U.S. Social Security has its problems but it does an excellent job of protecting data security. Look to India for an example of how things can go very wrong. Somehow, the names, addresses, bank account information, and Aadhaar number (the equivalent of a U.S. Social Security number) of 1.4 million Indians were posted on a Indian government website.

 

So, at least SSA is doing something right.

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I had the pleasure of attending the North Florida MS Society’s On Move Luncheon last week.  I have long had a close relationship with the North Florida MS Society due to my personal connection with MS (several family members and many friends are currently living with MS).  I am always happy to support their efforts in the community.  The MS Society is the largest funder of private research in drugs that slow the progression of the disease and ease the symptoms.

 

The good news is that the FDA approved the first drug–Ocrevus–to treat to treat primary progressive MS (PPMS).  There are already several treatments for the common form, relapsing-remitting MS (RRMS), which affects about 85% of MS patients. But the FDA gave Ocrevus a “breakthrough therapy designation” last year because it also treats PPMS, an especially debilitating form of MS where the disease steadily worsens rather than having periods of relapse or remission. The CDC estimates about 15% of patients with MS have PPMS.

Social Security Fraud

May 17, 2017

The Social Security Subcommittee of the House Ways and Means Committee held a hearing recently on antifraud efforts at Social Security. The hearing was more notable for what didn’t happen than what happened. There was no new announcement of some fraud ring preying upon Social Security. I’m not sure how much longer Republicans will try to milk the Conn case but they don’t have a new case to talk about.

 
The agency witness talked about anti-fraud computer systems that Social Security has installed. Apparently, a fair amount of money and time has gone into this. However, the agency witness didn’t have anything to say in his written remarks about fraud that had been uncovered using these systems. Maybe it’s too early to expect results from these systems, maybe Social Security hasn’t tried hard enough to make the systems work or perhaps organized fraud at Social Security is actually quite uncommon. I suspect that the  Republican leadership of the Subcommittee would like for Social Security to uncover lots of organized fraud since that would be in keeping with their political and social beliefs, however, I believe that they are going to be disappointed. If there is anything organized, it’s probably quite small and more likely involves Social Security employees than members of the public.

With little fanfare, the Social Security Administration has raised the Social Security wage cap from $118,500 to $127,200. That’s a tax bump of 7.3% for high earners. As a result, the maximum amount of Social Security tax you can pay for the year will increase from $7,347 to $7,886.40. This is the largest one-year increase in the Social Security taxable earnings cap since 1983.

But, 6.2% is only half the story.  That 6.2% tax withheld for Social Security from your wages isn’t the only tax money that goes to the Social Security Administration. Your employer also has to pay 6.2% of your salary out of its own pocket for Social Security. If you’re self-employed, you have to pay both sides yourself, resulting in a 12.4% Social Security tax — and an even more significant tax bump in 2017. The IRS does sweeten the self-employed taxpayer’s deal somewhat by allowing them to deduct half of their self-employment taxes from their taxable income.

Contrary to common belief, the Social Security taxes from your paycheck aren’t set aside for your own benefit. The taxes that the Social Security Administration collects today pay for the benefits of current retirees. Any money that’s left over goes into the Social Security trust funds for future use.

In January 2017, retirees received a 0.3% cost-of-living increase to their Social Security benefits. That works out to around $5 extra per month for the average recipient. The maximum Social Security benefit has also gone up slightly for workers who retire at full retirement age, from $2,639 to $2,687. These increases are part of the reason for the taxable-income bump.

From a recent article in the Washington Post:

 

He hadn’t had a full-time job in a year. He was skipping meals to save money. He wore jeans torn open in the front and back. His body didn’t work like it once had. He limped in the days, and in the nights, his hands would swell and go numb, a reminder of years spent hammering nails. His right shoulder felt like it was starting to go, too.

 

An hour passed, and his cellphone rang. He picked it up, said hello and hung up — another debt collector. He rubbed his right knee. Maybe it would get better. Maybe he would still find a job.
His mother had written a number the night before and told him to call it, and he had told her he’d think about it. She wanted him to apply for disability, like she had, like his girlfriend had, and like his stepfather, whom he now saw shuffling out of the pain clinic, hunched over his walker, reaching for a hand-rolled cigarette.

 

For the full article go to:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/sf/local/2017/03/30/disabled-or-just-desperate/?utm_term=.bca6b1651814

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