May 31, 2021

Memorial Day 2021


May 30, 2021

It’s A Disgrace

      Senator Bill Cassidy (R-LA) believes that federal employees, including Social Security employees have been sitting at home doing nothing while being paid over the last year. Apparently, he received a letter from Andrew Saul blaming employee unions for poor service at Social Security.

May 29, 2021

Service Delivery During And After The Pandemic

      From the New York Times:

When the pandemic struck last year, the Social Security Administration shut down its national network of more than 1,200 offices as it scrambled to protect the public and its employees from the coronavirus. ...

The agency is slowly bringing back workers in accordance with safety guidelines established by the federal government.

But operations are not likely to look the same as they did prepandemic, and a segment of S.S.A. workers may continue working remotely, a significant shift for the agency, which paid benefits to 69 million Americans in 2019. ...

Social Security’s consideration of a larger role for telework is a sharp departure from its stance in November 2019, when it ended a work-from-home pilot program. ...

There has been a sharp drop in applications for S.S.I., and for disability insurance. ...

While a great deal of routine Social Security business is now transacted via its website, field office staff provide in-person assistance on complex matters, in particular on applications for disability insurance and S.S.I., says Manasi Deshpande, an assistant professor of economics at the University of Chicago.

“Especially for people with lower socioeconomic status, being able to get in-person information and assistance with the application is critical to their decision to apply,” Dr. Deshpande said. “Without it, they just don’t apply.” ...

In the 10-year period Dr. Deshpande studied, Social Security closed 118 field offices, a cost-cutting move. She estimated that during that period, a total of 786,000 applicants for disability insurance and S.S.I. were discouraged from applying.

The impact of closing all field offices during the pandemic has been far greater, Dr. Deshpande said. “You’d probably need to multiply the estimates from the paper by a few times to see the effect of closing all the offices,” she said. “The 10 percent decline we measured took place with neighboring offices absorbing some of the applicants. It’s likely a much larger effect with all the field offices closed.” ...

Agency data shows a 29 percent decline in S.S.I. awards from July 2020 to April 2021 compared with the same period a year earlier, and disability awards are down 17 percent over that period. Taken together, up to 330,000 people will miss out on these benefits over a one-year period, according to an analysis of agency data by David Weaver, a former associate commissioner in Social Security’s Office of Research, Demonstration and Employment Support. ...

Social Security has a $1.5 billion budget for “program integrity,” but Congress limits that spending to reviews of disability awards that are aimed at removing people from the benefit rolls.

“A more common sense definition of program integrity would include the idea of making sure that people who are eligible for benefits are receiving them,” Mr. Weaver said. ...

May 28, 2021

Saul On Telework

From: ^Commissioner Broadcast <>

Sent: Friday, May 28, 2021 1:30 PM

A Message to All SSA Employees

Subject:  Update on Telework

I want to begin to talk with you about the future of our operations post-pandemic.  First, let me make clear that this is a separate conversation from our current work during the pandemic.  For now, we continue to operate under our COVID-19 Workplace Safety Plan including maximum telework and office capacity limits.

Agencies across government have gained real-time telework experience since March 2020.  The pandemic forced us to implement new ways of doing business, which accelerated some positive changes and highlighted areas where we need to make additional improvements.  We have done a great job under difficult circumstances ensuring our key services continue.  Still, there are areas where we are falling behind.

Part of the reason for service degradation could be inefficiency in business processes due to the temporary but necessary changes we made during the pandemic.  For example, requiring the public to mail in important documents like drivers’ licenses for a Social Security card is not sustainable, but iSSNRC and video and express appointments will help address that workload.  We also know that not all work is portable and some members of the public, in particular our vulnerable populations, are best served in person.

The pandemic provides us a unique opportunity to build a new normal that improves public service.  A part of that opportunity is to reconsider how we use telework.  As a result, I have asked each component’s Deputy Commissioner (DC) to reassess telework opportunities within your components considering all we have learned during the last year. Generally, we expect to increase telework opportunities from our pre-pandemic levels. We will also be seeking input from the unions and meeting any applicable labor obligations.

