The Social Security Administration (SSA) intends to modify its contract with Abt Associates, Inc. (contract #SS00-04-60110), $1 for $2 Benefit Offset Demonstration in accordance with FAR 6.302-1, to include the contractor?s work to facilitate a conference of expert consultants from the Four State Benefit Offset Pilot programs that will serve to complement pre-implementation tasks under the contract. BACKGROUND: On September 30, 2004 SSA awarded a 2-year contract to Abt Associates for design of a multi-site, demonstration project that tests alternate methods of treating work activity in the Title II disability program. After the design is completed, subsequent phases of this demonstration will be awarded to the same contractor on a sole source basis for the implementation, data collection and evaluation and management of the project, conditional upon successful performance of the design phase. REQUIREMENTS: Abt will be responsible for arranging all necessary activities related to planning and facilitating the aforementioned conference. Interested sources that believe they have the capability to perform the services required should submit a capability statement to Daniel Walker via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Responses shall be marked CONF - CAPABILITY STATEMENT, and shall be received no later than January 12, 2007, 2:30PM EST. All responsible sources will be considered. If no responses are received by the cutoff date, a modification will be effected against the Abt contract referenced above. All questions must be submitted in writing to Daniel Walker via the email address listed above. Telephone calls will NOT be accepted.
Dec 31, 2006
Dec 30, 2006
EASTON | Ray J. Little had job offers from two federal agencies after passing the civil service examination.
He initially planned to work for the Internal Revenue Service, but a friend steered him to his second choice -- Social Security.
At the IRS, the friend told Little, his job involved trying to collect money from people.
"That's no fun," the friend told Little. "With Social Security, you have people coming in, and you're trying to give them money, and it's a lot easier."
So Little took a position with the Social Security Administration -- in 1960.
The Palmer Township resident will retire today after 46 years. He spent much of that time working out of Easton, acting as the unofficial face in this area of the agency that is charged with disbursing benefits to millions of Americans, including thousands in Northampton, Warren and Hunterdon counties.
Little's job -- public affairs representative or field specialist -- included duties such as speaking before area groups and generally getting the word out about Social Security programs.
Grateful representatives of area agencies say Little went beyond the call of duty.
"We share many clients, so he's been helpful," said Elsie Luciano, executive director of Easton Area Neighborhood Centers Inc.
"He did so much and helped so many people that we know of in our chamber," added Bill Brackbill, former president of the Nazareth Area Chamber of Commerce.
The chamber recognized Little in May 2005 when the agency opened its Downtown Easton office at 134 S. Fourth St.
Little's job essentially will be eliminated, according to John J. McCann, the Easton office's district manager, who hopes to provide fill-in speakers either through his office or through regional public affairs officials.
The retiring Little believes face-to-face contact helps beneficiaries, but it's something he said Social Security is doing less of in recent years, with the agency providing a toll-free telephone number and Internet access.
Little said he has helped some people receive benefits earlier than they realized. Some widows still send him Christmas cards every year, he said, after they learned from him years earlier about being able to apply for benefits sooner than they had thought.
"You can't file for Social Security until you're 62," said Little, repeating an oft-cited government phrase. "But a widow can file as early as age 60."
"He does a tremendous job developing relationships with people," said Brackbill of Little. "You call Ray and you might get his answering machine, but you get an answer back He's always quick to respond."
For now, Little said he has no definite retirement plans. He intends to take a few months to relax then explore possible part-time offers from area agencies to become a resource for Social Security.
He'll also be able to fine tune his monthly benefit check, though Little added a surprising twist: Part of the reason he took retirement now is that he would lose money by working full-time.
It's in part because of cuts approved by the government in recent years involving government workers who held other positions for which they could collect Social Security, and to help ensure Social Security's solvency.
"Really, I'm going to miss it, because I enjoy it," said Little, who participated in some lighthearted banter with McCann while the two looked at old photographs and articles about Little's early career.
"I enjoy dealing with people. That's why of all the jobs I've had the best job as far as I'm concerned is the job I have now."
McCann, who has been Little's boss since 1999, said Little worked hard at chasing down fraud referrals and deciphering the Medicare Part D prescription drug program, which has been in effect more than one year.
"He also brought a lot of humor in the office," added McCann.
The impeccably dressed Little, who on this day sported a Social Security button on his jacket lapel, indeed was always quick with a quip.
"You wouldn't dare put my age in," he said when the question arose. "Just put down there good looking, intelligent and humble."
Dec 29, 2006
WHILE the press is here, I think it might be appropriate to point out to them the reason for this meeting.
As everybody knows, I submitted to the Congress a very constructive proposal for the purpose of maintaining the financial integrity of the social security trust fund. This was submitted at the time of our budget or economic program, at the time of the State of the Union and, unfortunately, it appears that the Congress is going to fail to recognize the problem and tragically fail to do anything to solve the problem.
This concerns me very greatly, because we have 39 million individuals, most of them older, who are depending upon the financial soundness of the trust fund. And we leave literally millions and millions more who are paying into the trust fund, who are counting on the financial integrity of that fund.
