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 ‘SSDI’
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…)
Continuing Disability Reviews (CDRs) have been a major pressure point for the Social Security Administration (SSA) over the past few years. The purpose of these periodic reviews is to allow the SSA to evaluate a Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) recipient’s continued entitlement to benefits. According to SSA’s estimates, every $1 spend on CDRs results in an estimated $9 return on investment by ensuring that only those who are truly disabled continue to benefit from the program.
Last week, Republican Senator Charles E. Grassley, Ranking Member of the Committee on the Judiciary, authored a letter to SSA’s Acting Commissioner, Carolyn W. Colvin, inquiring into SSA’s plans to increase the number of CDRs to support maintenance of program integrity and reduction of improper payments.
In the letter, which can be read in its entirety on Senator Grassley’s website, the Senator from Iowa addresses head on the fact that SSA included in its 2014 budget request (see page 63 of SSA’s 2014 Budget Overview) a legislative proposal to bolster SSA’s integrity initiatives through the creation of a Program Integrity Administrative Expenses (PIAE) account. According to SSA’s budget overview, the proposed legislation “would provide a dependable source of mandatory funding to significantly ramp up our program integrity work, which ensures that only those eligible for benefits continue to receive them.” (more…)
According to a communication issued this afternoon by the National Organization of Social Security Claimants’ Representatives , Social Security Disability claimants and their advocates will once again have access to the name of the Administrative Law Judge assigned to each hearing beginning on April 20, 2013. This development reverses a recent switch that occurred in mid-2012.
According to the NOSSCR communication, the change was brought about by strong Congressional interest in part thanks to NOSSCR members bringing the issue to the attention of the Congressional delegation. Additionally, Social Security has been flooded with thousands of requests for ALJ names under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and due to the fact that all of these requests had to be processed and responded to, this created yet another backlog to be dealt with, drawing resources from more important tasks.
The change reinstitutes the old process where the agency discloses the name of the ALJ assigned to a hearing when it sends the Notice of Hearing to the claimant and the claimant’s representative. This allows the representative to better prepare for the hearing based on the ALJ’s unique needs and preferences and also helps to better prepare the claimant for the hearing in terms of what to expect.
In addition to disclosing the name of the ALJ on the Notice of Hearing, SSA will also add the ALJ’s name to the Appointed Representative Services online application, allowing claimant’s representatives, such as The Advocator Group, to easily access this information online.
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…)
A proposed settlement in the class action lawsuit against the Social Security Administration alleging “general bias” against SSDI claimants in the Queens ODAR has been preliminarily approved by the U.S. District Court. After swiftly denying a motion to intervene that threatened to delay relief to affected individuals, the Court filed its preliminary approval last week on February 8, 2013.
According to the proposed order filed by the Court, the settlement will now go to a Fairness Hearing, “to determine whether the Settlement is fair, reasonable and adequate and in the best interest of the Class…” At this point, there is no indication as to when the Fairness Hearing will take place.
Final approval of the settlement will bring resolution to a lawsuit filed almost two years ago and will provide an opportunity for some SSDI claimants to present their cases for disability benefits in new hearings with different judges. (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.
While getting approved for Social Security Disability benefits requires proving that you cannot engage in Substantial Gainful Activity, Social Security’s Ticket to Work program is available to offer support to those who have been approved for SSDI benefits in their efforts to enter, re-enter, and/or maintain employment. Under this program, beneficiaries can get the help they need to safely explore work options without immediately losing benefits.
Unfortunately, most SSDI recipients are relatively uninformed about the Ticket to Work program and how it works, leading to potential missed opportunities for disabled individuals who return to the workforce. To increase awareness, the agency holds online Work Incentive Seminar Events (WISE), where interested SSDI recipients can learn about the Ticket to Work program and other available work incentives. As indicated on the website, WISE webinars are hosted on the fourth Wednesday of each month. You can also register on the website.
Past webinars are archived so you can listen to them at your convenience.
After a Congressional bill becomes a law, Federal agencies like Social Security are responsible for putting those laws into action through implementation of Federal regulations. Typically, this occurs through a process where the agency publishes a proposed regulation and gives the public an opportunity to comment on the proposed regulations prior to adopting it as a Final Rule.
In the September 21, 2012 Federal Register, Social Security gave notice of a new regulation for evaluating whether work performed by self-employed persons who are blind is substantial gainful activity (SGA) under the SSDI program. Additionally, the ruling clarifies that Social Security does not count certain types of earnings when the agency determines whether blind persons are engaging in SGA.
Full text of the proposed regulation can be found here.