Oct 31, 2012

Astrue Receives Award

     From a Social Security press release:
Michael J. Astrue, Commissioner of Social Security, received the 2012 President’s Award presented by The Arc [Asociation for Retarded Citizens], one of the largest charitable organizations in the United States that serves and advocates for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD).  The President's Award honors those whose work makes a positive impact upon The Arc, its future, and the people they serve.
“Throughout his tenure, Commissioner Astrue has demonstrated a steadfast commitment to addressing the needs of people with disabilities. Bringing his unique business perspective to the Social Security Administration, he revolutionized the way it has been run and helped better serve individuals with the most significant disabilities,” said Peter Berns, Chief Executive Officer of The Arc.  “Knowing that Social Security is not just numbers and getting checks out on time, but people’s lives, he has become a true ally to the disability community in our nation.  We are thrilled to be honoring him at our national convention.”

Informal Remands -- Have They Stopped?

     I had written earlier about Social Security's faltering efforts to speed up decisions for those who are in the long queue awaiting a hearing on their Social Security disability claims. I am now noticing that my firm, which has six attorneys doing Social Security work, hasn't received an informal remand (or re-recon) decision since June. Informal remands have been one of the most important ways of speeding favorable decisions for those who are disabled. Have informal remands stopped? Have the criteria used to make informal remand decisions changed? 
     Whatever is going on -- or not going on -- increases backlogs and slows down the process. We had progress on backlogs for a time but things seem to be going backwards at the moment. This retrograde movement may get a lot worse next year, depending upon the agency's operating budget and the new Commissioner's attitude. 
     I hate the idea of two year wait times for hearings. It's just brutal on claimants. The newspaper articles of a few years ago about suicides among claimants facing a two year wait for a hearing wasn't just media hype. At ground level, it was very real. I pray we don't go back there.

New Jersey Offices Remain Closed

    From a Social Security Administration website:
The following Social Security Office [sic] is closed today, October 31, 2012:
Fort Gratiot
New Jersey
Jersey City
New Brunswick
Toms River
Union Township
Cleveland Northwest
     At least Social Security's central offices and the Appeals Council have reopened.

A Replacement For The F.I.C.A. Cut

From the Washington Post:
The White House is weighing the idea of a tax cut that it believes would lift Americans’ take-home pay and boost a still-struggling economy, according to people familiar with the administration’s thinking ...
The tax cut could replace the [F.I.C.A.] payroll tax cut championed by President Obama in 2011 and 2012 ...
A growing number of voices have been calling on the White House and Congress to extend the payroll tax cut ...
The administration may be looking at alternatives to the payroll tax cut because some lawmakers, particularly Democrats, don’t like the idea of using a tax that ordinarily goes to fund Social Security. Any lost revenue as a result of the payroll tax cut has been offset by additional taxpayer money. Still, powerful interest groups such as the AARP have criticized using the payroll tax cut for short-term stimulus.

Oct 30, 2012

User Fee Cap To Be $88 Per Case In 2013

     In today's Federal Register -- yes, they were able to get it out -- Social Security made its official announcement on cost of living adjustments. This included the news that the cap on the user fee paid by attorneys and others who represent Social Security claimants will be $88 in 2013. This is the fee paid in most cases by those who represent Social Security claimants for Social Security's costs in computing and paying the fee. It amounts to a tax on those who represent Social Security claimants.

More Offices Close

     From a Social Security website:
The following Social Security offices will be closed Tuesday, October 30, 2012:
All Connecticut offices
All Delaware offices
All Maryland offices [which includes Social Security's central offices]
All Massachussetts offices
All New Jersey offices
New Hampshire
New York
All New York City offices including New York counties of
Westchester, Rockland, Nassau and Suffolk [which includes the Program Service Center in Jamaica, NY]
Hudson Valley
All offices in the Philadelphia metro and surrounding areas.  Also all offices in the Harrisburg and surrounding areas.
All Rhode Island offices
Newport News
Virginia Beach
All Washington, DC offices and those in the surrounding area [which includes the Appeals Council]
West Virgina

The following Social Security Office is closed until further notice:

Oct 29, 2012

Office Closures Due To Hurricane

     From a Social Security website:
The following Social Security offices will be closed Monday, October 29, 2012:
All Baltimore, MD metro area offices [which includes the Office of Central Operations]
All offices on the Delmarva Peninsula
All Connecticut offices
All Massachussetts offices
All New Jersey offices
All New York City offices
All offices in the following New York counties:  Westchester, Rockland, Nassau and Suffolk.
All Philadelphia, PA area offices
All Rhode Island offices
All Washington, DC metro area offices [which includes the Appeals Council]

The following Social Security Office is closed until further notice:
     By the way, what happened in Roxbury? That has to be more than the hurricane.

Oct 28, 2012

George Will Weighs In

     I don't even know where to start in writing about the latest column from George Will. It couldn't be more misleading or more full of hatred if it were written by Rush Limbaugh. Just read it yourself.

     Update: Let me start to respond to this garbage. Anyone who compares Social Security disability as it was in 1960 to what it is today is deliberately trying to mislead you. The Social Security disability trust fund was only created in 1957. In 1960, disability insurance was in its infancy and growing extremely rapidly since people were just discovering the existence of the program. (Believe me, even today, there are people who are surprised to learn that Social Security pays disability benefits.) The number of people  on Social Security disability benefits grew by 56% between 1960 and 1961 alone! The definition of disability was quite different in 1960, requiring that disability be permanent and that one be 50 or older to get benefits. Today's population is dramatically older than it was in 1960. The incidence of disability increases sharply with age. The aging of the baby boomer population has dramatically increased the number of Americans in their 50s and 60s who are in their prime years for onset of disability.
     By the way, I hope that George Will tells his friends who are approaching knee replacement surgery their pain is no reason for them to restrict their activities. I hope he tells the parents of a schizophrenic or the survivors of a person who committed suicide because of depression that mental illness isn't, you know, really real.
     The loony right and the supposedly respectable right are rapidly becoming indistinguishable.

     Further update: Will wrote another column recently in which he seems to have predicted violent revolution in the United States if Social Security as we know it and other similar programs are not terminated. He also calls for an end for representative government since it has led to programs he disagrees with such as Social Security. He quotes Macaulay as asking "On what principle is it that, when we see nothing but improvement behind us, we are to expect nothing but deterioration before us?" He then answers the question by saying, in effect, that "Of course, there's nothing but deterioration before us because the government is doing things I don't want it to do!" Will may be calling for a monarchy by next week.