This administration feels an obligation to protect the investment of those who are retired and those who are counting on retirement. The purpose of this meeting is for me to get the up-to-date information from the responsible people in the executive branch who, I'm sure, are likewise concerned, as I am, about the current situation.
The Congress cannot fail the older people and others who are either on retirement or about to retire. We expect some action. They cannot fail to respond to this very important and, I think, critical need.
Simple arithmetic indicates that the social security trust fund is headed for trouble. Unless the Congress acts to ensure that the fund takes in as much as it pays out, there will not be adequate security for old or young.
In my State of the Union Message in January, I proposed a payroll tax increase of .3 percent each for employees and employers, to increase revenues into the trust fund to ensure that benefits will be available to all who have earned them.
My proposed increase would cost workers, with a maximum taxable income, less than a dollar a week. This increase will help stabilize trust funds so that current and future recipients can be assured the benefits that they have earned. I urge the Congress to take the earliest possible action on my proposal to preserve the integrity of the social security trust fund.
People who receive higher disability ratings for work-related back injuries don't necessarily fare worse over the long term than those who get lower ratings, a Saint Louis University study finds...
"A disability rating is supposed to reflect the amount of impairment a person has at the time that a case is closed. The presumption is that levels of impairment are stable and related to day-to-day levels of function. I was shocked that the associations between disability rating and subsequent levels of function weren't stronger," said Raymond Tait, Ph.D., professor of psychiatry at Saint Louis University School of Medicine.
Disability ratings also differed between African-Americans and Caucasians. According to Tait, those differences probably reflected differences in treatment: whites were four times more likely to have surgery than blacks. Those who had surgery received larger settlements for their injuries, Tait said.
"While surgery inflated disability ratings, there appeared not relationship between surgery outcomes and how a person did thereafter," he said.
Tait and colleague John Chibnall, Ph.D., also a professor of psychiatry at Saint Lois University, looked at about 1,500 Missouri workers – 580 African-Americans and 892 Caucasians – whose Workers' Compensation claims for lower back pain were settled between Jan. 1, 2001 and June 1, 2002.
Researchers interviewed the employees 21 months after their settlements about how they were doing. They asked questions about pain intensity, general physical and mental health and whether they currently were working.
Tait and Chibnall said that their findings "raise questions about both the validity and the fairness of the current disability determination program. Disability settlements are designed to give people money toward a fresh start. Those settlements do not appear to reflect the residual levels of disability that people actually experience."
Dec 28, 2006
From the Office of Personnel Management
President George W. Bush To Close Federal Offices in Tribute to Former President Gerald R. Ford
Washington, D.C. -- By Executive Order of President George W. Bush, all executive departments, independent organizations and other agencies of the Federal government shall be closed on Tuesday, January 2, 2007, as a mark of respect for Gerald R. Ford, the 38th President of the United States.
U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) Director Linda M. Springer notified Cabinet Secretaries, Agency Heads and Chief Human Capital Officers governmentwide about the closure shortly after President Bush signed the Executive Order on December 28, 2006. Springer provided agency leaders with a copy of the President's proclamation, which designates Tuesday, January 2, 2007, as a National Day of Mourning.
The closure order includes Federal offices, with the exception of those offices and installations, or parts thereof, in the Department of State, the Department of Defense, the Department of Justice, the Department of Homeland Security, or other departments, independent organizations, and governmental agencies whose agency head determines should remain open for reasons of national security or defense, or other essential public business.
Dec 27, 2006
November 17, 2006
The Honorable Charles E. Grassley Chairman
The Honorable Max Baucus Ranking Minority Member
Committee on Finance United States Senate
Subject: Social Security Administration: Short Time Frame and Workload Challenges Could Affect Timely Implementation of Income-Based Medicare Part B Premiums
Beginning January 1, 2007, the premiums for the Medicare Part B Supplementary Medical Insurance program will be based on income, which will raise the premiums for approximately 1.65 million higher-income beneficiaries to as much as 80 percent of the full cost over the 3-year phase-in period. This change, which may be unknown to some beneficiaries, will affect single individuals with incomes over $80,000 and married couples who file jointly with incomes over $160,000. Medicare Part B is a voluntary program administered by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) that covers doctors’ services, certain outpatient services, and other care. Currently, Medicare Part B beneficiaries generally pay a flat premium of 25 percent (the standard monthly premium) of the cost of the program, with the remaining 75 percent subsidized by the federal government. While CMS administers the program, the Social Security Administration (SSA) is responsible for determining and assessing Medicare Part B income-based premiums once CMS has set the standard premium amount for the year. To better understand how SSA is implementing such premiums, the Senate Committee on Finance requested that we review the process that SSA has established to determine and assess the new premiums.
