Nov 30, 2011

Quiz Answer

Question: Mrs. R is a widow of a man who died currently but not fully insured. What sort of benefits does the currently insured status make possible at various points in her life her assuming she meets other requirements (a child under 16 in her care or being 60 or older, for instance)?

Possible Answers:
  • Mothers benefits but not widows benefits
  • Widows benefits but not mothers benefits
  • Both mothers benefits and widows benefits
  • Neither mothers nor widows benefits
Correct Answer: Mothers benefits but not widows benefits

Nov 29, 2011


Nov 28, 2011

Will FICA Tax Cut Be Continued?

     The FICA tax that supports the Social Security trust funds has been reduced from 6.2% to 4.2% for the past year as a means of stimulating the economy. The difference has been made up by general revenues. President Obama has proposed that the reduction be continued for another year. The number two Republican in the Senate, Jon Kyl, has expressed opposition to the President's proposal saying that the tax cut did not stimulate the economy. His opposition apparently stems from another part of the President's proposal that would pay for the one year extension of the tax cut by increasing taxes on those with incomes over $1 million. Kyl believes that tax increase would undermine the economic recovery.
     I would prefer that the FICA tax revert to 6.2%. Delinking the trust funds from payroll taxes has to be bad for Social Security in the long run. However, if you were trying to caricature Republican positions you could not do better than what Senator Kyl is saying: A tax increase for ordinary Americans is of no consequence for the economy while a tax increase on the wealthiest Americans would be terrible for the economy.

An Astroturfer Comes To Social Security News?

     Below is a post made by Obshellums in response to a post I had made about Congressional Republicans who were expressing concern after the horrendous report of mentally disabled individuals being locked in a basement while their representative payees stole their Social Security disability checks:
SSA's hearing offices or at least mgmt at the one I worked at was annoyed if an employee pressed the issue that incorrect payee, recipient might be getting checks by virtue of an outdated or improper designation. I was accused of "denigrating" co-workers many times when I tried to bring old & wrong recipient and/or address info to managements' attention. Check on this a year from now & you'll see little to no improvement. SSA's ODAR is an elite and badly supervised part of SSA that cruises along ineffectively and expensively because there is no oversight that benefits taxpayers and claimants, just a subservient mind-set to pamper judges, overpaid do-little attorneys and too much middle management. Collect overpayments? Concern themselves with payee info? No, they pretend to "care about privacy of claimants--ask no questions about payees" but really that just makes their work easier. Once they decide to pay or not pay, their work is done. Looking at all that other recipient-relationship, etc., residence info might "hurt thier numbers" by slowing them down a little and hey, the money keeps pouring in to pay out so, why stress?
     Let's go through and outline what this person is saying:
  • I used to work at a hearing office.
  • Management at that hearing office was annoyed if an employee pressed the issue of an improper payee getting payment due to an outdated or improper designation.
  • I was accused of "denigrating" co-workers many times when I tried to bring old & wrong recipient and/or address info to managements' attention.
  • The conditions that I saw will not change because the hearing offices are an elite and badly supervised part of SSA that cruises along ineffectively and expensively because there is no oversight that benefits taxpayers and claimants, just a subservient mind-set to pamper judges, overpaid do-little attorneys and too much middle management.
  • Hearing office management pretends to "care about privacy of claimants--ask no questions about payees" but really that just makes their work easier.
  • Looking at all that other recipient-relationship, etc., residence info might "hurt their numbers" by slowing them down a little.
  • The money keeps pouring in to pay out so, why stress? 
     This may sound like a plausible grassroots report of malfeasance if you don't work at Social Security or deal with it first hand. However, if you do, the post is nonsensical, almost gibberish. Social Security's hearing offices are not responsible for policing representative payees. They recommend that payees be appointed. On very rare occasions they adjudicate whether a payee is needed but, in general, they are just not involved, not because they are poorly managed but because others at Social Security, mostly those who work in field offices, have that responsibility.
     Other items in the post also ring a false note. Pretending to care about the privacy of claimants as a reason not to do something about representative payee problems? Social Security is obsessive about privacy for good reason. It is expected of them. However, it is hard to imagine privacy being given as a reason for failing to act on a representative payee problem. Dealing with "recipient-relationship" and "residence" issues would cause delay? What is the poster talking about? Why is the poster making comments about the hearing offices being "elite", "badly supervised", "ineffective" and "expensive." Why is the poster going out of his or her way to talk about "pampered" judges and "do-little attorneys" or to suggest that money is "pouring" in or out? I could go on but why bother. This sounds like something that Newt Gingrich would have written.
     This is not the first time I have seen this sort of post. There have been a number that rang a false note. This is just the most obvious example. Prior examples have put forth the notion that Social Security is badly overstaffed and ought to be given lower appropriations.
     I cannot imagine this post having been written by someone who used to work at Social Security. So, who did write it and why? There are "trolls" on the internet who like to write things that are wildly provocative in order to draw a response. Could this have been written by a "troll" who jut wants to annoy and provoke? Maybe, but I doubt it. Why be a troll when you don't understand enough to even troll effectively or to understand the outrage you provoke?
     Obviously, the poster has a political agenda. He or she is pretending to have been a Social Security employee. He or she has little actual knowledge of operations at Social Security. I can think of two possibilities here:
  • This person could be a tea partier who has gotten carried away.
  • This person could be an employee or contractor of a right wing "astroturf" group. "Astroturfing" is faux grassroots action. Astroturfers pretend to be concerned citizens but are actually paid for by corporations or wealthy individuals, such as the Koch brothers.
     I may flatter myself to think that some minion of the Koch brothers would actually care about this obscure blog but the post is just so weird and so full of abusive, politically charged language that it is hard for me to see it as anything other than astroturfing.

