Jan 31, 2015

Trouble In New Jersey

     From the Daily Journal of some city in New Jersey (the newspaper's website hides the city name):
A Vineland man’s anti-social behavior at a Social Security office landed him in jail, authorities said. 
The trouble began Thursday when 53-year-old Jeffrey Kuss became “irate” because he was unhappy with the long wait time while in line at the Social Security office on West Broad Street, according to police Lt. James Battavio. A security officer at the office contacted police because Kuss was acting up, he said.
The guard told Kuss that his appointment had been canceled due to his inappropriate behavior and asked him to leave the premises. Kuss responded by shouting obscenities in front of a crowd of 40 people, including children, police said. 
Police informed Kuss he had to leave, but he refused and insisted he had an appointment, Battavio said. Officers then escorted him outside the building, 
That’s where Kuss began blocking patrons from going inside as he made threats and used profanities, police said. 
He was arrested on a charge of disorderly conduct and taken to the police station, where he refused to be processed and subsequently charged with obstruction, Battavio said.
Kuss was held on $1,000 bail in Cumberland County Jail.

Continuing Disability Reviews Study

     The Social Security Advisory Board convened the 2014 Disability Policy Panel to study Continuing Disability Reviews. Here are the Panel's recommendations:
  • Provide Continuing Disability Review (CDR) Funding that is adequate, predictable, and sustained
  • Retain the Medical Improvement Review Standard (MIRS) and strengthen its implementation
  • Strengthen other payment integrity tools
  • Strengthen links between CDRs and support for return to work
  • CDRS for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) children and youth: 1) SSA should communicate expectations of independence to youth beneficiaries whose medical improvement is expected or possible. 2) As with the adult population, the Panel recommends that Congress continue the employment support services of the Ticket to Work program for one additional year. 3) The training recommended for the medical review standard should be extended to include examples unique to children.

Jan 30, 2015

Plea Bargain Sends 91 Year Old Man To Prison For Nine Years

     A press release from Social Security's Office of Inspector General (OIG):
A 91-year-old ex-cop at the heart of a massive Social Security scam involving more than 120 retired NYPD cops and FDNY firefighters who raked in millions agreed to a plea deal Friday that could land him behind bars for up to nine years, prosecutors said.
Thomas Hale copped to grand larceny and agreed to pay $2 million in restitution in exchange for three to nine years in prison during a hearing in Manhattan Supreme Court.
“In essence, he was the epicenter of the scheme,” said Assistant DA Christopher Santora. “Even with respect to the other ring leaders, it was Mr. Hale who was the hub through which everything and everybody went right up until this case was taken down and Mr. Hale surrendered for arrest.”
The nearly $22 million scam that spanned 25 years was orchestrated by Hale, who coached applicants to lie on their Social Security disability applications, authorities said.
About half of the defendants exploited 9/11 by falsely claiming they suffered post-traumatic stress by responding to the attacks.

It's a Weird Scheme But Why Not Allow It?

    PBS runs some pieces by Laurence Kotlikoff on Social Security. His specialty is figuring out angles to increase Social Security payouts. It's all legal but often a bit weird. It's always schemes that only a few people could use. One scheme he's been promoting is for people who are drawing Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB) to suspend their Social Security retirement benefits once they reach full retirement age (FRA) and wait until age 70 to start collecting them. He's mad that Social Security has decided to stop this scheme. It's an odd scheme he's been promoting, available to only a few and advisable for even fewer but I think that Social Security's decision to prevent this scheme is wrong.
     Let me explain how his scheme would work -- if Social Security allowed it. If you file a claim for DIB, you're also filing a claim for retirement benefits. It says so at the top of the claim form. When you get to FRA, your DIB automatically stops and your retirement benefits start. You don't have to file a claim for the retirement benefits because you did so at the time you filed your DIB claim. A person who never files for DIB can get more per month by waiting until age 70 to file their claim for retirement benefits. It's called the delayed retirement credit. It's a good thing to do if you can afford to wait and if you're healthy because you receive a good deal more per month if you wait until age 70 to start drawing benefits. You can, in the alternative, file a claim for retirement benefits at FRA and ask that Social Security suspend your benefits. You still get the delayed retirement credit but dependent benefits are payable on the account. Kotlikoff was urging DIB recipients to suspend their retirement benefits once they reach FRA, thus getting the delayed retirement credit.
     Kotlikoff was unhappy to find out that Social Security decided in December to treat a request to suspend benefits in the automatic conversion situation as a request to withdraw the original DIB claim. That would require the claimant to pay back all DIB benefits that had been received. Almost no one would do that, ending Kotlikoff's scheme.
     I think the scheme that Kotlikoff has been promoting would be of value to very, very few people even if it were allowed. The vast majority of people eligible for Social Security retirement benefits have no choice but to take the money in order to support themselves. Many, perhaps most, of those who could afford this strategy shouldn't do it anyway because their life expectancy is low. The very impairments that put them on Social Security disability lower their life expectancy. Even those few claimants who could do this are unlikely to do so because the scheme is so exotic and hard to explain.
     Even though I think that Kotlikoff's scheme would be of value to very, very few people, I think that Social Security's position is wrong. I can't think of anything in the Social Security Act that supports the agency's position. There's a difference between asking that benefits be suspended and withdrawing a claim. The agency recognizes that difference. Why would you refuse to recognize that difference in just this one situation? What's wrong with permitting a handful of people to get the delayed retirement credit after being on DIB? Would it be OK if a claimant tells Social Security to stop their DIB a month before they reach FRA and then does a file and suspend? Surely, Kotlikoff will soon figure out that possibility.

