Jun 18, 2019

Message From New Commissioner

From: ^Commissioner Broadcast <Commissioner.Broadcast@ssa.gov> 
Sent: Monday, June 17, 2019 4:03 PM
Subject: New Commissioner

A Message to All SSA and DDS Employees

Subject: New Commissioner

This afternoon, I was sworn in as your Commissioner, and I am eager to get to work.  In ways that many of us do not have the perspective to appreciate, running an agency for this long without confirmed leadership is quite difficult.  Please join me in thanking Nancy Berryhill for her leadership, and I welcome her ongoing support.  

Throughout the confirmation process, one consistent theme has been how fantastic SSA employees are.  I can certainly use your help.  Although I am just now beginning my briefings, I am aware that we face a number of challenges.  I look forward to hearing your ideas about how best to improve public service and be supportive to you in that endeavor.  

My plan is to get out and talk with as many of you as I can.  I will also be meeting with SSA’s senior leaders, associations, and unions.  Meanwhile, I thought you might want to know a little about me.  I am a lifelong New Yorker, born and raised in New York City.  My wife of 50 years, Denise, and I are blessed with two daughters, two sons-in-law, and three grandchildren.  I am a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business and I have worked in the private and public sector and with non-profit organizations.  I am most proud of my nine years as the Chair of the Federal Thrift Investment Board, which administers the Thrift Savings Plan, working to improve service by modernizing it into what is today one of the most successful 401K plans in the nation.    

My family and friends will tell you I have a sense of humor, but I take work seriously.  Hard work is especially necessary when what we are doing matters to every American.  As I mentioned, I have already heard how dedicated you are to SSA’s mission, and your dedication gives me great confidence about what we can achieve.  

I am taking a little time to assess how the agency is doing, and you will hear more soon about my priorities and plans in the coming weeks.

Thank you for the warm welcome I have received thus far.  I look forward to working with you.

Andrew Saul

Updated Stats On Fee Payments

     Social Security has updated its posted statistics on payments of fees for representing claimants before the agency. You may recall that a few months ago I posted that the agency had taken down the statistics altogether and they then put them back up. More recently I posted that they had stopped updating them. Now they’ve updated them for the last two months.
     Come on guys! I know you’re keeping track of these numbers internally. It can’t be that hard to post them online. I’m not the only one paying attention to them.

Saul Officially Commissioner

     Andrew Saul has been sworn in as Commissioner of Social Security.

Jun 17, 2019

GAO Criticizes SSA Online Verification

     From a recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) report:
Remote identity proofing is the process federal agencies and other entities use to verify that the individuals who apply online for benefits and services are who they claim to be. To perform remote identity proofing, agencies that GAO reviewed rely on consumer reporting agencies (CRAs) to conduct a procedure known as knowledge-based verification. This type of verification involves asking applicants seeking federal benefits or services personal questions derived from information found in their credit files, with the assumption that only the true owner of the identity would know the answers. If the applicant responds correctly, their identity is considered to be verified. For example, the Social Security Administration (SSA) uses this technique to verify the identities of individuals seeking access to the “My Social Security” service, which allows them to check the status of benefit applications, request a replacement Social Security or Medicare card, and request other services. 
However, data stolen in recent breaches, such as the 2017 Equifax breach, could be used fraudulently to respond to knowledge-based verification questions. The risk that an attacker could obtain and use an individual’s personal information to answer knowledge-based verification questions and impersonate that individual led the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to issue guidance in 2017 that effectively prohibits agencies from using knowledge- based verification for sensitive applications. Alternative methods are available that provide stronger security, as shown in Figure 1. However, these methods may have limitations in cost, convenience, and technological maturity, and they may not be viable for all segments of the public. ...

Jun 16, 2019

Social Security Reform Proposal Draws Widespread Protests In Brazil

     From Xinhua:
Brazilians took to the streets on Friday for a nationwide massive protest against the social security reform proposed by the government. 
According to local media, there were protests in at least 190 towns in all Brazilian states.
As a full strike was called, buses halted in 19 state capitals, subway and urban train workers in several cities joined the strike, classes were cancelled in public schools and many private schools in at least 23 state capitals, and road blockades were seen in the country. ...