Nov 27, 2011

Hearing Backlog Increases

     From the Fort Wayne Journal:
Anyone filing for Social Security disability benefits expects a wait.
Hoosiers appealing their cases in the Fort Wayne office have been waiting shorter amounts of time since the start of 2010, but an analysis by a Syracuse University research center suggests that might not be true much longer.
Data through September show the backlog nationally has risen 9.3 percent from what it was a year ago, the fifth straight quarter the number of cases has increased, according to the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, a Syracuse University organization that gathers, researches and distributes public data.
     And what happened a year ago this month? Republicans gained control of the House of Representatives and more members in the Senate. An increase in the backlog may not have been a Republican goal but they are largely indifferent to it, blaming it on government inefficiency.

Nov 26, 2011

Fourth Volume Of Caro's Biography Of LBJ Due Out In May 2012

Lyndon Johnson is a major figure in Social Security history -- probably the most important figure apart from Roosevelt. Under his presidency:
  • Medicare was added to the Social Security Act. Social Security was responsible for the initial implementation of Medicare.
  • Social Security was added to the unified federal budget setting the stage for the administrative funding problems that the agency has had in recent years. 
  • The definition of disability was changed in 1965 so that there is only a one year duration requirement. Previously, there had been essentially a requirement of permanency. 
  • The definition of disability was also changed in other ways quite unfavorable to claimants in 1967.
  • The worker's compensation offset was added.
  • Disabled widows benefits were added.
     I think the best three non-fiction books I have read in the last 25 years have been The Path to Power, Means of Ascent and Master of the Senate, the first three volumes of Robert Caro's monumental biography of LBJ. I am thrilled that the the fourth volume, The Passage to Power, is due out on May 1, 2012. If you have never delved into this series, you have a treat awaiting you. Johnson was both appalling and admirable but always fascinating. I hesitate to say this but Johnson may have been even more interesting a person than Lincoln and that is saying a lot! Think that Johnson's time as a Congressional aide couldn't have been interesting? Think again. It was unbelievable. Caro is an extraordinary biographer with an inscredible subject. This volume will deal with Johnson's time in office and all those major Social Security decisions
     It does not matter what your political views are. You do not have to be a person who is ordinarily interested in history or biography. These books are a hell of a read.

