Jun 29, 2006
Jun 28, 2006
As you might recall, I addressed that issue last year, focusing on Social Security reform. I'm not through talking about the issue. I spent some time today in the Oval Office with the United States senators, and they're not through talking about the issue either. It's important for this country -- (applause) -- I know it's hard politically to address these issues. Sometimes it just seems easier for people to say, we'll deal with it later on. Now is the time for the Congress and the President to work together to reform Medicare and reform Social Security so we can leave behind a solvent balance sheet for our next generation of Americans. (Applause.)
If we can't get it done this year, I'm going to try next year. And if we can't get it done next year, I'm going to try the year after that, because it is the right thing to do. It's just so easy to say, let somebody else deal with it. Now is the time to solve the problems of Medicare and Social Security, and I want your help. I need the Manhattan Institute to continue to agitate for change and reform. You've got a big voice. You got creative thinkers, and if you don't mind, I'd like to put this on your agenda, and let you know the White House and members of the Senate and the House are anxious to deal with this issue and get it done once and for all.
Jun 27, 2006
Posted yesterday on a Social Security website:
Electronic Records Express is an initiative by Social Security and state Disability Determination Services (DDS) to increase use of electronic options for submitting health or school records related to disability claims. An Electronic Records Express website will soon be available.
You can use electronic processes now. Contact your state DDS Professional Relations Officer to learn how.
Jun 26, 2006
Jun 25, 2006
The CPMS management reports we tested were accurate, though ODAR managers did not always use the CPMS reports in their workload management. For instance, we found that claims were not being processed timely because the hearing offices were waiting extended periods of time for the claim folder to be sent from the FOs. Although the CPMS management reports noted the delays, hearing office managers were not taking action on these claims. Hearing office employees told us they received adequate CPMS training, and we observed that they were skilled at using CPMS to manage their workloads. However, we found that hearing office staff need training in using the appropriate codes for tracking potentially violent claimants. Moreover, CPMS does not have an electronic indicator on the scheduling sheet that would allow hearing office employees to readily identify potentially violent claimants prior to their hearing. Finally, SCTs told us they need additional training in extracting pertinent claim information from SSA’s systems related to incoming claims.
Jun 24, 2006
Jun 23, 2006
Jun 22, 2006
Jun 21, 2006
Update -- June 22, 2006: Social Security is already changing its mind on the date for the conference. It is now listed as being either January 16-19, 2007 or January 29-February 1, 2007.
The Social Security Administration has a requirement for a hotel that can provide the necessary services for a conference to be held in Boston, MA on December 4, 2006 through December 7, 2006. Sleeping rooms are not part of this acquisition, as attendees are responsible for making their own reservations for sleeping rooms. However, the facility must be able to accommodate 175 sleeping rooms for the nights of the conference. The facility must be able to provide meeting room/ballroom space(3,400 sq. ft) to accommodate 175 participants for plenary sessions, five soundproof breakout session rooms (each 700 sq ft), and audiovisual equipment to include LCD projectors, screens, electrical cords, carts, microphone and podium, flipcharts, and flipchart paper and markers. The facility must also provide full catering services for morning and afternoon breaks, one evening reception, and two mandatory lunches.
Jun 20, 2006
Many are calling for issuance of new Social Security cards to all Americans. Gerry detailed the considerable costs involved:
Last year, we estimated that a card with enhanced security features would cost approximately $25.00 per card, not including the start-up investments associated with the purchase of equipment needed to produce and issue this type of card. According to estimates made last year, reissuance of all new cards for the 240 million cardholders over age 14 would be approximately $9.5 billion. Since that estimate, we know that the cost of issuing SSN cards has increased by approximately $3.00 per card due to new requirements for additional verification of evidence, so we anticipate an increase in the total cost estimate when we update our figures to reflect current dollar costs.
Currently, staff of the agency devotes approximately 3,300 work years of effort to the SSN card issuance process. Last year’s estimate indicates that we would need an additional 67,000 work years to process 240 million new cards. This would require hiring approximately 34,000 new employees if we were required to complete the work within 2 years and 14,000 new employees to complete the work in 5 years. This estimate assumes replacing cards for 240 million individuals; if fewer were replaced, the cost would be lower. An approach that mandated new tamper resistant cards would be issued only during the normal course of initial issuance and reissuance would involve relatively modest additional costs. If a phased approach were mandated that limited new cards to only the approximately 30 million people who change jobs at least once during a year and the additional 5 million young people reaching age 14, the cost would be approximately $1.5 billion per year, using last years cost numbers.
