The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has approved publication of proposed new Social Security regulations on Setting the Manner for the Appearance of Parties and Witnesses at a Hearing. Here is Social Security’s summary of the proposal before it was submitted:
We propose to revise and unify some of the rules that govern how, where, and when individuals appear for hearings before an administrative law judge at the hearings level and before a disability hearing officer at the reconsideration level of our administrative review process. At both levels, when we schedule a hearing, we propose that we will determine the manner in which the parties to the hearing will appear: by VTC [Video Teleconference], in person, or, under limited circumstances, by telephone. We would not permit individuals to opt out of appearing by VTC. We also propose that we would determine the manner in which witnesses to a hearing will appear.

Remember, this is a proposal. It has to be published in the Federal Register for public comment. The agency must consider the comments before submitting a final proposal to OMB for approval. This process can take well over a year. Congressional opposition could derail the proposal.

Thanksgiving Blessings

November 21, 2018

This is always a good time of year to remind yourself what you are thankful for.  As always, I am thankful for Tiffany who takes care of my clients, the office and me!  I am always thankful for the individuals who trust me to take care of their disability claims.  I am also thankful for attorneys who trust me to take care of their clients.  I am thankful for the people at the Social Security Administration who help me on a daily basis.  Lastly, I am grateful for the attorneys who practice in the disability area who have always been willing to share their knowledge, help me with new problems, and talk through tough cases.

2019 COLA Announcement

November 14, 2018

Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits for more than 67 million Americans will increase 2.8 percent in 2019, the Social Security Administration announced today.

The 2.8 percent cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) will begin with benefits payable to more than 62 million Social Security beneficiaries in January 2019. Increased payments to more than 8 million SSI beneficiaries will begin on December 31, 2018. (Note: some people receive both Social Security and SSI benefits). The Social Security Act ties the annual COLA to the increase in the Consumer Price Index as determined by the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Some other adjustments that take effect in January of each year are based on the increase in average wages. Based on that increase, the maximum amount of earnings subject to the Social Security tax (taxable maximum) will increase to $132,900 from $128,400.

Social Security and SSI beneficiaries are normally notified by mail in early December about their new benefit amount. This year, for the first time, most people who receive Social Security payments will be able to view their COLA notice online through their mySocial Security account. People may create or access their my Social Security account online at

Information about Medicare changes for 2019, when announced, will be available at For Social Security beneficiaries receiving Medicare, Social Security will not be able to compute their new benefit amount until after the Medicare premium amounts for 2019 are announced. Final 2019 benefit amounts will be communicated to beneficiaries in December through the mailed COLA notice and mySocial Security Message Center.

The Social Security Act provides for how the COLA is calculated. To read more, please visit

Politicians love to talk about the shortfall.  The shortfall is the difference between the amount of taxes being paid in towards the Social Security system and the amount being paid to beneficiaries.  When Social Security was signed into law, President Roosevelt intended the program to be self-sufficient with a dedicated revenue source (primarily payroll taxes).

The simple way to close the shortfall is to either increase taxes or reduce benefits that are being paid out.  The most recent overhaul was in 1983 when the age for collecting full retirement benefits gradually rose to 66 and 67.  This move is still being phased in.

Republicans tend to want to reduce benefits or slow their growth.  Democrats tend to favor raising revenue through increased taxes.

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