Enclosed (Enclosure I) is an updated version of the briefing that we provided to your staff on November 7, 2006 describing the status of SSA’s implementation efforts as of November 6, 2006. At this writing, SSA is still in the process of calculating premiums and expects to finish this task by mid-November. Once the calculations are completed, SSA will include the new premium in its cost of living adjustment notices, which will be mailed to affected beneficiaries in late November. Beneficiaries will have 60 days after receiving the notice of the premium increase to file an appeal. However, they may also request a new determination without filing an appeal if they have experienced a life changing event that results in a significant reduction in their income, or they have more recent, amended or corrected tax return information. Time frames for requesting new determinations vary depending on the reason that beneficiaries cite for making such a request. SSA is conducting a number of training efforts to assist staff in dealing with inquiries from affected beneficiaries. For field offices with a high volume of affected beneficiaries, SSA plans to move the resulting work as needed to offices with fewer affected beneficiaries. Despite SSA’s planning efforts, there are various issues that could affect its implementation of income-based premiums. For example, SSA has about a month to determine and assess the premiums, and faces an anticipated field office workload increase when beneficiaries contact them for help in understanding the higher premiums or challenging the premium assessment.
To address the Committee’s request, we reviewed relevant statutes and program regulations on income-based premiums, interviewed officials at SSA, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and CMS, and obtained supporting documentation on their plans for implementing the income-based premiums. We evaluated these plans based on the time frame established in the law for SSA’s receipt of income-based data from the IRS and SSA’s schedule to implement the income-based premiums by the effective date. We also interviewed managers and staff at various SSA field offices and spoke with Medicare advocacy groups. We did not assess the procedures used to test IRS and SSA systems for implementing the income-based premiums. We performed our work between May 2006 and November 2006 in accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards.
We provided a draft of the briefing to the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration on November 9, 2006. In response to our statement that beneficiaries might not be aware of the income-based premiums, SSA noted that this information was provided in the 2007 “Medicare and You” handbook, which was sent to all Medicare beneficiaries by the end of October 2006. SSA also noted that the current hiring freeze, which could affect SSA’s ability to respond to income-based premium inquiries, was a result of the continuing resolution under which SSA is currently operating. We considered these comments, as well as SSA’s technical comments, and made changes as appropriate. We have included the agency’s comments in Enclosure II. We are sending copies of this briefing to the Commissioner of Social Security, the Commissioner of Internal Revenue, and the Secretary of Health and Human Services, and other interested parties. Copies will also be made available to others upon request. In addition, the report will be available at no charge on GAO’s Web site at http://www.gao.gov. Please contact us at the number shown below if you or your staff have any questions about this report. Contact points for our Offices of Congressional Relations and Public Affairs may be found on the last page of this briefing.
Barbara D. Bovbjerg Director, Education, Workforce, and Income Security Issues
Dec 26, 2006
A press release from leading Democrats about continuing funding for a long-term CR [continuing resolution for funding of federal government operations] for the entire FY [fiscal year] 2007 was shared with the EC [executive committee] late yesterday. The details are trickling in and there is not a great deal of specifics available at this time. We will be working to come out as best as possible in the CR. NCSSMA will continue to make contacts in the House and Senate to seek an increased level of funding for SSA above the FY 06 level. ...
On the furlough issue, Rachel [Emmons, NCSSMA's lobbyist] thinks after looking closely at the language in the CR that the mechanism has been provided to prevent agencies from having to implement furloughs during the time from now through February 15 (expiration date of the current CR). If the entire year CR is enacted at the Senate-recommended level of funding it represents a $54 million cut from FY06. NCSSMA needs to be focused on impacting the CR number as positively as possible for SSA. Rachel says it is way too early in the process for us to know exactly where we stand. Rick [Warsinskey, NCSSMA president] believes that we still have a good possibility of having furloughs after February 15 if the full year funding is written so that adequate funding is not provided for SSA. He believes that is why we need to work on a strategy where we can focus on getting information to the appropriators. We will ask members to send in information about what is going on in their offices. We need to get this information in by mid-January. We will reach out to the organizations that worked with us on the Snowe-Conrad SSA funding letter as we continue to work on the FY07 appropriations and the FY08 budget as well.
Dec 25, 2006
Dec 24, 2006
Bush's new flexibility on Social Security is part of a larger White House plan to renew the effort to tame the rising costs of government entitlement programs as the nation's population ages. Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr., who enjoys strong credibility among Democrats and Republicans, has been making the rounds on Capitol Hill to talk about restructuring Social Security, emphasizing that there are no preconceptions.
Administration officials have said the White House is willing to listen to other ideas, including personal savings accounts that do not involve diverting Social Security payroll taxes, as well as higher payroll taxes to help cover the expected growth in the program's costs. Still, Bush emphasized that young workers should be allowed to divert a portion of their Social Security taxes into private retirement accounts, a proposal that went nowhere in Congress last year.
"I will tell you this: In an issue like this, unless the president tries, nothing is going to happen," Bush said. "Without presidential involvement, nothing will happen. So we have a chance, and I'm going to work it."
Dec 23, 2006
Dec 22, 2006
Dec 21, 2006
I have received word today from the National Organization of Social Security Claimants Representatives (NOSSCR) that Social Security has decided that providing the dependent names and Social Security Numbers is optional. There will be no punishment for failing to provide the information.