Nov 25, 2011

Grand Jury Investigation in West Virginia

     The Wall Street Journal is reporting that a federal grand jury is investigating whether former Social Security Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) David Daughtry received improper payments in exchange for awarding disability benefits. According to the report, Social Security's Inspector General is looking into a "series" of ALJs who award benefits in a high number of cases.
     Daughtry awarded benefits to virtually every claimant whose case he heard. Certainly, this would have included the cases of at least several attorneys and a fair number of unrepresented claimants.  I don't recommend any sort of bribery but why would someone even be tempted to bribe an ALJ to approve a disability claim if the ALJ would approve the claim even without being bribed? Why use a sledgehammer to break down a door that is not only unlocked but which is standing wide open? Of course, these is a suggestion that there was some funny business about the assignment of cases to ALJs in that office and there could be impropriety there. Still, count me as skeptical that they will ever come up with evidence of any serious criminal offense here. Social Security has a long list of problems but corruption is very, very low on that list.
     One interesting aspect of the report is that the Wall Street Journal has used the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to obtain a list of total fees paid in 2010 to attorneys who represent Social Security claimants. One attorney that ALJ Daughtry dealt with, Eric Conn, ranked third in the nation on this list with fees of $3.8 million. Presumably, the Wall Street Journal will release more of this list in the future.

Nov 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving

And let me once again give a link to Art Buchwald's classic explanation of Le jour de Merci Donnant.

Nov 23, 2011

Like Déjà Vu

     From WBAL-TV in Baltimore:
Delays in Social Security disability benefit payouts have left many Marylanders with questions -- and without money. ...
A WBAL-TV 11 News I-Team investigation in September evoked both anger and frustration from viewers regarding a long application process, long wait and, in some cases, denial....
One week after the I-Team intervened, Social Security approved Davis' application and deposited $59,391 of back pay into his bank account....
Among those who contacted the I-Team included Jeffrey Smith, of Parkville, who suffers from Crohn's disease complicated by type 1 diabetes. The illness ended his 26-year career in retail.
Waiting 2½ years for Social Security disability benefits sent him into bankruptcy and put his home in jeopardy....
When the I-Team checked on the status of Smith's case, it was like déjà vu, Weiner said. Pay day came soon after the I-Team's call to Social Security.
"He contacted me at 3:30 on Monday, and at 1:15 Wednesday morning, the check was direct deposited -- $36,000," Smith said. ...
Physicians who had worked at Social Security's campus in Woodlawn, evaluating new claims from across the country, said they also had a story to tell.
Dr. Neil Novin, a surgeon for more than 40 years, was one of dozens of doctors working part-time reviewing disability claims -- until Social Security fired him. ... 
"Americans who are applying for disability insurance are not getting a fair shake anymore," Novin said. Social Security called that claim "baseless."
Novin said Social Security fired him for opposing pay and policy changes, which meant doctors were no longer assigned cases based on their area of expertise."When cardiologists are evaluating people with back problems and orthopedic surgeons are evaluating people with hearing problems, that ain't kosher," Novin said. "You've been paying Social Security dues for all your life, and if you have an injury, you're entitled to it. You ought to get it and the decision should be by people who are knowledgeable."Dr. Francis Clark, an orthopedic surgeon who also worked part-time at Social Security, said he was among a handful of doctors who quit. When asked what the general sense is among the doctors who left, Clark said, "frustration."

House Social Security Subcommittee Schedules Hearing

     From a press release:
U.S. Congressman Sam Johnson (R-TX), Chairman of the House Committee on Ways and Means Subcommittee on Social Security, today announced a hearing series on Securing the Future of the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) Program.  The first hearing of the series will focus on the history of the disability insurance program, the income security it provides and its financing challenges.  The hearing will take place on Friday, December 2, 2011, in B-318 Rayburn House Office Building, beginning at 9:00 a.m. ...
In announcing the hearing series, Social Security Subcommittee Chairman Sam Johnson (R-TX) said, “Disabilities have a devastating effect on individuals and their families, and Social Security Disability Insurance benefits provide important income security that they rely on.  Yet in just seven years the disability program will be unable to pay full benefits unless changes to the law are made.  Through this hearing series the Subcommittee will lead a much-needed conversation about the challenges facing this vital program and solutions that can meet the needs of those with disabilities and the workers who support the program through their hard-earned tax dollars.” 

Quiz Answer

Question: Which of the following actions by the Social Security Administration is NOT an initial determination subject to appeal?

