Post Piece On Social Security Draws Criticism
Labels: Media and Social Security
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Your source for news affecting the U.S. Social Security Administration Copyright Charles T. Hall
Labels: Media and Social Security
Even suffering from neuropathy, arthritis, bone spurs and diabetes, Brenda Raines was determined to keep working as a secretary for a Douglasville hospital. Then she got laid off in 2009, and after six months of job searching she listened to family and friends and applied for Social Security Disability Insurance....
nitial claims in Georgia jumped from 86,973 in the 2008 fiscal year to 104,251 in 2009, and to 119,946 in the 2011 fiscal year, according to the Social Security Administration. Nationwide, the number of initial disability claims rose from about 2.6 million in the 2008 fiscal year to 3.16 million in the 2011 fiscal year.
Social Security advocates are planning to protest Thursday at Social Security offices around the county.
Thousands of American Federation of Government Employees Social Security employees, along with the Alliance for Retired Americans, the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, and the Strengthen Social Security Campaign are protesting recent proposals from Congress that would cut the Social Security Administration's operational budget.
Federal budget cuts have led to the discontinuation of Social Security services at the DeKalb Senior Services Center, ending a 32-year program that helped up to 200 people per month.
The DeKalb location is just one of more than 300 remote service sites throughout the country that have ended services because of a $1 billion cut to the Social Security Administration this year. Services had been declining in DeKalb as weekly visits turned biweekly a few years ago and finally became monthly visits in the spring.
Section 207 of the Social Security Act (42 U.S.C 407) states: “The right of any person to any future payment under this title shall not be transferable or assignable, at law or in equity, and none of the monies paid or payable or rights existing under this title shall be subject to execution, levy, attachment, garnishment, or other legal process, or to the operation of any bankruptcy or insolvency law.”...
Any arrangement in which the claimant shares control of the funds from his or her benefit with a person or entity that has an interest in charging or collecting money from the claimant is an assignment-like situation that violates SSA’s policy. ...
Some representatives are authorized by third parties to ensure that debts beneficiaries owe to the third parties are repaid immediately after the beneficiary starts to receive benefits. There is no assignment-like situation if:Right. Assignments are forbidden unless there is an ongoing relationship with the entity to which you are making the assignment and the assignments continue after you start receiving benefits.
- The representative has no financial interest in the beneficiary’s direct deposit account (i.e.., he is not named on the account and/or has no authority to direct the money in the account); and
- The representative is not charging the beneficiary a fee; and
- The beneficiary pre-authorizes (according to his financial institution’s policy) a withdrawal of funds from his account to repay a debt to a third party; but
- The representative did not obtain the pre-authorization from the beneficiary through deceit, coercion, or intimidation; and
- The representative gets confirmation from the beneficiary (oral or written) of the pre-authorization to withdraw the money from the account after the funds are deposited into the beneficiary’s account and before a transfer of funds is made to pay the third party debt. This confirmation is necessary because a beneficiary may have signed the pre-authorization before learning whether he will receive benefits and the amount of past-due benefits he will receive (i.e., authorizing the representative to take benefit funds before the beneficiary has had any chance to exercise control over the funds). The beneficiary also may have signed the pre-authorization without specifying the amount of money that the representative will withdraw from the account. This circumstance is different than other pre-authorizations (e.g., mortgage payments, loan repayments, investments, nursing home fees, etc.) because, in most cases involving pre-authorizations, the beneficiary has an ongoing relationship with the organization that is making pre-authorized withdrawals, the beneficiary knows the amount of money they are pre-authorizing, and those pre-authorizations occur continuously after the beneficiary is receiving regular benefits.
Any cuts to Social Security imposed by the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction would be borne almost entirely by current Social Security beneficiaries and those who are very near retirement, a new analysis by Social Security Chief Actuary Stephen C. Goss makes clear. Three-quarters of all Social Security payments between 2012 and 2021 – the 10-year period in which the Select Committee is required to generate deficit reduction – will go to current recipients, while an additional 21 percent will go to Americans who are very close to retirement-age and will start receiving benefits between 2012 and 2019, according to the Actuary’s analysis.
The analysis highlights that there is virtually no way for the panel to use Social Security cuts to meet its target without harming current beneficiaries. Current retirees have struggled in recent years because there was no cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) in 2010 or 2011. The Social Security Administration yesterday announced a 3.6 percent COLA for 2012.