Dec 20, 2006
Judicial Watch, the public interest group that investigates and prosecutes government corruption, announced today that it filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia against the Social Security Administration (Judicial Watch v. Social Security Administration, Case No. 1:06CV02034). Judicial Watch is seeking documents identifying the top 100 corporations in the United States receiving the highest number of "no match" letters from the Social Security Administration.
Dec 19, 2006
The crucial question of whether the attorney or other representative must include the name and Social Security number of all of their clients' dependents who may obtain benefits on the account of their clients, as suggested by the form itself, is not answered in the instructions. Trying to obtain this information would be a big burden for attorneys representing Social Security claimants. Doing the data entry for all these names and Social Security numbers would be a big administrative burden for Social Security. There seems to be no crying need for obtaining and entering this information and a huge potential for error, yet Social Security has been unable so far to say that they really need the data or why they need it.
Dec 18, 2006
On June 23, 1988 we issued SSR 88–10(c) to reflect the Supreme Court’s decision in Galbreath v. Bowen, 485 U.S. 74 (1988), in which the Court held that the relevant statutes did not permit withholding past-due Supplemental Security Income benefits for attorney’s fees in title XVI cases. As the Court noted at the end of its decision, the earlier Congressional decision not to extend attorney fee withholding to title XVI would stand ‘‘[u]ntil Congress [saw] fit to override its original decision, by amending Title XVI in a way that manifests an intent to allow withholding.’’
In the Social Security Protection Act of 2004 (SSPA), Public Law 108–203, Congress enacted such legislation. Section 302 of the SSPA amended section 1631(d)(2) of the Social Security Act to extend the attorney fee withholding and direct payment procedures to claims under title XVI. We began paying fees directly to attorneys in title XVI cases effectuated on or after February 28, 2005, the date the amendments made by section 302 took effect. While this provision will only be effective for 5 years, we believe that SSR 88–10(c) should be rescinded for this period and we will later determine if there is a need to reinstate it.
Dec 17, 2006
Dec 16, 2006
Have you heard anything about Social Security numbers, African Americans and the 5th digit of your SSN? Supposedly, if you are an African American or a minority, the 5th digit in your SSN is even and odd if you are white!This absurd urban legend is attributed to Tavis Smiley, an African American man who has a talk show on Public Radio International, but Smiley would probably be appalled to know his name was connected to this nonsense.
It has been said if you take a poll, most African Americans will have an even 5th digit. Rumor has it, some companies are looking at potential employees SSN to discriminate. Why not send this email to every African American and Minority that you know! I'm sending this to everyone I know. Mine was even, what's yours?
[A spokeswoman for Senator Byrd, the incoming chairman of the Senate Budget Committee] said the joint resolution [which is planned to fund government operations for the rest of the fiscal year] would not rely on a formula like that used in the current continuing resolution [which funds Social Security at such a low rate that the agency says that if it is continued for the entire fiscal year that employee furloughs are inevitable], but will "evaluate broad priorities and look at areas in desperate need." In that way, it would more closely resemble an omnibus spending bill, but she said the joint resolution would be different in that it would be "a lot more bare bones," with no policy direction. ...
At the Social Security Administration, where Commissioner Jo Anne Barnhart has publicly warned that proposed budget cuts would require furloughs of about 10 days agencywide, that flexibility could mean the agency gets sufficient funding to stay open as usual. A spokesman said Wednesday that SSA could continue to operate through mid-February [when the current continuing funding resolution runs out] without needing to make a decision on furloughs.
Dec 15, 2006
The Social Security Administration may still have to close offices nationwide for several days next year after the Republican-led Congress failed to act on nine of the 11 spending bills for 2007 and incoming Democratic leaders announced that they would hold spending at current levels until Oct. 1.
Agency spokesman Mark Lassiter said this week that extending 2006 spending levels through the entire 2007 fiscal year would "leave the agency open for the furlough."
When Congress returns in January, Lassiter said, one way to avoid sending workers home without pay would be to set Social Security spending at $9.29 billion, the amount approved by a House subcommittee for 2007 and $146 million more than what the agency is operating with now.
Outgoing Social Security Commissioner Jo Anne B. Barnhart said in an interview last week that once Congress dips below that figure, "there's no place left to give."
Barnhart has been warning of a potential furlough since September, which she characterized as the culmination of Congress allotting the agency less than the president requested for five straight years.
"Let me assure you, there is no strategy here," said Barnhart, a former congressional staffer. "As the person who's responsible for a program that delivers benefits to 48 million people, I think it's my responsibility to make sure Congress understands the consequences of its planned actions. If I had waited until after Congress signed off on appropriations bills and said, 'Gee, that's not enough money. We need to do a furlough.' I think they'd be a little annoyed with me."
Barnhart said that if Congress had supported the president's requests, people applying for disability benefits and challenging denials would not be faced with the long delays they are experiencing now.
Lassiter said Wednesday that the agency has instituted a hiring freeze until at least Feb. 15, almost a month after Barnhart's term expires. The agency had been hiring one employee for every three who left.
