Scam Calls from SSA

July 24, 2019

SSA has recently posted information about Scam Calls from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC):  Read on:

 

You know those robocalls from scammers that you keep getting on your phones? We get them at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), too.

Scammers use a technique known as spoofing to mask their caller ID on your phone and disguise their identities to steal valuable personal information, including your bank account passwords and Social Security number. In one recent case, the toll-free number of the FCC’s Consumer Center was used to disguise the actual incoming call number.

We’ve alerted the public to the problem and have taken measures to prevent this from happening again. We’re aware that the same thing happens with Social Security’s phone number. Some callers may pressure you for personal information or immediate payment; others offer deals that seem too good to be true. The number of calls is daunting, but we are taking action to turn the tide against spoofed robocalls.

The first line of defense is consumer awareness. The FCC provides guidance about spoofing scams and robocalls, including consumer resources for call-blocking apps and other services. We also post timely articles on the FCC Consumer Help Center website to alert you to the latest scams and amplify consumer warnings from Social Security and other government agencies. Consumers can keep track of these alerts by following @FCCon Twitter.

We recommend the following tips to avoid becoming a victim of a call scam:

  • Don’t answer calls from numbers you don’t recognize.
  • If the caller is not who you were expecting, hang up immediately.
  • Never give out personal information such as account numbers, passwords, Social Security numbers, mother’s maiden names, or other identifying information if a call seems suspicious.

In its continuing efforts to help stifle malicious phone scams, the FCC empowered phone companies to aggressively block by default unwanted and illegal robocalls before they reach consumers.

It’s all about safeguarding the American public. We’ll continue to partner with Social Security, the Federal Trade Commission, and other federal agencies to get the job done.

Of interest is a recent article by Kimberly Kindy, a writer for the Washington Post:

The Trump administration is expected to change a federal rule this summer that for decades has allowed thousands of older citizens with proven mental or physical disabilities to qualify for federal benefits if they are also unable to communicate in English.

In its proposed rule change, the Social Security Administration says the inability to read, write and speak in English is not the barrier it once was, because the “U.S. workforce has become more linguistically diverse and work opportunities have expanded for individuals who lack English proficiency.”

Members of Congress are squaring off over the proposal, with several Democrats saying the Trump administration is promoting an unnecessary and polarizing policy change that discriminates against older workers and is anti-immigrant. Some Republicans who favor the rule change say the current system is antiquated and does not take into account how multilingual U.S. citizens and residents have become.

The proposal reflects the Trump administration’s tougher policies toward immigrants. The president declared a national emergency in his quest to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border and has slashed refugee admissions to the United States to historic lows. Last week, it was revealed that the administration is canceling English classes and recreational programs for unaccompanied minors in federal migrant shelters.

IA report from the House Appropriations Committee last month called the proposal a “harmful and unjustified attempt to deny” disability insurance to “older workers with long-term or fatal medical impairments” who have “pervasive limitations.”

A coalition of more than 300 nonprofit disability, senior and women’s groups that oppose cuts to Social Security said that although the agency has discussed this proposal for a few years, they think it is moving forward now because of the immigration views of President Trump and his administration.

“There is a lot of anti-immigration bias in this administration,” said Nancy Altman, co-chair of the Strengthen Social Security coalition. “It’s bad for people who don’t speak English. You are talking about the most vulnerable people in America.”

Rep. Tom Reed (R-N.Y.), who supports the proposal, said groups such as Altman’s are creating the acrimony.

“They are saying if you support this you’re a bigot,” said Reed, who argues that the 43-year-old policy is outdated. “I think that is patently offensive and dangerous rhetoric to engage in.”

Rachel Greszler, a research fellow with the conservative Heritage Foundation, which supports the proposal, said the current provision underestimates immigrants’ ability to learn English. And, she said, it makes assumptions that would not apply if workers were not returning to the job market because they lacked other skills.

“If you said, ‘I can’t do that job because I don’t know how to use the computer. I can’t use a smartphone,’ you’d be expected to learn so you could continue working,” Greszler said.

SSA began its review of the language eligibility standard in 2015 after the agency’s inspector general’s office identified 244 cases in Puerto Rico in which the language criterion was used by people who can communicate only in Spanish. Each of them qualified for and received the benefit.