Possible Answers:
  • Determination that a representative payee is required for a person not already declared legally incompetent
  • Citizenship determination
  • Determination of marital relationship
  • Denial of request to reopen prior determination

Correct answer:  Denial of request to reopen prior determination

Nov 22, 2011

But This Costs Money And More Money Is Out Of The Question

From the Huffington Post:
Fourteen Republicans on the House Ways and Means Committee want more scrutiny of how the Social Security Administration oversees benefit checks sent to disabled adults and minors to make sure the money does not fall into the hands of predators.
A recent Philadelphia case found that a woman accused of locking mentally disabled people in a squalid basement was able to cash their benefit checks without being discovered by authorities.


Nov 21, 2011

Major WSJ Article

There is a major article on Social Security's disability program in today's Wall Street Journal.

Recessions And Disability Claims

     From the Social Security Bulletin:
We use data from Social Security administrative records to examine the lifetime patterns of initial entitlement to retired-worker and Disability Insurance (DI) benefits across cohorts born in different years. Breaking out age-at-entitlement patterns for different birth-year cohorts reveals close adherence in entitlement ages to changes in program rules, such as increasing the full retirement age. The proportion of a cohort that becomes newly entitled to DI benefits rises noticeably during recessions and at ages 50 and 55, and cumulative entitlement rate patterns show that more recent cohorts rely increasingly on DI benefits in their late 30s and 40s.
     If you look at the actual data, the correlation between recessions and disability claims seems to be weak to the point of being non-existent. Here's what the study says further on:
To further investigate the effect of the economy and the stance of the DI program regarding new entitlements, we next examine the incidence of new entitlements by year, 1969–2006, for the same cohorts studied above. Chart 8 shows the effect of the 1974–1975 recession, with a modest increase in entitlement rates across all cohorts. The 1980–1982 double-dip recession is notable in that no increase in new entitlements occurred: Those years correspond to restricted allowance rates. However, the 1984 Social Security Amendments relaxed some of the prior restrictions and extended allowances to people with certain mental and musculoskeletal impairments. That legislation not only changed labor market conditions, it likely contributed to increases in new entitlements in the 3–4 years leading up to the recession of 1990–1991. We also see rising entitlements in the years leading up to 2000–2001. The slow pace of the economic recovery following the 2001 recession corresponds with the continued high incidence of new DI entitlements in 2002–2006.

     Basically, the report says that there is an association between recession sand disability claims except when there isn't and that increases in disability claims that come before a recession or after a recession are proof that recessions cause disability claims.
     Overall, what I see here is proof that the number of people approved for Social Security disability benefits depends largely upon the policies followed by Social Security which should surprise no one.

Nov 20, 2011

Not Much Parking

From the Social Security Bulletin:
Fewer Social Security Disability Insurance (DI) beneficiaries have their earnings suspended or terminated because of work than those who are actually working, partly because beneficiaries "park" earnings at a level below substantial gainful activity (SGA) to retain benefits. We assess the extent of parking by exploiting the 1999 change in the SGA earnings level from $500 to $700 monthly for nonblind beneficiaries using a difference-in-difference analysis that compares two annual cohorts of beneficiaries who completed their trial work period, one that was affected by the SGA change and one that was not. Our impact estimates, along with results from other sources, suggest that from 0.2 to 0.4 percent of all DI beneficiaries were parked below the SGA level in the typical month from 2002 through 2006. The SGA change did not yield any difference in mean earnings, although it did result in a small reduction in months spent off of the rolls because of work.

Nov 19, 2011

Social Security Crucial For Rural America

The map is from a report by the Southern Regional Development Center at Mississippi State University. The report notes that "In urban counties, 5 percent of personal income comes from Social Security. In rural counties, an average of 9.3 percent of personal income arrives in the form of a Social Security check." And yet, these rural counties are mostly electing Republicans to Congress and those Republican representatives seem determined to gut Social Security even though it is clear that the people they represent want Social Security to remain intact.

Nov 18, 2011

ALJ Suspended For Five Days

Edmund Round, a Social Security Administrative Law Judge, was suspended without pay for five days for insubordination. He appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. Round has lost.

Nov 17, 2011

Faith Stanfield Is A Finalist

President Obama has announced four finalists in the annual "Securing Americans Value and Efficience" competition. One of the finalists is Faith Stanfield of the Social Security Administration who recommended that Social Security stop printing and mailing its employee magazine, OASIS, and just make it available online.