$206,000 In Back Benefits

     From the Baltimore Sun:
Jim Nicholas lay in a hospital bed recovering after a heart procedure when his attorney called with life-changing news: The Social Security Administration would pay him more than $206,000 in disability benefits, bringing an end to his nine-year court battle.
The Dundalk couple was dogged throughout the process by denials and delays ...
Efforts to collect disability payments often turn into legal battles that critics say are stacked against the claimant. The agency denies an average of two-thirds of applications from low-income individuals who are disabled and more than half of claims submitted by disabled workers. And some administrative law judges are far less likely than others to approve claims. Then there's the wait.

Oct 27, 2012

What's At Stake

     From Talking Points Memo (TPM) (emphasis added):
A potential Mitt Romney presidency carries huge implications for the Supreme Court that have conservatives excited and progressives fearful about the future. ...
 Replacing even one of the liberal justices with a conservative, legal scholars and advocates across the ideological spectrum agree, would position conservatives to scale back the social safety net and abortion rights in the near term. ...
Roger Pilon, director of the libertarian Cato Institute’s Center for Constitutional Studies and a member of the Federalist Society, told TPM that one more solid conservative vote would pave the way for “fundamental shifts on the Court” toward “a revival of greater protection for economic liberty and a direct assault on the modern regulatory state.”
“If Romney were to appoint [conservative] justices and lower court judges, then we would see greater protection for economic liberty and greater scrutiny for regulation — whether they be environmental regulations, regulations for property rights, regulations for affirmative action, regulations of all sorts,” Pilon said. “That to my mind would be a return to the Constitution as it was originally understood prior to the New Deal constitutional revolution. And that is basically what the Tea Party movement has called for.”
The implication is that the Court would likely “chip away” at Congress’ power to compel states to participate in programs like Medicaid, and at the federal government’s power to erect national programs like Medicare and Social Security, Pilon says. “I expect that a Romney-appointed court would be more sympathetic to efforts to change the Medicare and Medicaid [and Social Security] programs because they’d come from that school of thought that says government has limited power.” ...
Randy Barnett, a constitutional law professor at Georgetown University and a leading architect of the legal challenge to the Affordable Care Act, told TPM that attacking the legal premise of Medicare and Social Security (which rest on the Constitution’s rarely questioned powers to tax and spend) would be “a much longer-term project.” ...
Cato’s Pilon believes that replacing one liberal justice with a conservative could pave the way for a slow return to the Lochner Era — a pre-New Deal period when the Supreme Court invalidated minimum wage and child labor laws as unconstitutional. ...

Oct 26, 2012

What Happened To Re-Recon And Senior Attorney Reviews?

     What's going on with re-recon (also known as informal remands) and senior attorney reviews? These have been efforts to cope with Social Security's backlog in hearing disability cases. Non-Administrative Law Judge personnel have done reviews after a request for hearing to see if the cases can be paid. My impression earlier in the year was that these cases were being reviewed under a standard that guaranteed that few would be approved. It seemed close to being a waste of time. Now, it seems like these reviews have slowed down. What's going on? Lack of staff to even do reviews? A decision that these reviews weren't worth the effort? Even more restrictive standards for approving a claim?

Oct 25, 2012

Watch Out Binder And Binder!

     From a press release:
Eric C Conn has opened a new office to handle Social Security disability claims in Beverly Hills, California.
 The opening of this new office will allow the Eric C. Conn Law Firm to represent Social Security disability clients nationwide. Now, with the Kentucky office and the California office, the Eric C. Conn Law Firm can go anywhere in the United States to represent Social Security disability claimants.
     You may remember Conn from the allegations made against him in the Wall Street Journal and in a bizarre "op ed" piece seen online recently or from Conn's bizarre advertising.
     You might wonder how Conn can claim that he can represent anyone in the country from offices in Kentucky and California. I don't know what Conn's plans are but I am aware of only two options: send someone out from one of your offices to represent the claimant at the hearing or find some local attorney who is hungry for work to show up at the hearing and pay him or her a modest fee. With only two offices, the latter would seem like the most likely choice for Conn. In either case, the attorney or representative meets the claimant for the first time on the day of the hearing.

How Many People Other Than Obama Think A "Grand Bargain" Is Feasible?

     In an interview with the Des Moines Register President Obama said that he was hoping for a "grand bargain" after the election that would include $2.50 of budget cuts for every dollar of tax increases which would reduce budget deficits by $4 trillion. He did not mention Social Security as a possible target for budget reductions but it is essentially impossible to get budget reductions that large without cutting Social Security.
     Richard Trumka, the head of the AFL-CIO, however, set down his marker in a Politico piece with the unambiguous title "Americans Don't Want Grand Bargain." Trumka says that he could not disagree more with cuts in Social Security and Medicare.

Oct 24, 2012

Why Hasn't Social Security Been A Campaign Issue?

     This is from Dean Baker, writing in The Guardian:
It is remarkable that social security hasn't been a more prominent issue in the presidential race. After all, Governor Romney has proposed a plan that would imply cuts of more than 40% for middle-class workers just entering the labor force. Since social security is hugely popular across the political spectrum, it would seem that President Obama could gain an enormous advantage by clearly proclaiming his support for the program. 
 But President Obama has consistently refused to rise to the defense of social security. In fact, in the first debate, he explicitly took the issue off the table, telling the American people that there is not much difference between his position on social security and Romney's. ... 
 Politicians, especially Democrats, who speak up for cuts to social security can count on lavish praise from the media. Political figures of no obvious stature, like former Louisiana Senator John Breaux or former Indiana Senator Evan Bayh, were lionized in the media for their willingness to cut social security benefits. After leaving the Senate, both took lobbying positions where they were almost certainly earning well over $1m a year. 
This is the fundamental economics of social security that explains why it has not figured more prominently in the presidential race. If President Obama were to rise in defense of the program, he could count on losing the financial backing of many supporters. He would also get beaten up by the Washington Post and other major news outlets for challenging their agenda.


