Dec 2, 2021

Just How Bad Is Telephone Service At Social Security?

     From WHEC:

One of the remnants of the COVID pandemic is that Social Security offices are still closed. You have to set up an appointment to get in.  But people are telling News10NBC that the phone system to do that doesn't work. ...

Farrah Ritter demonstrated the problem. From Pittsford Canal park, she called the Social Security 800 number to set up an appointment.

After a long message, 14 rings and some dead air, the call just ended. Ritter has a log of how often that's happened.    

Here is just one day. ...

Farrah Ritter: "The longest was five minutes. The shortest was two minutes."
[Reporter]: "And that's before you get cut off?"
Ritter: "That's when I get cut off. I never get to anyone." ...

I asked the SSA if it was aware of the phone issue and if it has a date when the offices will re-open for walk-in appointments.

So far - no answer to those questions. ...

     What is described here is no fluke. This is the sort of "service" that claimants normally receive. It's scandalous but there's no great outcry over it. I don't understand why. Why do we put up with this?

Dec 1, 2021

A First

     A Tennessee woman is claiming that she's the first in her state to be approved for Social Security disability benefits based upon Covid-19. Perhaps someone at the state Disability Determination Service told her?

Social Security Subcommittee Hearing


     Social Security 2100 is the pet bill of the Chairman of the Social Security Subcommittee. The bill has no hope of passage in the Senate in this Congress.

Nov 29, 2021

Long Covid And Disability Claims

      From Bloomberg Law:

The Social Security Administration said it’s received 16,000 claims for disability insurance since December where the person’s medical evidence supports identifying Covid-19 as one of their impairments. That’s far from an exact number, and the agency wouldn’t say how many of those claims have been approved. 

That doesn’t mean Covid-19 was necessarily the primary reason for applying, or that it’s the impairment that will determine if disability benefits are approved, an agency spokesperson said in an email. …

In a statement to Bloomberg Law, the SSA said its rules allow it to evaluate Covid-19 cases. A person who has limitations resulting from long Covid, who’s met or is expected to meet the duration requirement, “could be found disabled if their limitations equal a medical listing or if the combination of those limitations and vocational factors prevent them from performing substantial gainful activity,” the agency said. …

Barbara Comerford’s law firm in New Jersey has about 100 clients who can’t work due to long Covid but have been denied disability benefits. 

Most of them have extreme fatigue presenting like myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome, a condition that doesn’t show up on routine tests even though it can leave its victims bedridden.

“It’s amazing how indifferent they are to these claims,” Comerford said of the insurance companies she’s fighting. 

Unum Group, one of the leading carriers of long-term disability, told Bloomberg Law that disability and leave claims connected to Covid-19 are primarily a short-term event. Most claimants recover before completing the normal qualification period of 90 or 180 days for long-term disability insurance, Natalie Godwin, a company spokesperson, said in an email. …

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it was recently asked to present data to the SSA on the number of people expected to have myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome as a result of Covid-19.

The SSA is doing its “due diligence and gathering data from all sources that they possibly can to understand and be prepared,”Elizabeth Unger, chief of the Chronic Viral Diseases Branch at the CDC, said in an interview. …

     All I can say is that my firm has not been getting calls about long Covid. 

Nov 28, 2021

Maybe It Helps Them Get Tenure

      Take a look at this academic study, Beyond Health: Non-Health Risk and the Value of Disability Insurance by Manasi Deshpande of the University of Chicago and Lee M. Lockwood of the University of Virginia, and tell us what you make of it. They are asking the question "Should people who are 'less disabled' but still drawing Social Security disability benefits really be drawing some sort of 'welfare' benefit anyway because they're facing other serious stresses in their lives even if they're not all that disabled?"

     My first question on looking at this study is "How did you determine who was less disabled but still drawing Social Security disability benefits?" As best I can tell they answered that question for their purposes with these four questions:

Severity (PSID)

 (1) Do you have any physical or nervous condition that limits the type of work or the amount of work you can do?
- Yes
- No
- Can do nothing

(2) For work you can do, how much does it limit the amount of work you can do { a lot, somewhat, or just a little?
- A lot
- Somewhat
- Just a little
- Not at all

More-severe if \Yes" in (1) and \A lot" in (2), or \Can do nothing" in (1) Less-severe otherwise

Severity (SIPP)

(1) Does ... have a physical, mental, or other health condition that limits the kind or amount of work ... can do at a job or business?
- Yes
- No

(2) Does ... health or condition prevent ... from working at a job or business?
- Yes
- No

More-severe if \Yes" in both (1) and (2)

     I find it amazing that two academics would premise a 101 page study on a base as inadequate as this. Disability determination is a hard, perhaps impossible, task. Determining degrees of disability based upon four question is laughable. These authors know a lot about statistics and other abstruse stuff but pretty much zip about disability determination.

     I think the basic, unstated premise of this study is the assumption that many people drawing Social Security disability benefits aren't really that disabled. Exploring whether this assumption is a myth might be a better starting point for research that these authors had.

Nov 27, 2021

Social Security Card Delays For Refugees

     From Channel 3000, whatever that is:

Logistical mailing issues have helped delay social security cards for Afghan refugees across the country, with organizations unable to get cards mailed to people because they have similar names to other refugees or have left military bases, says a spokesperson for the U.S. Social Security Administration. …

While refugees have been able to get temporary 30-day food stamp benefits … they’re left without a way to access temporary income or their regular food stamp benefits without social security cards.  …

Nov 26, 2021

Nov 24, 2021

95% Of Social Security Employees Now In Compliance With Vaccination Requirements

      The White House has posted numbers showing the percentage of employees at major agencies who are vaccinated or in compliance with Covid-19 vaccination requirements. At Social Security, 87.7% of agency employees have had at least one vaccination and 95.0% are in compliance with federal requirements. For those not in compliance, here's what's ahead according to the White House:

... For those employees who are not yet in compliance, agencies are beginning a period of education and counseling, followed by additional enforcement steps, consistent with guidance from the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force and the Office of Personnel Management. At any point, if an employee gets their first shot or submits an exception request, agencies will pause further enforcement to give the employee a reasonable amount of time to become fully vaccinated or to process the exception request. ...