Public service must remain the key driver, but issues like employee retention, recruitment, morale, space savings, continuity of government operations, and the environment will also inform our decisions.  Additionally, we are participating in a government-wide initiative about the future of work, which will guide our decisions including when more employees will return to the office.

We will continue to follow the Administration’s science-driven lead on operating during the pandemic, and I will continue to share new information with you as we receive it.  At the same time, we must plan for how the agency can best perform in the future.

I appreciate that telework is important to you and for your ability to plan in your personal lives so I wanted to take a moment to let you know we are working on it. Thanks again for all you are doing to be sure we take care of the people who depend on us.

Andrew Saul


AAJ Hearings To Remain A Possibility As CRA Resolution Fails

      In the twilight days of the Trump Administration, Social Security adopted new regulations allowing Administrative Appeals Judges (AAJs) to hold hearings on disability claims. Previously, only Administrative Law Judges (ALJs) were able to hold such hearings. AAJs have only handled cases pending on review at the Appeals Council. This has been concerning since AAJs, unlike ALJs, have not been thought to enjoy decisional independence.

     The Congressional Review Act (CRA) permits Congress to disapprove "midnight" regulations adopted as an Administration is leaving office. CRA resolutions may not be filibustered. A CRA resolution was introduced to disapprove the AAJs regulations. The problem with CRA resolutions is that they must be acted upon within a certain number of days. The computation of when the days start to run is a little tricky but, apparently, the time ran out yesterday but no action was taken on the CRA resolution on the AAJ regulations.

     I would be surprised to see any AAJ hearings scheduled in the near future. There's no plausible justification since there are enough ALJs to handle the current workload and Democrats control the White House, Senate and House of Representatives. Further out, who knows?

May 27, 2021

Express Interviews

      From Emergency Message EM-21041:

A. Purpose
This Emergency Message (EM) provides Field Offices (FOs) and Social Security Card Centers (SSCCs) information regarding the nationwide implementation of the Express Interview (EXI) process. In addition, this EM provides instructions for scheduling appointments, conducting interviews, and documenting interviews, as part of the EXI process. This process was established to address the challenges the public has faced in providing enumeration and documentary proofs, during the COVID-19 pandemic.

B. Background
Effective May 28, 2021, FOs and SSCCs nationwide will begin offering the new EXI option. EXIs are brief interviews, lasting approximately 5-7 minutes, which allow eligible individuals to apply for an original or replacement Social Security Number (SSN) card and submit necessary evidence in person.

While this initiative is primarily intended to assist customers who need an SSN card, EXIs are also available for purposes of gathering evidence needed for processing claims and other workloads, as well as for individuals who meet certain limited, critical situations.

 C. Express Interview Criteria

In order to qualify for an EXI, individuals must:

    · meet existing limited, critical appointment criteria such as:
        o original cards for individuals age 12 or older;

        o replacement cards for individuals who need to update or correct their information, such as name, date of birth, or citizenship, or to obtain income, resources, medical care or coverage, or other services or benefits (e.g., filing a tax return, applying for housing, or seeking an Economic Impact Payment);

    · be unable to use our automated services (e.g. enumeration at birth, enumeration at entry or enumeration beyond entry) or online SSN replacement card service (iSSNRC).

Individuals also qualify for an EXI if they are unable or unwilling to mail original evidence documents.  ...

May 26, 2021


     There's an annual Trustees Report on the state of the Social Security Trust Funds that gathers same public attention. Last year's report came out on April 22 but none so far this year so we're overdue. I suppose the pandemic might have something to do with the delay. The change in Administrations might also play a role.

