Jun 22, 2017

Attempting To Defraud Former Clients Of Eric Conn

    A press release:
Gale Stallworth Stone, the Acting Inspector General of Social Security, is warning citizens about a phone scheme allegedly targeting former clients of Kentucky disability attorney Eric C. Conn.  The Social Security Administration (SSA) and its Office of the Inspector General (OIG) have received reports that Kentucky citizens who used Conn’s law firm to assist with applying for Social Security disability benefits have recently received suspicious calls from people claiming to be from SSA. 
According to reports, the callers claim to be from SSA and offer citizens $9,000 from a “Conn Client Compensation Fund” if the citizens send $200 to the “Federal Reserve Bank of New York.”  The number associated with these calls is 202-681-5115.  Those who have sent money have received additional calls; some callers report that citizens can receive greater compensation amounts if they send more money, while others threaten that citizens will be arrested if they do not send additional funds. 
The Acting Inspector General is alerting citizens that SSA personnel are not making these calls, and the compensation fund described in the calls does not exist.

Jun 21, 2017

The Time To Act Is Now

     The U.S. Senate will soon take up the Republican healthcare bill. Call it Trumpcare if you will. The current plan is that the text of the bill will only be announced next week and the Senate will vote on the bill a couple of days later. There will only be a limited debate. Senators will not have the ability to offer amendments. 
     The bill is expected to be similar to the bill passed earlier in the House of Representatives. That bill would have the effect of increasing the number of uninsured Americans by 24 million. Health care premiums would go up dramatically for those who are older or who have preexisting conditions.    







      Rumor has it that the Senate version of Trumpcare will include dramatic cuts in Medicaid. Do not think that you would be unaffected by Medicaid cuts. Medicaid pays for most long term care. Most Americans don't have the resources to pay for nursing home care for themselves or their parents. You or your elderly relatives are likely to depend upon Medicaid at some point in your life -- assuming Medicaid will still be able to pay for this coverage.
     It is not too early to start telling your Senators what you think about this bill and about the process that the Republican leadership is following. It will soon be too late.
     It is especially important to contact Republican Senators. The Republican majority in the Senate is slim. They can only afford to lose two Senators. 
     Below is contact information for all Senators, sorted by state. Call, write, fax, e-mail. Do it now while you can.
     If you are a government employee, you have every right to contact your Senator. Just don't do it from your office!

Murkowski, Lisa - (R - AK)

522 Hart Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
(202) 224-6665

Sullivan, Dan - (R - AK)

702 Hart Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
(202) 224-3004


304 Russell Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
(202) 224-5744

Strange, Luther - (R - AL)

326 Russell Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
(202) 224-4124

Boozman, John - (R - AR)

141 Hart Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
(202) 224-4843

Cotton, Tom - (R - AR)

124 Russell Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
(202) 224-2353

Flake, Jeff - (R - AZ)

413 Russell Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
(202) 224-4521

McCain, John - (R - AZ)

218 Russell Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
(202) 224-2235

Feinstein, Dianne - (D - CA)
331 Hart Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
(202) 224-3841

Harris, Kamala D. - (D - CA)

112 Hart Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
(202) 224-3553


261 Russell Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
(202) 224-5852

Gardner, Cory - (R - CO)

354 Russell Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
(202) 224-5941


706 Hart Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
(202) 224-2823

136 Hart Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
(202) 224-4041

Carper, Thomas R. - (D - DE)

513 Hart Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
(202) 224-2441


127A Russell Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
(202) 224-5042

Nelson, Bill - (D - FL)

716 Hart Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
(202) 224-5274

Rubio, Marco - (R - FL)

284 Russell Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
(202) 224-3041

Isakson, Johnny - (R - GA)

131 Russell Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
(202) 224-3643

Perdue, David - (R - GA)
455 Russell Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
(202) 224-3521

Hirono, Mazie K. - (D - HI)
730 Hart Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
(202) 224-6361

Schatz, Brian - (D - HI)

722 Hart Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
(202) 224-3934

Ernst, Joni - (R - IA)

111 Russell Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
(202) 224-3254

Grassley, Chuck - (R - IA)

135 Hart Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
(202) 224-3744

Crapo, Mike - (R - ID)

239 Dirksen Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
(202) 224-6142

Risch, James E. - (R - ID)

483 Russell Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
(202) 224-2752

Duckworth, Tammy - (D - IL)