Jun 19, 2006
In addition, SSA is creating a Medical and Vocational Expert System, staffed by a unit of nurse case managers who will oversee a national network of medical, psychological, and vocational experts, which are together responsible for assisting adjudicators in identifying and obtaining needed expertise.Why does Social Security need almost as many nurse case managers as Reviewing Officers? The "national network" does not exist at this time as anything other than a hazy concept, at least insofar as the public has been informed. In Region I there may not be as many as 90 people total employed by state disability determination units as physicans and vocational experts. Why are 90 people needed to manage them?
Why would this "national network" need anyone with the title of "nurse case manager" anyway? Here is a definition of "case management" from the Commission for Case Management Certification (CCMC): which certifies nurses as case managers:
Case management is a collaborative process that assesses, plans, implements, coordinates, monitors, and evaluates the options and services required to meet the client's health and human service needs. It is characterized by advocacy, communication, and resource management and promotes quality and cost-effective interventions and outcome
Case management is an area of specialty practice within one's health and human services profession. Its underlying premise is that everyone benefits when clients reach their optimum level of wellness, self-management, and functional capability: the clients being served; their support systems; the health care delivery systems; and the various payer sources.This does not sound like a job in which an individual merely makes sure that physicians and vocational experts are available for consultation with decisionmakers. It sounds a lot like someone who would work directly with a claimant to try to get him or her back to work. That is how nurse case managers have been used by insurance companies dealing with workers compensation and long term disability (LTD) cases. Nurse case managers in workers compensation and LTD cases often end up in an adversarial relationship with the people whose cases they are managing.
At a time when Social Security's resources are stretched to the point that the Commissioner of Social Security is threatening to furlough employees, the nurse case manager position must be an incredibly high priority to justify hiring 90 new employees. That justification is not immediately obvious. The temptation is to suspect that some controversial role for the nurse case managers is in the works.
Jun 18, 2006
Jun 17, 2006
Jun 16, 2006
Try calling the Social Security office in Port Richey and see how frustrated you get.
"Here's a thought. ...''
That's the lead-in to a recorded message that tells you about a Web site you can visit for general information about Social Security or to obtain forms to fill out. No claim or appeal assistance is available from this site.
When you call this number, this message plays four times with on-hold silence between and then it clicks and cuts off your call. No matter which selection you chose, the same thing happens.
Apparently, the next available person to help you is never available because after trying for 14 working days straight, eight to 10 times each day, there has been no way to get anyone to answer the phone. This is the response my friend has received while trying to obtain information regarding a Social Security disability claim appeal. The appeal was mailed return-receipt requested on May 10. There is a time limit of 60 days for filing an appeal of this nature, so time is of the essence.
Not being able to get an answer from the Port Richey office, my friend contacted the 800 phone number for Social Security to see if they could be of assistance. Their response was that nothing had been entered into the main computer files regarding this appeal and that her only recourse was to contact the Port Richey office.
My friend has subsequently learned from the Social Security office that claims are processed in the order in which they are received and that there is only one person assigned to process these claims. This person happens to be on vacation at this time, so not only are these claims being put into a pile, according to when they were received, but that pile is going unprocessed because of a vacation.
It is understood that processing these claims takes time; however, it is not understood why it should take such a long time to get them put back into the system for processing. It has already been one month since the appeal was sent.
Lives are being put on hold. Is this how the government responds to helping a disabled citizen who has no other source of income or any other source of assistance? These citizens certainly did not put the government on hold and then cut them off repeatedly when paying into Social Security for so many years and their contributions did not stop while they were on vacation.
Here's a thought: How is it that such a huge and powerful government can assign only one person to control thousands of claims and do it in a timely fashion?
Here's another thought: Someone with the authority to intercede on behalf of these poor individuals with the Social Security Administration should step up and do so on behalf of these citizens.
Gary Morrow, Hudson
Mr. Morrow does not know it, but this could and, indeed, would have happened almost anywhere in the country.