"The point is, there's a very direct correlation between service and getting the president's request and not getting the president's request," Barnhart said.
Until late last week, when the spending bills failed to get off the Senate floor, the agency's lobbying efforts had been gaining ground with 54 senators, including 12 Republicans, sending a letter to the chamber's leadership calling for enough money to avoid service disruptions.
"On the philosophical level, I certainly feel the agency is enjoying a victory, but on the practical side we're still piling on," Barnhart said. "We could absorb the House's proposal, but it's not going to be an ideal situation by any stretch of the imagination."
Richard Warsinskey, president of the National Council of Social Security Management Associations, said that agency budget officials estimate that for every $20 million the agency loses from the House's 2007 budget proposal, offices would shut down for one day.
"So if we stick with our current funding level, we're looking at a seven- or eight-day furlough," Warsinskey said. "It's not looking good."
Dec 14, 2006
Dec 13, 2006
Social Security Advisory Board
Friday December 15, 2006
10:30 a.m. - 1145 a.m. Linda Maxfield, Assistant Deputy Commissioner for Policy,
Social Security Administration
1:30 p.m. - 3:15 p.m. Richard V. Burkhauser,
Professor and Chair,
Department of Policy Analysis and Management,
Debra Bailey Whitman,
Specialist in the Economics of Aging,
Congressional Research Service
The meeting will be held in the Board's conference room, Suite 625
400 Virginia Avenue, SW
Dec 12, 2006
Dec 11, 2006
Dec 10, 2006
Draft final regulations of Silvera-Vargas pending at the executive level. This regulation will clarify illiteracy and inability to communicate in English as an education level and its impact on potential skill transferability.
Dec 9, 2006
Dec 8, 2006
In fairness, Commissioner Barnhart must share in the blame for this fiasco. She has spent over five years doing her best to convince Congress that she could bring dramatic improvements in productivity through the EDIB electronic file program and the Disability Service Improvement (DSI) reorganization. Congress ended up taking her seriously, even though EDIB has hurt productivity in the short run and few now believe that it will ever yield more than modest productivity gains and even though DSI will have almost no effect, either good or bad, on Social Security productivity until well into the future. The failure of Commissioner Barnhart to pull the promised rabbit out of the hat leaves Social Security painfully short of manpower for at least the next two months.
Dec 7, 2006
TACOMA - For nearly 20 years - ever since he was 8 - Pete Costello's mother has collected disability benefits on his behalf. In meetings with Social Security officials and psychologists, he appeared mentally retarded and unable to communicate. His mom insisted he couldn't read or write, shower, take care of himself or drive a car.
But video of Pete contesting a traffic ticket in a Clark County courtroom earlier this year seems to refute that, according to federal prosecutors who are pursuing fraud charges against the Vancouver pair.
First, the program could be put on a sound fiscal footing by reducing the future growth of benefits. Republicans will like this proposal better than Democrats, but few Democrats have ruled it out. Second, the government could provide tax credits to help low-income workers begin investing. Democrats have proposed this policy for years, and Republicans have objected. But if Republicans are as interested as they say they are in expanding the investor class — and they should be — they should drop their objections. Third, the taxes that fund Social Security could be made more progressive. There is a cap on the amount of wages that is subject to the payroll tax. That cap could be raised. This is where Democrats want to go, and Republicans have good reasons for resisting: It would increase marginal tax rates for the affected workers quite a bit, and it would not raise much money. But if the cap were not raised much, and the revenues gained were used to fund the tax credits or to lower the payroll-tax rate, Republicans might find their objections dwindling.
Dec 6, 2006
Dec 5, 2006
Effective with fees paid December 1, 2006 and later, the user fee increases from $75.00 to $77.00 or 6.3% of attorney fee, whichever is lower. The cap was adjusted based on annual cost of living adjustments (COLAs) rounded down to next lower $1 for the current calendar year.
Automated fee computations, fees processed manually, or paid by A-OTP, will use the increased fee assessment cap to compute the user fee for fees paid on or after December 1, 2006.