It’s also worth noting that San Francisco Regional Commissioner Pete Spencer apparently did not receive any award money in Fiscal Year 2010. Spencer sponsored “Management Tango” in 2009, an event that cost more than $675,000 and generated a great deal of bad publicity for Social Security. ... Spencer recently announced his retirement from the agency.
We are revising the procedures for how claimants who receive fully favorable revised determinations based on prehearing case reviews or fully favorable attorney advisor decisions may seek further review. We are also revising our procedure to provide that we will notify claimants who receive partially favorable determinations based on prehearing case reviews that an administrative law judge (ALJ) will still hold a hearing unless all parties to the hearing tell us in writing that we should dismiss the hearing request. These changes will simplify our administrative review process and free up scarce administrative resources that we can better use to reduce the hearings-level case backlog.
The leading safety-net program for America's disabled workers is in a financial death spiral in the aftermath of the Great Recession.
The sour economy, weak eligibility standards and a wave of aging baby boomers are driving an explosive increase in the number of injured workers who get disability benefits through the Social Security Disability Insurance program.
At the current growth rate, the SSDI trust fund, which pays for benefits, won't have enough money to meet its obligations in 2018.
One out of every five Social Security dollars is spent in the disability insurance program. The problem isn't so much that we've paying disabled people too much but that we're probably paying too many people who claim to be disabled. Since 1985, Social Security Disability applications have doubled as a share of the population. It is possible, but unlikely, that Ameica's disability population has doubled since the mid-1980s. The more reasonable explanation is that more disabled workers in tough times have figured out that they can get paid to not work.
Labels: Media and Social Security
This is Andy Wakshul [Panel Member]. I have a question. As I look at the Plan I was impressed certainly with the breadth and the scope of it, and how detailed it was. But I notice that the timeline extends out pretty far, five years at the bottom of the chart, and that's only for data collection. Do you have an idea when this will be an instrument that adjudicators will be able to use in making disability determination? It's got to be after 2016.
MS. KARMAN [Director]: This is Sylvia. We anticipate that through a program evaluation and any information that we have collected through 2016 if, in fact, we are targeting, for example, occupations that are frequently presented to us in claimant's vocational work histories, there may be the possibility that the Agency would be in a position to begin using that information for those areas of work.
We are amending our Tax Refund Offset (TRO) and Administrative Offset regulations. We are conforming our regulations to those of the Department of the Treasury (Treasury) for the following reasons: Treasury removed the 10-year limitation to collect delinquent debts owed the United States by reducing eligible Federal payments, and more States are participating in reciprocal agreements with Treasury to offset State payments, including tax refunds to reduce or extinguish a federally owed debt. These changes will allow us to collect additional Federal debt.A ten year statute of limitations is not long enough?
Monthly Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits for more than 60 million Americans will increase 3.6 percent in 2012, the Social Security Administration announced today.
The 3.6 percent cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) will begin with benefits that nearly 55 million Social Security beneficiaries receive in January 2012. Increased payments to more than 8 million SSI beneficiaries will begin on December 30, 2011.
Some other changes that take effect in January of each year are based on the increase in average wages. Based on that increase, the maximum amount of earnings subject to the Social Security tax (taxable maximum) will increase to $110,100 from $106,800. Of the estimated 161 million workers who will pay Social Security taxes in 2012, about 10 million will pay higher taxes as a result of the increase in the taxable maximum.
Information about Medicare changes for 2012, when announced, will be available at www.Medicare.gov. For some beneficiaries, their Social Security increase may be partially or completely offset by increases in Medicare premiums.
The Social Security Act provides for how the COLA is calculated. To read more, please visit www.socialsecurity.gov/cola.A separate fact sheet shows the maximum wage covered by FICA going up from $106,800 to $110,100, the amount required for a quarter of coverage going up from $1,120 to $1,130, the under full retirement age earnings cap going up from $14,160 to $14,640, the SGA amount going up from $1,000 to $1010 per month and the SSI federal payment amount going up from $674 per month to $698 per month
Authorities in at least two states missed opportunities to help four mentally disabled adults who were discovered locked in a squalid Philadelphia basement while police say a convicted murderer stole their Social Security checks.
Linda Weston, the woman charged with orchestrating the scheme, was legally disqualified from cashing the victims' government disability checks because of her criminal past. ...
Weston, 51, was charged Monday with kidnapping, false imprisonment and other offenses after her landlord stumbled on the four adults, all weak and malnourished, in a dank, foul-smelling boiler room over the weekend. Her bail was set at $2.5 million.
Also charged were Gregory Thomas, 47, whom Weston described as her boyfriend, and Eddie "the Rev. Ed" Wright, 50. ...
