SEVERE News Archives

January 20, 2004

NCSA to mine Social Security data

ILLINOIS: Project will create a computer model aimed at helping disabled people return to the work force. The National Center for Supercomputing Applications will spend a year analyzing Social Security Administration data to create a computer model aimed at helping disabled people return to the work force.  NWITimes.com

January 7, 2004

Woman sentenced in case of disability-insurance fraud.
Woman was sentenced Monday in U.S. District Court on a felony charge of defrauding the Social Security Disability Insurance Program of close to $50,000. Portsmouth Herald

 December 8, 2003

MEDICARE LEGISLATION BECOMES LAW

On December 8, 2003, President George W. Bush signed into law the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement and Modernization Act of 2003. This landmark legislation provides seniors and people living with disabilities with a prescription drug benefit, more choices and better benefits under Medicare. Anyone interested in getting more information can call 1-800-Medicare or visit the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services website at http://www.cms.hhs.gov/medicarereform/

October, 2003

SOCIAL SECURITY ANNOUNCES 2.1 PERCENT BENEFIT INCREASE FOR 2004

Monthly Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits for more than 51 million Americans will increase 2.1 percent in 2004. The Cost-of- Living Adjustment will begin in January 2004, for people who get Social Security benefits and on December 31, 2003, for people who receive SSI benefits.

To learn more about the new Cost-of-Living Adjustment, see the News Release.

Wednesday, June 12, 2002

Proposed changes to rules involving Residual Functional Capacity assessments and use of vocational experts at Step 4

Social Security has proposed changes—the notice calls them "clarifications"—of several important rules. The changes appear to limit the Administration's burden at Step 5 and to increase the role of the vocational expert at Step 4, where many argue the VE should play no role at all. Comments can be sent to regulations@ssa.gov
Visit our discussion board to talk about this and other SSA related topics.

Thursday, May 30, 2002

Gisbrecht Decision Good News

The Supreme Court addressed the issue of what the appropriate starting point is for judicial determinations of a reasonable fee for representation before the court. They held that Courts should approach fee determinations by looking first to the contingent-fee agreement, then testing it for reasonableness rather than using a lodestar calculation (hours reasonably spent on the case times reasonable hourly rate). Read more about the decision here.
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Thursday, May 02, 2002

Backlog Delays Social Security

Social Security officials say disabled Americans who apply for benefits often must wait two to three years to start receiving them because of a backlog of applications.
Visit our discussion board to talk about this and other SSA related topics.

Access to Information Held by Financial Institutions

SSA proposes new rules to implement a law that will increase access to bank account information of Supplemental Security Income (SSI) applicants and beneficiaries and other individuals whose income and resources SSA considers as being available to the applicant or beneficiary.
Visit our discussion board to talk about this and other SSA related topics.

Monday, April 15, 2002

Tuesday, March 05, 2002

Saturday, March 02, 2002

LEWIS v. BARNHART (03/01/02 - No. 99-35922) (9th Cir.)


In a Social Security disability action, the required focus of a judicial review of the district court's remand of a Commissioner's finding of the lack of disability, is whether the Commissioner was substantially justified in the determination, rather than the accuracy of the ultimate disability determination.
Read the full text of this opinion

BARNETT v. OKEECHOBEE HOSPITAL (02/25/02 - No. 00-13222) (11th Cir.)


Because plaintiff presented an uncontradicted claim that he mailed a completed form to the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) in a properly addressed and postage-paid envelope, it is presumed to have been received by the VA, and thus he meets the jurisdictional requirements contained within 28 U.S.C. section 2675 and 28 C.F.R. section 14.2 for bringing an action under the FTCA.
Read the full text of this opinion
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Massanari Acting Commissioner

President Bush designated Larry G. Massanari as Acting Commissioner of Social Security, effective March 29, 2001. Time to revise all your federal court pleading forms.
Visit our discussion board to talk about this and other SSA related topics.

Apfel Speech Expresses Frustration

At a recent speech to the National Academy of Public Administration Annual Conference in Washington DC. outgoing Commissioner Apfel expressed his frustration in attempting to improve the service SSA provides. He stated that "SSA is an agency under stress" and that "our frontline workforce increasingly struggles to perform at those high levels and is increasingly burdened by constrained resource levels." He went on to state "It's not exactly rocket science to figure out that a strained workforce makes mistakes and is forced to cut corners even though they know they should not. And citizens who experience service mistakes are going to worry more about whether the Agency is competently managed, and what that might mean about the programs more generally, and their own future security."
Visit our discussion board to talk about this and other SSA related topics.

