SSA recently published a Notice of Proposed Rule Making (NPRM) related to when they will perform a Continuing Disability Review (CDR).  A CDR is when SSA reviews whether a person continues to be disabled.  The proposed rule, if enacted, will reduced the time between reviews and allow them to be performed more quickly.  This is not advantageous to individuals receiving SSD or SSI benefits.
This NPRM proposes to revise the criteria for the existing diary categories and associated time periods we use to schedule CDRs under Titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act. We also propose to add a fourth category.
Overview of proposed changes for medical diary categories:
  1. Medical Improvement Expected (MIE)– Existing category. We propose using this category for nonpermanent impairments that meet a listing with a specified period of disability or allowances based on low birthweight. The timeframe for review would continue to be 6 to 18 months.
  2. Medical Improvement Likely (MIL)– New category. We propose using this category for nonpermanent impairments with higher than average CDR cessation rates, certain mental and musculoskeletal impairments, and most step 5 allowances. This timeframe for review would be 2 years.
  3. Medical Improvement Possible (MIP)– Existing category. We propose using this category for nonpermanent impairments that do not fit in the MIE or MIL diary categories. The timeframe for review would continue to be 3 years.
  4. Medical Improvement Not Expected (MINE)– Existing category. We propose limiting this category to permanent impairments identified solely on medical factors without consideration of vocational factors. The timeframe for review would be 6 years.

Happy Thanksgiving!

November 27, 2019

As always, as Thanksgiving rolls around, I am grateful to all of the people who have trusted me with their cases.  A friend sent me a card recently and included this quote, which I want to share with you.

“In an ordinary life, we hardly realize that we receive a great deal more than we give and that it is only with gratitude that life becomes rich.” –Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you.

 

SSA recently released the average time to process claims at the Initial and Reconsideration levels.  In Florida, the wait time for for Initial claims is 165 days and for Reconsideration claims, it is 174 days, roughly about 5 and a half months.

The wait times are very similar across the nation, with the exception of Alaska where wait times are in excess of 200 days.

 

David Black was sworn in last month as Deputy Commissioner of Social Security to a term that expires on January 19, 2025. He will also serve as the Secretary to the Social Security Board of Trustees.

“David is a dedicated public servant who brings a wealth of knowledge to this position,” said Andrew Saul, Commissioner of Social Security. “I look forward to working closely with David to address challenges, more effectively carry out our mission, and improve Social Security services to the public.”

A Lieutenant Colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve, Mr. Black has dedicated his career in service to others. He has served in the Army for nearly 30 years, as both an enlisted soldier and an officer, and deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, where he was awarded the Bronze Star Medal. Mr. Black brings a vast amount of civilian federal experience. Prior to his nomination, he served as the White House Senior Advisor for Social Security. Previously, for nearly a decade, Mr. Black was General Counsel for Social Security. He also worked with the U.S. Department of Education as the Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Office for Civil Rights.

The Social Security Administration administers the Social Security retirement, disability and survivors insurance programs that pay over one trillion dollars annually in benefits to approximately 64 million beneficiaries, as well as the Supplemental Security Income program that provides cash assistance to more than 8 million people with limited income and resources. The agency has a national workforce of about 63,000 employees and 1,500 facilities across the country and around the world.

Mr. Black is from North Dakota. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree, cum laude, from the University of North Dakota. In 1996, he received a Juris Doctor from the University of Minnesota Law School. He and his wife, Hollie, have three children.

Last month, SSA announced that Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits for nearly 69 million Americans will increase 1.6 percent in 2020.

The 1.6 percent cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) will begin with benefits payable to more than 63 million Social Security beneficiaries in January 2020. Increased payments to more than 8 million SSI beneficiaries will begin on December 31, 2019. (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 $137,700 from $132,900.

Social Security and SSI beneficiaries are normally notified by mail in early December about their new benefit amount. Most people who receive Social Security payments will be able to view their COLA notice online through their my Social Security account. People may create or access their my Social Security account online at www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount.

Information about Medicare changes for 2020, when announced, will be available at www.medicare.gov. 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 2020 are announced. Final 2020 benefit amounts will be communicated to beneficiaries in December through the mailed COLA notice and mySocial Security’s Message Center.

A bill was recently introduced in the House of Representation called Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Restoration Act (H.R. 4280).

The bill was introduced September 11, 2019 by Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ-3) and Rep. Elisa Slotkin (D-MI-8). It currently has 23 cosponsors (including Rep. Slotkin). The SSI Restoration Act would update SSI eligibility criteria, some of which have not been updated since 1972. The SSI Restoration Act would increase the resource limit to $10,000 for an individual and $20,000 for a married couple, change the index that is used to calculate the annual Cost-of-Living- Adjustment (COLA) to the CPI-E, repeal the in- kind support and maintenance (ISM) provision, eliminate the marriage penalty, increase the general income exclusion from $20/month to $123/month, and increase the earned income exclusion from $65/month to $399/month. The dollar figures that were increased would also be annually adjusted for inflation. NOSSCR’s government affairs team will prioritize advocacy on getting additional cosponsors for this bill, as well as getting a Senate companion bill introduced.

I am very encouraged by a new bill proposed in Senate:  Stop the Wait Act (H.R. 4386 and S. 2496).

This bill would eliminate the five month waiting period for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits immediately and gradually phase out the additional 24-month waiting period for Medicare coverage for SSDI beneficiaries. The lead sponsor in the Senate is Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) and the lead sponsors in the House of Representatives are Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-TX-35) and Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA-1). The Senate bill has five additional cosponsors at the time this article was written, and the House bill has 34.

 

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