Jan 29, 2015

Many Opting Out Of Video Hearings

     The newsletter of the National Organization of Social Security Claimants Representatives (NOSSCR) (not available online) says that over 220,000 claimants opted out of video hearings when they were given the chance in October and November of 2014. That's more than one in five pending requests for hearing. I'm surprised that the number opting out isn't even higher. Some claimants and attorneys are more willing than others to tolerate video hearings but nobody likes them.

Jan 28, 2015

New Layout And Colors

     I'm sure that regular readers of this blog know that I've been adjusting the layout and colors for the blog. I'm not finished yet but I'm getting there. Please share your opinions.
     Just below the blog title is a line for you to enter your e-mail address. If you do that and hit enter, you'll start getting blog posts by e-mail. So far, I've been unable to get Blogger to properly label this gadget but that's what it's for.

SSA Employees Like Their Jobs

     The Social Security Administration ranks 6th on the list of best places to work among federal agencies.

Jan 27, 2015

Final 2014 Numbers On Disability Insurance Trust Fund: What Do They Portend?

Disability Insurance Trust Fund, 1957-2014
[In millions]

Net increase
during year
Assets at
end of year
1957 $709 $59 $649 $649
1958 991 261 729 1,379
1959 931 485 447 1,825
1960 1,063 600 464 2,289
1961 1,104 956 148 2,437
1962 1,114 1,183 -69 2,368
1963 1,165 1,297 -133 2,235
1964 1,218 1,407 -188 2,047
1965 1,247 1,687 -440 1,606
1966 2,079 1,947 133 1,739
1967 2,379 2,089 290 2,029
1968 3,454 2,458 996 3,025
1969 3,792 2,716 1,075 4,100
1970 4,774 3,259 1,514 5,614
1971 5,031 4,000 1,031 6,645
1972 5,572 4,759 813 7,457
1973 6,443 5,973 470 7,927
1974 7,378 7,196 182 8,109
1975 8,035 8,790 -754 7,354
1976 8,757 10,366 -1,609 5,745
1977 9,570 11,945 -2,375 3,370
1978 13,810 12,954 856 4,226
1979 15,590 14,186 1,404 5,630
1980 13,871 15,872 -2,001 3,629
1981 17,078 17,658 -580 3,049
1982 22,715 17,992 -358 2,691
1983 20,682 18,177 2,505 5,195
1984 17,309 18,546 -1,237 3,959
1985 19,301 19,478 2,363 6,321
1986 19,439 20,522 1,459 7,780
1987 20,303 21,425 -1,122 6,658
1988 22,699 22,494 206 6,864
1989 24,795 23,753 1,041 7,905
1990 28,791 25,616 3,174 11,079
1991 30,390 28,571 1,819 12,898
1992 31,430 32,004 -574 12,324
1993 32,301 35,662 -3,361 8,963
1994 52,841 38,879 13,962 22,925
1995 56,696 42,055 14,641 37,566
1996 60,710 45,351 15,359 52,924
1997 60,499 47,034 13,465 66,389
1998 64,357 49,931 14,425 80,815
1999 69,541 53,035 16,507 97,321
2000 77,920 56,782 21,138 118,459
2001 83,903 61,369 22,534 140,993
2002 87,379 67,905 19,475 160,468
2003 88,074 73,108 14,966 175,434
2004 91,380 80,597 10,783 186,217
2005 97,423 88,018 9,405 195,623
2006 102,641 94,456 8,185 203,808
2007 109,854 98,778 11,076 214,884
2008 109,840 108,951 889 215,773
2009 109,283 121,506 -12,223 203,550
2010 104,017 127,660 -23,643 179,907
2011 106,276 132,332 -26,056 153,850
2012 109,115 140,299 -31,184 122,666
2013 111,228 143,450 -32,221 90,445
2014 114,858 145,060 -30,201 60,244
     The crucial question is what happens in the next two years. There was modest improvement in  the rate at which the Disability Trust Fund went down in 2014 over 2013. Was it just a blip or a sign of things to come. The number actually drawing Disability Insurance Benefits stabilized in 2014 and was heading down in the last three months of the year. Was 2014 an inflection point? If so, how much of an inflection point?

