Apr 30, 2012
Law Review Article On Non-Attorney Representation At Social Security -- And Pay Attention To What's Coming In June
By the way, a footnote indicates that the Administrative Law Review will publish another article by Swank in June to be titled "The Social Security Administration’s Condoning of and Colluding with Attorney Misconduct."
Apr 29, 2012
Takei Wants Social Security To Boldly Recognize Same-Sex Marriages
Apr 28, 2012
Is This A Good Idea?
New Hearing Office In Jersey City
Apr 27, 2012
Child Disability Contractor Sought
- Examine how SSI [Supplemental Security Income] disability cash payments for children affect children and their families.
- Compare national trends in diagnosing mental disorders (including, but not limited to, ADHD [Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder], autism, bipolar illness, depression, and learning disorders) and speech/language disorders in children to trends in the SSI disability program for children.
- Investigate the use of prescription medications for children with mental disorders.
- Identify whether the receipt of SSI payments creates an unintended culture of dependence, particularly among adolescent recipients.
- Evaluate the effect of SSA's [Social Security Administration's] "treating source" rule.
- Examine and evaluate the rise in the number of children on SSI, and compare to the national diagnostic trends in children with mental disorders (including, but not limited to, ADHD, autism, bipolar illness, depression, learning disorders) and speech/language disorders.
- Identify factors (such as national poverty levels, access to health care, destigmatizing mental illness, changes in special education programs) that correlate with, or cause a, rise in the number of children on SSI with mental disorders and speech/language disorders.
- Identify the appropriate and effective treatment protocols for mental disorders and speech/language disorders in children, and determine to what extent the treatment for these disorders in SSI children is consistent with national treatment trends.
- Identify which mental disorders and speech/language disorders are amenable to treatment and subject to improving with age.
- Investigate the treatment of mental disorders for children on SSI.
- Are medications prescribed improperly for this population?
- Are physicians under pressure (explicit or implicit) to "help families make their case for" SSI payments?
- Evaluate whether SSA's medical source/treating source rules leave the SSI disability program for children vulnerable to manipulation or abuse.
- Evaluate to what extent, if any, the receipt of SSI cash payments creates a "culture of dependence" among children with disabilities and their families.
- Determine the relationship, if any, between a child's receipt of SSI cash payments and future school and work success.
Organize outreach conferences with transcription services to provide a neutral ground for debate and analysis of emerging issues related to the evaluation of disability in children, such as the diagnosis and treatment of mental disorders and speech/language disorders, and assessment of functional limitations, identified during the contract's period of performance (as approved by SSA) to be held in the Baltimore or Washington, D.C., metropolitan area.
Apr 26, 2012
Oh Lord! Please Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood
It's rare to see a federal official publicly beg reporters to get a story right, but the commissioner of the Social Security Administration seemed ready to get down on his hands and knees at a Monday press briefing. Michael Astrue was cautioning journalists not to scare the public about the meaning of the word "exhaustion."
"Please, please remember that exhaustion is an actuarial term of art and it does not mean there will be no money left to pay any benefits" he warned in issuing the trustees' annual report on the financial health of the Social Security program.
"After 2033, even if Congress does nothing, there will still be sufficient assets (from payroll taxes) to pay about 75 percent of benefits. That's not acceptable, but it's still a fact that there will still be substantial assets there," Astrue insisted.
Don't You Have To Know Something In Depth Before You Write A Book About It?
Host: If you are disabled and you are not working, and you are getting this benefit, what if you work a little bit? Does the benefit go down, stay the same? Or are you not allowed to work at all because you are disabled?
Autor: So, there is what is called a Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) threshold, which a couple of years ago was $1000/month. And essentially what it means is that if you earn more than SGA, you are in theory not disabled from the perspective of the Social Security Administration. They typically will reduce your benefits. You may lose your benefits for a month if you work above SGA. If you do it frequently, your benefits will be reviewed and you may lose access to the program. You can be viewed as having recovered. ... So, you have to basically be making money under the table. The thing is not by intention but the program creates a very strong incentive against meaningfully participating in the formal labor market. ... [It appears that Dr. Autor has never heard of the Trial Work Period, the Extended Period of Eligibility or Expedited Reinstatement, all of which are Social Security work incentives, not to mention Ticket to Work or the Vocational Rehabilitation exception to the medical improvement standard. Since his basic point is that there are serious disincentives to return to work, lack of knowledge of the work incentives that do exist is a major issue. There is no evidence that under the table employment by Social Security disability recipients is a significant problem.] ...
