. He or she has little actual knowledge of operations at Social Security. I can think of two possibilities here:
  • This person could be a tea partier who has gotten carried away.
  • This person could be an employee or contractor of a right wing "astroturf" group. "Astroturfing" is faux grassroots action. Astroturfers pretend to be concerned citizens but are actually paid for by corporations or wealthy individuals, such as the Koch brothers.
     I may flatter myself to think that some minion of the Koch brothers would actually care about this obscure blog but the post is just so weird and so full of abusive, politically charged language that it is hard for me to see it as anything other than astroturfing.

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  • 7 Comments:

    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Sounds more like a disgruntled employee who has very little experience in their current position to me.

    The PSCs who process the appeals have policy to follow if a new payee determination is required and it often results in requests to the field offices to determine a proper payee. Of the ODAR cases I have seen, maybe once have they mentioned a payee, usually because the claimant had filed another claim while the hearing request was pending and a payee had been appointed on that claim.

    Given this person's ranting, I would think this is more likely someone in the field office or PSC who is relatively new and has very little experience handling payee matters.

    I was accused of "denigrating" co-workers many times when I tried to bring old & wrong recipient and/or address info to managements' attention.

    The above makes me wonder if an employee was found with PII they should not have accessed or even made unauthorized changes on someone's record and used this to justify the change. The employee also has so many grievances filed against management or co-workers that nobody wants to assist them in learning their job.

    There are sometimes problems with documenting the rep payee decision, yes, but the above accusations seem to be coming from a green-thumb employee who has no clue what ODAR does. Turfing? Possible, but I really think this is some employee who is in a technical support position that just does not understand what is going on with payee selections. Any political stance that might be read from this is probably just self-puffery to make the seem experienced.

    9:34 AM, November 28, 2011  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    It is not at all uncommon for ALJ effectuation cases to have incorrect address and or direct deposit information on the record. It has often been years since the first claim has been filed. The claimants have often moved, closed bank accounts or may in fact now be homeless. SSA metrics do focus on speed at the expense of accuracy.

    10:28 AM, November 28, 2011  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Wow, Charles--paranoid much--just another right wing conspiracy, I,m sure.

    10:31 PM, November 28, 2011  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Not likely to be an ODAR employee, sounds like a FO employee to me given how little involvement ODAR has with this type of situation...

    12:33 PM, November 29, 2011  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    I don't understand why two posters have said this must be an FO EE. The poster self identified as a hearings office EE. Furthermore, management in FOs do not make payee decisions. Both SRs and CRs are empowered to make payee determinations. It doesn't matter, but the comments just annoyed me.

    6:24 PM, November 29, 2011  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Posters are saying it is likely a field office employee because assuming the person is actually a SSA employee, the person cannot be an ODAR employee because ODAR does not do the things the employee is complaining about. ODAR has nothing to do with payee designations or payments (while the field office is involved in payee assignments). Employees don't tell management or each other about wrong addresses to try to punish or show-up some one -- they simply update the system -- no one is going to be denigrated at ODAR for fixing an incorrect address.

    Assuming this is a SSA employee, he/she is clearly disgruntled and has a twisted view of SSA. It would also be foolish to believe that this person's comments are typical of field office employees (or employees in other components) or field office behavior.

    There are many things that SSA does that one can take issue with, but I do not believe there is a widespread policy of ignoring improper payee designations or improper payments.

    9:55 AM, November 30, 2011  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    I just saw this post and I completely agree with what the article says. I have worked at ODAR SSA for 10 years and it has always been mismanaged by lazy inefficient staff members with little to no experience as managers. So that being said you get a bunch of dysfuntion because you have an attorney fresh off the street running the show who has no idea how the offices function and you have a lot of older employees who have been with the agency since the wheel was invented who are not content with being told how to do things when the new manager off the street is fresh out of school and has no life, no kids and no management background. The agency should be promoting its internal employees who actually know what they are doing instead of looking at some little Bitch attorney AMY CHAU at the Moreno valley ODAR who walks around all day acting like a CUNT (Cant Understand Normal Thinking) yet DEMANDING everyone respect her. The agency is fucked... plain and simple. Its a miserable environment to be in daily. Management consistently pokes fun at the claimants disabilities and belittles them for having little education. It is sad and shocking.

    2:51 PM, April 14, 2014  

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