Congressmen Want Bipartisan Social Security Commission

     From TPM:
Reps. Tom Cole (R-OK) and John Delaney (D-MD) plan to introduce a bill this Congress that would create a Social Security commission to propose changes to the program, Cole's office confirmed to TPM on Monday.
 The bill's language and timing has not been finalized, but Cole, a close ally of House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), and Delaney co-sponsored similar legislation last year. ...
Last year's bill would have created a 13-member commission to produce recommendations to keep Social Security solvent for 75 years. If tax revenue were transferred from the retirement to the disability fund to avoid the 2016 benefits cliff for the latter program, both funds are projected to start running out of money in 2033.
One member would have been appointed by the president, and each caucus leader in Congress would have picked three members, under last year's bill. They would be tasked with issuing recommendations to Congress one year after the commission's creation. Those recommendations, if approved by nine of the commission's 13 members, would then be expedited to the House floor for a vote, with no amendments allowed.
Cole outlined to The Hill some of the proposals that he thought the commission would recommend.
“The commission would probably gradually raise retirement age, it would probably look at chained CPI, would probably look at means-testing and probably look at some sort of revenue, or reduce benefits for upper-income people,” he said. “Then you have to vote.” ...
     This just looks like Republicans looking for bipartisan cover for benefit cuts. There's no reason for Democrats to cooperate with this. Republicans are in the majority in both houses of Congress. If they're willing to vote for benefit cuts, they get them through without Democratic votes. Even the filibuster won't work for Democrats on this because it can go through the budget reconciliation process which only requires a majority vote. If Republicans are unwilling to vote for benefit cuts, why should Democrats?

CALJ Charles Boyer 1950 - 2015

     Former Social Security Chief Administrative Law Judge Charles Boyer passed away on January 20.

Jan 26, 2015

Reno To Become Deputy Commissioner For Retirement And Disability Policy

     The National Academy of Social Insurance (NASI) announced today that its longtime Vice President for Income Security Policy, Virginia Reno, is leaving NASI to become Social Security's Deputy Commissioner for Retirement and Disability Policy. In previous testimony to the House Social Security Subcommittee she did not indicated support for cuts in Social Security disability benefits.

Social Security Headcount Gets Back To 2002 Level

The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) has posted updated figures for the number of employees at the Social Security Administration:
  • September 2014 64,684
  • June 2014 62,651
  • March 2014 60,820
  • December 2013 61,957
  • September 2013 62,543
  • June 2013 62,877
  • March 2013 63,777
  • December 2012 64,538
  • September 2012 65,113
  • September 2011 67,136
  • December 2010 70,270
  • 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

Jan 25, 2015

Senate Subcommittee Assignments

     The Senate Finance Committee, which has jurisdiction over Social Security has released its subcommittee assignments. The subcommittee assignments seem to be vastly less important in the Senate than in the House but here is the lineup for the relevant subcommittee:

Subcommittee on Social Security, Pensions and Family Policy

Republicans Democrats
Dean Heller, Nev., Chairman Sherrod Brown, Ohio, Ranking Member
Johnny Isakson, Ga.
Pat Toomey, Pa.
Charles Schumer, N.Y.
Tim Scott, S.C

Jan 24, 2015

Big Downturn In Senior Attorney Decisions In Recent Years

     I had recently wondered about the state of the senior attorney advisor decision program at Social Security. The newsletter of the National Organization of Social Security Claimants Representatives (NOSSCR) (which is not available online) has some numbers on senior attorney advisor decisions:
  • FY 2012: 37,423
  • FY 2013 18,625
  • FY 2014 1,872

