Sep 30, 2011

The Republican Plan For Social Security's Appropriation -- Don't Worry So Much About Putting Anyone Else On Benefits; Just Try To Cut Them Off

     A draft of the House Appropriations Committee's Labor-HHS Appropriations bill (the Social Security part begins at page 122) is out. That bill would give Social Security approximately $12 billion. This seems to compare favorably to the version reported out of the Senate Appropriations Committee which called for only $11.6 billion but not really. The House version specifies that a whopping $896 million would have to be spent on continuing disability reviews and SSI eligibility redeterminations. The Senate bill would appropriate $139.5 million for the more generic category of "program integrity activities." I cannot say exactly how things would work out if the House bill became law. There might be dramatically increasing backlogs, while Disability Determination Services would be working overtime and hiring rapidly to do huge numbers of continuing disability reviews. Basically, the philosophy expressed is "don't worry about putting anyone else on benefits; just find ways to take people off benefits."
      The Hill tells us not to worry that this is going to happen anytime soon since two Republicans on the House Appropriations Committee wants to cut more money from the bill, exactly where being uncertain. Also, the bill as written could not become law since it would make it impossible to spend money to implement the Affordable Care Act and the Senate is not going to agree to that, nor would the President sign it.
     The bottom line is that we should expect a prolonged appropriations dispute which may cause a government shutdown as early as November when the current continuing resolution ends.


Anonymous said...

Try comparing the proposed bills, rather than the proposed bill from the House and a press release from the Senate.

Both bills earmark $896 million for CDRs and redeterminations. The Senate just wrote their press release to focus on the year-to-year increase, rather than the total.

In effect, the House is providing SSA about $410 million more than the Senate, and all of that difference can be spent on claims and hearings, if the Commissioner directs.

The House bill also does something I don't believe has been done before, and also caps spending on "Program Integrity Activities" outside of the $896 million at 2% of LAE, before user fee collections, or about $220 M (Page 124, lines 3-5).

So, in the House bill, SSA can spend between $896 M and $1.116 B on program integrity.

In the Senate bill, SSA can spend anywhere from $896 M up to their entire appropriation on program integrity.

Which is better? You decide.

Anonymous said...

So what is so bad about program integrity? What is so bad about following the law that says SSI recipients need to have periodic reviews and disabled recipients have to prove they are still disabled every so many years? We have claimants who haven't had SSI redeterminations in 7-9 years! And when we do ask the questions, many many unreported issues arise like marriage, buying and selling homes, money showing up in their bank from unknown sources, moves to other states. There will be lots more overpayments as a result of SSI redeterminations, no doubt.

I also see ALJ's award claims that have been pending for years and years with an order that a CDR be conducted in 12 months. As if paying the claim will somehow motivate someone to improve their health. There is one ALJ who uses canned language in the fully favorable decision that the claimant is ordered to follow a low sodium diet and exercise and do yoga and failure to do so can result in cessation. Yeah, right.

There will be more cessations and then the resulting ODAR backlog when appealed and the overpayments that will come from payment continuation. Now if only the attorneys can figure out how to make money on cessations.

Anonymous said...

Don't forget about the savings that will come from laying off unneeded SSA workers. I'm almost certain there is some in every office. The budget will be balanced in no time.