In December, Congress passed, and the President signed into law, the ALS Disability Insurance Act of 2019. This legislation ends the five-month waiting period for disability insurance benefits (DIB) for anyone with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also called Lou Gehrig’s disease, who applies for DIB on or after December 23, 2020. Previous legislation had already ended the 24-month waiting period for Medicare for beneficiaries diagnosed with ALS.

On January 21st, the Social Security Administration published Emergency Message EM-21003 announcing these changes and instructing the adjudicator to flag cases where ALS is alleged. SSA is expected to publish additional emergency messages with further instructions on how to process these compassionate allowance cases.

Stimulus Checks

February 23, 2021

Great article on how SSDI/SSI recipients may qualify for additional benefits.

https://www.cnet.com/personal-finance/stimulus-checks-ssi-ssdi-would-you-qualify-for-a-third-payment-everything-else-to-know/

Last month, federal officials announced sweeping plans to overhaul medical records privacy regulations, proposing language to codify a streamlined path for attorneys to receive their clients’ crucial healthcare documents.  

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services published the proposals December 10, which affect a broad array of patient privacy rules under HIPAA and related legislation.

Key to those proposals is language shortening deadlines for a healthcare provider to deliver a patient’s electronic medical records, while requiring providers deliver such records fee-free to patients who have requested them through an electronic healthcare application.

Under the new language, healthcare providers will have 15 days to respond to a patient’s electronic records request, half the 30-day time limit under current rules. 

And importantly, providers will be required to deliver those documents free of charge.

The proposed language is a major win for both patients and the lawyers who represent them, said an attorney for one of the nation’s leading patient-based records services. 

“This is monumental,” Melanie Carpenter, Special Counsel for ChartSquad, told CVN. “People are literally dying waiting for their medical records.”

This would greatly assist Social Security claimants in terms of providing records at no charge and within a short time frame. Often hearings are postponed and decisions are delayed while attorneys and the hearing office itself attempts to obtain additional records needed for the full and fair determination on a claim. In my experience, I have had to send records requests over five times over a period of months and still ended up with no medical records. These changes would be a boon for people applying for Social Security Disability benefits.

2021 Super Lawyers Announced

February 10, 2021

I am humbled once again to have been named a 2021 Super Lawyer by Florida Trend Magazine. This is an honor reserved for only 5% of the attorneys in the State of Florida.

Updates on Video Hearings

February 3, 2021

In December 2020, SSA will begin sending out notices offering both telephone and video hearings to all claimants. Claimants who previously refused telephone hearings will have the option to request an online video hearing. Telephone and video hearings are the only options for the foreseeable future. From March to September, OHO conducted over 200,000 telephone hearings. While in-person hearings are preferable, NOSSCR members have mixed reports about the telephone hearings, with some praising the convenience and experiencing few technical issues, and others finding poor connections and multiple distractions cause problematic hearings.

In preparation for the online video hearing rollout, OHO leadership has conducted “intensive internal training” and has held several mock and actual hearings across the country. They feel confident that Microsoft Teams and the secure SSA network will be a safe and secure option for the online video hearings. Initially, ALJs from the National Hearing Center will conduct the majority of the video hearings, but eventually local ALJs will be trained for these hearings. On a recent call with Region 6 leadership, RCALJ Sherry Thompson could not confirm that the ALJ from your local hearing office will necessarily be holding a hearing for your client. Even when all ALJs are holding video hearings, your client may be assigned to an ALJ from a differentoffice.

Representatives and claimants can access the hearing via a link sent by email, so the claimant must have access to an email address. The claimant must also have access to a device with a camera. During the hearing the ALJ will be in a private room with an SSA-provided background and will be using SSA computers. Claimants and representatives may choose to be together or at separate locations. Vocational and medical experts will continue to appear by phone. The official recording will be only audio.

Although both telephone and video hearings remain optional, and are not suitable for some, they are the only types of hearings being scheduled. SSA does not know when in person hearings will resume.

SSI and the Pandemic

January 27, 2021

A recently published op ed in the New York Times discusses how SSA has failed citizens in need of SSI. It’s a good piece.