Jan 23, 2015

ALJs Lose In Court Of Appeals

     The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled against the lawsuit filed by the Association of Administrative Law Judges, a labor union, claiming that agency productivity guidelines interfered with ALJ independence. 
     I have always thought that the argument that encouraging greater productivity somehow forced ALJs to approve more claims was preposterous. For goodness sake, the ALJs don't write their decisions! 
     The agency has not always treated its ALJs with the respect they deserve but this lawsuit wasn't the answer. The ALJ Association would be on sounder ground if it stuck to issues like removing the decision writers from hearing offices. That's an issue where most people would agree that the agency's position is preposterous.

Skepticism Towards Recipients Of Government Assistance Clouds Judgment On Disability

     From an op ed piece in the L.A Times by Rourke O'Brien, postdoctoral fellow in population health at Harvard University:
[W]e must not let the rhetoric of fraud, abuse and “welfare queens” that accompanied the end of welfare as we know it in the 1990s frame the conversation [on the future of Social Security disability].
Americans generally are skeptical of individuals who receive government benefits, biased to think that they are undeserving. It may be our unyielding belief in everyone's ability to bootstrap his or her way to success through hard work or just the way we esteem self-sufficiency. In the context of cash welfare, research shows that this bias leads us to assume all benefit recipients are lazy. In the context of disability — where benefits are predicated on the existence of a qualifying health condition — our skepticism toward recipients of government assistance may influence the way we evaluate their health.
And new evidence suggests that it does just that.
As part of a nationally representative survey I conducted, about 1,000 individuals were asked to read several vignettes, each describing an individual with a health condition such as chronic back pain, depression or symptoms consistent with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (for children).
Respondents were then asked to rate the severity of each condition and the degree to which they considered it “disabling.” Before reading the vignettes, the respondents had been randomly assigned to either a treatment or control group. After reading instructions for the study, those in the treatment group read an additional sentence noting that
individuals with disabilities may be eligible for government benefits.
The result? Respondents primed with a reference to government assistance were less likely to consider the health conditions described as severe or disabling relative to the control group. Just hinting at the existence of government assistance was enough to change their evaluation of health conditions. What's more, in follow-up questions, respondents in the treatment group were more likely to blame the individual for her health condition. ...
In efforts to paint some of those applying for disability benefits as undeserving, we tend to question both the severity and the legitimacy of the qualifying health condition. We tell ourselves they don't deserve assistance because the condition just isn't that bad, and regardless, they are to blame for their health problems anyway.

Jan 22, 2015

Field Office Hours Expanded

     A press release from Social Security:
Social Security announces as a result of Congress’ approval of the fiscal year 2015 budget, the agency will expand its hours nationwide and offices will be open to the public for an additional hour on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, effective March 16, 2015.  A field office that is usually open from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. will remain open until 4:00 p.m.  Offices will continue to close to the public at noon every Wednesday so employees have time to complete current work and reduce backlogs.
“This expansion of office hours reaffirms our commitment to providing the people we serve the option of top-notch, face-to-face assistance in field offices even as we work to expand online services for those who prefer that flexibility,” said Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner of Social Security.  “The public expects and deserves world-class customer service and thanks to approved funding, I am pleased we will continue our tradition of exceptional service.”
In recent years, Social Security reduced public office hours due to congressional budget cuts, growing backlogs and staffing losses.  The agency began recovery in fiscal year 2014 by replacing some field office staffing losses and providing overtime support to process critical work.  With the commitment of resources in fiscal year 2015, the agency is able to restore some service hours to the public.

Number On Social Security Disability Leveling Off

Jan 20, 2015

Less To The New House Rule Than Meets The Eye

     From Politico:
[A]n analysis by Social Security’s chief actuary, Stephen Goss, suggests there’s less to the new House rule [restricting the ability of the House to consider legislation to shift money from Social Security's Retirement Trust Fund to the Disability Trust Fund] than meets the eye. That’s because the point of order is triggered only if lawmakers exceed a “0.01 percent” threshold, which equates to a $38.6 billion cap on what any one Congress can move from the retirement fund, Goss told POLITICO.
That leaves too little room for some long-term, multiyear reallocation of payroll tax revenues but it is enough to get past 2016, by Goss’ calculations.
“We’re projecting [disability] trust funds will be depleted in December of 2016. … The shortfall for the ensuing 12 months would come to about $29 billion,” Goss said. “What that means is that we could have a tax rate reallocation that could apply in 2016 or 2016 and 2017 that would generate up to $30 billion or even $35 billion transferred to the [disability] trust fund, which would at least extend its reserve depletion date for one more year.”