May 25, 2021

Little Change In Social Security Headcount

    The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) has posted updated numbers showing the headcount of employees at each agency. Here they are as of March with earlier headcount numbers for comparison:

  • March 2021 60,675
  • December 2020 61,816
  • September 2020 61,447
  • June 2020 60,515
  • March 2020 60,659
  • December 2019 61,969
  • December 2018 62,946
  • December 2017 62,777
  • September 2017 62,297
  • June 2017 61,592
  • March 2017 62,183
  • December 2016 63,364
  • December 2015 65,518
  • December 2014 65,430
  • December 2013 61,957
  • December 2012 64,538
  • September 2011 67,136
  • December 2010 70,270
  • December 2009 67,486
  • December 2008 63,733
      By the way, Full Time Equivalent (FTE) numbers would be more meaningful since those take overtime work into consideration. Social Security isn't posting those numbers as far as I know. I'd love to see them.

May 24, 2021

Guidance Coming Soon On Telework

      From the Washington Post:

As the Biden administration contemplates how to return the massive federal workforce to the office, government officials are moving to make a pandemic experiment permanent by allowing more employees than ever to work from home — a sweeping cultural change that would have been unthinkable a year ago. ...

Notice of the change is expected in June, when the administration is set to release long-awaited guidance to agencies about when and how many federal employees can return to the office — likely in hybrid workplaces that combine in-person and at-home options, according to officials and memos obtained by The Washington Post. The bulletin is expected to address remote work policies in the immediate and long term.

 “We anticipate this guidance will leave room for decision-making at departments and agencies, to provide maximum flexibility for defining work requirements to meet mission and workforce needs,” said a senior administration official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because plans have not yet been finalized. ...

How much other federal employees will be able to work from home will be up to individual agencies and is likely to vary widely depending on employee needs, manager preferences and the department’s mission, officials said. ...

Mark Hinkle, a Social Security Administration spokesman, said in an email that the agency is “carefully and incrementally increasing the number of employees working in our local field offices” to help whittle down workloads and is beginning to increase in-office appointments. ...

May 23, 2021

If You Have To Ask The Question, You Really Are A Fool

      The Motley Fool asks “Is Bitcoin Safer For Retirement Than Social Security?”

May 21, 2021

ALJ Union And Social Security At Odds

     From Government Executive:

An independent arbitrator this week took the rare step of ordering the Social Security Administration and a union representing administrative law judges to completely redo negotiations on a new contract, after he found several instances of illegal bad faith bargaining by the agency.

In a decision dated May 17, Arbitrator John T. Nicholas found that management at the agency engaged in unfair labor practices in relation to five different articles of its contract negotiations with the Association of Administrative Law Judges. The ruling marks the third instance in which an arbitrator has found instances of malfeasance on the part of management at the Social Security Administration in connection with their negotiations with the judges’ union.

In those previous cases, the arbitrator issued narrow awards to the union, such as requiring the agency to provide previously improperly withheld information and rescind an effort to implement a partial contract. But Nicholas instructed the parties to completely restart the contract negotiation process from the beginning with negotiations on ground rules for bargaining over an entirely new contract. ...

 The arbitrator also found that the Social Security Administration engaged in “surface level” bargaining on official time, in essence making tweaks to their proposal without actually trying to find a solution amenable to both parties, and he found the agency engaged in bad faith bargaining in its negotiations over provisions intended to protect the judges’ judicial function. ...

In a statement, Social Security Administration spokesman Mark Hinkle downplayed the potential impact of the arbitrator’s ruling, and accused the judges’ union of blocking efforts to negotiate a new contract.

“The arbitration decision was substantively moot by the time the decision was issued, as SSA has offered the AALJ the opportunity to renegotiate the entire CBA on several occasions,” Hinkle said. “In fact, the agency’s chief spokesperson for these negotiations has sent at least four communications making that offer to the AALJ chief negotiator . . . Despite these repeated efforts, AALJ has refused to even meet with the agency.” ...

     Melissa McIntosh, the president of the ALJ union, recently appeared on Tom Temin's show on WFED. The posted transcript demonstrates the depth of the gap between union and management at Social Security.