Apfel to Step Down as SSA Commissioner

Kenneth S. Apfel, Commissioner of Social Security, announced that at the end of his term in January, 2001, he will leave his cabinet level position to join the faculty of the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin.
Visit our discussion board to talk about this and other SSA related topics.

Clinton Proposes SGA Increase and other Changes

President Clinton announced three proposals to help disability benefits recipients who are working or wish to enter the workforce. The first is to automatically adjust the SGA level based on any annual increases in the national average wage index. The second proposal affects the trial work period, allowing beneficiaries to earn more per month. And the third proposal allows students receiving Supplemental Security Income to exclude more income. SSA has posted a press release with more information about these proposed changes.
Visit our discussion board to talk about this and other SSA related topics.

Salamalekis Case in 6th Circuit Grants Benefits Without 12 Month Wait

"According to the plain language of the Act, an individual may take advantage of a trial work period once he becomes "entitled to" disability insurance benefits. 42 U.S.C. § 423(a). Section 423(a)(1) establishes five prerequisites for entitlement to benefits, and Salamalekis satisfied all of them when he returned to his job at Ford. He was insured for disability insurance benefits; he was below retirement age; he filed an application for benefits; the five-month waiting period had expired; and he was under a disability. We reject the SSA's position that Salamalekis was not under a disability given his return to work within 12 months of the onset of his impairment." Click here to read the Salamalekis Case or Visit our discussion board to talk about this and other SSA related topics.

Change in Family Maximum Computation

SSA amended 20 CFR 404.403 by adding a new paragraph - (a)(5) - stating that, in cases involving benefits subject to reduction for both the family maximum and dual entitlement, SSA will consider only the amount of monthly dependent's or survivor's benefits actually due or payable to the dually-entitled person when determines how much to reduce total monthly benefits because of the family maximum. These changes are effective for benefits payable for months after September 1999. Visit our discussion board to talk about this and other SSA related topics.

No Issue Waiver at Appeals Council. Sims v. Apfel

The Supreme Court ruled in Sims v. Apfel that Social Security claimants need not exhaust issues in a request for review by the Appeals Council in order to preserve judicial review of those issues. Administrative issue-exhaustion requirements are largely creatures of statute and no statute requires such exhaustion here. It is also common for an agency’s regulations to require issue exhaustion in administrative appeals, but Social Security Administration (SSA) regulations do not. The Court has required issue exhaustion even in the absence of a statute or regulation, but the reason for doing so does not apply here. The Court held that the desirability of a judicially imposed issue-exhaustion requirement depends on the degree to which the analogy to normal adversarial litigation applies in a particular administrative proceeding and where that proceeding is not adversarial, the reasons for a court to require issue exhaustion are much weaker than where the parties are expected to develop the issues themselves.
Visit our discussion board to talk about this and other SSA related topics.

Disability Research Institute

The Midwest has just been awarded a substantial grant to help Social Security base future decisions on actual facts. Chrisann Schiro-Geist has been named Executive Project Director of the Disability Research Institute to be based at the University of Illinois (Champaign) in association with the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, the University of Chicago, and Rutgers University. The DRI started June 1, 2000 under a five year grant with possible renewal for another five years.

Maybe some things will happen: Like determining the actual impact of age, education and prior work experiences on the ability to do a job; like establishing job descriptions (DOT or O-Net) that reflect reality and not 1948; like making a presumptive List[ings] of illnesses that are disabling based on modern day medicine and medical judgment; like providing a uniform acceptable basis for vocational assessments by State Agencies; like establishing uniform standards for Quality Assurance Review of all components of SSA; like providing actual rehabilitation guidelines for deciding who is no longer disabled; like learning what other countries are doing to get people back to work.
- DRB
Visit our discussion board to talk about this and other SSA related topics.

No Criminal Background Checks of Rep Payees

The 7th Circuit ruled in Cannon v. Apfel that "Nothing in the statutory language explicitly requires the SSA to conduct criminal background checks of those who apply to be appointed as representative payees. Moreover, the statute commits to the SSA's discretion what constitutes 'adequate evidence,' defining 'adequate evidence' as that evidence 'determined by the Commissioner of Social Security in regulations.' 42 U.S.C. sec. 1383(a)(2)(B)(i)(II)." The case involved a Representative Payee that spent over $22,000 that was intended for his disabled niece on himself, purchasing a Cadillac, electronic equipment, and furniture. The 7th Circuit upheld the lower court's ruling that SSA exercised reasonable care and was not negligent in appointing the representative payee, despite his having been convicted of three felonies; overdrawing unemployment benefits, stealing an automobile, and receiving stolen property.
Visit our discussion board to talk about this and other SSA related topics.