Jun 15, 2006
Robert Robertson, Director, Education, Workforce, and Income Security Issues, U.S. Government Accountability Office:
... we found that the public and stakeholders expressed two overriding concerns regarding the replacement of the Appeals Council with the Decision Review board—that the workload of the federal courts will rise if the council is eliminated and that this change will present additional hardship for claimants. ...Witold Skwierczynski, President, National Council of SSA Field Operations Locals, American Federation of Government Employees, AFL-CIO:
While stakeholders have expressed concern that SSA will not be able to hire and sufficiently train staff in time for the new process, we found that the agency has taken a number of steps in this area. With respect to hiring for new positions, the agency has already developed position descriptions and posted hiring announcements for nurse case managers, who will work in the new Medical and Vocational Expert Unit, as well as for federal reviewing officials. To date, SSA officials have begun assessing more than 100 eligible applicants for the reviewing official slots, and expect to hire 70 by late June and another 43 in early 2007. SSA officials also said they posted announcements to hire nurse case managers, and that they expect to hire as many as 90 before the end of the rollout’s first year in the Boston region.
SSA officials also said that the agency has posted announcements to hire support staff for both the reviewing officials and nurse case managers, but the exact number SSA is seeking to hire has not been decided. Several stakeholders we spoke with were particularly concerned that SSA will need to hire or otherwise provide adequate support staff for reviewing officials to ensure their effectiveness. Specifically, several of the ALJs we interviewed told us that at the hearings level, judges and their staff currently spend significant time developing case files. They noted that if the reviewing official position is designed to focus on case development, then attorneys in this role will need support staff to help them with this time-consuming work.
With respect to training, the agency has been creating a variety of training materials for new and current staff, with plans to deliver training at different times, in different ways. SSA officials reported working on development of a uniform training package for all staff with some flexible components for more specialized needs. Specifically, about 80 percent of the package is common content for all employees, and 20 percent will be adaptable to train disability examiners, medical experts, ALJs, and others involved in the adjudication process. SSA officials said they developed the package with the federal reviewing officials in mind, but also with an eye toward a centralized training content that could apply to current and new staff down the line. SSA plans to provide the full training package, which constitutes about 8 weeks of course work and 13 modules, to reviewing officials in late June, once all attorneys for that position are hired. Among the sessions included are the basics of the disability determination process, eDib and its use, medical listings and their application, and decision writing. ...
SSA will continue to provide accuracy rates for DDS decisions, but these accuracy rates will be generated by a centralized quality assurance review, replacing the agency’s older system of regionally based quality review boards and thereby eliminating the potential differences among regional reviews that were a cause for inconsistent decisions among DDSs. ...
Although SSA’s workloads have increased by 12.6 percent over the last 5 years, and 2.7 percent in FY 05, Congress appropriated $300 million less for SSA than proposed in the President’s FY06 budget request. The result was a 2368 reduction in budgeted work years. While SSA’s proposed budget requests have compared favorably compared to many other agencies, AFGE is concerned that the recent budget cuts may result in dangerous levels of inadequate service to the public and stewardship of the programs under SSA’s jurisdiction. ...James Hill, President, Chapter 224, National Treasury Employees Union:
In February 2006, SSA informed AFGE that the budget cuts would be absorbed in staffing resources. Since then, Commissioner Barnhart imposed a hiring reduction wherein the Agency will replace only 1 of 8 employees engaged in direct public service work in field offices who leave SSA. These are the employees who interview disability and disability appeals applicants. ...
AFGE is very concerned that such staffing cuts will drastically affect SSA’s ability to provide adequate public service to the disabled community. AFGE also raises a number of questions regarding the decisions to reduce direct service staffing. Why are such cuts necessary if SSA has the resources to implement Disability Services Improvement (DSI) which is a system that has never been tested and will cost billions of dollars to implement? If there are insufficient Claims Representatives and Technical Experts to take and process initial claims, all the DSI improvements in the world won’t improve the system. The entire system requires sufficient staffing resources on the front end to enable the public to file applications for disability benefits that fully address the nature of their condition, their medical sources and how their disability impacts their ability to work and to perform routine tasks. There is currently insufficient staff to do this job. Commissioner Barnhart’s staff replacement plan will further reduce the staff that processes disability claims. Flooding the appellate system with dollars while slicing the staff that takes applications makes no sense and is not an effective way of improving the system. ...
