In October of 2010, the Social Security Administration (SSA) changed their internal process to allow disability examiners that make determinations on claims for Social Security Disability benefits to make expedited decisions for claimants diagnosed with medical conditions that are considered so severe, they clearly meet SSA’s disability standards. Normally, disability determinations must be made in conjunction with a medical or psychological consultation. SSA amended their rules in 2010 to allow disability examiners at Disability Determination Services (DDS) to make decisions on the most severe claims without the medical or psychological consultation. This rule change was set to expire on November 12, 2013, but SSA took action to extend the expedited processing until November 14, 2014. (more…)
Posts Tagged ‘Social Security’
On Sunday, October 6th, 2013, 60 Minutes, the popular magazine format news broadcast, aired a segment entitled “Disability, USA” in which correspondent Steve Kroft issued a perspective on the growth in the size of the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program. The report characterized that the program will be “the first government benefits program to run out of money.” The segment was posed as an investigation into the recent surge in eligible beneficiaries, an increase of 20% in the last six years, and whether the SSDI program was “a secret welfare system, with its own disability industrial complex, a system ravaged by waste and fraud.” The segment was quickly denounced as factually inaccurate, agenda driven, and one sided by disability organizations and news outlets. (more…)
Congress failed to pass a budget or agree to continuing terms to fund the government before the beginning of their 2014 fiscal year which began on Tuesday October 1st, 2014. This resulted in a partial government shutdown because there was no plan in place on how to allocate funding to the various agencies and departments of the Federal Government, including the Social Security Administration (SSA). However, because of the importance of Social Security to the public, payment of benefits will not be impacted by the shutdown. Likewise, the processing of claims for benefits will also continue in most instances. (more…)
Every year around this time, the Social Security Board of Trustees issues a report, hundreds of pages long, detailing the current state of the Social Security Retirement and Disability trust funds. Typically the following week, we see a slew of media reports expressing concern and anxiety over the future solvency of the programs.
Last Friday, the 73rd annual report was released to the public and as usual, it has brought with it an onslaught of stories about how the trust funds are running out of money and will go broke within a few years. Interestingly, however, this year’s report was pretty much the same as last year’s, indicating that in the absence of legislative action, the disability insurance trust fund would be insufficient to pay full benefits as of 2016. Also similar to last year’s report, though, the trustees point out that “[i]n the absence of a long-term solution, lawmakers could choose to reallocate a portion of the payroll tax rate between OASI and DI, as they did in 1994.”
The trustees make it clear that in order for the trust funds to remain solvent over the long term, major change is needed. Either revenues to the program must be significantly increased, scheduled benefit payments must be significantly reduced, or some balanced combination of the two approaches must be adopted.
All of that said, the last sentence of the Trustees’ Conclusion sums it up best: “With informed discussion, creative thinking, and timely legislative action, Social Security can continue to protect future generations.”
March has been a month of intense scrutiny and analysis of the Social Security Disability program. Continuing that theme, another Congressional hearing was held last week to “examine policies that have expanded the role of subjective evaluations in determining whether applicants qualify for benefits and how these policies may result in unexplained variations in decision-making, weakening public confidence in the consistency and fairness of this national program. (more…)
As you are likely aware if you have found your way to our blog, The Advocator Group is a Social Security and Medicare advocacy organization. Our core mission is to help preserve or improve the financial well being of our clients by helping them obtain Social Security Disability Insurance benefits as quickly as possible. Ultimately, this allows our clients to refocus their time and energy on getting better, rather than on the complex and frustrating SSDI application and appeals process.
While we typically demonstrate our advocacy by providing professional representation in the rigorous process associated with obtaining SSDI benefits, we wanted to take a moment to advocate for our clients, and all severely disabled workers, in a different, but equally important way.
This week, NPR’s Planet Money published a story entitled “Unfit for Work – The startling rise of disability in America.” Since it was released, the story has created quite a buzz on the web and within the disability industry. While the story sheds light on important issues related to the growth of the SSDI program and the individuals who rely on its benefits, it also ignores important details about how the program works and relies on over-generalizations about its beneficiaries to reach its ultimate conclusion. As a result, a typical reader with little knowledge of the Social Security Disability program could easily walk away with an inaccurate view of the program and an undeservingly negative perception of the hard working Americans who rely on it for monthly income and financial security.