Autor: So, the definition of disability used by the SSA [Social Security Administration] adopted by Congress in 1956 is one based on employment more than health. The substance of the definition is that you are unable to engage in substantial gainful activity in the U.S. economy for a reason of health or disability. But what it really means is that you are not able to work; and you have to demonstrate to the SSA that you are unable to work; and the reason you are unable to work has to have something to do with your health. It could be your physical health or your mental health. So, it's a very elastic definition. For example, when the unemployment rate is high, there are very few jobs; you may be unable to work because the type of health limitation you have means that the type of job you would be able to do is not available at present. And that would qualify as a disability. ... [It appears that Dr. Autor has not read the part of the Social Security Act that says "An individual shall be determined to be under a disability only if ... he is not only unable to do his previous work but cannot ... engage in any other kind of substantial gainful work which exists in the national economy, regardless of whether such work exists in the immediate area in which he lives, or whether a specific job vacancy exists for him, or whether he would be hired if he applied for work."]
Autor: At present more than half of all awards are for mental disorders and musculoskeletal disorders. Mental disorders are things like nervous disorders, schizophrenia, and musculoskeletal disorders are basically back disorders.
Host: Carpal tunnel.
Guest: Yes. And those disorders are very difficult to verify. So, soft-tissue pain is difficult to prove or disprove; not observable. Obviously if you have a damaged disc in your back, that's observable. Soft tissue pain is not. ... [Musculoskeletal disorders are "basically back disorders?" I think that arthritis in the knees and broken bones and rheumatoid arthritis also qualify as musculoskeletal disorders. Damaged disks are easy to verify but schizophrenia isn't? Does Dr. Autor have any idea how ridiculous a statement that is medically? I'm pretty sure he wouldn't dismiss schizophrenia so quickly if he had any schizophrenics in his family or even in the families of any of his close friends.]
Autor: Even if population health were holding constant, there ought to be fewer and fewer people who are effectively disabled because of course the types of jobs they need to do require less and less physical capability. So, it is indeed quite surprising from that perspective that we should see an epidemic of disability. ... [Autor entirely misses the point that as the physical demands of some types of employment have decreased, the cognitive demands of almost all types of employment have increased, causing more disability for individuals who have cognitive limitations or who suffer chronic mental illness.]
Autor: ... And I believe it was 21 U.S. State Supreme Courts [who] ordered their Social Security Field Offices to stop complying with the continuing disability review process [in the early 1980s when Social Security has terminating the disability benefits of huge numbers of people]... [This is seriously fractured history. State governors ordered Disability Determination Services (DDS's) to stop doing continuing disability reviews for Social Security. A young Arkansas governor by the name of Bill Clinton was the first to do this. This was how he first drew national attention. But I digress. The DDS's are state agencies doing work under contract with Social Security. The state Supreme Courts ordered nothing. No part of any state government ordered Social Security field offices to do anything. If they had, the field offices would have ignored them. To think that State Supreme Courts could order Social Security field offices to do or not to do something is to misunderstand a fundamental principle of constitutional law, the sort of thing that I think that someone with a Ph.D. in public policy should know.]
Apr 25, 2012
We Need More Work Incentives!
- Disability insurance takes too many workers out of the job market prematurely ... slows economic growth ...
- Some of its growth reflects changes in the population: we are growing older and becoming fragile with age. Similarly, disability rates among women [are rising because they are a larger part of the work force] ...But these factors account for only a small share of the growing cost.
- “The health of nonelderly Americans is improving consistently, and we have more technology to help people at work,” observed Mark Duggan, an economist at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania
- [B]reakneck growth in the disability program ...