524 Hart Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
(202) 224-2854


711 Hart Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
(202) 224-2152

Donnelly, Joe - (D - IN)

720 Hart Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
(202) 224-4814

Young, Todd - (R - IN)

400 Russell Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
(202) 224-5623

Moran, Jerry - (R - KS)

521 Dirksen Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
(202) 224-6521

Roberts, Pat - (R - KS)

109 Hart Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
(202) 224-4774

McConnell, Mitch - (R - KY)

317 Russell Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
(202) 224-2541

Paul, Rand - (R - KY)

167 Russell Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
(202) 224-4343

Cassidy, Bill - (R - LA)

520 Hart Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
(202) 224-5824

Kennedy, John - (R - LA)

383 Russell Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
(202) 224-4623

Markey, Edward J. - (D - MA)

255 Dirksen Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
(202) 224-2742

Warren, Elizabeth - (D - MA)

317 Hart Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
(202) 224-4543


509 Hart Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
(202) 224-4524

Van Hollen, Chris - (D - MD)

110 Hart Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
(202) 224-4654

Collins, Susan M. - (R - ME)

413 Dirksen Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
(202) 224-2523


133 Hart Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
(202) 224-5344

Peters, Gary C. - (D - MI)
724 Hart Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
(202) 224-6221

Stabenow, Debbie - (D - MI)

731 Hart Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
(202) 224-4822

Franken, Al - (D - MN)

309 Hart Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
(202) 224-5641

Klobuchar, Amy - (D - MN)

302 Hart Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
(202) 224-3244

Blunt, Roy - (R - MO)

260 Russell Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
(202) 224-5721

McCaskill, Claire - (D - MO)

503 Hart Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
(202) 224-6154

Cochran, Thad - (R - MS)

113 Dirksen Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
(202) 224-5054

Wicker, Roger F. - (R - MS)
555 Dirksen Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
(202) 224-6253

Daines, Steve - (R - MT)

320 Hart Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
(202) 224-2651

Tester, Jon - (D - MT)
311 Hart Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
(202) 224-2644

Burr, Richard - (R - NC)

217 Russell Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
(202) 224-3154

Tillis, Thom - (R - NC)

185 Dirksen Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
(202) 224-6342

Heitkamp, Heidi - (D - ND)

516 Hart Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
(202) 224-2043

Hoeven, John - (R - ND)

338 Russell Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
(202) 224-2551

Fischer, Deb - (R - NE)

454 Russell Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
(202) 224-6551

Sasse, Ben - (R - NE)

136 Russell Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
(202) 224-4224


330 Hart Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
(202) 224-3324

Shaheen, Jeanne - (D - NH)

506 Hart Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
(202) 224-2841

Booker, Cory A. - (D - NJ)

359 Dirksen Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
(202) 224-3224

Menendez, Robert - (D - NJ)

528 Hart Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
(202) 224-4744

Heinrich, Martin - (D - NM)

303 Hart Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
(202) 224-5521

Udall, Tom - (D - NM)

531 Hart Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
(202) 224-6621


204 Russell Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
(202) 224-3542

Heller, Dean - (R - NV)

324 Hart Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
(202) 224-6244


478 Russell Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
(202) 224-4451


322 Hart Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
(202) 224-6542

Brown, Sherrod - (D - OH)

713 Hart Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
(202) 224-2315

Portman, Rob - (R - OH)

448 Russell Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
(202) 224-3353

Inhofe, James M. - (R - OK)

205 Russell Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
(202) 224-4721

Lankford, James - (R - OK)

316 Hart Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
(202) 224-5754

Merkley, Jeff - (D - OR)

313 Hart Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
(202) 224-3753

Wyden, Ron - (D - OR)

221 Dirksen Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
(202) 224-5244


393 Russell Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
(202) 224-6324


248 Russell Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
(202) 224-4254

Reed, Jack - (D - RI)

728 Hart Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
(202) 224-4642

530 Hart Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
(202) 224-2921

Graham, Lindsey - (R - SC)

290 Russell Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
(202) 224-5972

Scott, Tim - (R - SC)

717 Hart Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
(202) 224-6121

Rounds, Mike - (R - SD)

502 Hart Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
(202) 224-5842

Thune, John - (R - SD)

511 Dirksen Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
(202) 224-2321

Alexander, Lamar - (R - TN)

455 Dirksen Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
(202) 224-4944

Corker, Bob - (R - TN)

425 Dirksen Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
(202) 224-3344

Cornyn, John - (R - TX)

