Monitor Your Earnings!

January 30, 2019

You work hard for your money. You’re saving and planning for a secure retirement. Now you need to make sure you’re going to get all the money you deserve. Regularly reviewing your Social Security earnings record can really pay off, especially when every dollar counts in retirement.

If an employer did not properly report just one year of your work earnings to us, your future benefit payments from Social Security could be close to $100 per month less than they should be. Over the course of a lifetime, that could cost you tens of thousands of dollars in retirement or other benefits to which you are entitled. Sooner is definitely better when it comes to identifying and reporting problems with your earnings record. As time passes, you may no longer have easy access to past tax documents, and some employers may no longer be in business or able to provide past payroll information.

It’s ultimately the responsibility of your employers — past and present — to provide accurate earnings information to Social Security so you get credit for the contributions you’ve made through payroll taxes. But you can inform us of any errors or omissions. You’re the only person who can look at your lifetime earnings record and verify that it’s complete and correct.

So, what’s the easiest and most efficient way to validate your earnings record?  Set up an account at http://www.ssa.gov

I personally monitor my earnings and have had to correct my earnings with the SSA.  It was easy but there are time limits to correct your earnings, so check them regularly

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This is a great article from the New York Times that outlines the reasons not to wait to sign up for Medicare Part B.  It explains the penalties for waiting to sign up, which can be extensive.

 

The Government Shutdown

January 16, 2019

From Newsweek:

 

As Congress and President Donald Trump teeter on the brink of a shutdown over border wall funding, millions of Americans worry about what a partial closure of the federal government could mean for the Social Security checks and the Medicare and Medicaid they rely on, especially during the holiday season.

The good news is that Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare payments won’t be interrupted by the partial shutdown. All three programs are considered mandatory spending and are not affected by a federal budget debate. New applicants to the programs, however, may experience delays in processing. The U.S. Postal Service will also remain funded, so checks should arrive in the mail on time.

The Social Security Administration issued a shutdown contingency plan this month, outlining how it would remain in operation as some federal workers get furloughed and other programs shut down.

“Funding for the programs under Titles II, XVI, and XVIII of the Social Security Act will continue, even in the event of a lapse in appropriations,” the plan said.

Some nonessential employees of the Social Security Administration will be furloughed, so expect longer lines than usual at local offices or longer hold times on the phone. Additionally, benefit verification and the issuing of new Social Security cards will temporarily halt.

NOSSCR has learned that proposed regulations that will give Social Security control over the type of hearing that a claimant has and eliminate the ability of claimants to opt out of video hearings in Social Security claims will be published in the Federal Register on Thursday, November 15. The preview of the proposed rule will be available tomorrow at www.federalregister.gov. We have not yet seen the exact language of the proposed regulation, but we anticipate that there will be few, if any exceptions permitted if a video hearing is scheduled. Comments will be due January 14, 2019.

SSA’s summary of the proposed regulations, as submitted to OMB states:

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, 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.

NOSSCR will be submitting comments advocating that video hearings should be optional, and will rely on examples of poor video hearing conditions that you have provided to us earlier this year. Our comments will likely focus on policy issues, including the reasons that some claimants need to have in person hearings, and the problems with several of the hearing locations (lack of privacy, rooms that are too small, poor equipment etc.) We will share NOSSCR’s comments as soon as possible and encourage all NOSSCR members to submit comments opposing the mandatory use of video hearings.

NOSSCR has also learned that the Senate Finance Committee may vote on the confirmation of Andrew Saul to be Commissioner of Social Security as early as this Thursday, November 15. A hearing on his nomination was held on October 2, 2018. The full Senate would then vote on his confirmation in order for it to be final.

The Social Security Administration and its Office of the Inspector General (OIG) today announced three new Cooperative Disability Investigations (CDI) Units recently opened across the country. As part of the nationwide CDI Program, the new units will identify, investigate, and prevent Social Security disability fraud throughout their respective states. The new CDI units opened in Albuquerque, New Mexico; Honolulu, Hawaii; and Indianapolis, Indiana.

The CDI Program is one of Social Security’s most successful anti-fraud initiatives, contributing to the integrity of Federal disability programs. CDI brings together personnel from Social Security, its OIG, State Disability Determination Services (DDS), and local law enforcement agencies to analyze and investigate suspicious or questionable Social Security disability claims, to help resolve questions of potential fraud before benefits are ever paid. CDI Unit efforts help disability examiners make informed decisions, ensure payment accuracy, and generate significant taxpayer savings, for both Federal and State programs.

“Social Security is committed to combating fraud and preserving the public’s trust in our programs,” said Nancy A. Berryhill, Acting Commissioner of Social Security. “As we open the three new CDI units, let us remember the important work they do. The CDI program plays a critical role in detecting and preventing fraud, helping to ensure benefits are paid only to the people who are eligible. This collaboration between Social Security, the OIG, and local law enforcement helps save taxpayer money and ensures the integrity of our programs.”

The CDI Program consists of 43 units covering 37 states, the District of Columbia, and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. Social Security and OIG have opened several offices in the last few years as they work together to provide CDI coverage for all 50 states by 2022, as mandated by the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015.

“CDI has a long, successful track record of identifying and preventing disability fraud and abuse,” said Acting Inspector General Gale Stallworth Stone. “We’re pleased to partner with Social Security, the DDSs, and local law enforcement agencies across the country, to combat fraud and promote the integrity of Social Security’s disability programs.”

Since 1997, when Social Security and OIG established CDI, its efforts have contributed to $3.9 billion in projected savings to Social Security’s programs, and $2.9 billion in projected savings to other Federal and State programs. For more information, please visit the OIG website and Social Security’s anti-fraud website at www.socialsecurity.gov/antifraudfacts/.

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