Feb 17, 2014

"Paper Options" And Social Security

     From the Washington Post:
As the Obama administration pushes to do more business over the Internet, finally seeking to close the technology gap with the private sector, the digital makeover is running into a dogged opponent called Consumers for Paper Options.
The group is working the halls of Congress in closed-door meetings, underwriting research favorable to its position and mounting a news media campaign in an effort to preserve Washington as the capital of paper — and slow the move away from printed checks, forms and other paper communication.
The lobbying group has had some recent victories, including language tucked into last month’s budget deal that requires the government to plan for resuming paper delivery of annual Social Security earnings statements to some of the nation’s 150 million future retirees. And it’s been claiming these wins in the name of the elderly and low-income Americans the Internet has left behind.
Except Consumers for Paper Options is a creation of the paper industry.


Anonymous said...

I think that a default opt-in to paper with the option to opt out might help those who still do not have internet access. I can think of my mother and grandmother who both do not have internet access at home.

For those without a computer at home, how are they supposed to get these statements unless they are automatically mailed to them? I'm sure they're not going to ask for them if they don't receive them.

I'm all for eliminating paper in the system, and we can start with the volumes send to law firms that wind up in the trash that same day its recieved. But when it comes to the old and aging in our country the fact is that many if not most of them do not have adequate access to the internet nor the know-how to access a digital statement.

Anonymous said...

And why do the elderly who are receiving benefits and no longer working NEED to see their earnings record every year?

Receiving the Social Security Statement annually was an outreach program that started sometime in the 1980's. Before that, individuals could request their earnings records and they took a few months to arrive.

If individuals choose not to pay attention to the earnings records, their credit reports, or anything else that government keeps track of, it is government's responsibility to hold their hands and do it for them? I think not.

But you are also right about the often 20 page notices that are sent to the recipient, the payee and the attorney. Some of that could stop if SSA automatically ended the attorney relationship 60 days after a decision. Right now, at least in SSI, a claims rep has to notice it and do a simple input. The input is simple, noticing it requires the claims rep to pay attention to a case that is closed.

Anonymous said...

Every year we receive countless year end COLA notices on clients whose case we won years ago and are now closed. These notices immediately go the shredder. The waste in paper and postage is staggering.

Anonymous said...

@1:35 and @2:00 - We have been trying for years to figure out a way to automatically terminate reps and stop the notices. The problem is that you have to be really, really careful because of appeals. You can't just stop them after 60 days - if there are open issues or an appeal was filed, the rep is still entitled to the notices. So which do you prefer, getting notices or not getting them when you are still representing the claimant? CRs may not notice that the rep is still getting the notices when doing the current action. Of course, you could send a list to the office every so often - once a month or once a quarter - asking to be remove from those records as so many reps do already. And yes, I realize that this is a bit of an inconvenience. But which is worse, doing an ongoing list and sending it out every so often or continuing to get the notices? As far as SSA is concerned, we would love to figure it out - think of the cost savings for us!!

Anonymous said...

Well I guess the recent comments on this blog explain why SSA is no longer the sweetheart of the federal government. Heck with the claimant's and their needs, including the need for representation. The Agency appears to exist solely to make the lives of its entrenched bureaucrats easier. Due process? Died a long time ago. Unfortunately OHA has been infected with DOitis and the prognosis is most likely fatal unless the injection of DO personnel stops. TAHA are you listening? RIP BHA/OHA.

Anonymous said...

@ 4:44, where is due process not given? I hear this complaint a lot, but have not yet seen one valid example.

In my experience, SSA goes out of its way to ensure due process and to give a claimant every possible benefit of the doubt.

Anonymous said...

Well 7:01, since you asked, I'll give you my short list:

Assessing overpayments based on non-existent evidence except for an audit. After all if the King says I owe it money, well whom am I to question.

The fleeing felon fiasco. No explanation needed.

Issuing dismissals with the flimsiest of evidence. Oops the claimant did not acknowledge the notice of hearing? You say that mail came back undeliverable? Don't bother the King with such trivial nonsense, issue the dismissal.

The claimant is mentally retarded and has been from birth, but he drinks. What's that you say, even if he stopped drinking he would still be mentally retarded. Please stop trying to interject the truth in these proceedings, the Baltimorons are demanding their widgets.

While things have improved somewhat re: the fleeing felons and the dismissals, there are so many other things that are going on.

I have probably been around too long, but I really hate the things that I see.

And note to Charles, I understand the need to verify that I am a human but those slanted letters are really hard to figure out (maybe that's the point).

Anonymous said...

@ 8:43.

Are you really an attorney? I don't think most of those things you mentioned constitute denial of due process. They may result in a denial of benefits, but I don't see where due process was violated.

Anonymous said...

the felon thing was totally a due process issue--kicking people off after only checking State registers of probation violations? what if those charges were later dismissed? Simply being charged with a crime/probation violation is not nearly sufficient information (and process afforded) to ensure one has actually violated probation and thus deserves to lose benefits.

Anonymous said...

Well 8:43, 1:23 addressed the ff issue.

So tell me, you don't think playing hide the (nonexistent) ball on the op issue violates dp?

You don't think a complete lack of proper notice that results in a dismissal violates dp?

Lastly, you don't believe that ignoring one's own published regulations (da&a) violates dp?

I hope to Ann Rand that you are not a lawyer!

Anonymous said...

Last comment addressed to 10:59, not 8:43, unless I meet a listing which is entirely possible

Anonymous said...


I had your back on the felon thing, and with most of your other points. But the lack of notice on dismissals I wholeheartedly disagree with.

I understand many claimant's don't have stable living situations and many are homeless. But the agency does a whole lot, basically all it reasonably can do without going to lengths that would simply be very costly, to deliver notice. Think about State court when the defendant/other party can't be served--eventually one is allowed to serve by publication or some other not-actually-personal service. We could do that, but then reps and disability advocates would still cry foul.

I appreciate the need for proper notice, but it is absurd to expect SSA to much more than it currently does to track down and notice the essentially unnoticeable.

Anonymous said...

3:25 I get your concerns, but what is due process if not proper notice and an opportunity to be heard. I would argue that this is especially true when we have an updated address on the DO side but ODAR doesn't bother to look. To me proper notice is the crux of due process.

But I respect your opinion and appreciate the time you took to explain it.

Anonymous said...

Regarding the notices that are sent automatically sent each year to the reps: I have in the past religiously sent notices of withdrawal from each of my cases, but continue to get the notices on each individual case. So even when you try to alleviate the paperwork problem, it doesn't work.