The record should be clarified with regards to Commissioner Barnhart’s statement that she met with the organizations that represent SSA employees. She did. She held one meeting with all 6 SSA AFGE presidents for the purpose of introducing her plan. That was 3 years ago. Ms. Barnhart was not receptive to our constructive criticisms. ...
Ms. Barnhart does not have the support or the buy-in of SSA workers. In fact, SSA employees overwhelmingly oppose this disability plan.
As of the end of April 2006 there were 727,629 cases pending at ODAR hearing offices. The optimal level of cases for efficient ODAR HO operations is 350,000 cases. While DSI will significantly improve the adjudication process, it will have little impact on the current backlog. In fact, if the backlog problem is not addressed it will strangle the Commissioner’s DSI initiative. Unless the backlog at ODAR hearing offices is eliminated, DSI will be no more effective in providing timely service they we are now. Fortunately, history provides the vehicle for the resolution of the backlog problem – the Senior Attorney Program begun in 1995. The solution is to use current staff to perform the adjudication needed to deal with this problem.
As discouraging as the increase of cases pending may be, it does not fully reflect the harmful effect of the backlog on the public. Average processing time at the hearing office level was approximately 270 days at the beginning of FY 2000; now it is nearly 480 days. In some locales, claimants have to wait nearly two years for a hearing. This is an unconscionably long wait for a disability decision, and it is causing untold harm to some of the most vulnerable members of society. None will dispute that the public deserves far better service than SSA is presently providing.
The backlog has risen despite system and process improvements and record ALJ productivity levels. Current initiatives have not materially affected the backlog because they fail to deal with the underlying causes of the backlog. The root causes of the hearing office backlog are the number of receipts, too few adjudicators for the size of the caseload, and an inefficient adjudicatory process.
I also established a new Office of Quality Performance to manage the Agency’s newly developed and still evolving integrated quality system which I believe will improve our disability determination process, as well as other program areas such as the Social Security retirement program and the SSI age-based program. The new Office of Quality Performance will manage a new quality system that includes both in-line and end-of-line quality review throughout the new DSI process. The Office of Quality Performance will be able quickly to identify problem areas, implement corrective actions, and identify related training as we implement the new DSI process.The problem is that she gives no explanation of how the Office of Quality Performance is different from its predecessor, the Disability Quality Branch. Barnhart has already changed the name of Social Security's Office of Hearings and Appeals to the Office of Disability Appeals and Reviews without making any meaningful change in its operations. Without more information, it is tempting to label this change as being just as meaningless.
She goes on in her prepared remarks to say:
So far, we have developed major new computer systems to support the DSI initiative. We have performed all of the personnel and hiring work necessary to make sure that we have the new employees in their new positions, properly trained, in time to perform their new DSI duties when implementation begins. We are working to ensure that effective training is prepared and presented to every employee who will be involved with the new disability determination process. Although we do not have the same kind of personnel or hiring issues at the hearing level as we do for other levels, we do have systems needs unique to the hearing level, and we are currently working to ensure that the necessary computer systems are in place by the time the first DSI claim reaches the hearing level.The report that the major computer systems for DSI have been developed is reassuring, but the fact that this statement is coupled with a statement that "all of the personnel and hiring work" for the Reviewing Officer (RO) position has been performed is unsettling. It is clear that all of the hiring work for the RO position has not been done since the RO jobs have only recently been advertised. It is unlikely that anyone has been hired as an RO or RO supervisor so far. Clerical positions to support the ROs have not even been announced yet. She only states that Social Security is "working" on preparing training, which suggests that Social Security has much further to go in this area.