May 20, 2021

Stimulus Payments Cause Problems For Some SSI Recipients

     From HuffPost:

Stimulus payments aren’t supposed to count against eligibility for social insurance programs like disability benefits, but some people might have lost benefits because of too much money in their bank accounts.

The Social Security Administration has suspended disability benefits for some Supplemental Security Income recipients because the stimulus payments pushed their bank accounts above the program’s archaic $2,000 limit, according to legal aid attorneys. ...
It’s likely that relatively few of the program’s nearly 8 million beneficiaries have been affected. ...

Everyone on SSI is subject to the resource limit, which hasn’t been updated since 1989. It’s $2,000 for individuals and $3,000 for couples, with exclusions for a home, a car and certain other assets. 

Because the coronavirus stimulus payments are technically tax credits, they shouldn’t have affected eligibility for any social program, whether it’s food benefits or Social Security. Under federal law, tax credits don’t count as income or “resources” for eligibility purposes within a year of their receipt.

But the Social Security Administration is a huge agency with lots of employees, and it’s possible some have made mistakes, said Stacy Cloyd, director of policy and administrative advocacy with the National Organization of Social Security Claimants’ Representatives. What should happen, Cloyd said, is that when the agency sees more than $2,000 in someone’s bank account ― the overall balance is all the agency sees ― it should investigate and then back off if the cash came from a tax rebate within the past year.

 “If the resource limit were $10,000 this would be a lot less of an issue,” Cloyd said. President Joe Biden has proposed updating the asset limit, but Democrats haven’t yet reintroduced their bill to change the policy. ...

May 19, 2021

Too Cute?

     I don't know how, if at all, this ever impacts Social Security but the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has issued an interesting opinion on remand from the Supreme Court in the case of CFPB v. Seila Law. The Court held that once the director of the Consumer Financial Protection Board knew that she could be removed from office by the President without cause, her tenure in office became constitutional. Moreover, she could ratify her prior actions taken before the Supreme Court opinion in Seila Law. Thus, the Supreme Court opinion in the Seila Law case becomes meaningless as far as Seila Law itself is concerned. I'm not sure how the Supreme Court will see this but it seems a bit too cute to me. How do you say that this is an important constitutional issue and then say, never mind, we're not going to let it have real world consequences?

     To this point, as far as I know, Andrew Saul hasn't acknowledged that Seila Law even applies to him, nor has the White House said anything on the subject. Has Social Security filed a brief on the Seila Law issue yet in federal court?


May 18, 2021

Message To SSA Employees On Reopening

      Federal News Network reports that Social Security sent the following message to its employees yesterday:

You may have seen the recent update from the CDC about people who are fully vaccinated. As we have said all along, we will continue to follow government-wide and CDC guidance. We are getting additional information from the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force and will update you as soon as possible about changes. We will also meet all applicable labor obligations.

Masks No Longer Required In Federal Offices

      From Government Executive:

Following the new public health guidance issued last week, the White House said fully vaccinated federal employees, contractors and visitors are no longer required to wear masks in federal buildings. 

The Office of Management and Budget sent all federal agencies an email to supplement the updated guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday, which said vaccinated individuals do not need masks outside and in most indoor settings ... 
“For now, this change related to masking is the only change to federal workplace COVID-19 safety guidance – maximum telework and workplace occupancy limits remain in place – but we will continue to update based on public health guidance,” said OMB’s message. “If you are not fully vaccinated (at least two weeks past your final dose), please continue to wear a mask consistent with the requirements set forth in your agency workplace safety plan.”  ... 
“OMB, through the President’s Management Council, with [the Office of Personnel Management] and [General Services Administration], will continue to work with your agencies on the planning already underway related to the federal personnel policies and work environment for after it is safe for increased return of federal workers to the physical workplace,” said the email ...