     Harry Gross, the Personal Finance Columnist for the Philadelphia Inquirer, received a question from a reader who asks if it is ethical for his wife to take an early retirement buyout from her employer after being approved for Social Security disability benefits. Gross' response:
That's a tough one. You have an ethical as well as a financial dilemma. There are several choices. You could repay S.S. for the money she received and withdraw the disability request. She would then request the benefit in a new application after she took the buyout. She could keep the S.S. money and accept the buyout. This carries the financial risk of being discovered by either S.S. or her employer, and is an ethical lapse. She could forget the buyout with no repercussions. It is obvious to me that she cannot ethically accept both amounts. The buyout seems to be very substantial, so that leaves us with returning the S.S. money, taking the buyout, and reapplying for the disability at some later date. Good luck!
     No, Mr. Gross, this isn't a tough one. You should have called someone at Social Security before answering this question. Taking the buyout as well as Social Security disability benefits is perfectly legal. Some things that are perfectly legal are unethical but this doesn't seem like one to me. I don't think it's even close.

Sad Story From Orlando

     From the Orlando Sentinel:
Harley Christopher Andrews died of a brain tumor Sept. 2. He was only 23, dying before he had a chance to really begin living.
Twelve days later, his mother, Wendy Andrews Smith, opened this cheerful note from the Social Security Administration addressed to her firstborn: "
We're writing to let you know that we have made a disability hearing decision on your case. Our decision: We find that your condition has improved and you are capable of working."
      The article goes on to say that the brain tumor was a glioblastoma multiforme. I have too much personal experience with glioblastoma multiforme. My mother and my sister both died as a result of this type of brain tumor. It is invariably fatal. (No, it's not a familial tumor but there is a modest statistical increase in the risk of the tumor if you have a family member who has been diagnosed with glioblastoma. There are no published reports of three members of the same family having suffered a glioblastoma multiforme. Yes, I think about it.) I have over thirty years of experience with the Social Security disability programs. I cannot imagine how Mr. Andrews' benefits were cut off. This is as bad as a mistake can get at Social Security.

Oct 23, 2012

Weird Online Accusations

     There is an online "op ed" making allegations about impropriety at Social Security. There is little factual information in this piece.
     The piece includes a breathless report that Social Security Commissioner Michael Astrue will not be re-appointed once his term runs out in January 2013 because of misconduct at Social Security. There is nothing in the piece that even hints at anything that Astrue has done wrong. In any case, Astrue has said he does not want to be re-appointed and there's every reason to take him at his word since six years in that job should be enough for anyone, especially in this budget climate. It's rather unlikely that Mitt Romney would have considered the question of whom to nominate to be Social Security Commissioner if he is elected. He's too busy trying to get elected. I hope President Obama's staff, at least, has been working on this question. It's rather unlikely that Obama would try to persuade Astrue to stay on since the AFL-CIO, which represents most Social Security employees, is no fan of Michael Astrue, to say the least and Obama has every reason to listen to the AFL-CIO since it is working hard to get him re-elected.
     The "op ed" includes the statement that:
New evidence has reportedly surfaced that another Administrative Law Judge, William Gitlow, has been allowing attorney [Eric] Conn and his staff to write their clients actual appeal decisions and forward them to Gitlow. A practice that is both unheard of and forbidden by the Office of Disability Adjudication and Reviews 169 offices across the US.
     Unheard of? Forbidden? In 2008, Social Security was encouraging attorneys to write decisions for Administrative Law Judges. I am unaware of any directive forbidding this practice. Other sorts of trial courts routinely require attorneys to draft decisions.

Disabled People Who Return To Work Usually Don't Last Long

     From a study by the Center for Studying Disability Policy (footnotes omitted):
Each year, SSA publishes information about work activity among beneficiaries. Those statistics tend to show relatively little beneficiary employment; indeed, only about one percent of beneficiaries each year have had their cash benefits suspended or terminated because of work. However, the statistics do not paint a complete picture of the number who forgo cash benefits for work because they exclude beneficiaries who have worked for a long time and are therefore no longer formally connected to SSA programs. To develop a better idea of how many beneficiaries work, SSA and Mathematica Policy Research developed an indicator for “nonpayment status following suspension or termination for work” (NSTW), based on a complex set of SSA administrative data. This indicator captures all months that beneficiaries have given up cash benefits specifically because of work ...
These statistics show that considerably more beneficiaries are forgoing cash benefits because of work than those reported in SSA’s annual reports. SSA’s published statistics show that fewer than one in 100 beneficiaries in each program have their benefits suspended for work in a typical month. However, our statistics reveal that, during a typical month in 2006, about 2.5 beneficiaries were off cash benefits (with benefits either suspended or terminated) because of work for every 100 receiving a benefit payment ... TTW [Ticket to Work] participants are more likely than other beneficiaries to enter NSTW. In 2006, 3.4 percent of TTW participants had their first NSTW month versus 0.7 percent of nonparticipant beneficiaries. The NSTW indicator also allowed us to assess the incidence of NSTW after Ticket assignment for several years; by the 48th month after assignment, nearly 17 percent of TTW participants had had at least one NSTW month, compared to just under 7 percent after 12 months.
      First, even with the increased return to work numbers this study shows, there still are few disability benefits recipients returning to work. Second, while you can read the chart above as showing that Ticket to Work helps, you can also read it as evidence of selection by Ticket to Work providers or self-selection by beneficiaries. What the chart does show unambiguously is that the vast majority of those on Social Security disability benefits who attempt to return to work don't last long. This study does not confirm the common belief that there are many Social Security disability recipients who have the capacity to return to work if only they're given the right encouragement and help. Even when they really want to and even when they receive a lot of help, few of them succeed in returning to work for the long haul.
     This study is a few months old. There are reasons why you haven't seen Ticket to Work proponents touting it.

Oct 22, 2012

Budget Falls As Workload Increases

     From the U.S. News and World Report:
Citing budget pressures, the Social Security Administration (SSA) has once again suspended mailing paper statements and will begin next month to close its more than 1,200 field offices 30 minutes earlier each day. Next January, the offices will begin closing at noon each Wednesday. ...
"People are not going to get their calls answered properly, and they're going to show up at [Social Security] offices and find them closed," says Timothy Gearan, senior legislative representative at AARP. "That's going to cause a lot of trouble." ..
Citing Social Security statistics, Gearan says more than 180,000 people a day visit Social Security offices and nearly 450,000 a day call the agency for assistance. Both numbers are rising due to increasing claims spurred by the recession plus the surge of retiring baby boomers.
Gearan says the SSA has been victimized by continuing legislative gridlock between Congressional Republicans and Democrats. The department's funding for operational expenses is paid from discretionary appropriations, not from the independent Social Security trust funds. Current agency administrative spending is about $11.8 billion a year, Gearan says. "Social Security was spending just about that amount two years ago, and we know we've had a heck of a lot more people coming through" since then to use agency services. The agency's budget "is about a billion dollars below where we think it should be."
"They've lost 9,000 employees over the past three years," he says, "and we expect them to lose another 1,000 jobs this year ... They're doing wonderful work but they're just caught in a bind between the two parties in Congress."
     Social Security is not "caught in a bind between the two parties in Congress." One party wants to adequately fund Social Security. The other party is blocking adequate funding because it wants to cut Social Security's budget to the point that the agency is incapable of operating. Knock off the false equivalence. Be honest about what's happening.
     The head of the union that represents most Social Security employees has also written on the same subject for the Federal Times.