- [D]isability becomes an attractive alternative for unemployed people ...
- The disability insurance program was meant for another era, in the late 1950s when working conditions were tougher and disabilities were expected to put an end to someone’s working life.
- In the mid-1980s, however, Congress softened the criteria. ... required to give more weight to subjective factors like pain ... opened the door for applicants who reported mental ailments like anxiety, or back pain and other muscular problems ...
- Collecting disability became even easier as rejected applicants were allowed to appeal before an administrative judge without anyone from Social Security present to defend its decision.
- [T]he disability program suffers from artificial woes that can be corrected. Fixing the system requires providing incentives to enable disabled workers to continue working if they can.
- Work Not Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA)
- Unsuccessful Work Attempt (UWA)
- Impairment Related Work Expenses (IRWE)
- Trial Work Period (TWP)
- Extended Period of Eligibility (EPE)
- Expedited Reinstatement (EXR)
Apr 24, 2012
Update: One sharp-eyed reader noticed that the fine print shows that the Angell Law Group is not offering representation at hearings.Further update: The sharp-eyed reader now acknowledges that the really fine print says that Angell will send someone to the hearing.
Apr 23, 2012
The Social Security Board of Trustees today released its annual report on the financial health of the Social Security Trust Funds. The combined assets of the Old-Age and Survivors Insurance, and Disability Insurance (OASDI) Trust Funds will be exhausted in 2033, three years sooner than projected last year. The DI Trust Fund will be exhausted in 2016, two years earlier than last year’s estimate. The Trustees also project that OASDI program costs will exceed non-interest income in 2012 and will remain higher throughout the remainder of the 75-year period.
In the 2012 Annual Report to Congress, the Trustees announced:
- The projected point at which the combined Trust Funds will be exhausted comes in 2033 – three years sooner than projected last year. At that time, there will be sufficient non-interest income coming in to pay about 75 percent of scheduled benefits.
- The projected actuarial deficit over the 75-year long-range period is 2.67 percent of taxable payroll -- 0.44 percentage point larger than in last year’s report.
- Over the 75-year period, the Trust Funds would require additional revenue equivalent to $8.6 trillion in present value dollars to pay all scheduled benefits.
Update: The report projects that the Disability Trust Fund will be exhausted in 2016, the same as last year's projection.
- "Social Security Trust Fund Even Larger Than It Was Last Year"
- "Growing Wealth Inequity Will Lead to Social Security Imbalance Later This Century"
- "For-Profit Healthcare Poses Threat to Medicare, Federal Deficit, and Overall Economy in Coming Decades"
- "Public Consensus Grows For Taxing Wealthy to Restore Long-Term Entitlement Imbalance"
A Lot Of People Don't Know What They're Talking About
I'm not sure this completely supports my point but one of the embarrassing problems that caused Social Security to ban claimants filing an appeal as well as a new claim after an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) decision was that the new claims were frequently approved at the initial level, based upon the same evidence that had previously gotten the claimant denied at the initial and reconsideration levels as well as by an ALJ. In my office, it was happening almost 30% of the time.
Apr 22, 2012
Early Claiming Declines
Apr 21, 2012
NASI Wants To Phase Out Reduction In FICA Tax Over 11 Years
Eleven years!!?? I hope the recession that brought about this reduction is over long before then.
Apr 20, 2012
In Case You Were Wondering
Q: How many Social Security numbers have been issued since the program started?
A: Since 1935, we have assigned more than 465 million Social Security numbers and each year we assign about 5.5 million new numbers. With approximately 1 billion combinations of the 9-digit Social Security number, the current system will provide us with enough new numbers for several generations into the future. To learn more about Social Security numbers and cards, visit www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/10002.html.
Labels: Social Security Numbers
More ALJs Coming
Apr 19, 2012
Mostly Off-Topic But Still Interesting
- When economic times are good, deaths in the United States increase.
- Previous research suggests that a likely culprit is poorer health habits tied to greater job demands.
- However, the increase in mortality is largely driven by deaths among elderly women in nursing homes.