Social Security spokesman Mark Hinkle declined to provide details of the agency's investigation into Weston but said the agency recently strengthened oversight of payees.
"We are very concerned about this situation," Hinkle said via email.
Labels: Crime Beat
The California man who lives part of his life as an “adult baby” and collects Social Security disability payments says the federal agency has cleared him of wrongdoing and will continue sending checks.What does disability look like to Senator Coburn? Absolute incapacitation to do anything? I know nothing about Mr. Thornton's disability claim other than the silliness that appears in the press. Senator Coburn knows no more about this man's capacity to work than I do. I cannot express a reasoned opinion about Thornton's disability claim and neither can Senator Coburn.
Stanley Thornton Jr. now wants an apology from Sen. Tom Coburn, the Oklahoma Republican who called for the benefit review because the investigation disrupted the final months of life for his roommate Sandra Dias, who playacted as his mother, spoon-feeding him and helping him into his baby clothes until her death in July.
John Hart, a spokesman for Mr. Coburn, said Tuesday that the senator, who is also a medical doctor, is still puzzled by how “a grown man who is able to design and build adult-sized baby furniture is eligible for disability benefits.”
“Yet, the problem is not with Mr. Thornton, per se, but with the politicians and bureaucrats who have coddled him,” Mr. Hart said. “Disability fraud effectively steals from those who are truly disabled, while weakening the economy for everyone.”
Mr. Thornton said that during the course of the investigation he underwent a three-hour interview with Social Security investigators and an FBI agent over his disability status and whether he received any compensation from his participation in the reality-television episode.
“Starving the beast” is a favorite conservative strategy for forcing cuts in federal spending. The idea is to deprive the government of revenue in order to force spending cuts ...
The SSA [Social Security Administration] is funded through the same Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) tax that pays benefits, so it doesn’t compete for general revenue to meet its costs. But Congressional appropriators — who oversee its budget — have been squeezing the agency anyway.
In fiscal 2011, Congress provided the SSA with about $1 billion less than requested by President Obama. Those cuts forced the agency to make cuts that beneficiaries have noticed. It suspended mailing of the annual statement of benefits, and it shelved plans to open eight new hearing offices to handle the backlog of disability claims, which has soared during the recession.
SSA had planned to restore the statement mailings in fiscal 2012 to people over age 60 not yet receiving benefits – but that won’t happen “if Congress doesn’t provide adequate support,” says SSA spokesman Mark Hinkle....
Hinkle says the SSA also has responded to the tight budget by reducing employee overtime by 80 percent. That has cut into the amount of time available to help people who come into SSA local field offices for face-to-face services. The agency also lost about 1,600 workers last year who can’t be replaced due to a hiring freeze.In addition to learning about the 80% cut in overtime, I take away from this the fact that a Social Security spokesperson is out there alerting the media about Social Security's appropriations problem, something that Social Security has traditionally not done. In fact, my impression has been that over the decades that Social Security has always downplayed its funding problems -- to the agency's detriment. I would be interested to know who made the first contact in this case, Hinkle or the reporter.
The prevalence of self-reported mental health disabilities increased in the U.S. among non-elderly adults during the last decade, according to a study by Ramin Mojtabai, MD, PhD, of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. At the same time, the study found the prevalence of disability attributed to other chronic conditions decreased, while the prevalence of significant mental distress remained unchanged. The findings will appear in the November edition of the American Journal of Public Health.
For the study, Mojtabai reviewed data from the U.S. National Health Interview Survey covering 312,364 adults ages 18 to 64 years. He found that the prevalence of self-reported mental health disability increased from 2.0 percent of the non-elderly adult population from 1997 to 1999 to 2.7 percent from 2007 to 2009. According to Mojtabai, the increase equates to nearly 2 million disabled adults. He also noted the increase in the prevalence of mental health disability was mainly among individuals with significant psychological distress who did not use mental health services in the past year. Findings showed that 3.2 percent of participants reported not receiving mental health care for financial reasons between 2007 and 2009, compared to 2.0 percent from 1997 to 1999.
(A) designate 1 or more senior officials within the agency to oversee the agency implementation of this Act:
(B) communicate the requirements of this Act to the employees of the agency;
(C) train employees of the agency in plain writing;
(D) establish a process for overseeing the ongoing compliance of the agency with the requirements of this
(E) create and maintain a plain writing section of the agency’s website as required under paragraph (2) that is accessible from the homepage of the agency’s website; and
(F) designate 1 or more agency points-of-contact to receive and respond to public input on—
(i) agency implementation of this Act; and
(ii) the agency reports required under section 5.