Dec 4, 2006
Dec 3, 2006
Dec 2, 2006
- December 8, 2006, NC Academy of Trial Lawyers CLE, Winston-Salem, NC
- February 2, 2007, State Bar of Michigan Social Security Section Meeting, Lansing, MI
- March 1-3, 2007, NADE Mid-Year Board Meeting, Washington, DC
- March 9, 2007 Ohio Academy of Trial Lawyers CLE, Columbus, OH
- March 25-28, 2007, NADR Conference, Albuquerque, NM
- April 18-20 2007, NADE Regional Training Conference, Albuquerque, NM
- April 18-21 2007, NOSSCR CLE, Baltimore, MD
- May 2-4, 2007, NADE Regional Training Conference, Seattle, WA
- May 7-10 2007, NADE Regional Training Conference, Atlanta, GA
- May 18, 2007, State Bar of Michigan Social Security Section Meeting, Lansing, MI
- May 20-23, 2007, National Association of Disability Examiners Meeting, Stowe, VE
- September 15-20, 2007, NADE National Conference, Sioux Falls, SD
- October 17-20, 2007, NOSSCR CLE, St. Louis, MO
- April 8-11, 2008 NADE Regional Conference, Austin, TX
- June 4-7, 2008 NOSSCR CLE, Miami, FL
- October 15-18, 2008 NOSSCR CLE, Century City, CA
Dec 1, 2006
Social Security Advisory Board
Thursday, November 30, 2006
9:30 a.m. - 11:30 a.m. Dan Crippen; Chair, Technical Panel on Assumptions and Methods
1:30 p.m. - 3:00 p.m. Stephen Goss; Chief Actuary of the Social Security Administration
Nov 30, 2006
The problem with the form is that it includes a section that asks the attorney or representative to "List below the Social Security Numbers and names of all other claimants not mentioned above. " Does this mean that the attorney or representative must list the name and Social Security number of all of the claimant's dependents who might receive benefits on the account? If it does not mean this, what does it mean? What is the point of requiring this information? Requiring it dramatically increases the compliance difficulty for the attorney or representative. Many attorneys and representatives routinely take down the names of their clients' dependents but it has not been routine to take down their Social Security numbers. For an attorney with a modest Social Security practice, which might be 200 clients, getting this information would take a good deal of effort. There would certainly be clients who would resist giving the information. Many claimants do not like the idea of their attorney or representative getting a fee out of the dependent benefits. There are many claimants who do not know their children's Social Security numbers and cannot readily obtain them because the children live with their mother and the claimant is estranged from the mother. What happens if the attorney does not list all of the children or does not get all of the Social Security numbers down accurately? Does the attorney or representative just not get a fee from those benefits? Why would Social Security want to go to the trouble of entering all this information in its own database anyway? What happens if the attorney or representative supplies the form to Social Security, but the data is not properly entered in Social Security's database? Social Security has problems already with data entry. This would add several hundred thousand new data entry items each year to Social Security's burden.
Nov 29, 2006
Nov 28, 2006
This raises the question. Should Social Security continue its hiring freeze? Commissioner Barnhart put a hiring freeze into effect because of fear that the agency would be stuck with the draconian budget put forward by the Appropriations Committee of the House of Representatives during the current Congress. It is now clear that no FY 2007 budget will be adopted for the agency during the current Congress. With Democrats in the majority in both houses of Congress when a budget is finally passed next year, it seems fairly clear that nothing like the draconian budget reported out of committee in the House this year will be adopted.
Nov 27, 2006
This is from a November 22, 2006 press release:
WASHINGTON D.C. – U.S. Senator Olympia J. Snowe (R-Maine) and Senator Kent Conrad (D-North Dakota) urged Senate Majority and Minority Leaders and the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Appropriations Committee to provide additional funding for the Social Security Administration (SSA) budget in the final fiscal year 2007 Labor-HHS-Education appropriations bill. The Appropriations Committee approved the Fiscal Year (FY) 2007 Labor- HHS Appropriations bill in July of this year to provide $9.1 billion to the SSA for administrative expenses, $401 million less than the President’s budget request and $54 million below the FY 2006 appropriated level.
The impact of a 2007 budget shortfall could potentially require the Social Security Administration to layoff staff throughout the country, causing delays in service for Social Security recipients and impacting services to Medicare beneficiaries.
“This Social Security Administration funding shortfall could disrupt those essential services provided to millions of Americans and Mainers at a time when we can ill afford to leave Social Security recipients out in the cold,” Snowe said. “Our seniors need to have certainty – they need to know that if they have problems with their Social Security or Medicare benefits that the resources are available to fix the problem. If we under fund the administrative budget of the SSA then we will see longer waits and greater confusions for people across the country. I believe this shortfall must be closed when the Senate takes up this funding bill and I urge the bipartisan leadership in the Senate to find the funding to close this gap. At a time when hundreds of thousands of Baby Boomers are retiring, these budget cuts are wrong headed and irresponsible.”
Senator Snowe and Senator Conrad, joined by more than 50 Senators, sent the following letter to the bipartisan Senate Leadership.
Nov 26, 2006
Nov 25, 2006
Nov 24, 2006
Staffing problems at the Social Security Administration could make it difficult for field offices to handle increased telephone calls and visits prompted by an upcoming increase in Medicare premiums, according to the Government Accountability Office.
Social Security began mailing notices of the higher, income-based premiums on Monday and expects all 1.6 million affected enrollees to have them in hand by the end of next week. Enrollees may request a recalculation of their premium if they think incorrect tax data have been used to determine their income and set their premium, or if they have recently experienced an income loss from a spouse's death, a divorce or some other "life-changing event."
In a letter sent last week to the Senate Finance Committee, the GAO warned that Social Security is coping with staff shortages and operating under a hiring freeze just as the agency's workload is expected to jump because of the premium increases. The GAO, the congressional auditing agency, noted that the premium change, though approved by Congress in 2003, may come as a surprise to some beneficiaries.