517 Hart Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
(202) 224-2934

Cruz, Ted - (R - TX)

404 Russell Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
(202) 224-5922

Hatch, Orrin G. - (R - UT)

104 Hart Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
(202) 224-5251

Lee, Mike - (R - UT)

361A Russell Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
(202) 224-5444

Kaine, Tim - (D - VA)

231 Russell Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
(202) 224-4024

Warner, Mark R. - (D - VA)

703 Hart Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
(202) 224-2023

Leahy, Patrick J. - (D - VT)

437 Russell Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
(202) 224-4242

Sanders, Bernard - (I - VT)

332 Dirksen Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
(202) 224-5141

Cantwell, Maria - (D - WA)

511 Hart Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
(202) 224-3441

Murray, Patty - (D - WA)

154 Russell Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
(202) 224-2621

Baldwin, Tammy - (D - WI)

709 Hart Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
(202) 224-5653

Johnson, Ron - (R - WI)

328 Hart Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
(202) 224-5323


172 Russell Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
(202) 224-6472

Manchin, Joe, III - (D - WV)

306 Hart Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
(202) 224-3954

Barrasso, John - (R - WY)

307 Dirksen Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
(202) 224-6441

Enzi, Michael B. - (R - WY)

379A Russell Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
(202) 224-3424

Jun 20, 2017

Conn Now Accused Of Car Theft

     From WKYT:
In its hunt for Eric C. Conn, the FBI questioned numerous people Monday about what they might know about the Floyd County lawyer's run from the law.

Officials in Floyd County also confirmed to WYMT on Monday that Conn is now accused of stealing a car owned by the mother of his daughter. FBI agents agents would not confirm whether they thought Conn may be in the stolen vehicle. ...
In a news briefing in Louisville last week, agents say they believe a doctor accused of being Conn's accomplice in bilking the government of millions of dollars helped him flee. ...

Think You'll Delay Taking Social Security To Age 70?

From the Motley Fool

Jun 19, 2017

I Don't Know About This Study

     From the Washington Center for Equitable Growth:
The paper, by economists Manasi Deshpande of the University of Chicago and Yue Li of the University at Albany, State University of New York, looks at how the closure of Social Security field offices affects how many people apply for disability programs and the changes in the kinds of people who apply for the program. Using administrative data from the Social Security Administration, the authors can see what happened to SSDI applications and the number of SSDI recipients in ZIP codes closest to the closed offices. ...
What actually happened when the closest Social Security field offices closed and the cost [meaning inconvenience] of applying increased? The number of applications dropped quite a bit, 11 percent after a few quarters, and stayed at that lower level. At the same time, the number of recipients of disability insurance in ZIP codes near the closed field offices dropped 13 percent and also remained low. The fact that the number of recipients dropped more than the number of applicants—the difference is statistically significant—means that the people not applying were more likely to have been accepted if they had applied. Deshpande and Li also find that the field office closings discouraged people with lower education levels and low earnings levels from applying. ...
     I don't know about this study. Most disability claims are filed over the telephone which reduces the importance of proximity to a field office. If the "cost" -- basically hassle factor -- of applying goes up and it has generally, I expect those most likely to have been deterred from filing claims are those who suffering from depression. It's a struggle to do anything when you're depressed. I think these authors should have talked with some people involved in the process. Economics explains a lot of things but not everything.

Jun 18, 2017

"I've Never Had Such A Hard Time Giving Back Money"

     From KUTV:
Sue Brandon got a huge surprise when she checked her bank account one day. She had received a Social Security deposit of $13,098.
The massive amount is a far cry from the $4 per month increase that the Social Security Administration had told her she would be getting after her husband passed away.
“I called them and said, ‘Hey, something's wrong because there's no way you can owe me this $13,000,’” she said. ...
Brandon said she called the Social Security office over and over again but was repeatedly old they couldn’t get to the bottom of it.
The Brandon said one of the SSA employees snapped at her: “I don't know what to tell you anymore. Call your congressman.” ...
"I've never had such a hard time giving back money,” she said. ...
      I think I've posted before about the problem I and other attorneys sometimes have when an attorney fee is overpaid. We issue a check refunding the money to Social Security but the agency immediately issues another check in the same amount. I recently talked with another attorney who was refunding the same fee overpayment for the fourth time!