May 17, 2021

People Just Won't Behave Like Jason Fichnter Wants Them To

      Jason Fichtner is a mainstream Republican economist specializing in retirement issues. He worked at Social Security during the George W. Bush Administration. He's been associated with the Mercatus Center, a Koch brothers financed think tank. He's recently put out a "White Paper" on Creating A New Retirement Security Framework.  Fichtner identifies real problems. Traditional defined benefit retirement plans are going, going, gone. People aren't saving much for retirement. The money they do save isn't generating much safe retirement income because interest rates are so low. Annuities would help some but people are suspicious of them. Delaying going on Social Security would help but most folks don't wait until full retirement age much less until age 70. Social Security has long term financing problems. What are Fichtner's solutions: Try harder to persuade people to delay going on Social Security retirement benefits and try harder to persuade people to use annuities for retirement income.

     I think that Fichtner's solution to the problems he identifies are completely inadequate. In fact, I'd call them almost useless. We're not going to change people's retirement behavior in fundamental ways. People already have plenty of encouragement to retire later but they just don't want to. If people don't like annuities, they don't like annuities. You're not going to harangue people into liking annuities.

     I see only one workable solution to the problems that Fichtner identifies -- beef up Social Security. Improve its long term financing. Increase its benefits significantly.  That would work. Why can't Fichtner bring himself to mention improving Social Security even as a possibility? The man has on right wing blinders. He can't see the obvious because it doesn't fit into his ideology.

May 16, 2021

Andrew Saul Happy To Be Back In The Room Again

      From the Wall Street Journal:

... For the first time since the pandemic, Sotheby’s invited a few dozen collectors and dealers to bid in person rather than by phone or online during live streamed auctions. ...

Longtime collector Andrew Saul, commissioner of the Social Security Administration, arrived in a dark suit and peach tie and took a spot on the second row, thumbing through the miniature catalog left in his seat. He didn’t bid but showed up because he said, “It feels so good to be back in the room again.” ...

May 15, 2021

The Cry Isn’t Dying Down

      Ralph de Juliis, the head of the Union local that represents most Social Social employees, has penned an op ed for the Baltimore Sun on his favorite subject, the need to get rid of Andrew Saul as Commissioner of Social Security.  He’s not the only one who feels that way.

May 14, 2021

$200,000 Embezzlement Of Social Security Benefits

      From a press release:

Acting United States Attorney Jennifer Arbittier Williams announced that Jonnel Perkins, 43, of Philadelphia, PA, pleaded guilty to the charge of embezzlement by a bank employee.

According to court documents filed today, the defendant was employed as a Retail Relationship Banker at a bank located in Philadelphia. While she was employed in this position, the Social Security Administration (SSA) conducted a routine audit which identified that a customer of the bank branch where Perkins worked was likely deceased but still receiving monthly electronic benefits from the SSA. The SSA suspended the payments to this account, but due to regulation had to wait seven years before the approximately $200,000 in accumulated benefit overpayments by the SSA could be reclaimed.

In the months prior to the time when the reclamation could be initiated, between June and December 2019, Perkins withdrew all of the funds from this dormant account. A subsequent investigation determined that the customer whose account from which the defendant withdrew funds had been deceased since 1999. ...

May 12, 2021

Not Much Happening At Social Security Subcommittee

      The following is a list of the Subcommittees of the House Ways and Means Committee and the number of hearings they've held since the beginning of this Congress in January:

  • Health -- 2

  • Oversight -- 3

  • Social Security -- 0

  • Select Revenue Measures -- 2

  • Trade -- 2

  • Worker & Family Support -- 2

May 11, 2021

Liberal Overcaution May Cause Employee Resistance To Reopening Social Security Offices

      From The Atlantic:

Lurking among the jubilant Americans venturing back out to bars and planning their summer-wedding travel is a different group: liberals who aren’t quite ready to let go of pandemic restrictions. For this subset, diligence against COVID-19 remains an expression of political identity—even when that means overestimating the disease’s risks or setting limits far more strict than what public-health guidelines permit. In surveys, Democrats express more worry about the pandemic than Republicans do. People who describe themselves as “very liberal” are distinctly anxious. This spring, after the vaccine rollout had started, a third of very liberal people were “very concerned” about becoming seriously ill from COVID-19, compared with a quarter of both liberals and moderates, according to a study conducted by the University of North Carolina political scientist Marc Hetherington. And 43 percent of very liberal respondents believed that getting the coronavirus would have a “very bad” effect on their life, compared with a third of liberals and moderates. ...

