Sep 29, 2023

New Instructions On Transferability Of Skills

     The Social Security Administration has issued new instructions in its POMS manual on transferability of skills for purposes of determining disability. The sections affected are:

    At first glance I don't see anything that makes a difference but this is a sensitive enough subject that it bears a closer reading than I have given it to this point. 

    My longstanding opinion is that transferability of skills should only be found quite rarely. Those who really did have transferable skills almost certainly transferred them and didn't file disability claims.

Sep 28, 2023

PRW Time Period To Be Reduced From 15 Years To 5 Years

     From a notice that Social Security has scheduled for publication in the Federal Register:

We propose to revise the time period that we consider when determining whether an individual’s past work is relevant for purposes of making disability determinations and decisions. Specifically, we would revise the definition of past relevant work (PRW) by reducing the relevant work period from 15 to 5 years. This change would allow individuals to focus on the most current and relevant information about their past work, better reflect the current evidence base on changes over time in worker skill decay and job responsibilities, reduce processing time and improve customer service, and reduce burden on individuals.

    This is overdue by about 40 years but better late than never. It never made sense to tell disability claimants that they are not disabled because they can return to jobs they last held 12 years ago. Work skills just don't stick with people that long.

Good News For SSI Claimants

     From a notice that Social Security has scheduled for publication in the Federal Register:

We propose to expand the definition of a public assistance (PA) household for purposes of our programs, particularly the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program, to include the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) as an additional means-tested public income maintenance (PIM) program. In addition, we seek public comment on expanding the definition to include households in which any other (as opposed to every other) member receives public assistance. We expect that the proposed rule would decrease the number of SSI applicants and recipients charged with in-kind support and maintenance (ISM). In addition, we expect that this proposal would decrease the amount of income we would deem to SSI applicants or recipients because we would no longer deem income from ineligible spouses and parents who receive SNAP benefits and live in the same household. These policy changes would reduce administrative burden for low-income households and SSA.

    Again, I'm not going to try to explain this. Just understand that it's good news for many SSI claimants.

"Close Proximity Of Time" Extension Made Permanent

     From a notice that Social Security has scheduled for publication in the Federal Register:

On July 23, 2021, we issued a temporary final rule (TFR) with request for comments to lengthen the “close proximity of time” standard in the Listing of Impairments (the listings) for musculoskeletal disorders because the COVID-19 national public health emergency (PHE) caused many individuals to experience barriers that prevented them from timely accessing in-person healthcare. That prior TFR is effective until six months after the effective date of a determination by the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) that a PHE resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic no longer exists. The Secretary of HHS made that determination, and the COVID-19 national PHE ended on May 11, 2023. However, healthcare practices in a post-PHE world are still evolving. We are therefore issuing this new TFR to extend the flexibility provided by the prior TFR until May 11, 2025, so we can evaluate changes in healthcare practices and determine the proper “close proximity of time” standard for the musculoskeletal disorders listings. ...

    I'm not going to try to explain this other than to say that it's modestly good news for disability claimants with orthopedic problems -- a slight reduction in harshness is how I would put it.

Sep 27, 2023

Let Me Circle Back To This

     Let me circle back to the article I posted about yesterday concerning a man being asked to repay money allegedly overpaid in 1978. Here's a part of the article I didn't quote yesterday (emphasis added):

Byrd's father died when he was 4 years old. So his mother received social security for him while he was a minor. 

"This is not money I ever saw. I was not even living at home at the time," he said.

    This suggests how the overpayment occurred.  His mother wasn't entitled to the child's benefits she received on him because he wasn't living with her. So how is this an overpayment to him? His mother took money from him. He was the one injured back in 1978 and you're now compounding the injury by trying to force him to repay money that was taken from him?

Sep 26, 2023

Nobody Mentioned Waiver But The Bigger Issue Is The Lack Of A Statute Of Limitations On Overpayments

     From KDFW:

...  [A]n Arlington [TX] man is being told he owes back money that was paid to his mother — in 1978.  ...

The SSA is asking Jimmy Byrd to pay them more than $1,400 that was paid 45 years ago to his mother who died back in 2011. He could not believe his eyes when he opened a letter from the SSA last month. 

"I read the paperwork, and it was from January to June of 1978," he said. "Back in 1978, I was only 17 years old." ...

Byrd filed an appeal.

