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. ...

Reopening Applauded

      Representative Adriano Espaillat is a Democratic member of Congress from New York City. He's a senior Democratic Whip. Here's an excerpt from a letter he's recently written to the Acting Commissioner of Social Security applauding the announcement that field offices will soon start reopening:

As a result of the nationwide shutdown and office closures, my constituents have been met with numerous challenges accessing vital resources such as retirement insurance, disability insurance and the social safety net, which they rely on. The digital divide, long wait times over the phone, massive backlogs, and the lack of in-person service has led to a 15 percent decrease of SSI applications over the past year, which is deeply concerning considering that many residents rely on these services for their livelihoods and survival.

Assuring that our seniors are given the resources and care they deserve is a top priority, and it is essential that as we continue to build back from this devastating pandemic, that our seniors, persons with disabilities, and communities of color are not left behind.


Nov 23, 2021

Strong Federal Employee Compliance With Vaccine Mandate

      From a television station in Kansas City:

Monday is the deadline for millions of federal workers to provide proof that they’ve been vaccinated against COVID-19. ...

Nationwide, a U.S. official said over 90% of federal workers received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine by Monday’s deadline. ...

In the Kansas City area, the American Federation of Government Employees said compliance with the mandate is strong, and those who have concerns have had plenty of time to file paperwork seeking exemptions.

“As you’ve seen with police unions and firefighters and such, there’s a lot of talk before the mandate comes down, and then at the end, most people relent and get the shot and move on,” said Ben King, a Social Security Administration employee and representative of AFGE Local 1336. 

“It’s the same with the federal workforce. I have not heard from any friends in other departments or agencies that have mass levels of folks who have refused to get the vaccine.” ...

Nov 22, 2021

Overpayments Continue To Draw Attention

      From a column written by Laurence Kotlikoff: 

... Commissioner Kijakazi, I'm asking you to read the attendant letter sent me by Kristin, a 69 year-old New York widow, who, in September, entirely out of the blue, received a bill from Social Security demanding she repay $118,272 in benefits due to alleged overpayment of reduced excess widow's benefits — benefits she never requested and never received, as her bank statements, which record all Social Security wire receipts, clearly show. ...

Nov 21, 2021

Disability And Food Insecurity

      From The Relationship Between Dusability Insurance Receipt And Food Insecurity by Barbara A. Butrica, Stipica Mudrazija, and Jonathan Schwabish, a paper published by the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College:
  • … Food insecurity rates are higher in counties with high rates of disability and DI  [Disability Insurance] receipt than in those with lower rates of disability and DI receipt. The paper reports that counties with high rates of disability and DI receipt have lower average food costs, but more limited access to food sources than counties with lower rates of disability and DI receipt.
  • The paper also finds that counties with high rates of disability and DI receipts have fewer food establishments. Furthermore, counties with high rates of disability and DI receipt also have a larger supply of unhealthy food options. …