For many progressives, extreme vigilance was in part about opposing Donald Trump. Some of this reaction was born of deeply felt frustration with how he handled the pandemic. It could also be knee-jerk. “If he said, ‘Keep schools open,’ then, well, we’re going to do everything in our power to keep schools closed,” Monica Gandhi, a professor of medicine at UC San Francisco, told me. Gandhi describes herself as “left of left,” but has alienated some of her ideological peers because she has advocated for policies such as reopening schools and establishing a clear timeline for the end of mask mandates. “We went the other way, in an extreme way, against Trump’s politicization,” Gandhi said. ...

“Those who are vaccinated on the left seem to think overcaution now is the way to go, which is making people on the right question the effectiveness of the vaccines,” Gandhi told me. Public figures and policy makers who try to dictate others’ behavior without any scientific justification for doing so erode trust in public health and make people less willing to take useful precautions. The marginal gains of staying shut down might not justify the potential backlash. ...

      It's obvious that CDC guidelines will change rapidly over the next three months. Let's not fight the science because we're still mad with Donald Trump. We can't keep cowering in fear forever.

     If you're one who believes that we need to remain cloistered even after we're fully vaccinated and the CDC says we can start to resume normal life, what's your endgame? What will be enough to persuade you that it's safe to eat in restaurants, travel, visit in person with family and friends, return to normal workplaces, etc? 

     Covid-19 will never completely go away. The vaccines who have are extremely effective. Like influenza, meningitis, salmonella and other infectious diseases Covid-19 will always be some threat but the world is full of potential threats.

May 10, 2021

Twenty Minutes To Answer The Phone In 2021

      Here are some numbers from Social Security on how long it's been taking them to answer calls on their 800 number. You can see that it's gone up dramatically over the years. It's currently around 20 minutes. I don't whether they factor in the calls where the system eventually hangs up on the caller. Click on each image to view full size.

May 9, 2021

Homelessness And Social Security Disability

      The current issue of the Social Security Bulletin, the agency's scholarly publication, includes an article on Social Security Administration Disability Programs and Individuals Facing Homelessness. Below is a graphic from the article. Click on the image to view full size.

May 8, 2021

Vignette From Representing A Social Security Disability Claimant

  • Client: I need to work but every time I try to go back to work I end up in a psychiatric hospital.
  • Me: Maybe you shouldn't try to return to work until your psychiatric condition is better stabilized.
  • Client: But I HAVE to work. I'll lose everything if I don't work.

     The standard for involuntary psychiatric hospitalization is that the patient is dangerous to themselves or to others but for the most part even voluntary psychiatric hospitalizations don't happen unless the patient is dangerous. Thus, almost all psychiatric hospitalizations are a sign that a person has been at significant risk before the hospitalization. 

     I wasn't trying to talk the client out of returning to work because it would hurt the case if the client returns to work. No, just the opposite. Futile attempts to return to work followed by psychiatric hospitalizations make a case stronger. I don't want clients committing suicide. I've had clients commit suicide. That's terrible even for the attorney. I can't imagine what it's like for the family.

     I don't think that most people get just how dangerous it is to one's health to suffer from chronic mental illness.

May 7, 2021

Most Popular Baby Names In 2020

     From Social Security announcement of the most popular names given to babies in 2020. 