Disability Claims And Awards Decreasing Rapidly

     Note that claims filed and awards made have gone down in each of the last three years. Note also that the number of people drawing benefits is almost the same as it was at the end of last year and that the number has gone down in each of the last three months.
Disabled worker beneficiary statistics by calendar year, quarter, and month
Awards b In current payment status Terminations c
Time period Number
of appli-
cations a
Number Increase
over prior
of appli-
at end
of period
over prior
Number Increase
over prior
by calendar year—
2000 ..... 1,330,558 621,650 0.19% 46.72% 5,042,334 3.34% 461,626 6.25% 8.72%
2001 ..... 1,498,559 691,309 11.21% 46.13% 5,274,183 4.60% 456,258 -1.16% 8.31%
2002 ..... 1,682,454 750,464 8.56% 44.61% 5,543,981 5.12% 479,606 5.12% 8.34%
2003 ..... 1,895,521 777,905 3.66% 41.04% 5,873,673 5.95% 450,720 -6.02% 7.46%
2004 ..... 2,137,531 797,226 2.48% 37.30% 6,201,362 5.58% 466,332 3.46% 7.32%
2005 ..... 2,122,109 832,201 4.39% 39.22% 6,524,582 5.21% 494,592 6.06% 7.36%
2006 ..... 2,134,088 812,596 -2.36% 38.08% 6,811,679 4.40% 513,292 3.78% 7.28%
2007 ..... 2,190,196 823,106 1.29% 37.58% 7,101,355 4.25% 525,012 2.28% 7.14%
2008 ..... 2,320,396 895,011 8.74% 38.57% 7,427,203 4.59% 564,518 7.52% 7.34%
2009 ..... 2,816,244 985,940 10.16% 35.01% 7,789,113 4.87% 628,478 11.33% 7.79%
2010 ..... 2,935,798 1,052,551 6.76% 35.85% 8,204,710 5.34% 646,387 2.85% 7.64%
2011 ..... 2,878,920 1,025,003 -2.62% 35.60% 8,576,067 4.53% 656,902 1.63% 7.42%
2012 ..... 2,820,812 979,973 -4.39% 34.74% 8,827,795 2.94% 726,432 10.58% 7.90%
2013 ..... 2,640,100 884,894 -9.70% 33.52% 8,942,584 1.30% 767,738 5.69% 8.17%
2014 ..... 2,521,459 810,973 -8.35% 32.16% 8,954,518 0.13% 793,646 3.37% 8.37%

by quarter
2011 Q1 720,119 258,086 -1.49% 35.84% 8,295,845 1.11% 166,219 3.37% 1.96%
2011 Q2 760,621 268,853 4.17% 35.35% 8,403,449 1.30% 162,166 -2.44% 1.89%
2011 Q3 737,468 259,181 -3.60% 35.14% 8,495,983 1.10% 167,036 3.00% 1.93%
2011 Q4 660,712 238,883 -7.83% 36.16% 8,576,067 0.94% 161,481 -3.33% 1.85%
2012 Q1 724,746 249,638 4.50% 34.44% 8,657,739 0.95% 168,420 4.30% 1.91%
2012 Q2 731,817 245,719 -1.57% 33.58% 8,733,461 0.87% 169,456 0.62% 1.90%
2012 Q3 726,026 241,207 -1.84% 33.22% 8,786,049 0.60% 188,311 11.13% 2.10%
2012 Q4 638,223 243,409 0.91% 38.14% 8,827,795 0.48% 200,245 6.34% 2.22%
2013 Q1 680,292 228,922 -5.95% 33.65% 8,853,614 0.29% 201,245 0.50% 2.22%
2013 Q2 691,519 228,909 -0.01% 33.10% 8,892,515 0.44% 189,796 -5.69% 2.09%
2013 Q3 674,292 225,905 -1.31% 33.50% 8,925,372 0.37% 192,523 1.44% 2.11%
2013 Q4 593,997 201,158 -10.95% 33.87% 8,942,584 0.19% 184,174 -4.34% 2.01%
2014 Q1 637,675 196,765 -2.18% 30.86% 8,932,828 -0.11% 203,364 10.42% 2.22%
2014 Q2 662,498 215,638 9.59% 32.55% 8,954,010 0.24% 192,440 -5.37% 2.10%
2014 Q3 642,096 209,492 -2.85% 32.63% 8,958,415 0.05% 204,413 6.22% 2.22%
2014 Q4 579,190 189,078 -9.74% 32.65% 8,954,518 -0.04% 193,429 -5.37% 2.10%