Jun 17, 2017

Eric Conn "Better Surrender Before Monday"

     From the Lexington Herald-Dispatch:
... Scott White, Conn's attorney, repeated his call for Conn to surrender to authorities, and said the FBI was "ramping up" efforts to capture him. 
"That could well mean that he is about to be charged with a separate crime," White said in an email Friday. "And if that happens, my ability to restrict the consequences to a bond violation is seriously jeopardized. In that case, the number of years he is facing in prison will dramatically increase. In other words, it sounds like he better surrender before Monday." ...

Washington Post's Reporting Draws Criticism

     The Washington Post's reporting on Social Security disability continues to draw criticism from many quarters for being "mean spirited" and "cartoonish." I think the Post just keeps listening to right wing "think tanks" who are only too happy to caricature poor sick people. It's easy to write articles like the Post has published if you are so far removed from the people you are writing about that you can only think about them as stereotypes.

Jun 16, 2017

A New Obsession


New Evidence In Conn Case?

     From some television station in Kentucky that hides its call letters on its website:
After a raid at the law offices of Eric C. Conn turned up new evidence for federal investigators, the FBI will hold a press conference on the embattled attorney's disappearance. ...
The FBI will hold the press conference at their Louisville offices at 10 a.m.
    Update: Apparently, there wasn't much news coming out of that news conference.

Where's The Budget?

     From CQ News (sorry, I don't have a link):
The White House did not include a required Social Security Administration request in President Donald Trump’s fiscal 2018 budget —and lawmakers are waiting to find out why.
The Senate Finance Committee wrote a bipartisan letter to White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney on June 1 asking for the administration to release what is called the Social Security commissioner’s “unrevised” administrative budget.
Under a 1994 law (PL 103-296) that made the Social Security Administration an independent agency, the president is required to include the commissioner’s administrative request in the full budget....
“We have not yet received an official response, but understand OMB is working on it,” a GOP aide to the Finance Committee told CQ. ...
The Finance Committee letter says the requirement for the president to make the Social Security budget request public is a “key feature of the Act that made Social Security independent.” ...
In the case of Social Security, the president’s budget is supposed to include both the Social Security’s Administration’s request to the president, and what the president is requesting from Congress....

Jun 15, 2017

Another Conviction In Conn Scandal

     From the Floyd County Times:
A federal jury in Lexington Tuesday convicted a clinical psychologist for his role in a Social Security disability fraud scheme that included a former Social Security Administration (SSA) administrative law judge and that involved the submission of thousands of falsified medical documents to the SSA, obligating the SSA to pay more than $600 million in lifetime benefits to claimants predicated on these fraudulent submissions. ...
After a one-week trial in federal court in Lexington, the jury convicted Alfred Bradley Adkins, 45, of Shelbiana, of one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud, one count of mail fraud, one count of wire fraud, and one count of making false statements. ...

Jun 14, 2017

Lawsuit On Student Loan Debt Collection

     From the New York Daily News:
The feds are ripping off disabled Social Security recipients by skimming their benefits in order to pay back defaulted student loans — but not saying enough on what people can do to avoid it, a lawsuit alleges.
“Instead of focusing on getting disabled borrowers the relief they are entitled to under federal law,” the suit says, the Department of Education uses debt collection methods like the Social Security disability benefit offset “to collect money from disabled borrowers.” ...
The plaintiffs say their benefits are getting trimmed by loan debt that could be forgiven “if the defendants simply told them about the existence of the disability-based discharge.” ...
The suit wants Social Security recipients to get a better notice about the availability of the disability discharge and better government tracking so disabled recipients don’t get a lopped-off payment in the first place. ...

Jun 13, 2017

A Tawdry Scheme

     From the Worcester (Massachusetts) Telegram and Gazette:
A city man who worked administering federal Social Security benefits in Worcester pleaded guilty to a bribery charge Friday in connection to allegations he orchestrated thousands in overpayments to claimants for personal gain. ...
According to an affidavit filed in federal court by Tawnya Patterson, a criminal investigator with the Office of the Inspector General for the Social Security Administration, the alleged activity occurred between August of 2016 and Sept. 2016. The case for which he was charged involved an $8,600 payment that a specific claimant did not deserve — a payment he facilitated, the records show, by creating false documents in exchange for $2,000. ...
Mr. Klapper, she alleged, processed multiple changes to accounts for disabled children who receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI), “to which the claimants were not entitled.
“In total, Klapper was believed to have changed SSI records a total of 22 times for seven beneficiaries, resulting in underpayments of less than $5,000 each time being due to the claimants,” she wrote.