Nov 16, 2011

Quiz Answer

Question: A claimant is approved for back Title II Social Security disability benefits but dies before they can be paid. The claimant is survived by a wife who has been separated from him for ten years and who is not drawing benefits on his Social Security number and by two healthy children who are 21 and 25 years of age. He leaves behind a will that leaves his entire estate to his disabled brother. Who gets the back benefits?

Possible Answers:
  • The estate, thereby giving it to the brother
  • The estranged wife
  • The two children in equal shares
  • No one
Correct Answer: The estranged wife

Nov 15, 2011

Proposed Revisions To Rules Of Conduct

     The Social Security Administration has sent over to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) a package of proposed revisions to its rules of conduct for attorneys and others who represent Social Security claimants. If OMB approves the proposal, it will be published in the Federal Register for public comment. Social Security must then consider the comments and can send final regulations back to OMB for approval. At this point, it is impossible to say what is in the proposal.
     I cannot say whether there is a connection but a reporter at the Wall Street Journal has been working on a story having to do, at least in part, with Binder and Binder, which is probably the largest entity representing Social Security claimants. Apparently, the story will not be complimentary to Binder and Binder.

     Update: OMB has added a little more information on this proposal to its website. It is supposed to be a final rule. Since there has been no proposed rule, at least not one described in this way, Social Security is apparently proposing to bypass comments. Social Security can do this but they are not supposed to unless it is either rather minor or rather urgent. I cannot see the urgency so I suppose it must be minor.

Supreme Court To Hear Social Security In Vitro Case

From the Los Angeles Times:
The Supreme Court agreed to decide whether a child conceived through in vitro fertilization after a father's death was entitled to a Social Security survivor's benefit.
At least 100 such claims are pending at the Social Security Administration while officials try to resolve how the Depression-era law should be interpreted in an era of modern reproductive technology. ...

Karen Capato brought such a claim on behalf of her twins, who were born in 2003, about 18 months after her husband, Robert, died of cancer. The couple had married in Washington state in the late 1990s and later moved to Florida to start a business. After being diagnosed with esophageal cancer, Robert deposited semen in a sperm bank.

No one questioned that he was the father of the twins, but Social Security officials denied the mother's claim for survivor benefits for them. They reasoned that under the law in Florida, children who were not conceived at the time of a parent's death are not entitled to inherit his property.


Nov 14, 2011

Tough On Disability Claimants

The St. Augustine Record of Florida reports on the longer waits for appeals and tough standards affecting Social Security disability claimants. This appears to have been planted by Allsup but the reporter, for a change, removed Allsup's name from the piece. I don't know if that's good journalism but it's better than what most do. Of course, the piece is true. It is tougher to get claimants on disability benefits and appeals are starting to take longer.

Nov 13, 2011

Payment Delays

Updated stats are out on payments of fees to attorneys and others for representing Social Security claimants, mostly on disability claims. See below. Since claimants are paid at about the same time as their attorneys, this tells you roughly how good or poor a job Social Security is doing in implementing disability benefits after a favorable decision. Obviously, October was a terrible month.

Fee Payments

Month/Year Volume Amount

Nov 12, 2011

Aaron Nomination Hearing

The Senate Finance Committee has scheduled a hearing for November 17 on several nominations, including the nomination of Henry Aaron to become a member of the Social Security Advisory Board. Aaron is with the Brookings Institution. He has endorsed keeping Social Security pretty much as is.

Nov 11, 2011

Veterans Day 2011

Nov 10, 2011

Thirty Years Of Back Benefits!

A Providence, Rhode Island law firm has put out a press release about an opinion it received from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit in a Social Security case. The opinion came out over a year ago. I don't know why they waited so long but I think the firm has a right to crow. They got 30 years of back Social Security disability benefits for their client as a result of the unpublished opinion. Unpublished opinions aren't secret. It's just that the Court decides that the opinion isn't of sufficient importance to have it published in the official reporter. Most opinions are unpublished. I think maybe this one should have been published.

Nov 9, 2011

Quiz Answer

Question: When does Michael Astrue's term as Commissioner of Social Security end?