"Two weeks ago, I received a second letter stating I'm going to have to pay it, and I thought that's not right," he said. "I got in my car, went back down to the social security board."

Bryd told his story again.

‘The gentleman looked at me from behind the counter and said, 'You know, that is just the way it is,’" he said.

Byrd signed an agreement to have $100 a month deducted from his $1,800 social security check for the next 14 months.  ...

    Why, oh why, is there no statute of limitations on overpayments? These cases happen all the time. Of course, this overpayment would have been wiped out with a waiver request but it's easier to tell someone "that is just the way it is" than it is to help with a waiver request.

Sep 25, 2023

Proposed Regs On Consideration Of Past Work Advance

     The Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) -- the most important government agency you've never heard of -- has approved proposed Social Security regulation changes with the title, Intermediate Improvement to the Disability Adjudication Process: Including how we Consider Past Work. There's no way to know for sure at this point since we have no more than vague descriptions of what's included but the proposed regulations will likely reduce the number of years of past work considered in determining disability.

    The proposal will now be published in the Federal Register and the public will be able to comment. Social Security must consider the comments before publishing the regulations in final form so they go into effect. This process will take months at the least.

    When I posted about this proposal going to OIRA there were several comments posted here by those who felt this proposal would hurt Social Security disability claimants. If you think this is the case, don't make comments here on Social Security disability issues. You don't have enough knowledge to offer meaningful comments. If this proposal reduces the time frame considered from 15 years to, let's say, 5 years, that's a modest improvement from the point of view of disability claimants. And, no, this isn't some controversial loosening of standards.  I don't think that 15 years ever made sense. It certainly doesn't make sense now. With a nomination for Social Security Commissioner pending, the agency and OIRA are being extremely careful to avoid doing anything the least bit controversial. That's probably an important reason why I've had so little Social Security news to post lately. This proposal wouldn't be going forward now if it were controversial.

Sep 24, 2023

Yet Another Golden Oldie

     A post on this blog on June 9, 2020:

    The Social Security Advisory Board (SSAB) has issued a brief report recommending that the Social Security Administration "use evidence-based measures to evaluate access to agency services" which isn't the most exciting recommendation you'll find even in the context of government advisory board reports. There's another more complete report which adds detail. However, the brief report includes this chart which I think is far more interesting than the text in either report. (Click on the image to view full size.)

    What I get from this is that the dramatic increase in internet services provided by the Social Security Administration has had almost no effect upon the demand for services provided in person or over the telephone. 
     The idea that Social Security can wean the public off personal service so that in the future the public will just deal with the agency through its online services is bunk. There's no reason to expect that's ever going to work. By all means, provide online services but don't expect that online services will ever replace field offices and telephone service.

Sep 22, 2023

By Far The Most Read Post Ever On This Blog

     From this blog on May 22, 2022:

“Serious Concerns” About IG

      From the Washington Post:

… The acting commissioner [of Social Security] “has very serious concerns about the issues raised by The Washington Post about the inspector general’s oversight of this program,” Scott Frey, chief of staff to Kilolo Kijakazi, said in an interview. Kijakazi has scheduled a meeting with her senior staff on Monday “to discuss how to proceed,” Frey said. …

A spokesman for the Senate Finance Committee, which also has jurisdiction over Social Security, said the committee is “evaluating a number of steps” in response to the article. …

     An extreme reduction in productivity has been signaling for months that something is wrong at OIG.



    And, of course, that Inspector General is still on the job.

Sep 21, 2023

He Didn't See It Coming

     From this blog on July 9, 2021:

President Fires Saul And Black

      With no fanfare, the Office of Legal Counsel at the Department of Justice issued an opinion yesterday that the President may remove the Commissioner of Social Security from office notwithstanding the statutory provisions limiting removal from office. An opinion had been requested by the Deputy Counsel for the President.

     Update: Senator Grassley has tweeted that he's hearing that the President may oust Andrew Saul from his position as Commissioner. Senator McConnell has retweeted this saying "httI agree with @ChuckGrassley. This removal would be an unprecedented and dangerous politicization of the Social Security Administration."

     Further update: I've received several reports that there was a blast e-mail to Social Security employees at 4:30 today from an Acting Commissioner of Social Security indicating that Saul and Black are gone.

     And another update: The Washington Post reports that Saul still believes he’s Commissioner and plans to report for work on Monday — remotely from his home in New York City. Who’s going to break it to him?