Jun 14, 2006
Jun 13, 2006
Panel: The Honorable Jo Anne B. Barnhart, Commissioner, Social Security Administration
Panel: Robert E. Robertson, Director, Education, Workforce, and Income Security Issues, U.S. Government Accountability Office Marty Ford, Co-Chair, Social Security Task Force, Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities Sarah H. Bohr, President, National Organization of Social Security Claimants’ Representatives, Atlantic Beach, Florida James Hill, President, Chapter 224, National Treasury Employees Union, Cleveland, Ohio The Honorable Ronald G. Bernoski, President, Association of Administrative Law Judges, Inc., Sussex, Wisconsin Gary Flack, Chairman, Social Security Section, Federal Bar Association, Atlanta, Georgia
Jun 12, 2006
Jun 11, 2006
Jun 10, 2006
Jun 9, 2006
Jun 8, 2006
The DI and SSI applications to Federally-funded State Disability Determination Service agencies for a decision have increased 22 percent over the past five years, from 2.1 million in Fiscal Year (FY) 2000 to 2.55 million in FY 2005. Despite the increased workloads, the SSA has increased its productivity by 12.6 percent since 2001. However, the rapid rise in applications, coupled with budgetary constraints, have resulted in longer processing times for cases heard by Administrative Law Judges– from 415 days in FY 2005 to 477 days in April 2006. The number of hearing requests waiting for a decision has increased from about 708,000 in FY 2005 to 727,629 in April 2006, and the Agency expects this number to rise to 767,000 in FY 2007.
Jun 7, 2006
More than half a million Medicare beneficiaries enrolled in health plans or prescription drug plans are receiving the wrong payments each month from Social Security, say officials at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in Washington.
About 16,000 beneficiaries clustered in three states - Nevada, Florida and Texas - have been shortchanged because Social Security computers deduct Medicare premiums they do not owe. Most are out more than $500, and many are owed more than $1,000.
But the vast majority, about a half-million beneficiaries, has the opposite problem: They were overpaid because their premiums were not deducted from their Social Security payments as they requested.
Now, those beneficiaries owe several months of premiums, often hundreds of dollars. And private insurers are faced with the ticklish task of trying to recover the money.
Senior officials of the two agencies involved - CMS and the Social Security Administration - have been meeting several times a week recently to try to resolve the issues, said Thomas Hutchinson, acting director of CMS' Medicare Plan Payment Group.
Jun 6, 2006
Jun 5, 2006
Jun 4, 2006
Jun 3, 2006
Military Veterans and Social Security
by Anya Olsen
About one out of every four adult Social Security beneficiaries has served in the United States military, making military veterans and their families an important group to study. This article provides information on the demographic characteristics of military veterans, including their age, sex, marital status, education, and race and ethnicity. It also examines their economic status by looking at poverty levels and Social Security benefit payments. Information is based on data from the March 2004 Current Population Survey, a large, nationally representative survey of U.S. households.
An Overview of the National Survey of SSI Children and Families and Related Products
by Paul S. Davies and Kalman Rupp
During the first three decades of the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program, the number of children receiving SSI because of a disability increased from 70,000 in 1974 to about 1 million at the end of 2005. With over 8,500 interviews completed between July 2001 and June 2002, the National Survey of SSI Children and Families (NSCF) is the first nationally representative survey since 1978 of noninstitutionalized children and young adults who were receiving SSI during the survey period or had formerly received SSI. The article discusses the objectives of the survey, its methodology and implementation, content of the questionnaire, a randomized response-incentive experiment, and related products including the release of a public-use data file.A Profile of Children with Disabilities Receiving SSI: Highlights from the National Survey of SSI Children and Families
by Kalman Rupp, Paul S. Davies, Chad Newcomb, Howard Iams, Carrie Becker, Shanti Mulpuru, Stephen Ressler, Kathleen Romig, and Baylor Miller
This article, based on interviews from the National Survey of SSI Children and Families conducted between July 2001 and June 2002, presents a profile of children under the age of 18 who were receiving support from the Supplemental Security Income program. The topics highlighted provide information of SSI children with disabilities and their families not available from administrative records, including demographic characteristics, income and assets, perceived health and disabilities, and health care utilization. While virtually every child in the SSI program is covered by some form of health insurance, primarily Medicaid, the data indicate substantial heterogeneity on other variables. This is true on many different dimensions, such as the perceived severity of the child's disabling conditions, health care utilization and service needs, the presence of other family members with disabilities, family demographics, and access to non-SSI sources of incomes.Participation in Programs Designed to Improve Employment Outcomes for Persons with Psychiatric Disabilities: Evidence from the New York WORKS Demonstration Project
by S. Antonio Ruiz-Quintanilla, Robert F. Weathers II, Valerie Melburg, Kimberly Campbell, and Nawaf Madi
This article examines a multistage recruitment process used to select Supplemental Security Income recipients with a psychiatric disorder to participate in a project designed to improve their employment outcomes. It uses an empirical method recently developed in the literature abut the Job Training Partnership Act (JTPA) to analyze the importance of individual characteristics on enrollment in the project. The results show that characteristics of SSI recipients have a different impact on enrollment at different points in the recruitment process. Results also point to ways that program administrators may improve recruitment strategies and participation for similar proje
Jun 2, 2006
In December 2005, there were 336,570 SSI disabled beneficiaries who were working—5.6 percent of the total SSI disabled caseload. Included in this count were 78,205 section
1619(b)participants who do not receive an SSI payment but have special SSI recipient status for Medicaid purposes. Over four-fifths (81.9 percent) of the workers had amounts of earned income below the substantial gainful activity (SGA) level of $860 per month; 22.8 percent earned $65 or less.
