Good news from the Social Social Security Administration.  There are about 1.1 million people waiting for a hearing on their disability matters, but SSA has reduced the number of pending hearings over the last six months.  SSA is attempting to streamline and automate some of the proceeds but will be hiring additional judges and support staff in the coming fiscal year.

Clinical trials can help people with certain impairments obtain new or improved medical treatment.  In addition to advancing the cause of science, participants are often provided financial compensation for their time, travel, efforts, discomfort and risk.  In many situations, SSI claimants, beneficiaries and their families can participate without any effect on their benefits.


The “Improving Access to Clinical Trials” Act amended the Social Security Act so that the first $2000 of payment per calendar year for participation in certain types of clinical trials is not counted towards income or resources for SSI recipients, spouses or deemers.  The money does not need to be kept in a separate account and can be excluded from resources if if received before an individual applies for SSI.


POMS SI 01130.735 provides general information on the exclusion and POMS SI 00830.735 explains the criteria a trial must meet for compensation to be excluded.

For people who are eligible for Medicare, each state and district maintains a State Health Insurance Program (SHIP) funder through the Department of Health and Human Services to provide advice and advocacy on Medicare issues.  A directory of SHIPs is available at


SHIPs can advise on the original Medicare program, Medicare Advantage (Part C), Medicare Prescription Drug (Part D), Medicare Supplemental (Medigap) policies and long term care insurance.  They can ask discuss the ways that Medicare interacts with and can be made more affordable by other programs, including Medicaid, the Medicare Savings Program, and the Low Income Subsidy.

Sue Brandon got a huge surprise when she checked her bank account one day. She had received a Social Security deposit of $13,098.

The massive amount is a far cry from the $4 per month increase that the Social Security Administration had told her she would be getting after her husband passed away.

“I called them and said, ‘Hey, something’s wrong because there’s no way you can owe me this $13,000,’” she said. …

Brandon said she called the Social Security office over and over again but was repeatedly old they couldn’t get to the bottom of it.

The Brandon said one of the SSA employees snapped at her: “I don’t know what to tell you anymore. Call your congressman.” …

“I’ve never had such a hard time giving back money,” she said. …

Many attorneys have the same problem when an when an attorney fee is overpaid. We issue a check refunding the money to Social Security but the agency immediately issues another check in the same amount. I recently talked with another attorney who was refunding the same fee overpayment for the fourth time!  I personally have mailed checks in only to have them reissued.  Once, I took the check directly to the Atlanta office by hand (I happened to be in in Atlanta at the time) and was still issued a replacement check.
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