Award For OIG

     From the Covington Reporter:
The Social Security Office of Inspector General anti-fraud team, including the team in Western Washington, is being recognized with a Commissioner’s Citation, the Social Security Administration’s top honor, for its outstanding work investigating and prosecuting government benefit fraud cases.
In fiscal year 2012, the Western District of Washington led the nation in the number of convictions for benefit fraud and the total amount of restitution ordered.  The award is for results in 2011, when Western Washington also led the nation in convictions and was first in the amount of restitution ordered to reimburse the Social Security Administration for fraudulently-obtained benefits.

Oct 21, 2012

More Of The Work Incentives Nonsense

     Julie Turkewitz and Juliet Linderman have a piece in today's New York Times Opinion section calling for more work incentives in the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) disability program. They believe that there are many SSI disability recipients who would like to go back to work but who are trapped because of a lack of work incentives in the SSI program. 
     Turkewitz and Linderman are wrong. We have an incredible assortment of work incentives in the larger non-needs based Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB) run by Social Security. These work incentives have not caused any significant number of DIB recipients to return to work. SSI disability recipients are, on the whole, far more hopeless candidates to return to work than DIB recipients since they are people who had little or no work history before going on SSI disability benefits to begin with. At least DIB recipients worked regularly in the years leading up to going on disability benefits. You're never going to return many SSI disability benefits recipients to return to work. They're too sick and too many of them have diminished cognitive abilities and chronic mental illness for this to be realistic.
     I have serious questions about the person that Turkewitz and Linderman use as their poster child, Brad Crelia. Why is it that he never earned enough money to get DIB?  Apparently, he did work a fair amount in the past. Why doesn't he just get a regular job now and give up SSI? According to Turkewitz and Linderman that's what he wants to do. What's holding him back? Is it really a  lack of work incentives? He'd certainly have more income if he went to work.  Exactly what work incentive does he need to return to work anyway. The piece says at one point that Crelia dropped out of college because he was too sick to continue but at another point says that Social Security should have given him a loan so he could finish college. Which is it? If he was too sick to continue his education, a loan wasn't going to help. If a loan was all he needed, why did he need Social Security to give him the loan? It's possible to get educational loans whether you're disabled or not. Crelia's story doesn't make much sense.
     Members of Congress like to think that it would be possible to significantly reduce the money spent on disability benefits by providing additional work incentives. They keep enacting one work incentive after another thinking that just one more piece of legislation will do the trick and disabled people will flow back to work. The result is an extraordinarily complex system of work incentives that don't work. Social Security employees don't understand them so how can we expect disability benefits recipients to understand them? Even if they did understand them, the disability recipients wouldn't go back to work for a simple reason. It's so damned difficult to get on Social Security disability benefits that very few people who get on benefits have any realistic hope of ever returning to regular work. They're way too sick.

Security Upgrade Planned For Central Offices

     From the Baltimore Sun:
The Social Security Administration is planning to build a "security barrier" at its Woodlawn headquarters that officials say is needed to protect employees and visitors.
Though available details of its design are sparse — several elected officials said they had not yet been briefed on the plans — an agency spokesman acknowledged that millions of dollars have been budgeted for security upgrades at the agency's headquarters, including some form of barrier.

Oct 20, 2012

Your Trivia For Today

     From Mental Floss:
Who got the lowest Social Security Number?
The SSA [Social Security Administration] had some control over where numbers were issued because of the early geographic distribution of the area number. The lowest numbers went to the northeast states, and while Maine, the most northeasterly of them, should have gotten the block of numbers starting in 001, that group number actually went to New Hampshire.
This was done so that the lowest possible SSN, 001-01-0001, could be given to Social Security Board Chairman and former New Hampshire governor John G. Winant. He passed on the number, so the SSA then offered it to John Campbell, a Regional Representative of the Federal Bureau of Old Age Benefits. He didn’t want it either. The SSA finally decided to just assign it to the first New Hampshire applicant, Grace D. Owen of Concord.

Oct 19, 2012

A Press Release

     The National Organization of Social Security Claimants Representatives (NOSSCR) has put out a press release on its ongoing conference in Seattle and saluting its outgoing president, Chuck Martin, and its incoming president, Debra Shifrin. Certainly, Chuck and Debra deserve the recognition. The bigger point is that NOSSCR now has a public relations firm putting out press releases on its behalf. NOSSCR also has a political action committee (PAC). The PR firm and the PAC are new. Why does a 32 year old organization like NOSSCR suddenly decide it needs a PR firm and a PAC? It's the political environment NOSSCR members and their clients face.  We have to arm ourselves. There are people gunning for us.

Oct 18, 2012

AARP Opposes Extension Of Partial FICA Holiday

     AARP has come out in opposition to any extension of the partial F.I.C.A. tax holiday. The F.I.C.A. tax supports the Social Security trust funds. The partial F.I.C.A. tax holiday of the last two years is set to expire at the end of the year unless continued. General revenues have been used to make up for the lost F.I.C.A. tax revenues over the last two years.

No News Is No News

     I am at the conference of the National Organization of Social Security Claimants Representatives (NOSSCR) in Seattle. Normally on the first full day of the conference I post a summary of the morning general session or if I can't make it to the conference, I find someone who is present to write a summary to post here. Usually, there is real news coming out of this session. This year there has been no real news. This is not because the conference is deficient. This is what I expected. It's just the time frame that the conference occurs in. A general election is right around the corner. Things may be vastly different at Social Security depending upon the results of that election. Also, the Commissioner of Social Security, Michael Astrue, will be leaving office in less than three months, regardless of the election results. Even if you knew who will win the Presidential election, you could not now predict who will replace Astrue. How the new Commissioner  will manage Social Security will depend not merely upon who is in the White House, but also upon which party controls the Senate and the House of Representatives.