- These nursing home deaths may reflect increased shortages of caregivers during economic expansions.
Apr 18, 2012
Social Security For Dummies
Apr 17, 2012
Officials Fight To Keep Social Security Office Open
After the Social Security Administration office in Rome [NY] announced plans to close and relocate to Utica, several high ranking officials teamed up to stop it from happening.Rome Mayor Joe Fusco, Senator Chuck Schumer, Congressman Richard Hanna, State Senator Joe Griffo and Assemblymen Anthony Brindisi, all say they joined forces to help area seniors maintain their access to critical benefits. ...
The officials were able to reach an agreement to keep the office open for the next three months. During that time a pilot program will be implemented to measure the cost benefit of keeping the office open indefinitely. Schumer says he’s also asking the Social Security Administration for its economic justification for wanting to close shop and relocate. ...
For the next three months, the office will be open one day a week until a final agreement is reached.
Apr 16, 2012
Chief ALJ Bans Mandatory Prehearing Orders
CALJ Memo on Prehearing Orders
On A Collision Course
SSA [Social Security Administration and the DDS [Disability Determination Services] can expect a continued decrease in the national budget. All departments, including SSA, are facing an across the board funding cut of nine percent (9%) next fiscal year barring a legislative change in the law. The projections is that close to 3,000 DDS employees have been lost since Fiscal Year (FY) 2010 to attrition with only the ability to hire 200 critically needed employees nationwide. The loss of each examiner equates to a loss of work on 600 claims. ... Last FY the DDS had 59,000 staged claims awaiting assignment [to a disability examiner]. Currently there are 106,000 staged claims and SSA anticipates there will be 170,000 staged claims by the end of this fiscal year [September 30, 2012]. The Continuing Disability Review (CDR) workload has been set at 435,000 for FY 2012 with the potential for a dramatic increase for CDRs next fiscal year, depending upon the budget.Note the inherent conflict between doing Continuing Disability Reviews (CDRs) to determine whether claimants are still disabled and doing reviews of new disability claims. Congress has ordered that there be great increases in the number of CDRs at a time when the agency is not being given enough funds to review new disability claims. Inevitably, this creates a large and constantly increasing backlog of new claims awaiting adjudication. This conflict may become dramatically worse next year because Social Security may be forced to do dramatically more CDRs next year with a dramatically lower appropriation.
Apr 15, 2012
Fee Payment Numbers
Apr 14, 2012
A National City [California] psychologist was arrested and charged today on suspicion of completing and selling immigration and Social Security forms falsely stating that his patients had a medical disability.
Dr. Roberto J. Velasquez, 55, was charged with making false statements in immigration documents and applications for Supplemental Security Income disability benefits. ...
For a fee of $200, Velasquez would provide a form falsely stating that a person qualified for a medical disability exception, even though the person had no actual disability, according to the affidavit.
I've been representing Social Security disability claimants for more than 30 years and this is the first time I've heard of this happening. I expect it's happened but it's certainly uncommon. It's not hard to understand why it's rare. Note that the psychologist is alleged to have charged only $200. That's not much money to get in return for prostituting yourself as well as risking jail and the loss of your professional license but that's about all you could hope to get for doing this because the claimants involved are so poor. You'd have to be pretty desperate or depraved or stupid to do it.
Velasquez was also completing medical reports for people seeking to file applications for Social Security Administration's Supplemental Security Income program, authorities said. Velasquez would falsely state that those people had a medical disability, according to the affidavit.