Possible answers:
  • December 31, 2012
  • January 19, 2013
  • December 31, 2013
  • No specific end date. The Commissioner of Social Security serves at the pleasure of the President
Correct answer: January 19, 2013

Nov 8, 2011

Oregon Office To Close

Because of lack of funding, Social Security is closing its field office in Klamath Falls, Oregon, with almost no advance notice.


Nov 7, 2011

Backlogs Up But Processing Times Down; Disability Claims Soar While Unemployment Goes Down

Pending Hearing Cases At Social Security
     The Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University has posted its September report on Social Security's hearing backlogs. The number of pending cases is increasing significantly even though the average processing time is decreasing. TRAC's explanation of this is that the increase in pending cases is so recent that it has not yet significantly affected the average processing time. Above is one of TRAC's charts.
     Interestingly, Social Security's receipts of new disability claims appears to be continuing to rise even though the unemployment rate has been going down slightly over the past two years. How do you square these facts with the theory that unemployment is what is causing the bulge in disability claims? Wouldn't the rate of new disability claims have leveled off or gone down if unemployment is what is causing all these disability claims?

Nov 6, 2011

An Attack On Social Security ALJs

     Richard Pierce of the George Washington University Law School has a "fair and balanced" piece in Regulation, a Cato Institute periodical. A few highlights:
The 1,400 administrative law judges (ALJs) who work for the Social Security Administration are making a significant contribution to the economic problems the United States is now experiencing. ...

If we are to believe ALJ decisions, the incidence of permanent disability in the U.S. population has more than doubled since 1970. That belief is beyond implausible. ...

The decision to allow an applicant to appeal two negative decisions made by two examiner/medical adviser teams to an ALJ and to allow an ALJ’s decision to grant an application for benefits that has been rejected twice by the bureaucracy to become final must be based on the belief that ALJ decisions are more likely to be accurate than decisions made by two independent examiner/ medical adviser teams. There is no basis for that belief, however, and many reasons for the contrary belief. ...

The executive branch of government is powerless to address the growing problem of ALJs’ unwarranted commitment of billions of dollars to undeserving applicants for disability benefits....
Most of the dubious grants of benefits by ALJs are attributable to findings that an applicant suffers from nonexertional restrictions, such as mental illness or pain, that are so severe that he cannot perform the functions of any job available in the U.S. economy. It follows that we could eliminate the problem simply by amending the statute to eliminate nonexertional restrictions as a potential qualifying impairment. ..

We could save scores of billions by removing all of the ALJs who now decide appeals from SSA decisions that deny disability benefits....
[T]he present method of SSA disability decisionmaking is clearly unconstitutional.

Nov 5, 2011

Death Master File Altered -- You Just Can't Win

     Social Security's Death Master File (DMF), a public record of the names and Social Security numbers of individuals whom Social Security believes to have died, has come under criticism lately. There have been many names on the DMF of individuals who are very much alive. These individuals have lost Social Security and other government benefits until the problem is resolved, a process that can take months. They have also suffered problems as non-governmental entities such as banks treat them as deceased. There is also the threat of identity theft.
     Social Security has responded to the criticism by altering the DMF. Social Security will no longer accept state death records as proof of death. 
     Unfortunately, this will inevitably lead to an increased problem of Social Security checks and direct deposits continuing to be sent to deceased individuals. Most of the families of those involved will return the money but not all. I can easily predict a round of investigations and Congressional hearings on this fraud at some point in the future.
     By the way, the first people to notice the change in the DMF were genealogists. They make extensive use of the DMF.

Nov 4, 2011


From a solicitation notice posted by Social Security under the title Real Time Access to Investigative Data via BlackBerry Smart Phone Devices:
The Social Security Administration has a requirement for a web based solution to provide real-time access to agents in the field about a variety of investigative data that will be used to identify persons with a history of violence or other issues, such as gun ownership or outstanding warrants.