The inspector general’s report said “both Spanish and English are the official languages” of the U.S. territory. It also pointed out that rules on English fluency do not allow for exceptions “even though Puerto Rico residents may be able to find local work with their Spanish-speaking skills.”

 

Legal Elite Honor

July 10, 2019

I am once again pleased to be named to Florida Legal Elite, a distinguished group of the state’s top lawyers.  The official announcement will be made in the July 2019 edition of Florida Trend Magazine.

Notice Regulations

July 10, 2019

SSA has regulations that require SSA to provide 75 days notice of a hearing.  Additionally, claimants (and their appointed representatives) must let SSA know about missing records 5 days prior to the hearing or the judge does not have to admit the evidence.  Below is a summary of how SSA has interpreted one set of facts:

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The claimant and representative were sent a noticeof hearing 64 days before the hearing. On the dateof the hearing, the representative submitted a questionnaire from a treating provider which the provider did not send to the representative untilless than five business days before the hearing,despite multiple requests. In her decision, the ALJ excluded the questionnaire as untimely. The ALJ found that the representative’s letter did not satisfy the “inform” provision of the regulations because although it explained that the questionnaire had been sent but not received it did not provide additional information about what the medical source statement included, and also found that there was no good cause to admit the questionnaire.

The court held that “while the 75-day notice of hearing and the five-day rule for submission ofevidence are two separate regulatory provisions, [they] are not distinct from one another.” As the Federal Register notice of the rule indicates, SSA intended the two provisions to balance each other. The questionnaire was received by SSA 11 days before the hearing should have been scheduled if itwere scheduled 75 days after the notice was sent,and is therefore “arguably timely.” In addition, the ALJ had not issued a decision when the evidence was received “and thus is could have been fairlyconsidered under the Regulations without sacrificing efficiency.” Since “the Commissioner’s determinationdid not result from the application of proper legal rules and was not supported by substantial evidence,” the case was remanded.

Almost every state has a cap on how much various medical providers can charge for providing medical records. Below are the rules for the Southeastern States:

Florida:

Hospitals: $1 per page, plus sales tax and actual postage. Non-paper records (such as microfiche) are subject to a charge not to exceed $2 per page. A fee of up to $1 may be charged for each year of requested records. However, this does not apply to records maintained at any licensed facility that primarily provides psychiatric care, or to records of treatment for any mental or emotional condition, or records of substance abuse. Florida Statutes, Title XXIX, Chapter 395, § 3025.

Doctors: While “the Board of Medicine urges physicians to provide their patients a copy of their medical records, upon request, without cost, especially when the patient is economically disadvantaged,” the doctor is permitted to charge $1 per page for the first 25 pages and 25¢ for each additional page. But, the doctor may charge the actual cost of reproduction for x- rays and other special kinds of records. Florida Administrative Code § 64B8-10.003. Of note, Florida is still in the process of revising Rule 64B8-10.003. The rule proposed on March 15, 2015 would change the cost for supplying records to a flat $1 per page, among other things.

Georgia: Per § 31-33-3(a) of the Official Georgia Code Annotated (O.G.C.A.), which sets forth the costs of copying and mailing patient records, these costs “shall not apply to records requested in order to make or complete an application for a disability benefits program.” Notably, according to O.G.C.A. § 31-33-3(c), this Code section does apply to a patient’s psychiatric, psychological, and other mental health records. Official Georgia Code Annotated § 31-33-3. See also Georgia Department of Community Health, Medical Records Retrieval Rates.

Alabama: Effective April 14, 2018, $1 per page for the first 25 pages, 50¢ per page for each additional page, and the actual cost of mailing the records. In addition to those fees, the medical provider can charge the actual reproduction costs of x-rays and other special medical records. For electronic copies, “a flat fee that would not exceed the cost of providing the records in paper form may be charged.” Alabama Administrative Code § 540-x-9-.10(2). Although the Code of Alabama § 12-21-6.1 still permits medical providers to charge a $5 search fee, the costs associated with “searching for and retrieving” medical records are not permitted under the HIPAA Privacy Rule and may not be charged “even if such costs are authorized by State law.”

 

 

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