Another Appellate Decision Holding DOMA Unconstitutional

     A second federal court of appeals has declared the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) unconstitutional. DOMA prevents the Social Security Administration from recognizing same sex marriages allowed under state law. This issue will be decided by the Supreme Court in the not too distant future. There is an issue about whether it is constitutional for a state to outlaw same sex marriages. That argument may or may not prevail at the Supreme Court but it's different and not as strong as the argument that DOMA is unconstitutional.

Oct 17, 2012

Weirdness At AARP

    AARP is running a $50,000 Fill The Social Security Gap Sweepstakes where you can "Empower yourself with Social Security facts" and  "win big!"

Oct 16, 2012

1.7% COLA

     The Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) effective for 2013 Social Security payments is 1.7%, which amounts to $21 a month or $252 a year for the average recipient.

Oct 15, 2012

Online Services Down

    Social Security's online process for uploading medical records, filing appeals and for attorneys to obtain access to their clients records is down. There is no explanation online. I think the lack of explanation or warning annoys me more than anything else. It's not like it just went down. A few people have been able to get in today, but apparently it's been down most of the day. Problems happen but, at least you can warn people when you're having technical problems.

Earnings Statement Mailings Suspended

     From the Federal Times:
Tight money has again led the Social Security Administration to halt the mailing of all paper statements of earnings and benefits to millions of Americans. These are the handy documents that give you an idea of what to expect in terms of Social Security retirement or disability income.
The latest suspension, which took effect Oct. 1, results from the “overall budget situation,” including a stop-gap continuing resolution that will leave the agency at last year’s funding levels through March, spokeswoman Kia Anderson said.
SSA officials had originally suspended mailing paper statements in April 2011 to save $70 million annually. This February, however, they had resumed mailings to people aged 60 or older and in July, to participants in the year they turned 25.

Oct 14, 2012

Little Change In Head Count Between March And June

The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) has posted updated figures for the number of employees at Social Security. Here they are, with earlier numbers for comparison purposes.
  • June 2012 65,282
  • March 2012 65,257
  • December 2011 65,911
  • September 2011 67,136
  • June 2011 67,773
  • March 2011 68,700
  • December 2010 70,270
  • June 2010 69,600
  • March 2010 66,863
  • December 2009 67,486
  • September 2009 67,632
  • December 2008 63,733
  • September 2008 63,990
  • September 2007 62,407
  • September 2006 63,647
  • September 2005 66,147
  • September 2004 65,258
  • September 2003 64,903
  • September 2002 64,648
  • September 2001 65,377
  • September 2000 64,521

Oct 13, 2012

Social Security And Medicare Are A Bargain

     A new Urban Institute study shows just how big a bargain Social Security and Medicare are for most people. Here are some numbers from the study on total lifetime taxes and total lifetime benefits for various demographic groups turning 65 in 2020.

Single Male Earrning Average Wage:
Total lifetime benefits $536,000 Total Lifetime Takes $427,000

Single Female Earning Average Wage:
Total lifetime benefits $595,000 Total Lifetime Takes $427,000

One Earner Couple Earning the Average Wage
Total lifetime benefits $1,016,000 Total Lifetime Takes $427,000

Two Earner Couple with One Earning the Average Wake and the Other Earning a Low Wage
Total lifetime benefits $961,000 Total Lifetime Takes $618,000

Two Earner Couple Each Earning Average Wage
Total lifetime benefits $1,059,000 Total Lifetime Takes $853,000

Two Earner Couple with One Earning High Wage and the Other Earning Average Wage
Total lifetime benefits $1,183,000 Total Lifetime Takes $1,108,000

     The study gives numbers for other anticipated retirement dates and demographic groups. Those who oppose Social Security and Medicare will undoubtedly note that some of these demographic groups might have done better if they could have invested the money instead of paying taxes. It's also true that if I did not pay homeowners insurance on my house and invested that money instead that I would have a fair amount of money in the bank in 30 years -- as long as my house didn't burn down in the meantime. However, if my house did happen to burn down, I wouldn't have nearly enough money in the bank to cover the cost of rebuilding it.
     Insurance is a valuable thing. Social Security and Medicare are insurance. Their true value cannot be fully displayed in the way that this study presents it. What's remarkable is just how good Social Security and Medicare appear even in a study that does not fully show their value. Could any insurance company provide coverage comparable to Social Security and Medicare? Of course not.

Oct 12, 2012

Baucus Warns Of Grave Service Delivery Problems Ahead For Social Security

     From a press release:
In response to an inquiry from Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.), the Social Security Administration (SSA) today warned that drastic funding cuts proposed by the House of Representatives would dramatically impact service to beneficiaries and needlessly waste taxpayer dollars. 
In a letter to Senator Baucus, Social Security Commissioner Michael Astrue outlines how the House budget would force the agency to scale back operating hours at field offices across the country.  The result, according to Astrue, would be long delays and deteriorations in service to seniors and other Social Security beneficiaries.
“It is critically important that we work to preserve Social Security and protect its beneficiaries and save taxpayer dollars.  The House’s radical plan does nothing more than threaten America’s seniors by undermining this critical safety net and severely cuts programs that help the federal budget,” Senator Baucus said.
While a Senate proposal increases SSA funding levels next year, the House bill cuts $762 million from the agency’s current budget.  According to SSA, the cuts in the House bill would increase the average wait time for disability decisions and hearing decisions by as much as two weeks and forego up to $6 billion in budget savings.
“This severe cut would force us to curtail our service to the public and our program integrity efforts,” Astrue writes to Senator Baucus. “The backlog of initial disability claims would continue to increase and our hearings backlog reduction plan would be derailed. There would be long waits in our field offices and on our 800-number because of inadequate staff to address critical public service needs.”
The report from SSA is in response to a request from Senator Baucus to explain how Congress’ proposed budgets would impact Social Security beneficiaries.  The findings are troubling. According to SSA:
  • The House budget would cut 5,000 jobs at the Social Security Administration.
  • The House Budget would cut Social Security field office hours and delay more than 30,000 people with Social Security claims from getting the support they need.
  • Compared to the Senate Budget, the House Budget would force thousands of folks with Social Security claims to wait two additional weeks to get the service they need and create a backlog of 100,000 claims and 100,000 hearings.
  • The House Budget would cost taxpayers $5 to $6 billion by cutting a program that fights fraud and reduces waste.
      And here is the text of Astrue's letter:
October3, 2012
Dear Mr. Chairman:
Thank you for your concern regarding adequate fiscal year (FY) 2013 funding for the Social Security Administration (SSA). Below is an illustration of the effects that the House and Senate bill levels would have on our ability to deliver service and maintain critical stewardship of taxpayer dollars.
House Bill