Mark Lassiter, a Social Security spokesman, said the agency plans to shift workloads among field offices if some offices "are getting disproportionately hit" by telephone calls and visits from Medicare beneficiaries.
He expressed confidence that the agency's 1,300 field offices will be able to handle any surge in work. "We do the work we are assigned to get done," he said. ...The GAO said implementing income-based premiums will cost Social Security an additional $200 million in administrative expenses between fiscal 2006 and 2010.
The extra work comes at a tough time for the agency. Social Security has adopted a hiring freeze because Congress has not been able to complete work on the agency's fiscal 2007 appropriations bill. Agency officials also have warned that it could be forced next year to send employees home without pay, perhaps for as long as 10 days, if Congress does not reverse proposed budget cuts.
Here is a link to the GAO report.
Nov 23, 2006
I had long felt that what was needed was a better flow of information to all involved with Social Security. With the dramatic growth of the internet, more and more information has become available, yet no one was making a systematic effort to draw it together. I hope that this blog has helped in making information available more freely to everyone with an interest in Social Security matters. I have tried to stick mostly to the "Social Security News" title, by giving news primarily. Certainly, I have offered some opinions as well.
I have been asked a number of times why I do not allow those reading this blog to post comments. Your comments would be interesting, but deleting or editing inappropriate comments would be time consuming. I still have to earn a living as a Social Security attorney. I would be happy to hear comments by e-mail, however. My e-mail address is normall charles[at]charleshallfirm.com, but there could be some technical problems with that e-mail address until Monday or Tuesday of next week because of a recent office move. For now, comments may be sent to me at my home e-mail address: hallcity[at]nc.rr.com.
Nov 22, 2006
Nov 21, 2006
Nov 20, 2006
2.01 Category of Impairments, Special Senses and Speech
2.02 Loss of visual acuity. Remaining vision in the better eye after best correction is 20/200 or less.
2.03 Contraction of the visual field in the better eye, with:
A. The widest diameter subtending an angle around the point of fixation no greater than 20 degrees;
B. A mean deviation of –22 or worse, determined by automated static threshold perimetry as described in 2.00A6a(v);
C. A visual field efficiency of 20 percent or less as determined by kinetic perimetry (see 2.00A7b).
2.04 Loss of visual efficiency. Visual efficiency of the better eye of 20 percent or less after best correction (see 2.00A7c).
The purpose of this Request for Information (RFI) is to gather information on behalf of the Social Security Administration (SSA). SSA is investigating new ways for people to file applications for SSA Retirement and Disability benefits. Among the options being considered is a process to collect bulk data from third parties who wish to assist claimants filing for SSA and/or other types of benefits. The goal of this Request for Information (RFI) is to solicit input from potential third party providers to determine the need for and feasibility of SSA building a web service or other electronic means to obtain claims data in bulk from them.
The RFI results will enable SSA to project potential volumes, data quality, and other factors for a Cost Benefit Analysis of the concept. Ultimately, we will attempt to determine whether we can maximize the use of third party data to streamline the claims submittal process for both third parties and SSA, while ensuring there is sufficient data to constitute a claim for benefits upon which SSA can act.
Nothing in this document shall be construed as obligating the Government to issue a solicitation. NO CONTRACT WILL BE AWARDED BASED ON RESPONSES TO THIS RFI.
Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson said on Monday the healthy economy creates an ideal chance to address concerns about the long-term financing concerns of the Social Security government retirement program and pledged to engage both political parties in debate.
"It's a good time to deal with it just because our economy's so strong and economic policies are working well, and we're better off dealing with this at a time of strength," he said in answers to questions after speaking to the Economic Club of New York.
Nov 19, 2006
A day after the midterm elections, President Bush announced that he had deputized Henry Paulson Jr., the secretary of the Treasury, to work with the new Congress on reforming Social Security. ... In an interview with The Times after the announcement, he [Bush] stressed the importance of bipartisanship. “We were going to have to build a consensus, no matter who won the election,” he said.
But then Mr. Bush nominated Andrew Biggs, a zealous advocate of privatizing Social Security, to a six-year term as the next deputy commissioner of Social Security. ...
Mr. Paulson — who has a reputation for pragmatism — could indeed be the right person to take the lead on developing a new set of reforms. But with the nomination of Mr. Biggs, Mr. Bush is signaling that he doesn’t want new ideas.
Mr. Bush’s choice of Mr. Biggs is also no favor to the man he has nominated to be the next commissioner of Social Security, Michael Astrue, a businessman who was an official in the administration of President George H. W. Bush. In a public exchange of letters before the election, Mr. Astrue told Senator Harry Reid of Nevada and Senator Max Baucus of Montana that he would follow the practice of the current commissioner, Jo Anne Barnhart, who has steered clear of the privatization debate....
Nov 18, 2006
The incoming chairman of the Senate Finance Committee said Thursday he wants to hold hearings on looming insolvencies in the Medicare and Social Security programs but said President Bush’s plan to partially privatize Social Security is dead.‘‘Don’t waste our time,’’ said Democratic Sen. Max Baucus of Montana. ‘‘It’s off the table.’’
