Apr 21, 2015

Why Would They Trust The Obama Administration On This?

     A press release:

Today, Ways and Means Social Security Subcommittee Chairman Sam Johnson (R-TX) introduced H.R. 1800, the Guiding Responsible and Improved Disability Decisions Act of 2015 (the GRIDD Act). The legislation would require the Social Security Administration (SSA) to update the medical and vocational regulatory guidelines for determining disability, which have not been updated since they went into effect in 1979.
Recently, the Social Security Administration’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) issued a report highlighting one of the problems with these outdated rules for cases in Puerto Rico. The OIG found that these rules favor claimants who are unable to speak English, even though Spanish is one of the island’s official languages.
 Upon introduction, Chairman Johnson said:
"Hardworking American taxpayers expect Social Security to fairly, consistently and accurately decide who should receive disability benefits. That's why it makes no sense that Social Security uses rules from 1979 to decide if someone should receive benefits today! I've been calling on Social Security to update its rules, and the recent Inspector General report just further makes that case. This legislation sends a clear message to Social Security: It's time to update your rules—and now. This is what Americans want, need, and deserve."
House Ways and Means Committee Members co-sponsoring the legislation include Tom Reed (R-NY), Kenny Marchant (R-TX) and Diane Black (R-TN). Other original co-sponsors include Representative Mimi Walters (R-CA).
For more information, click here.
     Here is the entire relevant text of the bill:
As soon as possible after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Commissioner of Social Security shall prescribe rules and regulations that update the medical-vocational guidelines, as set forth in appendix 2 to subpart P of part 404 of title 20, Code of Federal Regulations, used in disability determinations, including full consideration of new employment opportunities made possible by advances in treatment, rehabilitation, and technology and full consideration of the effect of prevalent languages on education.
     If you're sure that passage of this bill would result in fewer people drawing Social Security disability benefits, you don't understand the situation. The number of unskilled jobs has declined dramatically over the last thirty years. Any honest updating of the grid regulations is almost certainly going to result in more disability claims being approved, not fewer. Don't believe me? Read back in this blog about the Occupational Information Development Advisory Panel (OIDAP). There was plenty of tension as Social Security tried to stage manage OIDAP so it could avoid paying more claimants. That didn't work so well. That controversy has gone underground as the responsibility for developing a new Occupational Information System (OIS) has shifted to the Department of Labor but it's going to burst into the open eventually. Pass this bill and you're opening Pandora's box a little sooner.
     This bill is evidence to me that the Subcommittee lacks a Republican Social Security disability policy wonk on its staff.


Anonymous said...

Isn't that what we want? More people on benefits?

Anonymous said...

If they decided to just update the Grids by pushing the age limits up, that would certainly result in less claimants being approved. That would be the easiest "fix," instead of messing around with developing a new OIS. Hope I'm wrong...

Anonymous said...

You might want to consider that many more people are "skilled" than in the past. I see young children using complex cell phones and the internet. Think about it.

Anonymous said...

I'm with 9:48:

who's to say they have to keep the default status that a person with no limitations of mind whatsoever can nonetheless only perform unskilled work? Putting people only to unskilled work at Step 5 is how it has to be under the current framework.

It's kind of strange to me that even the most pro-claimant of reps talk in grandiose terms of how outdated the medical-vocational rules (and the sources of information they are based upon) are, yet don't even entertain the possibility that installing a new system that made sense with today's vocational, etc. realities might have some substantially different initial conditions, baseline assumptions, etc. etc.

It always, as an abstract academic exercise, struck me as odd that the default person--one with no mental limitations whatsoever--can only be placed into new unskilled work. Someone who only had sedentary or light PRW but who has no exertional limitations could be put to medium exertion, no? Why the difference? Why is the default person only capable of unskilled work?

Anonymous said...

I always find it disturbing when politicians talk about what the"american people want".
As if they speak for every american.

Each time i hear it,it seems deceitful.

Also how can SSA consistently decide
cases. Does state adjudicator and Alj award and deny based on same medical condition?

Thoughtful changes should be made but if legislators are thoughtful then they will know that"work" is a long road with pot holes,tree branches,car wrecks,road repair,inclimate weather,animals and possibly other things for people with impairments.

Anonymous said...

@ 11:22

this is one of the most frustrating aspects of disability cases. there are millions and millions of people who have been diagnosed with clinical depression and/or anxiety disorders who have absolutely no problems performing work that is highly skilled without issue, so long as they take their meds.

but, if you make a mental impairment severe and don't limit the claimant to unskilled work, then you can guarantee that case will be automatically remanded...huh???