Labels: Crime Beat
Apr 13, 2012
Rate Of Retirment And Disability Claims Drops In 2011
After peaking in the wake of the Great Recession, Social Security retirement and disability awards fell in 2011 as the economy improved. Only 27 percent of Americans age 62 and older began collecting retirement benefits that year, the lowest take-up rate since 1976. Disability applications and awards remained unusually high, however. In 2011, 18.9 insured workers per 1,000 applied for Social Security disability benefits, more than in any year except 2010.Below are a couple of charts from the report
Apr 12, 2012
Tell Me About Sharepoint
One Little Thing Not Mentioned In Yesterday's Press Release
Labels: Compassionate Allowances
Apr 11, 2012
Additions To Compassionate Allowances
- Aicardi-Goutieres Syndrome
- Alobar Holoprosencephaly
- Alpers Disease
- Alpha Mannosidosis
- Carcinoma of Unknown Primary Site Listing 13.27
- Cerebrotendinous Xanthomatosis
- Child Neuroblastoma Listing 113.21
- Child Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma Listing 113.05
- Chondrosarcoma with multimodal therapy
- Cornelia de Lange Syndrome-Classic Form
- Ewings Sarcoma
- Follicular Dendritic Cell Sarcoma with metastases
- Fucosidosis - Type 1
- Galactosialidosis - Early Infantile Type
- Glioma Grade III and IV
- Hallervorden-Spatz Disease
- Hutchinson-Gilford Progeria Syndrome
- Hypocomplementemic Urticarial Vasculitis
- Hypophosphatasia Perinatal lethal Form
- I Cell disease
- Infantile Free Sialic Acid Storage Disease
- Juvenile Onset Huntington Disease
- Kufs Disease Type A and B
- Lymphomatoid Granulomatosis Grade III
- Malignant Brain Stem Gliomas - Childhood
- Malignant Melanoma with metastases Listing 13.03
- Mastocytosis Type IV
- Medulloblastoma with metastasis
- Merkel Cell Carcinoma with metastases
- Myocolonic Epilepsy and Ragged Red Fibers Syndrome
- Nephrogenic Systemic Fibrosis Obliterative Bronchiolitis
- Ohtahara Syndrome
- Orthochromatic Leukodystrophy with Pigmented Glia
- Pearson Syndrome
- Pelizaeus-Merzbacher Disease-Classic Form
- Pelizaeus-Merzbacher Disease-Connatal Form
- Peripheral Nerve Cancer - metastatic or recurrent Listing 13.13.B
- Perry Syndrome
- Rhizomelic Chondrodysplasia Punctata
- Schindler Disease Type 1
- Smith Lemli Opitz Syndrome
- Spinal Nerve Root Cancer- metastatic or recurrent
- Stiff Person Syndrome
- Tabes Dorsalis
- Wolf-Hirschhorn Syndrome
- Xeroderma Pigmentosum Listings 8.07 and 108.07
Office Closures In Georgia
With the Moultrie Social Security office on the budget chopping block, officials are hoping a way (sic) to find a way to prevent the closure scheduled for the end of June.
The agency said this week that the closing was based on a review of the office, significant budget shortfalls and other service options available to residents. The move is anticipated to save $2.1 million over 10 years.
In Georgia the Social Security Administration also closed its Swainsboro office in December, Patti Patterson, regional communications director in Atlanta, said in an email response. So far the agency has closed eight offices nationally with expected savings of $2 million annually.
The 2012 closings all are of offices that employ less than 11 and serve less than 80 visitors a day, Patterson said. Moultrie’s office has 11 employees and serves about 60 people per day. Those employees will be offered employment in other nearby offices.
Service Limitations Shock Senator
Labels: Customer Service
Apr 10, 2012
Is Social Security Privatization Unconstitutional?
Update: One right wing proponent of privatization, Andrew Biggs, seems to concede that if the health care mandate is unconstitutional that Social Security privatization would be even more unconstitutional since Social Security privatization could not be justified under the Constitution's commerce clause. What Biggs openly wants, however, is for the courts to find all of Social Security unconstitutional. Right wing schemes to "reform" Social Security are all aimed at undermining and ultimately destroying Social Security.
Labels: Social Security "Reform"
Apr 9, 2012
The Attacks On Social Security Never Let Up
[Social Security] has become what was then [the 1930s] called “the dole” and is now known as “welfare.” This forgotten history clarifies why America’s budget problems are so intractable. ...
What we have is a vast welfare program grafted onto the rhetoric and psychology of a contributory pension. The result is entitlement. ...