1. Liam 1. Olivia
2. Noah 2. Emma
3. Oliver 3. Ava
4. Elijah 4. Charlotte
5. William 5. Sophia
6. James 6. Amelia
7. Benjamin 7. Isabella
8. Lucas 8. Mia
9. Henry 9. Evelyn
10. Alexander10. Harper

Field Office Addresses And Phone Numbers

      I happened upon a spreadsheet of Social Security field office addresses and phone numbers. This sort of information isn't as easy to find as you might think so I thought I ought to post a link here.

Eric Conn Docuseries Coming Up

      There's a four part documentary series coming up on Apple TV on the Eric Conn saga. The linked article doesn't mention Conn by name. It just says "The new untitled docuseries tells the unbelievable true story of one of the largest scams in government history." However, I understand that the filmmakers recently conducted extensive interviews of those with knowledge about what happened.

     By the way, will it be possible for me to buy access to just this series without subscribing to Apple TV generally? Maybe a trial period?

May 6, 2021

The Bill Comes Due

      From FEDweek:

As was widely expected, an issue has arisen regarding repayment of Social Security taxes that were not withheld from many federal employees late last year under a Trump administration policy.

Under that policy, the standard 6.2 percent Social Security withholding was not taken from the pay of federal employees who earned less than $4,000 in a biweekly pay period starting last September through year’s end. Employees were not allowed to opt out—many said they wished to—although the Postal Service was free to decline to participate, and did, because of its semi-independent status.

From the outset, concerns arose about the requirement that the amount not withheld over those four months must be repaid (the original deadline of April 30 was extended to year-end 2021). However, because that repayment generally is made through regular payroll withholding, there have been questions about employees who separate before the amount is repaid or who work on an irregular schedule.

According to the NFFE union, those concerns proved justified when the Agriculture Department’s National Finance Center, which administers payroll there and for some other agencies, “issued notices to over 10,000 individuals demanding payment by May 2 or they would incur penalties with interest and be referred to collections.” ...

Grants Available To Help Claimants

      From an announcement posted today in the Federal Register by the Social Security Administration (emphasis added):

We are announcing a new funding opportunity, the Interventional Cooperative Agreement Program (ICAP). The purpose of this new program is to allow us to enter into cooperative agreements to collaborate with States, private foundations, and other non-Federal groups and organizations who have the interest and ability to identify, operate, and partially fund interventional research. The Request for Applications is now open on ...

ICAP research topics are as follows: 

  • Examining the structural barriers in the labor market, including for racial, ethnic, or other underserved communities, including people with disabilities, that increase the likelihood of people receiving or applying for SSDI or SSI benefits; 
  • Promoting self-sufficiency by helping people enter, stay in, or return to the labor force, including children and youth; 
  • Coordinating planning between private and human services agencies to improve the administration and effectiveness of the SSDI, SSI, and related programs; 
  • Assisting claimants in underserved communities apply for or appeal determinations or decisions on claims for SSDI and SSI benefits; and 
  • Conducting outreach to children with disabilities who are potentially eligible to receive SSI, and conducting outreach to their parents and guardians. ...

May 5, 2021

Bipartisan Unhappiness Over Effects Of Field Office Closures

      From Oswego County Today:

 U.S. Rep. John Katko (R, NY-24) today led an effort calling on the Social Security Administration (SSA) to implement new and flexible options for Central New Yorkers who need to submit required documents during the ongoing pandemic.

This effort comes in response to calls Katko has received from Central New Yorkers who have been impacted by the continued closure of SSA field offices in Central New York. Rep. Katko led this bipartisan effort alongside U.S. Reps. Abigail Spanberger (D, VA-7), Dusty Johnson (R, SD-AL), Lauren Underwood (D, IL-14), and Elise Stefanik (R, NY-21).

For more than a year, over 1,500 Social Security field offices across the country, including the locations in Syracuse, Oswego, and Geneva, have been closed to the public due to the ongoing pandemic. Field office closures have particularly impacted Central New Yorkers who need to show original documents, such as a driver’s license, to process SSA claims, obtain a replacement SSA card, or access benefits. ...