The case that resulted in the bribery charge included requests for sexual pictures and implied sexual acts, the records show, before Mr. Klapper ultimately accepted $2,000. ...

Jun 12, 2017

Caseload Analysis Report

     Posted in the newsletter of the National Organization of Social Security Claimants Representatives (NOSSCR), which is not available online.
Click on this to view full size

     Note the large increase in overtime hours beginning in February. Note also that the Senior Attorney decisions are down to a pathetic total of 18 in April! If you want to know whether Social Security is taking its hearing backlog seriously, pay attention to the Senior Attorney decisions. Should Democrats take control of the House of Representatives in 2018, expect that number to soar.

Jun 11, 2017

This Fugitive Business Must Be Tougher Than He Thought

     From the Lexington Herald Leader:
A person claiming to be fugitive lawyer Eric C. Conn laid out the terms of his surrender in emails sent to his attorney and the Herald-Leader in recent days, then contacted the newspaper early Sunday to provide extra details aimed at confirming his identity. ... 
In an email sent to the newspaper Friday, the person claiming to be Conn said he fled because he felt it was unfair that two Social Security judges convicted in relation to his case would get far less prison time than him. 
Conn’s attorney, Scott White, confirmed that he received an email Thursday from someone claiming to be his client and that the email contained some of the same details that were in the message sent to the newspaper. 
White said he first thought the email was a joke, but became convinced there was a high likelihood that the emails to him and the newspaper were from Conn. 
The emails set out conditions under which the sender would surrender to the FBI. 
They were that the terms of his surrender be made available for public review and discussion; that the FBI publicly state Conn fled because he found it unfair that others in the case will receive a combined sentence less than his; that the FBI publicly acknowledge Conn has no history of violence and that a caution they issued to members of the public about approaching him was not based on a specific concern; and finally, that the FBI not charge him with additional crimes related to him fleeing.

Should More Consideration Be Given To Assistive Devices In Determining Disability?

     The Governmental Accountability Office (GAO) recommended in 2012 that Social Security look into whether it should consider more fully assistive devices in disability determination. Social Security commissioned a report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine on the subject. The bottom line is that they recommended against making any change. They also recommended more research but Beltway Bandits always recommend more research. It was a naive recommendation from GAO to begin with, the sort of thing that makes sense mostly to someone who doesn't know how disability determination works at Social Security.

Jun 10, 2017

$20,000 Price On Eric Conn's Head

     The FBI is offering a $20,000 reward for information on the whereabouts of Eric Conn. They say his GPS ankle bracelet was found in a backpack on I-75 in Lexington, KY.

They Call This The Waterfall Chart

Click to view full size

Jun 9, 2017

One Of The Many Changes Since The Dictionary Of Occupational Titles Was Published

A labor market survey was conducted to assess the responsibilities and skills of Surveillance-system Monitors as they exist in the current labor market. A tri-modal approach was taken. First, 58 job vacancy advertisements were reviewed to analyze the physical requirements of Surveillance-system Monitors as they exist in the labor market today, along with other factors that contribute to the skill-level of this position. Second, the position of Transportation Security Officer was reviewed via the job vacancy advertisement and job description video (accessed through the Transportation Security Administration website). Third, employers of Surveillance-system Monitors, and employees currently performing work as a Surveillance-system Monitor, were contacted at various establishments including colleges, hotels, and malls in the New Jersey and Texas State areas. The results indicate that the physical and cognitive requirements of Surveillance-system Monitors have changed significantly since the last major revision of the Dictionary of Occupational Titles in 1991. The essential functions of Surveillance-system Monitors now require use of others skills, longer training, higher aptitudes, and greater physical demands. The research conducted for this study returned a 0% prevalence of Surveillance - system Monitors as it is conventionally described in the Dictionary of Occupational Titles.
     So what's the status of the DOT replacement? Is this reason it keeps being delayed the fear that there won't be any unskilled, sedentary jobs left? By now could there even be any other reason? This delay may not look too good if Democrats get control of the House of Representatives after the 2018 election and start asking questions and demanding documents.