The House Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee bill would provide $10.684 billion for our Limitation on Administrative Expenses (LAE) in FY 2013, a decrease of $762 million over the FY 2012 enacted level and a decrease of $1.076 billion from the President's FY 2013 Budget. This severe cut would force us to curtail our service to the public and our program integrity efforts. Specifically, with a cut of this magnitude, we would lose over 5,000 SSA and disability determination services (DDS) employees in FY 2013 through a combination of attrition and termination of temporary hires.
We would be forced to reduce field and hearings office operating hours equivalent to a month of furlough days. Each day of lost operations prevents us from completing roughly 20,000 retirement claims, over 10,000 disability claims, and 3,000 hearings. Our other workloads would also experience delays and deterioration. The backlog of initial disability claims would continue to increase and our hearings backlog reduction plan would be derailed. There would be long waits in our field offices and on our 800-number because of inadequate staff to address critical public service needs.
We have steadily increased program integrity work over the last five years. However, this bill significantly reduces funding for cost-effective program integrity work (continuing disability reviews (CDR) and SSI redeterminations) from $756 million in FY 2012 to $272 million in FY 2013. We estimate that every dollar spent on medical CDRs in FY 2013 will yield $9 in program savings over 10 years. We estimate that every dollar spent on SSI redeterminations will yield about $6 in program savings over 10 years. At the House level, the backlog of full medical CDRs would grow from 1.3 million currently to a record high of 1.75 million.

Senate Bill

The Senate Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee bill would provide essentially the same funding level as the President's budget request: $11.736 billion for our LAE in FY 2013, an increase of $290 million over FY 2012 and a decrease of $24 million from the President's budget. The Senate bill would allow us to replace our losses in the DDSs in FY 2013 and to replace some critical losses in SSA. At this level, we could also resume mailing paper Social Security Statements to all eligible Americans.
For program integrity, the bill would provide $1.024 billion ($273 million in the base and $751 million in cap adjustment funding), the same as proposed in the President's budget and authorized in the Budget Control Act. At this level of funding, we would complete 650,000 full medical CDRs and 2,622,000 redeterminations. At the Senate level, the backlog of full medical CDRs would decrease to 1.1 million, the lowest it has been since FY 2007.
Comparison of House to Senate Bill
At the Senate level, we would complete 100,000 more initial disability claims and 100,000 more hearings than at the House level. At the House level, the average wait for an initial disability decision would be about one to two weeks longer in FY 2013 than at the Senate level. In addition, the House level would create even longer average waits for decisions in FY 2014 as cases back up in the DDSs in FY 2013. The average wait for hearing decisions would also be about two weeks greater under the House level relative to the Senate level.
As mentioned above, the House bill would provide $272 million in program integrity funding for FY 2013, and the Senate bill would provide the amount authorized under the Budget Control Act, $1.024 billion. Stephen Goss, the agency's Chief Actuary, estimates that the House level of program integrity funding would cost the Social Security programs about $5 to $6 billion. Please see the enclosed letter for additional information. [not available]
History has shown that our service and stewardship efforts suffer with significant budget cuts, and it often takes multiple years to recover, creating uneven service across the Nation. These cracks will only continue to grow without sustained, adequate funding. None of our work is optional; the longer it takes us to complete it, the more difficult and expensive it is to handle.
Moreover, each case represents an action that affects a person's life. Whether it is paying benefits or preventing an overpayment, millions of people depend on us handling their cases timely and accurately.
If you have any questions or if I can be of further assistance, please contact me or have your staff contact Mr. Scott Frey, our Deputy Commissioner for Legislation and Congressional Affairs, at (202)xxx-xxxx. 
Michael J. Astrue

Poll Shows Americans Support Social Security Disability Benefits

     From a press release:
A new poll, conducted by Lincoln Park Strategies, finds the vast majority of likely voters support Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits and believe that Congress should target other areas of the government when proposing cuts to balance the federal budget.
After months of combating unfounded media and political attacks against the SSDI benefits program, the National Organization of Social Security Claimants' Representatives (NOSSCR) commissioned a survey to ask Americans if they believe SSDI should receive budget cuts, or remain intact for hard-working citizens who never expected to experience a disability. ...
Among the key findings of the poll:
83% of voters  - including 75% of Republicans – agree it would be unfair to cut SSDI benefits to working Americans who have paid into SSDI 80% of survey respondents support the SSDI benefits program Only 8% of voters polled believe SSDI should be cut 77% of those polled agree that Congress should focus on programs other than SSDI to make budget cuts 73% support SSDI program after hearing allegations that the program is another government handout program

Oct 11, 2012

Who's Responsible?

     Cutsbacks in Social Security field office hours, some Social Security field offices closing, poorer telephone service, longer waits for determinations on Social Security disability claims, no more mailings of annual Social Security statements. What's going on? Michael Hiltzik at the Chicago Tribune has an explanation:
Who's responsible for this steady erosion of service? Conservatives in Congress, who have been merrily hacking away at the program's administrative budget. Make no mistake -- this is their stealth attack on the program itself. They haven't been able to cut benefits, so they're doing the next best thing: making it hard for you to know what you're due, and harder to get it when it comes due. The bottom line is that Social Security starts to look less relevant to Americans' lives, even as it really becomes more important.

Autism Spectrum Disorders To Be Affected By DSM-V

     The fifth edition of the bible of psychiatry, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V), is due out in May 2013. It may have a significant impact upon Social Security's disability determination. It is anticipated that there will be particularly significant changes in diagnosis for children. 
     Autism spectrum disorders such as Asperger's syndrome have been a particular concern. There is now a new study showing that 91% of those currently diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder will still qualify for this diagnosis under DSM-V. 
     Of greater concern are those diagnosed with childhood bipolar disorder. I have not seen any studies on how DSM-V will affect diagnosis for these children.

