Oct 19, 2020

Personnel News

      From Federal News Network:

Rajive Mathur, the Social Security Administration’s deputy commissioner and chief information officer, is leaving after more than two years in the role.

Federal News Network has confirmed Mathur’s last day as CIO [Chief Information Officer] will be Oct. 26. SSA Commissioner Andrew Saul said in an email to staff, which Federal News Network obtained, that until his departure at the end of the year, Mathur will work in the commissioner’s office as a senior advisor.

Saul also said Sean Brune, currently the assistant deputy commissioner and deputy CIO, will be the deputy commissioner and CIO starting on Oct. 26 when Mathur moves to the commissioner’s office. ...

Saul also announced two other personnel changes at SSA.

In the Office of Analytics, Review and Oversight, the improper payments function moves from the Office of the Deputy Commissioner to the Office of Anti-Fraud Programs — which is now renamed the Office of Program Integrity.

In the Office of Operations, Travis Dodson, currently the center director for Disability and Programs Support in the Dallas Region, will begin an assignment as the acting deputy regional commissioner, Dallas.

Oct 18, 2020

SSAB Recommendations On Disability Claims Improvement

      In 2018 the House Social Security Subcommittee requested that the Social Security Advisory Board (SSAB) examine Social Security's reinstatement of the reconsideration stage of appeal in disability claims and to recommend improvements at the initial and reconsideration stages. SSAB is only now getting back to the Subcommittee with a full report.

     SSAB assembled five panels to discuss possible improvements. What the panels recommended mostly seems vague to me. For instance, one recommendation is "Simplify SSI eligibility for children." That's certainly a worthy goal but if you know any history of SSI child disability, you know that if you want "simplification" you'd better say exactly what you have in mind -- and then duck because whatever you have in mind will be extremely controversial. Recommendations that are more specific, such as "Simplify the SSI program by eliminating the living arrangement eligibility requirement, windfall offset, dedicated accounts, and in-kind support and maintenance" can only happen if there are major changes in the political environment. We'll see about that after November 3.

Oct 17, 2020

Social Security And The Wealth Gap

      From  No, the New Deal Wasn't Racist by Samuel Hammond:

... Without counting Social Security, the median-earning white Baby Boomer has 7.3 dollars in wealth for every dollar held by their Black counterpart. Account for Social Security, and that ratio falls to 2.2 — a spectacular two-thirds reduction in the effective racial wealth gap. ...

Oct 16, 2020

I Think They Have A Point

      From a press release:

U.S. Reps. French Hill (R-AR) and Steve Womack (R-AR) joined their home-state Republican colleagues in seeking changes to a federal policy requiring Arkansans to turn over primary identification documents, such as a driver’s license, to obtain a new copy of their Social Security card.

“We write to request that you alter Social Security Administration (SSA) policy that forces our constituents to choose between violating the laws of the State of Arkansas or forgo driving themselves to important destinations, such as to work or to the doctor,” wrote Rep. Hill, Rep. Womack, and U.S. Reps. Rick Crawford (R-AR) and Bruce Westerman (R-AR) in an Oct. 8 letter sent to SSA Commissioner Andrew Saul.

According to the members’ letter, the SSA is remote-only in Arkansas due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and requires that a driver’s license be presented to apply for a replacement Social Security card. Specifically, Arkansas SSA officials are requiring individuals to mail in their driver’s licenses for processing. ...

Oct 15, 2020

OHO Receipts And Backlog Continue To Fall

       This was obtained from Social Security by the National Organization of Social Security Claimants Representatives (NOSSCR) and published in its newsletter, which is not available online to non-members. It is basic operating statistics for Social Security's Office of Hearings Operations.

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Oct 14, 2020

What Happened To The SSA-4547 Form?

      I learned from the newsletter of the National Organization of Social Security Claimants Representatives (NOSSCR) that there is a form for making an Advance Designation of Representative Payee, the form SSA-4547. Perhaps I should say that that such a form may have once existed or that it still exists in some state of limbo. We know the agency created the form. Social Security's manual makes reference to the form. NOSSCR has a copy of the form. However, the form doesn't appear on the agency's list of forms. You can't find a copy online. It's certainly not in use. 

     So, what happened to that form? I might have some clients who could use it. I think others would too. For that matter I could possibly use it personally. I'm sure that Social Security has a staff tasked with creating and maintaining the forms needed to run the agency and they must know what happened to SSA-4547.

Oct 13, 2020

1.3% COLA

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Attacks On Chief Actuary Continue

Stephen Goss
     Senator Grassley, the Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, is continuing his attacks on Stephen Goss, Social Security's Chief Actuary. Goss had the temerity to do his job and give truthful answers to hypothetical questions about a possible policy alternative. The President had proposed doing away with the F.I.C.A. tax that supports the Social Security trust funds and had proposed no replacement. Goss was asked what would be the result. Of course, he answered that the trust funds would quickly run out of money. What is Goss supposed to do -- refuse to answer the question because it would make Trump look bad? Goss's answer isn't the problem. The problem is what the President said.

     If Trump loses, I fear that there will be major acts of retribution before Inauguration Day. I hope that Goss is not at risk.

Oct 12, 2020

Biden Social Security Plan

      I had earlier posted Joe Biden’s plan for Social Security disability benefits. Here’s his plan for Social Security retirement benefits:

  • Put Social Security on a path to long-run solvency. ... The Biden Plan will put the program on a path to long-term solvency by asking Americans with especially high wages to pay the same taxes on those earnings that middle-class families pay. ...
  • Provide a higher benefit for the oldest Americans. At advanced ages, Americans become more vulnerable to exhausting their savings, sometimes falling into poverty and living a life of hardship. The Biden Plan will provide the oldest beneficiaries – those who have been receiving retirement benefits for at least 20 years – with a higher monthly check to help protect retirees from the pain of dwindling retirement savings. 
  • Implement a true minimum benefit for lifelong workers. ... Under the Biden Plan, workers who spent 30 years working will get a benefit of at least 125% of the poverty level. 
  • Protect widows and widowers from steep cuts in benefits. ... The Biden Plan will allow surviving spouse to keep a higher share of the benefits. This will make an appreciable difference in the finances of older Americans, especially women (who live longer on average than men), raising the monthly payment by about 20% for affected beneficiaries. 
  • Eliminate penalties for teachers and other public-sector workers. Current rules penalize teachers and other public sector workers who either switch jobs or who have earned retirement benefits from various sources. The Biden Plan would eliminate these penalties by ensuring that teachers not eligible for Social Security will begin receiving benefits sooner – rather than the current ten-year period for many teachers. The Biden Plan will also get rid of the benefit cuts for workers and surviving beneficiaries who happen to be covered by both Social Security and another pension. These workers deserve the benefits they earned. 
  •      I don’t think that Donald Trump has any coherent plan for Social Security other than to end the F.I.C.A. tax.