Jun 8, 2017

Mathur To Take Over As CIO

     From FCW Insider: 
The Social Security Administration has tapped an IRS veteran to take over as CIO [Chief Information Officer]. Rajive Mathur is taking over as the agency's deputy commissioner for systems and CIO in June, according to an agency spokesperson.  
Mathur comes from IRS, where he served as director of online services and was a leader in such public-facing tax products like Get Transcript, Direct Pay and Where's My Refund.

Why So Many No-Shows?

     Sam Johnson, the Chairman of the House Social Security Subcommittee, asked Social Security's Inspector General to look into the question of how many no-shows and postponements there are for hearings before the agency's Administrative Law Judges (ALJs). Here's some of the response:
In FY 2016, the national hearing no-s how rate was 9 percent. The New York, New York, Hearing Office had the highest no-show rate at 15.9 percent while the Franklin, Tennessee, Hearing Office had the lowest no-show rate at 1.2 percent. In FY 2016, the national postponement rate was 8 percent. The Anchorage, Alaska, Hearing Office had the highest postponement rate at 20.4 percent while the Ponce, Puerto Rico, Hearing Office had the lowest postponement rate at 2.7 percent. Our interviews with office managers representing hearing offices with the highest no-show and postponement rates identified a large number of unrepresented claimants and a transient clientele as reasons for no-shows and postponement.
     Here's an interesting chart from the report, showing a significant rise in the no-show rate in recent years:
     Why would the no-show rate have gone up significantly over the last few years? My guess is that it's related to an increase in the rate of claimants who are unrepresented. I'm pretty sure there are more unrepresented claimants now than there were a few years ago. Normally, attorneys only get a fee if they win. Attorneys avoid cases they think they are unlikely to win. It's become harder to win cases. As a result, attorneys tighten their intake criteria leaving more claimants unrepresented. For reasons I've never understood, Social Security never releases information on the percentage of claimants who are and aren't represented. However, I know that my firm and every other firm I know has tightened its intake criteria.
     By the way, the implosion of Binder and Binder probably affected the availability of representation in New York City. Also, by the way, Anchorage is notorious for being the harshest hearing office in the country. As a result, claimant representation in Alaska has collapsed.

Jun 7, 2017

Fighting Fraud By Denying Disability Claims In The Heartland

     A television station in Kansas is running a piece on a young woman in Kansas diagnosed with lupus who is fighting the denial of her Social Security disability claim. Here's a little excerpt:
The backlog started snowballing about 10 years ago, around the time Jason Fitchner became acting deputy commissioner of the Social Security Administration.
He says that during the Great Recession, a lot of people who had disabilities applied but weren’t necessarily unable to work. 
“But they’re on the margin,” Fitchner says. “They can work, but when the recession happens, those are the first people who tend to lose their jobs, and then they apply for disability insurance.” ...
This spring, the agency introduced changes to fight fraud and streamline the application process, including a new fraud-fighting measure that removes the special consideration given to a person’s long-time doctor. ...
[F]ormer administrator Fitchner, now a senior research fellow at George Mason University’s Mercatus Center, says the agency is obligated to weed out any fraud it can, including the admittedly rare cases of treating physicians tipping the scale in favor of their patients. ...
     Not surprisingly, Fitchner, who works for a right wing think tank, is pushing the narrative that those who apply for disability benefits aren't really disabled, just unable to find a job. Right. I've been laid off. Instead of looking for work, even though I'm healthy, I'll just apply for Social Security disability, put up with years of delay and probably never get on benefits. Even if I do get on benefits, they'll be far less than what I was earning when I worked. That makes sense. He's also pushing the narrative that refusing to consider the opinion of a claimant's treating physician has something to do with preventing fraud. That's nonsense. Social Security is just trying to bootstrap itself into a stronger position when it defends its decisions in federal court. Folks like Fitchner like to claim that fraud is rampant among Social Security disability claimants even though the agency's Office of Inspector General (OIG) can't seem to find more than a handful of cases each year. Of course, to Fitchner that would just be proof that OIG hasn't tried hard enough. The existence of widespread fraud is an idée fixe for people like Fitchner. They try to justify their belief regardless of the evidence.
     By the way, the woman whose story is featured in the article has systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) and now has esophageal problems. Fitchner wouldn't know it but that combination sounds a bit ominous.