Among the states, the percentage of disabled workers varied from a low of 2.8 percent in Mississippi to a high of 18.5 percent in North Dakota. In general, the percentage of disabled workers was higher in the northern states than in the southern states.
The majority of these disabled workers were male (53.4 percent). Almost half (49.3 percent) had unearned income; 43.5 percent were receiving Social Security benefits. Comparable figures for all disabled recipients in December 2005 were 45.5 percent male, 38.2 percent with unearned income, and 30.6 percent receiving Social Security benefits.
Disabled workers are more likely to have certain impairments than other disabled recipients. Almost two-thirds (66.2 percent) of the workers had a mental disorder, including 41.5 percent who were diagnosed with mental retardation. By comparison, 57.7 percent of all disabled recipients were diagnosed with a mental disorder, including 21.7 percent with mental retardation.
Jun 1, 2006
- June 5-7, 2006 NY Legal Assistance Statewide DAP Task Force Meeting, Albany, NY
- June 7-9, 2006 Ticket to Work and Work Incentives Advisory Panel, Quarterly Meeting, Arlington, VA
- July 10, 2006 National Organization of Social Security Claimants Representatives and Disability Law Center Disability Service Improvement Training, Boston, MA
- July 12, 2006 Social Security Advisory Board meeting, Washington, DC
- July 14, 2006 Minnesota Legal Services Coalition CLE, Somewhere in Minnesota, but the sponsor did not bother to give the information
- July 18, 2006 ATLA Social Security Disability Section and Health Care and Disability Litigation Group CLE program, Seattle, WA
- August 4-5, Philadelphia Regional Management Association Annual Meeting, Williamsburg, VA
- August 10-11, 2006 Retirement Research Consortium, Washington, DC
- August 11, 2006 8th Circuit Social Security CLE, Omaha, NE
- September 8, 2006 Louisiana State Bar CLE, New Orleans, LA
- september 11-13, 2006 NADE Regional Training Conference, Jefferson City, MO
- September 16-21, 2006 National Association of Disability Examiners, San Diego, CA
- October 11-14, 2006 National Organization of Social Security Claimants Representatives (NOSSCR) CLE, Phoenix, AZ
- October 16-19, 2006 National Council of Social Security Management Association Meeting, Milwaukee, WI
- May 20-23, 2007, National Association of Disability Examiners Meeting, Stowe, VE
As of September 2004, we estimate there were approximately 10,780 beneficiaries in suspended status pending the selection of a representative payee (see Appendix C). Based on a review of 539 of these beneficiaries, we estimate that approximately
• $4.6 million in benefits was improperly suspended and should have been paid directly to about 1,700 beneficiaries;
• $5.2 million in benefits payable to about 1,580 beneficiaries was not reinstated, as required, after 1 month; and
• $5.7 million in benefits was withheld from about 2,220 children under age 15 for an average of 252 days.
In addition, SSA could not locate 11 of the 539 beneficiaries who remained in suspended status pending the selection of a representative payee.
While I have great respect for you and your work in the field, I respectfully disagree with your blog of today’s date on SSR 06-01. I could not post a response to your blog, so I am sending you this email. While not a magic bullet, this SSR will be helpful to the