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October's Monthly Rant

by David R. Bryant


A History Lesson

Cessations of SSI benefits for children has become a hot issue in the papers and within Bar Association circles. For those who have practised Social Security disability law, the process isn't new.

Back in the mid 50s, when the Disability provisions were added to the Act, nobody thought of mandating a review of people after disability payments started. By the late 60s and early 70s, the House & Senate Committees concerned with these issues (Finance & Ways & Means), started to ask questions of SSA Management, such as "Does a review program exist? If so, what is it? If not, why not?" The answers didn't satisfy Senator Long of Louisiana, in particular. As Chair of the Finance Comm., he rammed through a Law that mandated a review of all people on Disability once every three years (1979). President Carter signed the Law and then President Reagen implemented it with a vengence during the early 80s. The resultant horror stories, calls to Congressmen, waves of District Court lawsuits, adverse press, all contributed to the 1984 Reform Act.

Amidst downsizing (RIFFED), management disasters (i.e. Texas DDS Computers), continued press & Congressional criticism, the Social Security management took on a bunker mentality during the mid & late 80s. When the CDRs were discussed before the public, it was a go slow process limited by "not enough money" or "resources are allocated to more pressing needs". In fact, SSA has a good memory and didn't want to get burnt fingers again.

The switch of control of the White House and Congress from one party to the other established a new set of problems. The abuses within the several disability programs (illegal & legal aliens, SSI child benefits, lack of SSA effort at reviewing those "on the rolls") caused the House Ways & Means Subcomm on Social Security to add line item dollars for Cessations. When this money was not used as intended, but in fact switched to accounts that tried to reduce a backlog of applications for new (disability) benefits, people (Shaw & Bunning) were pissed. This is the Congress that the new Czar of SSA, Mr.Apfel, will face. He has enormous new power to crack heads together. Will he affirm all the actions taken by interim Commissioner Callaghan? A good test will lie in the actions taken on the proposed new rules affecting the offset between Workers Compensation and Disability benefits. Watch what SSA does, not what they say. This is the Agency that didn't believe Marbury v. Madison applied to them. This is the Agency that is ambiguous about whether the APA applies to their own Agency procedures. This is the Agency that drags its feet on giving out District Office phone numbers in spite of mandated law to the contrary. Who is the enemy? Pogo or Dilbert? The lesson in history is simple. No one person or party is to blame for the problems. The real fault lies with us - whether AARP, or contractors for computers, or stupid staff, or scared to be unelected Congressmen, or attorneys, or claimants. SSA Management must take the lead in proposing realistic common sense changes to the programs, including disability cessations. Both Congress and the White House must support such changes. Too bad Greenspan is busy with other problems. What do you think?


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September's Monthly Rant

by David R. Bryant


  • Is it my imagination or is the quality of service rendered by District Office staff to the public is going downhill faster than the Re-Engineering Project that promised World Class Service? Other than some old time District Office CRs, the newer staff is ill informed, ill mannered, and more concerned about pay and benefits than doing the job. When was the last time an incompetent Social Security employee was fired? Who has the guts to do it? Certainly not the present management.
  • Speaking ill of management isn't new. The Washington/Baltimore axis of indecision has spawned a paper barrage of "gonna do" so many things that nothing gets done - except consultants get hired. The initiatives for reengineering have fallen behind; the Recon of Recon hasn't been evaluated in terms of efficiency and timelines; the DOT revision (O-Net) hasn't been published in final format; the ALJs are openly hostile to Attorney Advisors; the Commissioner cannot decide if the APA applies to disability Hearings; the backlog of disability claims (both new and cessation) is increasing, not decreasing as promised. When will these clowns get their act together?
  • Do you have clients still in jail who have their checks mailed to (directly deposited to) Mom's checking account. When is the last time Region V entered into an Agreement with Cook County Jail to cross-check incarcerated individuals on SSI/DIB? Joliet, Pontiac, Vienna (et al State correctional facilities)?

    However, I must congratulate whoever runs the Web site for SSA; they are doing a great job. I expect they will be hired away to help industry get past the year 2000.

  • Vocational Expert is an oxymoron that rivals "The Male Intellect". Some are excellent: well qualified; experienced in real life job placement; and impartial witnesses. Others are hired guns that couldn't find themselves a decent job if they used their own advice. They smell the wind during a Hearing and bend before a blow hard ALJ just to make sure they get called back again.
  • How can a Wisconsin based academic testify to Chicago area jobs? Not everybody can perform the complex job of Gate Guard; or can they? Does anyone really challenge the credentials of some of these experts?

Enough of stirring the pot. God knows that attorneys are as wide open to criticism as others. But we'll save that for another time. Let me hear from you. Feel free to respond with some thoughts along these lines by E-mail to drbryant@ais.net

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