     If you're a field office employee, steel yourself. The field offices will reopen to the public before the end of the summer. If things stay on their current trajectory, by July 1 most businesses in the country will have reopened. Baseball games will be played before full crowds. There will be outdoor and indoor concerts before full audiences. It will be impossible to keep the field offices closed for long once we get to that point. Field office employees can talk all they want about ventilation and cubicles being too close together and Covid variants and so on but the public won't care. Andrew Saul is jerk but the agency will be within its rights to reopen the field offices once we get a higher percentage of the population vaccinated. I would guess that the agency will go back to something like telework as it was before Andrew Saul came along but the field offices aren't going to stay closed indefinitely.

May 4, 2021

Retirement Benefits Slowdown

      From Bloomberg News:

The rate of growth in retired Americans who collect Social Security has slowed down sharply, and the drop may be due in part to the disproportionate number of deaths from Covid-19 among the elderly.

The number of people who received retirement benefits from the Social Security Administration rose 900,000 to 46.4 million in March, the smallest year-over-year gain since April 2009.

While the Office of the Chief Actuary at the government agency said it is still too early to assess the impact from Covid-19, the year-over-year change appears to reflect excess deaths. About 447,000 people who died from the virus were 65 or older, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or about 80% of total deaths. ...

     I'm with the Office of Chief Actuary. Deaths among retirees may not be the only thing going on. Remember that the number of SSI claims filed is down sharply. That is widely attributed to field office closures. There could also be a slowdown in the number of retirement claims filed due to field office closures. We know there's a slowdown in processing people onto benefits after claims are taken which would have the same effect. Also note that the weirdness in the chart in 2001 and 2002 with no Covid-19 to explain it.

May 3, 2021

SSA Management Slow In Reviewing Union Contracts

      From Government Executive:

Unions at the Social Security Administration reported that the agency’s leadership continues to stall on efforts to reopen contracts negotiated during the Trump administration, three months after President Biden told agencies to do so via executive order and a week after a self-imposed deadline for SSA to review its collective bargaining agreements. ...

In March, the Office of Personnel Management issued guidance on how agencies should implement the order, which instructed agencies to reopen union contracts “as soon as is practicable.”

Later that month, following complaints of slow movement by Social Security Administration leadership to implement Biden’s workforce policies, officials at the agency said it was in the midst of a review of all labor contracts and that officials had asked the unions for their input. The self-imposed deadline for that process was April 23.

But a week after that deadline, the labor groups said they have not seen any new action by SSA leadership to reopen old agreements. ...

May 2, 2021

The Eric Conn Saga Goes On And On

     From the Richmond Register:

A Kentucky judge has ordered court officials to purge hundreds of lawsuits filed against clients by a disgraced disability attorney who masterminded the largest Social Security fraud in history, the Lexington Herald Leader reported.

Eric Conn pleaded guilty in 2017 to bribing doctors to falsify medical records for his thousands of clients and then paying a judge to approve their lifetime disability benefits. His plea agreement would have put him in prison for 12 years, but a few weeks before his sentencing Conn fled the country, leading federal agents on a six-month chase that ended when he was caught outside a Pizza Hut in Honduras. He was sentenced to an additional 15 years for his escape.

Before his downfall, Conn would pay doctors $400 to evaluate clients and then file small-claims lawsuits to recoup the cost, according to the lawsuit.

Pike Circuit Judge Eddy Coleman ruled this week that Conn wasn’t eligible to practice Social Security disability law during the time he was suing clients. Coleman said there were still hundreds of Conn’s small-claims actions on the Pike District Court docket. He ordered the court clerk to purge them all. ...

May 1, 2021

Does This Come As A Surprise?

      Look nearly all the way down to the next to the bottom circle on this graph, if that's the right term for it. You'll have to click on the image to see it full size and even then you may have to put your face up to your computer screen. What was the second most likely group to donate to Donald Trump -- the disabled. You'd think Republicans would care more about this group.