Oct 10, 2012


     From the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:
A lawyer who worked for the Social Security Administration here pleaded guilty Tuesday to two felony counts of theft of government property and admitted defrauding the agency.
Robert Brauker, 37, of St. Louis, had been receiving disability benefits since 1993 due to “significant visual impairments,” prosecutors said.
He was supposed to report any income that he earned, but failed to do so in 2003, they said. After his graduation from Michigan State University's law school in 2008, he also worked but failed to report the income. When he applied for work as a attorney-adviser with the Social Security Administration, his resume said that he worked as a sole practitioner for roughly 20 hours a week after graduation, prosecutors said.
Brauker was indicted in U.S. District Court in St. Louis May 2.

Union Objects To Cutbacks In Field Office Hours

     The union that represents most Social Security employees is objecting to the cutback in the number of hours that Social Security field offices are open. Those hours are being cut back because of budget cuts. The union objects that Social Security has not bargained with the union over this issue and that there will be no overtime to get the work done.

4.1% Error Rate In Numident

     From a recent report by Social Security's Office of Inspector General (OIG)(footnotes omitted):
Since 1936, SSA has assigned over 471 million Social Security numbers (SSN) for the primary purpose of accurately reporting and recording the earnings of people who work in jobs covered by Social Security. When SSA assigns an SSN to an individual, it creates a master record of relevant information about the numberholder in its Numident. The Numident includes such information as the numberholder’s name, date of birth, place of birth, parents’ names, citizenship status, and date of death (if applicable). It also contains the office where the SSN application was processed.
It is essential that the Numident be as accurate and complete as possible because SSA provides a number of verification services that allow matching of names and SSNs with SSA’s records. E-Verify (formerly Basic Pilot) is a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) employment eligibility verification program supported by SSA. The purpose of E-Verify is to assist employers in verifying the employment eligibility of newly hired employees....
In 2006, we reviewed SSA’s Numident and determined that the information it contained was generally accurate. However, we estimated that discrepancies in approximately 4.1 percent of the Numident records could have resulted in incorrect feedback when submitted through E-Verify. For example, our review showed that the Numident records contained discrepancies in numberholders’ names, dates of birth, citizenship status, and/or death indications. Because our tests included SSNs that SSA had assigned since 1936, we recognized that some numberholders would no longer be working and would not attempt to correct their SSA and/or immigration records. We also recognized that some inaccuracies were due to numberholders who did not update their records with SSA.
      Those who are ineligible to hold down employment in the U.S. due to their immigration status should be prevented from working. Non-citizens should be prevented from voting in the U.S. However, using numident to achieve these goals is unreasonable because numident contains such a high error rate. We can't exclude 4.1% of eligible workers and voters because of simple record-keeping errors. That's an unacceptably high level of errors for such crucial matters. Don't blame Social Security too much. Numident was created for the agency's internal use. It was never anticipated that it would be used for crucial non-agency purposes.

Oct 9, 2012

Way Off Topic

From the Associated Press:
A contestant in a roach-eating contest who downed dozens of live bugs and worms collapsed and died shortly after winning the contest in South Florida, authorities say.
About 30 contestants ingested the insects during Friday night's contest at Ben Siegel Reptile Store in Deerfield Beach about 40 miles north of Miami. The grand prize was a python. ...
Authorities were awaiting results of an autopsy to determine a cause of death.

No End Of Controversies With Death Master File

     From the New York Times:
A shift last year by the Social Security Administration to limit access to its death records amid concerns about identity theft is beginning to hamper a broad swath of research, including federal government assessments of hospital safety and financial industry efforts to spot consumer fraud. 
For example, a research group that produces reports on organ-transplant survival rates is facing delays because of the extra work it must do to determine whether patients are still alive.  ...
For a decade, the Social Security master file routinely included records provided by the states. But last year, after reports that the widespread availability of death records was facilitating identity theft, the Social Security Administration determined it had been improperly releasing the state records as part of the public master file....
Mark Hinkle, a spokesman for the Social Security Administration, said researchers simply would have to collect the data from the states.
“I don’t want to sound offensive,” Mr. Hinkle said. “But our job is to administer the Social Security program, and administering a death list really isn’t in our core set of workloads. The bottom line is that we have to follow the laws and administer the programs we’re supposed to administer.”

Oct 8, 2012

ALJ Dodds Passes

     I regret to report that Administrative Law Judge Ralph Dodds of Raleigh has passed away.

ERE Down

     I have received multiple reports that Social Security's Electronic Records Express service is down this morning. It was supposed to have been down for repairs until 5:00 a.m. Come on, guys -- most of the country doesn't take off for Columbus Day!

Oct 7, 2012

Updated Fee Payment Numbers

     Below are updated numbers on payments of fees to attorneys and others for representing Social Security claimants, primarily disability claimants. These fees are processed by the Social Security Administration but come out of the back benefits of the claimants involved. The attorneys and others who receive the fees pay a user fee for the costs of withholding and paying these fees.

Fee Payments

Month/Year Volume Amount

Oct 6, 2012

Social Security Checks Stolen From The Mail?

    According to a Memphis television station, a group of Social Security checks has been stolen from the U.S. Postal Service. Not delayed or misplaced but stolen. The report is that the Postal Inspector General is saying that it does not yet know what happened to the checks and is investigating.

Oct 5, 2012

I Don't Think What The President Said Is Close To Being Accurate

    President Obama, speaking at Wednesday nights' Presidential debate:
You know, I suspect that, on Social Security, we've got a somewhat similar position. Social Security is structurally sound. It's going to have to be tweaked the way it was by Ronald Reagan and Speaker -- Democratic Speaker Tip O'Neill. But it is -- the basic structure is sound.
     Social Security supporters reactions included words and phrases such as "very distressing", "serious damage", "jaw dropped" and "dumbfounded."

Oct 4, 2012

Further Reductions In Field Office Hours

     From the Federal Times:
Social Security Administration field offices are again trimming the hours they are open to the public due to tight budgets, a top administrator told employees in a Wednesday email.
Starting Nov. 19, all 1,233 offices will close to customers 30 minutes earlier, Mary Glenn-Croft, deputy SSA commissioner for operations, said in the email. As of Jan. 2, the offices will close to the public at noon on Wednesdays, she said.
This is the second time the agency has been forced to trim office hours because of budget considerations. SSA trimmed public office hours at its offices by 30 minutes in August 2011. ...
SSA spokeswoman Kia Green said the shift is “part of normal operations” under the six-month continuing resolution signed last week by President Obama. That stop-gap spending bill leaves SSA operating with “significantly” less money than either the agency or the Obama administration requested, Green said.