Social Security Administration now allows a prospective beneficiary to designate in advance his or her preference for representative payee. The designation can be made on Form SSA-4547

While the designation is not binding on SSA, it can help identify who might be an appropriate representative payee, particularly in cases where the beneficiary may be incapable at a future date of indicating a preference or where the statutory order of priority should not be applied for a particular beneficiary. SSA will consider the designee as the first lead who will be considered before others in the standard order of preference.

Top Baby Names of 2021

January 13, 2021

Liam was the most popular boy’s name in the country for the third year in a row, while Emma— which has been the top girls’ name since 2014— was displaced by Olivia. SSA’s Office of the Chief Actuary announces this information, which SSA gathers when it assigns Social Security numbers to new babies.

The top five names given to baby girls in 2019 were Olivia, Emma, Ava, Sophia, and Isabella. These names, in various orders, have been the most popular since 2010. For boys, Liam, Noah, Oliver, William, and Elijah were the top five names in 2019. Elijah is a new addition to the top five, edging out James, which fell to number six.

The actuary’s office also tracks which names are increasing and decreasing in popularity. For boys, Sekani showed the biggest increase (but was still only number 872 on the list). Amoura was the fastest-riser among girls’ names, with Amora, Alora, Alaya, Alaiya, Alaia, and Ainhoa also in the top 20 girls’ names with the biggest increases since 2018. The girls’ and boys’ names that declined the most in popularity from 2018 to 2019 were Emmarie and Jaxtyn, respectively.

Check the popularity of baby names since 1900, view popular baby names by state, and much more at http://www.ssa.gov/oact/babynames/.

A recent press release from SSA reads as follows:

The Social Security Administration has begun the initial rollout of its new electronic Consent Based Social Security Number (SSN) Verification (eCBSV) service. The agency is rolling out the service to selected participants through 2020, and plans on expanding the number of users in 2021.

“Our new electronic SSN verification service helps reduce synthetic identity fraud by comparing agency records with data provided electronically by approved participants,” said Andrew Saul, Commissioner of Social Security. “This is an important online service that helps us provide participants and their customers fast, secure, and more efficient SSN verifications.”

Social Security created eCBSV, a fee-based electronic SSN verification service, to allow select financial institutions and service providers, called “permitted entities” and including subsidiaries, affiliates, agents, subcontractors, or assignees of a financial institution, to verify if a person’s SSN, name, and date of birth combination matches Social Security records. Social Security needs the person’s written consent and will accept an electronic signature in order to disclose the SSN verification to the permitted entity. eCBSV returns a match verification of “Yes” or “No.” eCBSV does not verify a person’s identity.

Social Security is committed to rolling out eCBSV to all selected permitted entities. The participants approved for the initial rollout are:

Capital One Services, LLC
Computer Information Development, LLC
Discover Financial Services
Early Warning Services, LLC
Experian Information Solutions, Inc.
ID Analytics, LLC
SentiLink Corp.
Synchrony Financial
Zions Bancorporation

Each of the service providers selected can serve up to 20 permitted entities, and with the financial institutions, there is the potential of 124 permitted entities participating in the initial rollout.

This announcement does not affect the existing Consent Based SSN Verification service.

For more information, see www.socialsecurity.gov/dataexchange/eCBSV/.

Continuing Disability Reviews

December 30, 2020

SSA is encouraging people to file SSA Form 455 online. Read a recently released memo from SSA:

We are making it easier for people who receive Social Security disability benefits or Supplemental Security Income payments to submit their Disability Update Report – SSA Form 455 online. This form is completed periodically by some beneficiaries for their Continuing Disability Review (CDR). The law requires us to complete a CDR to determine if a beneficiary still has a disabling condition.

In addition to completing the form online, beneficiaries can still submit it by mail or over the phone with a representative by calling our customer service number at 1-800-772-1213.

The notices sent to beneficiaries this month explain that the online option is coming soon. Future mailed notices will provide information about the option to submit the form online.

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