By all rights, we should ask: Who among the elderly need benefits? How much? At what age? If Social Security and Medicare were considered “welfare” — something the nation does for its collective good — these questions would be easier. We would tailor programs to meet national needs. But entitlements are viewed as a higher-order moral claim, owed individuals based on past performance. So a huge part of government spending moves off-limits to intelligent discussion.
Samuelson's fawning review has already drawn a response from Jared Bernstein.
Labels: Financing Social Security
Apr 8, 2012
Apr 7, 2012
A Warm, Fuzzy Easter Story
The pastor of a Foxborough, Mass., church has been charged with attempting to scam four elderly people out of their Social Security checks by telling them they were lottery winners.
One of the victims is Margaret Swartz, 84, of Athens.
“He called me in March and told me I had won a bunch of money,” she said today, while in the midst of coloring Easter eggs.
She told him she only deserved money she earned.
“He said the government gives out money to people with a very good work record and I fell for it.”
The pastor told Swartz he needed her Social Security number. ...
Ranulfo Luther Raposo of the Seventh-day Adventist Church pleaded not guilty on Wednesday to charges including attempted larceny and identity fraud. He was granted $5,000 bail.Police say all the alleged victims are in their 70s and 80s, live in Michigan, New Mexico and Arkansas, and are unconnected with the church.
Labels: Crime Beat
Is He Getting The Right Explanation? Sounds To Me Like He's A Fraud Victim.
There are almost 144,000 people in Vermont who receive Social Security benefits. And that system is going paperless by March 1, 2012. The administration says it will save the country's taxpayers about $44 million. But the change is coming with some headaches.
Harold Nadeau contracted polio when he was 4.
"From then on I've been paraplegic," he said.
Once Nadeau couldn't work anymore he applied for disability Social Security benefits. He's been getting that money directly deposited in his account for over 10 years now. But recently he noticed something was off.
"I went online to make my monthly payments and when I opened my account it was empty," Nadeau said.
His monthly payment never arrived. So he called the Social Security office in Montpelier.
"They were baffled," he said. "They had no idea what happened or why."
But Nadeau finally got his answer from the Vermont Social Security office. Turns out his money was sent to him in the mail on a Direct Express Card. It's part of Social Security's effort to go paperless. The card works and looks like a debit card and your monthly payment gets refilled. But Nadeau never was told he'd be receiving the card. And it wasn't clear when he did that it was from Social Security. ..."If you don't respond to this letter then you'll be enrolled automatically into this debit card system," Sarah Launderville said.
Launderville works for the Vermont Center for Independent Living or VCIL. The nonprofit got several calls recently from people who also did not receive their monthly payments, like Nadeau.
Labels: Payment of Benefits
Apr 6, 2012
Will This Work?
Apr 5, 2012
OIG Report On NHCs -- And Read To The End For News On Remands And Possibility Of NHC ALJs Traveling
During FYs [Fiscal Years] 2010 and 2011, ODAR’s [Office of Disability Adjudication and Review] 5 NHCs processed more than 56,000 hearings to assist backlogged hearing offices with older cases. The Chicago Region transferred the highest number of cases during this period, about 50 percent of all cases the NHCs received. These transfers allowed the Chicago Region to address case backlogs while new hearing offices were being constructed to permanently address workload needs. We found the ALJs [Administrative Law Judges] working in the NHCs had a higher than average disposition rate that may have related to such factors as (1) a higher decision writer-to-ALJ ratio, (2) how attorneys are supervised, (3) the lack of travel to remote sites, (4) useful pre-hearing briefs, and (5) the processing of NHC remands at the hearing office level. However, the NHCs identified a number of challenges that may limit the effectiveness of the NHC model, including (1) availability of video capacity, (2) difficulties scheduling experts, and (3) claimants declining video hearings. The assisted hearing offices we contacted stated case transfers to the NHCs led to fewer pending cases and improved processing times. The hearing offices also had a few concerns, including their processing of NHC remands as well as the extra work related to declined video hearings.
Apr 4, 2012
It Happens Almost Every Month
Apr 3, 2012
I Want Your Filthy Lucre!