The SSDI program is an “insurance” program, not a “welfare” program. It is an insurance program that we each pay taxes into throughout our working lives in order to ensure that if we become disabled and unable to work, we will have access to a vital safety net that will provide us with a minimal amount of financial security. And the financial benefits really are minimal for the majority of beneficiaries – on average, an individual’s monthly SSDI benefit is only equal to about half of what they were earning while gainfully employed. (more…)
In a March 14th Congressional hearing, Acting Social Security Commissioner Carolyn Colvin issued a statement on the service delivery challenges currently facing the Social Security Administration. One of several hearings postponed by a large East Coast snow storm, the hearing eventually took place about a week after its originally scheduled date.
At the hearing, Colvin painted a picture of a “can-do” agency strapped for resources and treading water, bolstering her argument in favor of additional funding by positioning the Social Security Administration as “a good investment for the American taxpayer.” Stating that the goal of the agency is to provide balanced service with the resources it receives, Colvin recognized that the current fiscal environment will inevitably lead to tough trade-offs and will likely result in “further reductions in office hours, deferred workloads, and other cost-saving activities that will sadly delay services to our applicants and beneficiaries.” (more…)
From increasing backlogs to new hearing scheduling processes to anticipating the impact of the presidential election, 2012 brought its fair share of challenges and uncertainties for those who deal regularly with the Social Security Administration. Additionally, heightened scrutiny on the viability of the Social Security Disability Insurance program and one-sided criticism of those who adjudicate disability claims created a tumultuous environment for everyone involved in the process, including claimants, representatives, Social Security employees, and even organizations such as employers and long-term disability carriers who refer individuals for SSDI application and assistance.
While the end of the year is often a time for reflection on the successes and challenges of the last twelve months, it is also a time to look ahead to the new year and consider the challenges that are likely to come our way. With that in mind, we hope you enjoy today’s post: 13 For ’13.
1. Reduced hours at SSA will likely result in poorer customer service and longer waiting times: After announcing plans to reduce its workforce by 9,000 back in August, the Social Security Administration announced in November that it would reduce field office hours beginning immediately. Starting in November, all 1,233 offices began closing to the public 30 minutes earlier than normal and as of January 2, 2013, the offices will close to the public at noon on Wednesdays. While the majority of Advocator clients never have to visit a Social Security field office in order to apply for and be approved for benefits, this change will impact our ability to conduct status checks and other critical business with Social Security.
It’s official. Today, Commissioner Astrue announced 35 new CAL conditions, bringing the total number of conditions included in the fast tracking initiative to 200.
“We have achieved another milestone for the Compassionate Allowances program, reaching 200 conditions,” Commissioner Astrue said. “Nearly 200,000 people with severe disabilities nationwide have been quickly approved, usually in less than two weeks, through the program since it began in October 2008.”
The complete press release, along with the list of 35 new CAL conditions (which can be viewed by clicking on the image above), can be found on Social Security’s website.
“On Thursday, December 6, 2012, Commissioner Astrue will hold an event at the Hart Senate Building, room 902, at 10:00 a.m. in Washington D.C. to commemorate the milestone of reaching 200 Compassionate Allowances conditions. These conditions involve cancers, neurological, and other rare diseases affecting adults and children. The event is open to the public, advocacy organizations, and Congressional members and staff.” -http://www.socialsecurity.gov/compassionateallowances/
Compassionate Allowances (CAL) allow Social Security to expedite claims for individuals diagnosed with diseases and other medical conditions that are so severe that they invariably qualify for benefits based on minimal objective medical information. CAL conditions are developed as a result of information received at public outreach hearings, comments received from the Social Security and Disability Determination Service communities, counsel of medical and scientific experts and research with the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
There are currently 165 diseases and medical conditions on the list of Compassionate Allowance conditions, meaning that to reach 200, Social Security will apparently be adding an additional 35 conditions to the list in the near future. Look for Social Security to continue adding conditions to the list, as the agency sees the initiative as an important tool in its efforts to reduce backlogs at both the initial level and the hearing level.
The current list of CAL conditions can be found here.