Labels: Plain Language
The Social Security Administration has failed to inform tens of thousands of Americans it accidentally released their names, dates of birth and Social Security numbers in an electronic database widely used by U.S. business groups....
Reporters at newspapers and television stations owned by the E.W. Scripps Co. interviewed dozens of people nationwide who have had security breaches because of what Social Security officials call "inadvertent keying errors" by federal workers when entering what was supposed to be information only about dead people. None reported that the agency warned them about the breach of their confidential information.
Most of those erroneously listed as dead who were contacted for this story said they only found out about the agency's mistakes when they suffered adverse events like frozen bank accounts, canceled cellphones, refused job interviews, declined credit-card applications, denied apartment leases or refused mortgage and student-assistance loans. ...
Social Security officials admit that, each year, they accidentally release the personal information of about 14,000 living Americans by posting their files among the records of 90 million deceased Americans.
If their estimate is accurate, confidential data about more than 400,000 living Americans have been released since 1980 when the DMF became public under a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit.
Labels: Death Master File
A January sentencing date has been set for a former Social Security Administration employee who pleaded guilty to sending a white, powdery substance to two of her supervisors in 2009, according to federal court documents.
Michelle Holladay Ryder, 43, signed a plea agreement on Oct. 4 admitting that she mailed two letters from the Boaz Post Office that contained non-dairy creamer and included handwritten notes with derogatory remarks to two of her supervisors. ...
At the time the letters were mailed, Ryder worked at the Albertville Social Security office.
Labels: Crime Beat
Labels: Personnel Changes
You’re disabled, you’re not getting benefits, and you wonder if you’re entitled. But you’re also afraid of interacting with a federal bureaucracy, a paper intensive process, and giving one wrong answer that could disqualify you from benefits. You’re why The Advocator Group released Disability Answers, a free mobile app that tells disabled Americans whether they’ll qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Medicare.
Labels: Crime Beat
After a recent briefing by SSA officials on the potential impact of budget reduction scenarios, the union representing 30,000 Social Security employees in 1,200 field offices sent a letter to Democratic senators “to express our deep-seated concerns about the impact of potential reductions in spending on the program and its beneficiaries.” ...
According to the union letter, which was reviewed by the SSA at the Federal Diary’s request, even with current funding, the agency has had to freeze hiring in most of its sections; expects to lose about 2,500 federal employees, plus 1,000 state employees who are paid with federal funds; did not open eight new hearing offices; and has suspended mailing Social Security statements.
If the 2012 budget remains at 2011 levels, it would be an effective $800 million cut, in part because of increasing costs, according to the letter. The SSA workforce would drop by an additional 4,400 federal and state employees, for a total of 7,900 workers in two years. Almost 400,000 fewer disability claims would be processed, taking the backlog to 1.2 million and the processing time to longer than four months.
That also “would greatly delay other less visible workloads, as S.S.A faces a snowball effect of staffing losses two years in a row,” the union letter said.I had posted about this letter on September 24.
An employee taking a lunchtime stroll during a break from his job at the Social Security Administration headquarters in Woodlawn was robbed and shot on a secluded wooded path on Monday, prompting officials to put the federal campus on lockdown.
The shooting occurred about 11:45 a.m. off Social Security property. Police said the victim walked or stumbled back toward the sprawling complex and collapsed on an access road near Woodlawn Drive and Parallel Road, near the entrance to the Social Security West building and a series of parking lots.
Detectives had not made any arrests as of Monday evening. The victim, whose name and age were not disclosed, was taken by ambulance to Sinai Hospital in Northwest Baltimore. Police said his injuries were not considered life threatening. ...
Shortly after 3 p.m, Baltimore County police were called back to the Social Security Administration complex for a report of a suspicious package. Police said the package contained a pair of eyeglasses, and police were gone by 4 p.m.
Police said occupants of one building were briefly evacuated.
Labels: Crime Beat
The Social Security Administration facility is on lockdown after a robbery and shooting near its headquarters in Baltimore County.
The robbery did not occur on the campus of the Social Security Administration, but SSA was notified because the suspect has not yet been apprehended.
Baltimore County Police were called to Woodlawn Drive and Parallel Road at 11:43 a.m. Monday. They are on the scene of a shooting in the woods near Walden Circle.
Police say the victim, an adult male, has suffered non life-threatening injuries and will be transported to Sinai Hospital.
The suspect was last seen running down Woodlawn Drive.Update: OK, it's over.
Labels: Crime Beat