NJ Ethics Opinion On Pay Per Lead

     Some Social Security attorneys use pay per lead advertising. A pay per lead outfit has a web presence that includes a contact form. A person fills out a form indicating an interest in talking with an attorney about a Social Security case. The pay per lead outfit immediately sends the information to one or more law firms -- for a price. The law firm or firms then contact the prospective client and seek to represent him or her. For an attorney, pay per lead advertising falls into a gray area ethically. Attorneys are forbidden to pay for referrals but attorneys who use pay per lead advertising argue that it is little different than pay per click advertising which is generally accepted as ethical. Most state bars have not ruled on pay per lead. The recent, somewhat tortured opinion of the New Jersey Committee on Attorney Advertising on this issue may be of interest to attorneys dealing with this issue.

Nov 3, 2011

From The NOSSCR Conference

I am attending the conference of the National Organization of Claimants Representatives (NOSSCR) this week. Today was the general session. Glenn Sklar, Social Security's Deputy Commissioner for the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review, Patricia Jonas, the Executive Director of the Office and Appellate Operations and Nancy Shor, NOSSCR's Executive Director, spoke. My summary of their remarks runs to more than 1,000 words. Rather than posting a piece of that length here, I have posted it on my firm's website. Of particular interest, at least to me, was what Sklar said about targeted reviews of "outlier" Administrative Law Judges (ALJs), Lisa DeSoto's new job and concerns about Republican efforts to hold the Disability Trust fund hostage.

Nov 2, 2011

ACUS Wants To Help

From a Request for Proposals issued by the Administrative Conference of the United States (ACUS):
The study should particularly address the following issues: ...
  • The impact of SSA’s treating physician rules on the role of courts in reviewing SSA disability decisions. The study should consider measures that SSA could take to reduce the number of cases remanded to it by courts.
  • The role of the SSA Appeals Council in reviewing cases to reduce any observed variances in ALJ’s decisional outcomes, hearing lengths, and application of agency policies. Legal and empirical consideration should be given to the efficacy of an expansion of the Appeals Council’s already existing authority to conduct more focused reviews of ALJ decisions; how the Appeals Council can select cases for review; when review should take place (i.e. pre- or post-effectuation); and the scope and manner of review. 
  • Additional measures that SSA could take to identify and address issues posed by “outlier” ALJs, in order to reduce the observed variances, and to reduce other irregularities and improve quality in ALJ decisions. ... 
The Conference will provide a consulting fee of $15,000 for the study plus a budget for expenses.

The White Flag

This is from a notice that Social Security is posting in the Federal Register tomorrow:
We recently decided to eliminate our current procedures for questioning corporate officers’ and self-employed individuals’ allegations of retirement. We have found that, over the long term, questioning retirement allegations has made no significant difference in Trust Fund outlays. By eliminating our questionable retirement procedures, we will reduce the public burden, save our scarce administrative resources, and increase the efficiency of the retirement determination process.
Since we are eliminating our current procedures for questioning corporate officers’ and self-employed individuals’ retirement allegations, the SSRs that relate to those procedures are no longer needed. Therefore, we are rescinding SSR 66-18c and SSR 91-1c as obsolete.
 This is an open invitation to fraud. Self employed individuals between 62 and full retirement age can make completely transparent arrangements to pretend to be retired while continuing to work full time. Social Security will give them early retirement benefits without any questions. However, if you are an employee, forget it. You either retire for real or suffer major reductions in any early retirement benefits. I know it's been almost impossible to police this but completely giving up!

Quiz Answer

Question: How long does a claimant who has been overpaid by Social Security have to request waiver of the overpayment?

Potential answers:
  • 20 days
  • 60 days
  • 180 days
  • There is no time limit
Correct answer: There is no time limit. I can give no link to authority on this because no time limit is set by statute, regulation or otherwise. I cannot link to something that does not exist. There is a 60 day time limit to request reconsideration of the fact of the overpayment -- that is to challenge the existence or amount of the overpayment but that is separate from a waiver request.

Nov 1, 2011

Social Security On The Table

From Politico:
As a critical deadline for the supercommittee nears, Social Security appears to be on the negotiating table.
In private conversations, and now in public, the idea of changing the social program as part of a deficit-reduction deal is gaining some traction — a move that has been politically unthinkable for years....
In a speech Monday in Louisville, Ky., House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) appeared to raise the stakes on a grand bargain that would include major entitlement changes. ...
Asked specifically about Social Security, [Democratic Senator and Supercommittee Co-Chair Patty] Murray said, “Everything is on the table, and we’ve made no decisions.”