What Does Interfund Borrowing Do To The Retirement And Survivor's Trust Fund?

     The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has released a report on Social Security's finances. It's old news but I did see an answer to a question that I've had. Under current law the Disability Trust Fund will run out of money in 2016. The solution to this problem is simple and inevitable. Congress will allow borrowing between the Retirement and Survivor's Trust Fund and the Disability Trust Fund. It's been done before. It would only be temporary since the problem is temporary. Once the baby boom population ages a bit further, the problem goes away. There may or may not be changes in disability benefits to accompany interfund borrowing but interfund borrowing is going to happen. My question has been what does interfund borrowing do to the date that the Retirement and Survivor's Trust Fund runs out of money. The answer is that it changes that projected date from 2038 to 2034.

Oct 3, 2012

Core Identity Discrepancy

     This is an e-mail I received this morning from an employee at my law firm:
I just got off the phone with _______ of the Raleigh DO [District Office].  Ms. _____ called because she had just been assigned this claimant’s case, and he has a core identity discrepancy that falls within a new nationwide SSA policy that went into effect this week.

The new nationwide policy says that core identity discrepancies have to be resolved by the claimant within 45 days of notification, or SSA must deny the claim, even if the claimant is medically approved in the meantime. 

Ms. Harris said she has attempted to contact Mr. ____ on 3 occasions to advise that the date of birth he has reported is different from what his SSA record shows.  Ms. Harris has mailed him a letter detailing what must be done and enclosing an application for Social Security card to be completed.  Within 45 days from today, Mr. ____ must return to her the fully completed form that she mailed him, and produce an unexpired driver license and certified copy of his birth certificate to correct the discrepancy.  Should he fail to meet the deadline, she says his claim will be dismissed.
      Certainly, this man needs to respond but Social Security disability claimants are often difficult to hunt down. Many are homeless. This claimant isn't homeless but he's quite confused. As we know, there are many errors in Social Security's databases and there are many people who lack photo I.D. This policy could cause a lot of problems. Is fraudulent misrepresentation of identity really a problem for Social Security? If there is a problem, will this new policy really do anything to solve the problem?

This Is The Best You Can Come Up With?

This is from the website promoting the Ticket to Work program:
Today we are featuring Terry Anderson, a single mother who celebrated one of the most important anniversaries of her life. She has been cancer-free for four years! As an active person who believes that employment is important to her health and well-being, Terry was anxious to return to work when she began to feel better.

She was also concerned about being “51 in a 20-something workforce.” It had been years since she had to apply and interview for a position. Naturally, she felt out of practice and nervous. Terry sought help from Iowa Workforce Development Center, one of many One-Stop career centers known for the array of employment support services they offer clients in a single location. Through the Ticket program, Iowa Works helped Terry coordinate career preparation and a job hunt. “They offered workshops on interview skills”, she says. “I had my resume refurbished. I learned fresh job-hunting strategies and new computer skills! At first, I was too proud to ask for help. I’m glad that I did.”
     Good for Ms. Anderson but is this the best example that Ticket to Work can come up with?  I don't know what residuals Ms. Anderson has from her cancer but this blurb mentions none. If  her residuals, like those of most cancer survivors, are only of the "different outlook on life" type she should have been cut off Social Security disability benefits at least three years ago. I'm glad she's in remission and I'm glad she got some help in redoing her resume and brushing up on her interview skills but, honestly, it's quite unlikely that the help she got from Ticket to Work was crucial to her return to work. If this is the best proof that can be mustered to show the value of Ticket to Work, it's pretty clear that Ticket to Work doesn't come close to paying for itself.

Oct 2, 2012

Can Anyone Translate This?

     From a press release:
Thunderhead.com, a pioneer of SaaS [Software as a Service] solutions for customer experience management, today announced that the Social Security Administration (SSA) has selected the Thunderhead NOW solution to provide integrated correspondence for its Disability Case Processing System (DCPS).
Thunderhead.com provides a centrally managed solution for document language and template authoring, incorporating the ability to create, edit, collaborate and publish approved document content. Thunderhead NOW enables organizations like the SSA to reduce IT resources and programmatic maintenance costs, increase communication management capabilities, lower costs by using delivery means other than paper-based communications and improve customer service by offering additional communications options.

Plan To Avoid "Fiscal Cliff" Includes Social Security Cuts

     From the New York Times (emphasis added):
Senate leaders are closing in on a path for dealing with the “fiscal cliff” facing the country in January, opting to try to use a postelection session of Congress to reach agreement on a comprehensive deficit reduction deal rather than a short-term solution.
Senate Democrats and Republicans remain far apart on the details, and House Republicans continue to resist any discussion of tax increases. But lawmakers and aides say that a bipartisan group of senators is coalescing around an ambitious three-step process to avert a series of automatic tax increases and deep spending cuts.
First, senators would come to an agreement on a deficit reduction target — likely to be around $4 trillion over 10 years — to be reached through revenue raised by an overhaul of the tax code, savings from changes to social programs like Medicare and Social Security, and cuts to federal programs. Once the framework is approved, lawmakers would vote on expedited instructions to relevant Congressional committees to draft the details over six months to a year....
Finally, they would vote to put off the automatic spending cuts, known as sequestration, and tax increases scheduled to hit all at once in January — but with some deficit reduction down payment to signal how serious Congress is.
Mr. Obama has said he would not allow Congress to simply pass a new law to override the $1 trillion in automatic cuts agreed to in the Budget Control Act of 2011, but senators said they believed the White House would go along with a deal that locks in as much as four times those savings in exchange for canceling the automatic cuts.,,,
House Republicans, favored to retain control regardless of the presidential and Senate results, have not been part of the Senate talks so far and could be difficult to sway to back a package with significant new revenue even if it wins bipartisan Senate support. 
      I cannot see how this could possibly work if Republicans continue to oppose any tax increases and no one from the House of Representatives is involved.

Oct 1, 2012

FICA Tax Cut Likely To End

     The New York Times reports that the temporary cuts in the F.I.C.A. tax that supports Social Security are unlikely to be renewed when they expire at the end of this year. Neither party wants to champion renewing this temporary tax cut.