User Fee Under Attack
The National Organization of Social Security Claimants’ Representatives is seeking to "cap" the User Fee at $25, and there has been talk of a lawsuit against SSA regarding this 6.3% tax on disability attorneys. Nosscr blames the User Fee for the recent decline in membership. It was also announced at the May Nosscr conference that Nosscr would be seeking to have the $4000 cap on attorney fees adjusted to $5000, which would represent the cost of living adjustment from when the $4000 cap was set.
Visit our discussion board to talk about this and other SSA related topics.

New Medical Opinion Rules
The SSA revised "the Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) regulations concerning the evaluation of medical opinions to clarify how administrative law judges and the Appeals Council are to consider opinion evidence from State agency medical and psychological consultants, other program physicians and psychologists, and medical experts". The new rules are contained in the Federal Register (Volume 65, Number 45) and became final March 7th, 2000.
Visit our discussion board to talk about this and other SSA related topics.

User Fee is (Painful) Reality
The House of Representatives voted 418-2 in favor of the Work Incentives Improvement Act which regrettably includes among its provisions the dreaded 6.3% user fee, a tax on attorneys who help disabled people challenge denial of benefits. This decision can only harm disabled people as the number of available qualified disability attorneys diminishes, a result that perhaps was foreseen and desired.
Visit our discussion board to talk about this and other SSA related topics.

ALJs Vote to Form Union!
In a shocking landslide vote, ALJs voted 799 to 101 in favor of forming a union. If you haven't read our recent rant on this topic yet, Read It.
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Obesity Listing Eliminated
Effective October 25th, 1999, SSA is deleting listing 9.09, "Obesity," from appendix 1, subpart P of part 404, the "Listing of Impairments" (the listings). SSA states, "Although many individuals with obesity are appropriately found "disabled" within the meaning of the Social Security Act (the Act), we have determined that the criteria in listing 9.09 were not appropriate indicators of listing-level severity because they did not represent a degree of functional limitation that would prevent an individual from engaging in any gainful activity."
Visit our discussion board to talk about this and other SSA related topics.

Ruling Clarifies Evaluation and Adjudication of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Disability Claims
As of April 30th, 1999, SSR 99-2p helps claimants and their representatives to show a disability based on Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS). Visit our discussion board to talk about this and other SSA related topics.

SGA Raised from 500 to $700/month
SSA revised the rules for determining when earnings demonstrate the ability to engage in substantial gainful activity (SGA). Visit our discussion board to talk about this and other SSA related topics.

Workers' Compensation Offset Proposal Dead
Claimants and their representatives can breath a collective sigh of relief. On February 11th, 1999, the Social Security Administration announced it was withdrawing the controversial proposed regulation to prohibit the allocation of lump-sum settlements over the workers' life expectancy. Thanks to all who took the time to send comments to the SSA and helped sink this bad proposal. Visit our discussion board to talk about this and other SSA related topics.

Clinton Proposes Disabled Workers Keep Medicare/Medicaid
The New York Times reported that President Clinton will propose expanding Medicaid and Medicare in his upcoming budget so that people with disabilities can retain health benefits when they return to work.

Appeals and Denials for 1997
SSA has released the numbers for appeals at each level of the disability determination process. Click here for a chart with all the information.

Supreme Court Allows Immediate Appeal
The Supreme Court has ruled that Social Security disability benefits claimants can seek immediate federal appeals court review when a federal district court judge sends their case back to the administrative level.

MORE CDRs
Commissioner Kenneth Apfel told the House Subcommittee on Social Security and Human Resources that there were 500,000 Continuing Disability Reviews (CDRs) in 1996, 690,000 in 1997, and he projected 1.2 million for 1998.

LAWYERS TO PAY "USER FEE"
As part of the proposed year 2000 budget, attorneys will be charged for processing a fee petition with what's being called a "user fee." Under a March 11, 1998 draft bill the Commissioner would be authorized to assess a fee to a "person who renders services for compensation in connection with a claim to entitlement to [Social Security] benefits" when a representative's fee is approved under 42 U.S.C. §406. The fee would be $165 when there is direct payment of the attorney's fee or $40 in any other case, like a fee approval.

"TOP-TO-BOTTOM" REVIEW OF CHILD SSI DENIALS ANNOUNCED BY COMMISSIONER APFEL. Apfel announced an automatic review of 45,000 kids SSI cases that may have been denied improperly under overly strict rules. Apfel stated, "I believe these families deserve a second chance" and wrote in his report "I am deeply concerned that children could be disadvantaged as a result of deficiencies in the manner in which decisions are made." 135,000 have already been cut from SSI, only half of which have appealed. Of the 75,000 who have not appealed, 45,000 will automatically be reconsidered.
Click Here For More Information.

 


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