Anonymous said...

11:22: the premise of your question is wrong. The default person is placed into unskilled work only if he has garnered no skills (from either past relevant work or recent education) that would be transferable to work within his RFC. I recognize that, because many VEs are lazy, they quickly cite only unskilled occupations in response to the ALJ's hypothetical, but that is not the default position and not what is required by the Act or the implementing regulations.

11:47: you are confusing skills with limitations stemming from mental impairments. A claimant would be limited to unskilled work only if he had no transferable skills. A claimant may have mental limitations that limit the kinds of work he can do to simple, routine, repititive tasks, occupations with reasoning levels of 2 or 3, or however the RFC is phrased, but that is quite a different thing than saying "unskilled." Put another way, an ALJ that limited a claimant to unskilled work is saying something only about the claimant's vocational history and nothing about his medically determinable impairments.

Anonymous said...

@ 1147

Show me a ve who will find that a claimant has transferable skills. In my neck of the woods, it doesn't matter how skilled your past job was, they always conclude no transferable skills

What I meant was if you have a mental impairment, then you are essentially forced to limit a claimant to SRRT, which means he can only do unskilled work, or you're getting a remand, and forget about making the mental non-severe (as it should be more often) that gets remanded even faster.

Anonymous said...

Au, contraire, I believe it is you, 1:03, who does not understand what "default" means.

The default position is only unskilled work for people with no mental limitation. The EXCEPTION to the default rule is if (and only if!!) a person acquired job skills previously they may be found able to transfer those skills into compatible jobs (many times with basically no occupational adjustment at all, to boot).

My question still stands. Why is a person who never acquired job skills (having job skills isn't default, it's an exception. The default person has no previously-acquired job skills) but has no mental limitation whatsoever limited to only unskilled (new) jobs?

Anonymous said...

A high school graduate may enter into a skilled work environment..

Anonymous said...

2:04 again

to bolster my argument re: the default, ponder this:

Does the fact that a person does not happen to have worked in semi-skilled or skilled jobs and acquired job skills necessarily mean they are unable to do so?

I believe one would have to answer in the affirmative for the default position re: only putting someone to unskilled work to make sense. And obviously, I don't agree with that. We don't make the analogous conclusion for those who haven't worked in medium exertion jobs but are placed into such jobs. What's the difference? Why is it logical to assume, in the absence of evidence showing an exertional limitation, that one can perform even heavy exertion even if he has only performed sedentary jobs but not logical to assume one can perform even semiskilled work if there is no evidence of any mental limitation?

I'm really just looking for the justification for this default position. Perhaps I am being too generous in assuming there is a rational basis for the rule that I just don't readily appreciate.

Anonymous said...

2:15 I wonder if the justification comes from the definition of "skill." One only acquires skills via doing skilled or semiskilled work. SSR 82-41:

a.What a "skill" is. A skill is knowledge of a work activity which requires the exercise of significant judgment that goes beyond the carrying out of simple job duties and is acquired through performance of an occupation which is above the unskilled level (requires more than 30 days to learn).

20 CFR 404.1565:

Work experience means skills and abilities you have acquired through work you have done which show the type of work you may be expected to do.

Anonymous said...

Wow, appears someone in politics NOT in SSA finally read the Federal Register from, I believe, February 2007. Those changes provide a huge pie of benefits for limited English speakers and English second language folks(LEPs, ESL) Hold onto your seats kids, it's gonna be a bumpy ride.

Anonymous said...

Unskilled work requires skills that take less than 30 days to learn? That is about 50% of the jobs out there. Hell, you can learn to manage a McDonald's in 30days. How long is truck driving school? I was a proof reader at a newspaper in less than 30 days. I was a waiter. Every job I did on teh farm took less than 30 days, including milking. Every sales job I ever had took less than 30 days to learn. Think about it. How can all of these people use the smart phones and claim they have no skills?

Anonymous said...

The SVP "time to learn" numbers are, I believe, the times it takes to gain average competency in the job, not just learning its basics and being able to perform it.

So yeah, you can learn to be a newspaper proof-reader in 30 days or less, but it probably takes the more than 6 and up to 12 months the DOT says it does (SVP 5) to gain average competency at the job.

Anonymous said...

Being able to perform it does not equal average competency?? Since when??