Nov 17, 2006
Nov 16, 2006
Nov 15, 2006
- As of October 12 there were already 15,000 DSI cases.
- As of September 29, there were only 15 Federal Reviewing Officer claims pending. That will certainly change dramatically in the near future. Indeed, it has probably already changed dramatically.
- Only 30 Federal Reviewing Officers have been hired as of last report, but that number should already be up to 70.
- Only 5 nurse case managers have been hired.
- Commissioner Barnhart believes that Denver will be the next region for DSI, but, of course, Barnhart will not be around to decide whether DSI will be expanded to any region, much less the Denver Region.
Dear Senators Reid and Baucus,Thank you for your letter of October 31, 2006 and for your congratulations on my nomination as Commissioner of Social Security. I agree wholeheartedly with you that this position is one of the most important in the Federal Government, and I would be honored to serve in that role and to work with you on these important matters.First, let me assure you that if I am confirmed, my goal as the Commissioner of Social Security will be to build consensus among Republicans and Democrats alike in addressing the many issues confronting this program. The Social Security system and the relevant challenges inherent in it are simply too important to the fabric of our nation to fall victim to partisan politics. For that reason, I was heartened to see that you and the President agree on one key aspect of Social Security--the need to shore up the system's long-term finances. I believe that the President and Congress have done a valuable service to the public by putting the issue of Social Security's impending insolvency on the nation's agenda. In fact, I have been disturbed by certain statements that I have seen by some academics and others suggesting that there is no real problem with the financing of Sodal Security and that we need do nothing now. For me it is simply not acceptable, in the face of the information we have from the annual Social Security Trustees' reports, to avoid an honest, data-driven debate about how we can best adapt the system so we can make sure that future generations receive the same type of income security that has been available to beneficiaries in the past.
Additionally, while I am certainly aware of the general details of what the President has previously put forth regarding personal accounts, as a nominee I have not met with or consulted with the technical experts at the agency and elsewhere in government about the specific details of the President's proposal, the critiques of the President's proposal, and the features of competing proposals. It would also be premature for me to seek out assistance trom Members of Congress, academic experts and interest groups until the Senate makes a decision on my qualifications, and it would be a bad start to make final conclusions on some very difficult issues until I have had an opportunity to consider those issues fairly. For that reason, I have maintained an open mind about any proposed solutions to address Social Security's impending insolvency, and the relevant criticisms of them. Finally, I would note that I do not know whether the Administration in January will be making significant changes in its Social Security proposals or not.
With regard to my role in the first two years of the term, my understanding is that the Administration is expecting from me substantial continuity with recent practice when it comes to the Commissioner's role. Moreover, I have not been involved in the preparation of the Administration's proposals for the next budget, and expect that those proposals will be submitted to Congress before I could begin work.
I do know the President will be holding me to a high standard of performance on the myriad of operational issues that confront the agency in a time of budget cutbacks and possible furloughs, and I expect that I will be significantly focused on those issues, particularly those related to the agency's expanding obligations under Medicare.
Thank you again for your letter and the opportunity to provide my views about protecting Social Security. Protecting Social Security for the long-term always requires bipartisan cooperation, and should I be confirmed, I look forward to working with both of you in that effort.
Michael J. Astrue
Nov 14, 2006
The 37-year old Biggs, a graduate of the London School of Economics, was the Cato Institute's senior Social Security analyst. In 2001, Cato made Biggs the lead researcher for the President's official Commission [on Social Security reform]. In May 2003, Biggs was promoted to Associate Commissioner for Retirement Policy at the U.S. Social Security Administration (SSA), part of Cato's coup-effort to take over the whole agency. Biggs sits just below the Deputy Commissioner who runs the Office of Policy, who "is responsible for major activities in the areas of strategic policy planning, policy research, and evaluation," as well as all statistical analysis, according to the SSA.
... Last year, Biggs wrote a "policy brief" internal document that mandates that all Social Security managers are required to present the idea "that Social Security faces dire financial problems requiring immediate action," in the words of the Jan. 15, 2004 New York Times. It would require the SSA to "insert solvency messages in all Social Security publications"; that is, to say that Social Security is in crisis. It would make Social Security managers spread Wall Street-lies in every public forum, as well as at non-traditional sites like farmers' markets and "big box retail stores." ...
Curiously, Newsmax reports that Biggs argued at one time that homosexuals ought to support Social Security privatization because the current system unfairly denies them spousal benefits.
It would be hard to imagine a more inflammatory nomination that Bush could have sent to a Senate soon to be controlled by Democrats than that of Andrew Biggs. Biggs was nominated on the same day as John Bolton, whose nomination for Ambassador to the United Nations has also been extremely controversial. Biggs' nomination is the strongest possible sign that, despite the election results and despite widespread public opposition to privatization and despite the fact that privatization has little support among Republican Congressmen and virtually none among Democratic Congressman, President Bush intends to promote Social Security privatization over the next two years. It is a stunningly grandiose move.