by month
13-Oct 199,340 70,800 -7.62% 35.52% 8,936,932 0.13% 59,479 -7.35% 0.65%
13-Nov 226,149 68,375 -3.43% 30.23% 8,941,660 0.05% 63,357 6.52% 0.70%
13-Dec 168,508 61,983 -9.35% 36.78% 8,942,584 0.01% 61,338 -3.19% 0.67%
14-Jan 230,401 61,479 -0.81% 26.68% 8,930,246 -0.14% 71,266 16.19% 0.78%
14-Feb 196,030 64,081 4.23% 32.69% 8,929,419 -0.01% 64,568 -9.40% 0.71%
14-Mar 211,244 71,205 11.12% 33.71% 8,932,828 0.04% 67,530 4.59% 0.74%
14-Apr 210,051 77,130 8.32% 36.72% 8,942,232 0.11% 66,821 -1.05% 0.73%
14-May 248,143 66,764 -13.44% 26.91% 8,947,220 0.06% 61,970 -7.26% 0.68%
14-Jun 204,304 71,744 7.46% 35.12% 8,954,010 0.08% 63,649 2.71% 0.70%
14-Jul 190,808 64,142 -10.60% 33.62% 8,951,519 -0.03% 66,502 4.48% 0.73%
14-Aug 255,285 68,810 7.28% 26.95% 8,952,842 0.01% 67,972 2.21% 0.75%
14-Sep 196,003 76,540 11.23% 39.05% 8,958,415 0.06% 69,939 2.89% 0.77%
14-Oct 243,114 64,139 -16.20% 26.38% 8,957,699 -0.01% 65,657 -6.12% 0.72%
14-Nov 171,326 61,055 -4.81% 35.64% 8,956,269 -0.02% 62,271 -5.16% 0.68%
14-Dec 164,750 63,884 4.63% 38.78% 8,954,518 -0.02% 65,501 5.19% 0.72%

Jan 19, 2015

Senator Opposes Social Security Cuts

     Sherrod Brown, the top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee says that Democrats must not give an inch on Social Security. He opposes any cuts in Social Security disability. 

Jan 18, 2015

Colvin Not Re-Nominated So Far

President Obama has made a number of re-nominations since the beginning of this Congress. Carolyn Colvin's name is not on the list

Jan 16, 2015

A Collective Yawn

     I can't find any sign that the news media are picking up the story of indictments for alleged Social Security disability fraud in Puerto Rico. Maybe local media in Puerto Rico are covering this but even Fox News isn't covering the story.
    So far, I'm not sensing any momentum behind the campaign to cut Social Security disability.

Broadcast E-Mail On Disability Fraud

A Message To All SSA and DDS Employees

Subject:  Fraud Prevention and You

Date:  January 15, 2015

The Department of Justice in Puerto Rico today announced the indictment of 40 individuals, including a medical provider, on charges relating to SSA disability fraud.  These indictments demonstrate the effectiveness of our numerous fraud detection and prevention initiatives, which rely heavily on the continued vigilance of our SSA and DDS employees.  SSA employees identified and reported this potential fraud to our Office of the Inspector General (OIG), and provided analysis to OIG during the investigation.  The success of the investigation and the resulting indictments can be directly attributed to the ongoing partnership and collaboration among SSA, the DDSs, OIG, and the Department of Justice .

Preserving the public’s trust in our programs and reducing improper payments is a critical element of our work.  As you know, one of the key elements of our strategic plan is to prevent fraud, waste, and abuse.  We take pride in our efforts to reduce improper payments as we aggressively seek to ensure that only those entitled to benefits receive them.

We have undertaken a number of measures recently to combat fraud and abuse in the disability program, including:

  • The establishment of the Office of Anti-Fraud Programs to lead our anti-fraud efforts;
  • The re-establishment of our National Anti-Fraud Committee;
  • A significant increase in the number of Continuing Disability Reviews (CDR) we complete;
  • A significant expansion in the number of Cooperative Disability Investigations (CDI) Units, as well as increasing our staff in many existing Units;
  • Anti-fraud training for all SSA and DDS employees;
  • The establishment of robust data analytics capacity to enhance fraud detection;
  • The establishment of three Fraud Prevention Units made up of expert disability examiners who review and act on potential fraud cases; and
  • An increase in the number of our attorneys who serve as Special Assistant United States Attorneys dedicated to prosecuting Social Security fraud.

Our first line of defense is each of you!  I cannot over-emphasize the importance of reporting suspicious or questionable facts that come to your attention in the course of your daily work.  As individuals become more adept at discovering ways to try to defraud SSA, we must be even more vigilant and attentive to details that may suggest fraud, including those that we may not ordinarily consider. 
The following is information about identifying and reporting suspected fraud that you may find helpful.

  • POMS GN 004100ff [this section of POMS must not be available to the public since the link doesn't work] provides additional information on fraud awareness and reporting. 

  • The electronic 8551 (e8551) is used by SSA and the DDSs to report allegations directly to OIG.  A link to the e8551 can be found at:  Reporting Fraud e8551 [again, the form must not be available to the public]. 
  • For the public, we have set up a special Puerto Rico CDI Hotline to report Program fraud in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.
  • For all other public reporting, the OIG fraud Hotline: 1-800-269-0271 is available (10 AM to 4 PM EST).
  • For additional public reporting options, please refer to http://oig.ssa.gov/. 
I want to reassure you that SSA is fully committed to working with our Federal and State partners to ensure that we vigorously pursue prosecution of individuals or groups who attempt to defraud our programs.  I want to thank each of you for the work you perform to support our mission and remind you that, if you see something suspicious or questionable, please do not keep it to yourself.  Report it!

Pete Spencer
National Anti-Fraud Committee

The 80-Year War Against Social Security

     Dylan Scott at TPM gives a history of The 80-Year Conservative War On Social Security.

Jan 15, 2015

House Ways And Means Committee Press Release On Arrests In Puerto Rico

     A press release from the House Ways and Means Committee:
WASHINGTON — Today, the U.S. attorney’s office in Puerto Rico announced additional indictments based on work begun over five years ago to bring fraudsters to justice. 
Upon hearing this news, Subcommittee on Social Security Chairman Sam Johnson (R-TX) stated:
“Today’s arrests in Puerto Rico are yet further proof that the disability program is plagued by widespread fraud. While it is critical that those who committed fraud are held accountable, the bottom line is that success is not discovering massive fraud schemes— success is preventing fraud in the first place. That is the only way hardworking taxpayers’ dollars can be protected.
"As chairman, I’ve already asked Inspector General O’Carroll for a top-to-bottom review of the disability program. I’ve also asked Acting Commissioner Colvin for her plan to do better when it comes to preventing fraud. With the disability program going insolvent in 2016, it is more important than ever to stop fraud that is costing the program precious taxpayer dollars and undermining public confidence in the program. 
"As chairman I will continue to work with my colleagues to keep the disability program strong for those who truly need it and the recently passed House Social Security rule to is a step in the right direction.”
Among the new revelations brought to light today, the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) of the Social Security Administration (SSA) revealed:
·       The overall fraud loss from this scheme is now estimated to be over $100 million. They expect this investigation will result in a projected lifetime savings to Social Security and taxpayers of more than $160 million.
·       This investigation dates back to November 2009, when the SSA forwarded an allegation to its OIG involving suspicious Disability Insurance benefit claims filed in Puerto Rico that involved nearly identical medical documentation.
·    In August 2013, 74 people, including four medical professionals and a non-attorney claimant representative, were indicted and arrested for their involvement in this disability fraud scheme.
·       As of today, 39 of these defendants have been sentenced, receiving probation terms of one to three years, and, in some cases, 30 days in prison. All those sentenced or issued pre-trial diversion agreements will make full restitution to the SSA. Court-ordered restitution for these defendants totals $1,169,034.
·       Today, the U.S. attorney’s office in Puerto Rico announced the indictments of an additional 40 people, including a psychiatrist, for their alleged involvement in this conspiracy. As of this morning, 39 of 40 defendants have been apprehended. These indictments and arrests are a result of continued work by the SSA OIG, the Federal Bureau of Investigations, and the Puerto Rico Police Department as part of the overall investigation.